Portland, Oregon

Everyone's Favourite Place

4th October 2013

Surrounded by snow capped mountains, hiking trails and picturesque seaside towns, and full to bursting with fabulous restaurants, micro-breweries, coffee roasters and a truly unique local culture, the city of Portland, Oregon, in the Pacific Northwest of the US, is fast becoming everyone's favourite destination, and for good reason. Top chefs from across the country are opening every type of restaurant here, trendy food carts have transformed parking lots into thriving food meccas and progressive city planning has made the whole place paradise for walkers, hikers and cyclists.

From budget eating to luxury hotels via everything in between, join Katie Beck on a top ten tour of the best that Portland has to offer.

Take In A Flick

The Laurelhurst Theater in Burnside with its beautiful retro neon marquee is one of a handful of quirky art deco movie theaters in the city that play second run and art house films usually at discount prices. The Laurelhurst gives film lovers a chance to see classics like Hitchcock’s The Birds on the big screen along with second run movies for $4 ($3 for seniors) and has wooden tables built next to the comfortable movie theater seats where patrons can have a pizza and a glass of wine or beer served at the concession stand while they take in the show.

Distillery Tour

While the city is known for its beer and coffee cultures, there’s a new kid on the block when it comes to locally concocted beverages: artisan distilled spirits. In recent years half a dozen local distilleries making everything from rum and vodka to bourbon and fruit brandies have popped up and formed Distillery Row. Called the ‘craft distillery revolution’ it’s making waves across the nation with some of the liquors earning top marks from local and national reviewers.

Whatever your poison, it’s fascinating to see what goes into each bottle and to get an inside look at the process from beginning to end.

Grab your Distillery Row Passport and get tasting…

Take A Hike

Portland is one of the greenest and most hiker friendly cities in the world. There are nearly 300 parks, comprising 10,000 miles of hiking trails within the city limits, including the largest city park in the United states : Forest Park. Just west of downtown, the park stretches over eight miles of pristine hillsides overlooking the Willamette River with over 70 miles of hiking and walking trails through old growth forests. Hundreds of species of birds and mammals call the expansive park home, so bring your binoculars and look out for Great Horned Owls, Northern Flying Squirrels, and Black Tailed Deer as you stroll under the towering trees.

Stay Warm

Portland has a refreshing Pacific Northwest climate. While summers are sunny and delightful, they are relatively short and once the rain comes it sticks around for months.

Enter the Kennedy School: a Mcmenamin Brothers establishment (they own more than a few in the area): a cool old converted school house complete with tiny bathroom stalls, classrooms turned into bedrooms, a cosy restaurant with lots of local beers on tap and best of all, the old teacher’s lounge – reinvented as a beautiful outdoor hot tub surrounded by tropical plants.

Bring your swimsuit and relax: soak in the soothing hot water no matter how cold it is outside.

Pick Berries To Your Heart’s Content

Just ten miles north of Portland, Sauvie is the biggest river island in North America. It’s a peaceful escape, dotted with U-pick stations offering grapefruit-sized peaches, luscious red raspberries or bright gerbera daisies: just grab a crate and get picking! Pumpkin Patch is a local favourite, with beautiful produce and a great farm stand market.

Shop 'Til You Drop

The Rose City, as Portland is sometimes called, is a shoppers paradise with a plethora of interesting locally-owned shops sprouting up in every neighbourhood on just about every corner. The Pearl District is vibrant and bustling: full of restaurants, cafes, boutiques and the world famous Powell’s Bookstore which takes up a full city block. If you need a pick-me-up, Stumptown Coffee, a Portland original, has an outpost in the trendy Ace Hotel on SW Stark street. Sip an expertly pulled espresso or take the weight off in the ultra-hip rooms upstairs.

Treat Yourself

Portland sometimes has the reputation of being cheap and cheerful – and while there are fabulous things to do and eat and places to stay for not a lot of money, there’s plenty of luxury here too. Take The Nines Hotel, smack in the middle of downtown. The sleekly-designed interiors are sumptuous and stylish and oozing with class. The hotel has two restaurants, and a trendy rooftop bar: The Departure lounge, reminiscent of a first class airplane cabin and a divine spot to sip a cocktail with a city view.

Something For Everyone

Food Trucks have become the de facto symbol of Portland. Before these cheap, mobile eateries swept the nation, they broke ground in Portland, where creative, local and inexpensive are built into the DNA. Every neighborhood has their own ‘pod’ , be it a repurposed parking lot, a one-off truck making the rounds or a more established colony of world food.

The largest pod of trucks takes up a whole square block of prime downtown real estate right next to O’Bryant Square Park. Whether you’re in the mood for Hungarian Goulash, Mexican fusion, Thai noodles, Korean or just about any other type of food this is your one stop shop. Think of it as the ultimate food court with something for absolutely everyone…

Eat Pie

Whether you prefer classics like cherry and coconut cream, or savoury delights like chives and cheddar, Portland has become a destination for pie lovers of all stripes. the Bipartisan cafe on SE Stark Street has cases full of stunning golden crusts filled with everything from Marionberry to sweet potato, while the Random Order Coffee House’s Tahitan Vanilla Sugar Salted Apple Pie has just been voted ‘best pie in America’ by Travel and Leisure Magazine.

Feel The Sand Between Your Toes

This adventure involves a bit of driving, but Cannon Beach, about an 80 mile (138 km) drive west from Portland is well worth it. With its mild seaside climate, laid back beachy feel and stunning natural beauty, Cannon Beach is the ideal weekend getaway. Don’t miss majestic, towering Haystack Rock, a highlight of the scenery. And at low tide you can walk out and see the creatures that live on its slopes. For dinner make sure to get a seat at the Irish Table, who serve up the world’s best seafood chowder in their cosy old world interiors.

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