When you live somewhere, there’s always a nearby city you visit frequently. When I called Seattle home, Portland, Oregon was that city. Over the course of four years, I visited Portland a number of times.
Actually – it’s kind of an impressive number of times! Over the course of my visits, I’ve had some cool experiences from the city: things to do and places to eat being chief among them. Here is my guide to Portland – only my favorite experiences have made the list.
The Most Important Meal of the Day: Brunch
I don’t care what the Brooklynites say, it doesn’t get more real than weekend brunch in Portland.
As the foodie capital of the US, Portland takes brunch well beyond the normal gastronomic experience. I’ve had amazing brunch of every kind here, from hearty biscuits and gravy to hard-to-find fresh chorizo sausage to zippy chilaquiles.
Some of my favorite brunch spots in Portland include Tilt, Clyde Common, Tasty n Sons, and Olympic Provisions. Almost all require a reservation, or a willingness to wait for a table on the weekends. Cue salivation now.
Delicious Brunch Spots in Portland:
- Tilt: 1355 NW Everett St, Portland. Open every day from 7am-11pm.
- Clyde Common, in the Portland Ace Hotel: 1014 SW Stark St, Portland. Open every day 3pm-12am.
- Tasty n Sons: 3808 N Williams Ave C, Portland. Open every day 10am-9pm.
- Olympic Provisions: 107 SE Washington St, Portland. Open every day from 9am or 11am-10pm.
Get Out in the Columbia River Gorge to See Multnomah Falls
About 35 minutes east of Portland, Multnomah Falls is probably one of the most popular waterfalls on Instagram since it makes you look super outdoorsy without having to hike a few hours.
Nonetheless, Multnomah Falls is a great way to appreciate the natural beauty in this part of the world. A quarter-mile hike will take you to the bridge where you can feel the spray, or you can carry on up to the top of the falls for beautiful views of the Columbia River Valley.
Kid, pet, and sworn-indoor person appropriate.
Watch the Pop Up Cinema at the Hotel deLuxe
When I stayed one night at the Hotel deLuxe in Portland, it wasn’t enough time – and not just because it was a super luxe king-sized bed!
Every few weeks, the Hotel deLuxe hosts a classic movie pop-up in their screening room. It’s a rare chance to see classics on the silver screen at this reservations-required public event. TheDriftwood Room bartenders whip up a specially themed cocktail for each show, too.
In addition to It’s a Wonderful Life, one of my favorite movies, past showings include The Birds and White Christmas.
See the Hotel deLuxe pop up cinema calendar to stay up to date on pop-up cinema events.
Go Running in Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park
As with Seattle, Portland is cleaning up their waterfront green spaces to make them more friendly to families and fitness-buffs – and less filled with homeless encampments and used needles.
The Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park is looking quite clean, and you can tell from the number of runners, walkers, families, and tourists. There are even early-bird Segway tours that now pass through the park while teaching visitors about the city on their silly little vehicles.
Explore the Rows at Powell’s Books
Possibly one of the most stereotypical things you can do in Portland, Powell’s books is nonetheless required for any visitor to the city. It’s especially good on a grey, cold, rainy day when it’s no fun to be outside anyway.
Thousands of rows and tens of thousands of books beckon from the shelves of Powell’s, in every genre, language, and topic imaginable. There are reading areas that fill up fast, and you’ll often find folks just stopped halfway down the row with their nose in a book.
It’s basically impossible to walk out without a book – or a wishlist of 20 you want but can’t fit in your bag.
Powell’s Books downtown location is open every day from 9am-11pm.
Outdoors: Finding Zen at the Portland Japanese Garden
Most people visit the Portland Rose Garden in warm months, to be entranced by the rows of different flower varieties. Just up the hill in Washington Park is my favorite garden in the city: the Japanese Garden.
Zen lawns, babbling fountains, and rock gardens make this space astonishingly peaceful and worlds away from hippie, hipster Portland. A few hours near the Koi pond left me far more restored and far less jet-lagged than a trip to Japan.
The Portland Japanese Garden is open most days from 10am-4pm and admission is $9.50.
Take in in the View from Portland City Grill
I can’t remember a city where I haven’t sought out the sights from the top of the tallest building open to the public. In the case of Portland, that building is the Bancorp Tower. The top level is home to the Portland City Grill. This restaurant and bar offer panoramic views of the city, and on clear days you can see Mount Hood and Mount Saint Helens unobstructed.
Their happy hour has good, albeit still overpriced food and drink specials. It can get a bit packed with a strange combination of tourists and city folk each night, but every once in a while, it’s worth the wait for the view. If you time your visit for sunset on a clear day, it’s definitely the best view in town.
Portland City Grill: 111 SW 5th Ave, Portland. Open most days from 11am-12am.
Eat Your Way Around the World at the Food Trucks
I have a passionate foodie relationship with food trucks, and Portland is one of the most popular cities for food trucks in the world.
Two downtown city blocks are devoted to a cluster of permanently installed food trucks, that serve every cuisine and style you can imagine. Whether you’re craving Romanian (try a covridog at Delicios Taste), Polish (it’s all about the pierogis at Eurodish), Georgian dumplings (from Kargi Gogo), or something else – any and all can be found from the Portland food truck scene.
P.S. Can you tell I have Eastern European heritage? I’m all about those ethnic cuisines!
Learn Portland History at Pittock Mansion
For the second half of this post, I want to feature a few spots that are both indoors and outdoors.
If you love traveling for history, as I do, well-preserved Pittock Mansion is a great local history lesson. Anyone interested in learning more about the founding, early 20th-century life in the Rose City, and why Portland is even called the Rose City should include Pittock Mansions on their list.
Rooms are filled with authentic if not actual items from the Pittock family, and the sweeping grounds give some of the best city views.
Getting to Pittock Mansion requires a car. Pittock Mansion is open 11am-4pm daily, and admission is $10.
Eat Local at Any McMenamins
McMenamins are the kings of restaurants in Portland, but that’s not all they do. Their crowd-pleaser restaurants are no longer the talk of the town (the food scene moves too fast for that), but their hotel properties and multiple concert venues add to the portfolio. They also brew lots of their own beers, so you can feel good about supporting the local craft scene as you sip.
My favorite, Edgefield, is definitely worth the time you’ll spend to get there. From the innumerable bars and restaurants to the outdoor concert venue, it’s a kind of place you never want to leave.
See the full list of McMenamin’s properties on their website to find the one that’s perfect for you.
Planning a trip to Portland and still have questions? Let me know in the comments!
This post was originally written in October 2014 and updated in October 2017.