Of all the cities we had planned during our road trip, Portland, OR was one that I was most excited about. I had never been, but envisioned cool, hip city surrounded by the lush, green environment of Oregon state. I have to confess, some of my excitement was further enhanced by one of my favorite TV shows, Portlandia, and I hoped that it would be all the quirky awesome of the show.
When we arrived to Portland the temperature was hot and sunny, something which neither of us were really looking forward to and which not too many Portland residents were loving. It seems that cool and somewhat rainy is fine for many Portlanders, making the 90 degree weather unbearable. Our Residence Inn duplex was lovely, but the second level was hot and their small pool was frequently crowded with guests looking for a break from the heat.
We only had one day, and unfortunately that one day was a Monday. What that means is that most great eateries are closed, as well as museums, leaving us to rethink our must-see list. Lucky for us our social media friends came to the rescue and guided us to several restaurant that were open and were pretty great. And though we spent most of our time in Portland eating, we did manage to make time to check out a few sites as well.
Where We Ate
Pok Pok was on my husband’s must-do list, but the more than one hour wait was a hard pill to swallow for me. Now granted, the food is good in that you can taste how fresh everything is and the savoring spices and flavors of each dish is appreciated with every bite, but, I am not a fan of waiting so long to eat anywhere, though we are lucky our children handle it better than I do in most cases. The food here is authentic Southeast Asian (specifically North and Northeast of Thailand) and this isn’t the only Pok Pok location. There is also one in Brooklyn, where the wait for a table is even more insane. While we waited we ventured across the street to the Whiskey Soda Lounge (by the same owners), which happily takes and serves those waiting for their table at Pok Pok. Great drinks, fun atmosphere, and welcoming of kids (till 10pm). In the end, it turned into an over two-hour dinner night (fun with friends, not so fun when you are tired with kids). It was our first dining experience in Portland, one I enjoyed but was more than happy to get out off our to-do list.
Helser’s on Alberta was a recommendation via Facebook and it was one of the few places on Monday open for breakfast. The neighborhood was super cute, and I totally loved the vibe of this place. It was busy for a Monday morning, but not so busy we couldn’t find a table right away. As I sat there sipping on my really good coffee, I envisioned this as the perfect place to hangout and write in if I lived here. The atmosphere was great, but the food was amazing. The Black Bean Scramble was so delicious and exactly how a day in one of the foodie capitals of the country should start. My breakfast experience here made me so happy, I practically skipped out of the place singing afterwards.
Dove Vici is another recommendation we received via Facebook (mental note: send that guy some flowers!) and really enjoyed. In another really great neighborhood, the restaurant is located in a quiet, calm, tiny strip. But don’t let that fool you, the pizza here is good and worthy of loud accolades. The deep dish, perfectly toasted cornmeal crust with toppings that range from your basic cheese and pepperoni to spinach pesto made this (like Helser’s) a place I would want to frequent often with each visit to Portland.
Voodoo Doughnuts is a must when in Portland. The doughnuts are insanity, in all shapes, sizes, and flavors. The line is constant, but fast-moving, and the staff is friendly.
What We Did
Because of the heat, we moved slowly in Portland and even escaped it by taking in a movie with the kids (there is a really nice movie theater located a short block from the Residence Inn). But we also enjoyed not one, but two visits to Washington Park, in downtown Portland with over 400 acres and tons of trails for hiking. It is also where the gorgeous International Rose Test Garden is located (free admission), where you can just easily spend an entire afternoon admiring and surrounding yourself in the scent of these beautiful flowers. Portland itself is a pretty laid back city, but coming here is even more relaxing and peaceful.
Definitely one of my favorite spots. Another great place to visit, also in the park, is the 5.5 acre Japanese Garden, another secluded haven of tranquility just steps away from the Rose Garden. The Zoo, Children’s Museum, and Arboretum are also located in this park, making it a frequent favorite for outdoor lovers in the city.
We took in Portland from the sky while on a ride on the Portland aerial tram. The views were pretty great and in the middle of the day the tram wasn’t too crowded at all. A fun and inexpensive way to get an overall view.
What I especially loved about Portland, in addition to its laid back atmosphere and sort of hippy, artist vibe, was how incredibly easy it is to navigate the city and all there is to do. I also enjoyed all the green area in Portland…and of course all the great food. I felt really comfortable in how the city isn’t pretentious and show-offish, though they certainly have a lot to be proud of.
In retrospect, we should’ve planned more time here and if you plan a visit, definitely make sure to give yourself a few days to explore. I can’t wait to get back there.
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