One of America’s hippest and most dynamic cities, Portland is Oregon’s largest city, with 583,776 residents at the last count, and more than 2.2 million inhabitants in the metro region. Located close to the stunning sub-alpine landscapes of the Pacific Northwest, and surrounded by the fertile plains of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers, the drive to Portland is a joy in itself. We took highway I-5 from the south, skirting dramatic, jagged peaks such as Mount Shasta, and negotiating breath-taking mountain passes before we even arrived in the city.
Staying in the downtown area close to the picturesque river, we were able to experience the very best of central Portland without having to travel too much; as a compact city, most sights, and many of the best bars and restaurants, are confined to a small, central area. Arty types should head to the city’s Pearl District, a former warehousing and meat-packing area now populated by chic boutiques, design stores and cutting edge contemporary galleries. A short hop on the city’s free trams, meanwhile, will take you to the Portland Art Museum, the oldest such museum on the West Coast, and home to works by Monet, Van Gogh, Cezanne and Renoir.
Elsewhere in this safe, clean and attractive city you will find numerous parks and open spaces, including both a Japanese and Chinese garden, and the Hoyt Arboretum, a public forest home to almost 10,000 individual trees gathered from all over the world. More adventurous wildlife activities, including hiking, climbing and white-water rafting are to be found just a short distance outside the city, while brave souls can attempt the ascent up Mount Hood, whose snow-capped slopes can be viewed from as far away as Downtown. Weather here tends to be temperate and oceanic, with mild winters, a fair amount of precipitation and the scent of forest pine frequently hanging in the clear air.
Sports fans, meanwhile, should check out fixtures for the Portland Timbers soccer team; the stadium is located just west of Downtown and each match-day the streets are flooded with fans wearing the famous green jerseys. The Portland Trail Blazers are the town’s other major sports team, and they host regular NBA games at the 19,980 seater Rose Garden Arena.
Perhaps the first thing one notices when out and about in Portland is just how friendly and welcoming the locals are. A ten minute cab ride on our first day in town yielded a hat full of recommendations from our stylish, edgy taxi driver, a young local who listed off his favourite coffee shops, doughnut vendors, nightclubs and buildings.
Paying heed to this advice, we stopped off at Portland’s legendary Voodoo Donuts, a cornucopia of deep-fried, doughy delights. Flavours at this Oregon institution include the unusual Bacon Maple bar as well as more conventional treats such as Apple Fritters and Chocolate ring doughnuts. Nearby one also finds the equally appetising Stumptown Coffee, one of America’s foremost roasters. Portland is also highly regarded for its local cuisine, with many restaurants serving locally grown, organic food. One of the best we visited was Ned Ludd, a back to basics restaurant emphasising seasonal produce, with a particular focus on fresh salads.
Portland is also known to host one of the most vibrant, and some say coolest, nightlife in the country. Cocktail bars like Teardrop and Clyde Common stir old classics such as Manhattans and Sazeracs with a modern flair, while brewpubs and alehouses like Bailey’s Taproom and Saraveza pour specialty craft beers from the region. Follow the fashionably dressed hipsters who abound in this city all the way to Alberta Street for a more bohemian night out.
Portland is such an active city, with so much on, and people regularly spilling out of the cafes and restaurants onto the streets, that many visitors just need to take a stroll through the city to discover beautiful sights, historic architecture, natural beauty, great food and bustling entertainment. Portland is not the biggest city, or stuffed full of world famous attractions, but it has more than enough personality for a rewarding weekend city break.Write a Review
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