Keep Portland Weird!

Weird yet exciting, adventurous yet laid-back, donuts and beer, these are the first few things that come to mind if you ever think of Portland. It’s not only for someone looking for an adventure but also for someone hoping to enjoy a lazy vacation. All of this and so much more makes Portland the perfect spot for your next weekend getaway. 

Pros: 

  • Accessibility: It’s just a plain ride away, and you land right in the heart of the city. Southwest has cheap and direct flights from most cities, don’t forget to check it out. 
  • Versatility: There’s something to do for every age demographic, from breweries to wineries, beaches to waterfalls (less than an hour from Portland downtown), Gardens to Strip clubs that serve food,  art, culture, history and a lot of food!
  • Serenity: The scenery is stunning as you drive towards the Oregon Coast and on your way to the waterfalls. You’ll be welcomed with either lush green or red/orange depending on the season you choose. I’d suggest Fall/Spring to not be limited by weather conditions, in the experiences you can have. 
  • Budget Friendly: One of the biggest advantage is finding affordable accommodation close to the downtown. Also, the public transport is good with trains running all around downtown.

Cons:

  • Food Coma: I’m not kidding you guys, there’s just so much food demanding to be tried, you’ll cave in and overeat at each meal. 
  • Beer Belly: Having lived in San Diego for a number of years I’ve started to think of myself as somewhat of a beer connoisseur so I was pleasantly surprised by the number of good breweries here. 

Here are some of the must do things when in Portland listed by category. 

Food & Drinks

  • Donuts: If I only had 1 hour to spend in Portland and I could do only one thing, this would be it. Drive down to Blue Star Donuts and have their Crème Brûlée donut. Honestly, If I close my eyes, I can still imagine the taste of its first bite. Another great option is Pip’s Original Donuts and Chai. I loved their mini donuts, so fresh and packed with such a great flavor punch. Icing on the cake is we got them for free cause we had a birthday boy in our group (they give 12 donuts free on your birthday +7 days). 
  • Papa Hadyn: After going through several options on yelp we decided on trying out Papa Hadyn for Brunch, luckily it did not disappoint. We were surprised to receive complimentary baked goods. They have a good selection of desserts as well.  
  • Stumptown Coffee Roasters: We had the pleasure of tasting out first cup of Stumptown Coffee Ethiopian pour over at our Airbnb. The second cup was in their Ace hotel location (downtown) and as an avid coffee drinker/caffeine lover, I was stumped over! Absolutely loved every sip of it.  
  • Street Food Carts: One out many street cart pods (which have a permanent location) around Portland, the experience of Alder Street Food Cart Pod in the heart of downtown can be a hit or miss, mostly cause the food has a different flavor profile from the usual. All the carts mostly open just for lunch so it’s better to plan ahead, research and start with the specific cart you want to try otherwise it’s easy to get lost. You run the risk of getting full before you find the food you really want to try. 
  • Division Street: This street has a plethora of good restaurants and pubs to choose from, so it’s better to just walk around this neighborhood and before making up your mind. We tried our first Salt & Straw (bone marrow & smoked cherry flavor) ice cream here. Bollywood Theater (a fusion Indian restaurant) is also located here. 
  • Breweries: There are more than 70 breweries and micro-breweries in and around Portland, some within walking distance of each other. There are beer tasting tours available if you want to get a taste of different styles of beer but being an IPA lover I decided to visit Baerlic Brewing Company. I’d say one of the best decisions on this trip. The vibe of this place was just amazing, very intimate and the beer superb. By the time we visited our second place, Deschutes, we were almost full. It felt more commercial, their beer was decent but the fries not so much(bummer).    
  • Domaine Serene Winery: Known for the best Pinot Noir in the US, Domaine Serene Winery is just an hour away from Portland downtown. The wine is good but what enhances the experience further is the “serene” view of the vineyard. Just drop by their tasting room, order the assorted plate of meat and cheese with a bottle of wine and kick back and relax. If driving up to the winery does not fit your schedule they do have a tasting room in Downtown.   
  • McMenamins Kennedy School: No, McMenamins Kennedy School it’s not a school. This place is the most interesting and unique. It’s a high school that has been converted into, speakeasy bars and dining rooms. You can spend an entire evening exploring and drinking, which is exactly what we did and finally ended up ordering a bunch of late night food at their Boiler Room bar.  

Sightseeing

  • Waterfalls:  Latourell Falls and Multonomah Falls are both about 45 minutes from Portland downtown. These were one of the few waterfalls where there’s no hiking involved. You simply park your car, walk few minutes and there it is, in all it’s glory. You can even stand under the Latourell falls if you carry clothes to change. 
  • Cannon Beach: The drive to Cannon Beach was definitely a winner. In parts lush green mixed in with fall colors, it turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Cannon beach is the perfect beach town for a cozy afternoon with local mom and pop shops and warm faces, it offered more than just a walk on the beach. The haystack rock added to the dramatic landscape on a cloudy day. Even though there are more beaches along the Oregon Coast, we decided to spend more quality time on this one. 
  • Japanese Garden: This spot is perfect for a morning walk to appreciate the authentic design of a Japanese Garden. It is a peaceful retreat with a multitude of sounds from birds, waterfalls and creeks along with a Zen garden surrounded by the Japanese maple tree (which are spectacular to look at in the fall) and a view of Mount Hood.
  • Domaine Serene Winery: Yes I decided to add this as a part of sightseeing owing to it’s picturesque landscape which I mentioned before. It’s best in fall with the grapes still on the vine and colorful tress everywhere.    

Skip it!

  • Chai at Pip’s Donut: Being Indian I was a underwhelmed by their Chai. It tasted more like flavored frothy milk than Chai. Plus it was lukewarm and we Indians need our tea piping hot!
  • Voodoo Donuts: I know the hype around this place, and I am all for their novelty designs but for me food is all about the taste and if I am indulging it better be worth the calories. So personally, I would rather choose Blue Start over Voodoo.  
  • Powell’s City of Books: Having been to the last bookstore in LA, I did not find this one unique. Unless you’re an avid book reader or you have an entire day to spare just going through the massive number of books there’s not much to experience here.  
  • Pok Pok Fried Chicken: I was warned in advance by my friend that the fried chicken was just a hype and did not live up to the expectation (maybe cause we just couldn’t handle the fish sauce), yet we ended up at this restaurant but surprisingly the rest of our turned out to be delicious. 

I am adding white water rafting, hunting for murals, Pike Street Market, strip clubs that offer great food and eating Maine lobster to my To-Do list for the next time I visit Portland, until then hoping to explore many more destinations. 

Domaine Serene Winery
Multnomah Falls
Latourell Falls 
Japanese Garden
Cannon Beach

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