Known for its young and progressive culture, impressive food scene, and on point coffee and cocktails Portland, OR has quickly become a must visit city. From its eco-friendly attitude, to its abundance of green spaces, microbreweries, and coffeehouses, it’s a city bustling with friendly people who are happy about life and community. So hop on your rental bike and start living like a local.
WHERE TO STAY
One of the wonderful things about Portland is that it isn’t one of those cities with just one central hub. There are wonderful neighborhoods peppered throughout the city, and it is so easy to get around from one to the other. For this reason, we normally suggest that an Air B’n’B is best. Our favorite neighborhoods to stay in are around E. Burnside and 28th, E. Division and SE 30th, or Alberta and NE 20th.
Another fun alternative is the Slabtown Tiny Homes. These luxury tiny homes were built alongside three existing small Victorian houses from 1875 in the heart of Northwest Portland’s Slabtown Neighborhood. Each home is fully furnished and self-contained and come with light cooking options, shower, full bathroom amenities, complimentary tea and coffee, and an attached deck alongside outdoor areas.
For Hotels, our favorite is the Westin. It is very well located within the heart of downtown, and much quieter than most.
Portland is incredibly well connected making it easy to get around the city. Not only is public transit well developed in the city (MAX lines, trolley and buses), but we enjoy multiple ride and car sharing options including Uber, Lyft, Car2Go and Reach Now. Portland has also introduced rental scooters like Lime-S and Byrd that are scattered across the city.
Portland’s bright orange city bikes are everywhere, and are a great way to either get around from one place to another or just see the city. The city prioritizes bike lanes and Portland drivers are so used to cyclists that they are always more aware and on the lookout for them it makes it a safe place to cycle around. If you’re looking for a fun scenic ride away from traffic, head down to Tom McCall waterfront park. Starting at the biketown located at 43 SW Naito Pkwy then head down to the Steel Bridge which has a pedestrian and Cyclist only level, then along the Willamette river esplanade, and back over the river on the Hawthorn bridge.
NONG'S KHAO MAN GAI
Nong’s is arguably the most well known food cart in Portland, serving their iconic Khao Man Gai - a thai take on Hainanese Chicken and Rice. Although it doesn’t sound all that exciting don’t be fooled by the simple name.
Portland is surprisingly an incredible hub for Thai Food. Starting with the boom of the ubiquitous Pok Pok, Portland’s love affair with authentic regional Thai food isn’t slowing down any time soon. Hat Yai is one of the newer spots in town, specializing in northern Thai food from the region around the town by the same name. The can’t miss item is the Hat Yai combo with comes with their fried chicken with a batter speckled with fragrant coriander seeds, a thick luscious curry, and a roti to soak it all up. They also offer a small selection of rotating seasonal dishes that are often incredibly fresh and flavorful.
Nostrana is an iconic Portland restaurant. Helmed by Chef Cathy Whims, they’ve been leading the way in the Portland scene for many years (and recognized by the James Beard Foundation several times). The food is classic Italian, with a nod to the Pacific Northwest by using what’s in season here. Their pasta and pizza are always exceptional, and we usually like to get the Insalata Nostrana (their take on a Caesar salad made with Raddichio) and pizza and pasta to share. If you have room for dessert their seasonal fruit crumble and butterscotch budino are both wonderful, and if Negroni’s are your thing they make an excellent one!
PINE STREET MARKET
Do you have a big group and don't want to wait in line somewhere (or can’t decide on one place everyone wants to go to)? Pine Street Market is what you are looking for! Portland’s modern take on a Food Hall, Pine Street Market has something for everyone. Marukin Ramen has a delicious selection of seasonal ramen, with two vegan options every day. BYH Burger has our favorite classic griddled burger and fries (plus frozen Negroni’s and Cuba Libres!). Pollo Bravo has a great selection of small Spanish dishes. Wiz Bang Bar (Salt & Straws Soft Serve outpost) has a rotating selection of ice creams. Kure juice bar serves smoothies, juices, and Acai bowls. And there’s even more! You really can’t go wrong, plus they are open almost all day, every day so it’s great for those awkward hours between lunch and dinner when a lot of places are closed.
Walking into tusk feels like you entered your dream vacation. The space is open, bright and so airy and feels like a little oasis in the city. Their brunch is definitely a great meal, but we prefer to come for dinner and get the “Magic Carpet Ride” where you’re treated to a broad selection of their seasonal offerings. The beauty of Tusk is the fresh, seasonal, and modern take on Mediterranean food, often with incredibly inventive uses of ingredients (think apple and herb salad served over a swath of freshly roasted pistachio butter). Another can’t miss is their hummus, which is silky smooth, perfectly seasoned, and served with fresh baked fluffy pita bread.
Angel face is our favorite cocktail bar in the city, and the one we frequent the most. The cocktails here are some of the best we’ve ever had (and not just in Portland). Don’t expect to come here for a quick in and out. Drinks are made meticulously, often by a single bartender, but good things are worth waiting for! They also share a kitchen with their sister restaurant located next door (Navarre which is also worth checking out!), and so their food is delicious! We especially love the Fish Board, and their Steak Frites.
Expatriate is a hip lounge that serves global bar bites and gorgeous cocktails. We suggest the Deja Vu, the drink we keep coming back to and snacking on the hot and sour Indian spiced fries. This black walnut bar hosts Kyle Linden Webster, a noted bartender in his time, it is careful attention to the rituals of hospitality which make it a place easy to visit again and again.
THE GREEN ROOM
Highlighted by large, sun-filled windows and an emerald-tiled back bar, The Green Room is an ideal location for casual cocktails and light bites. Serving a unique cocktail menu and situated perfectly downtown this bar cannot be missed.
COFFEE/TEA and SNACKS
There is no shortage of excellent Coffee Roasters in Portland, but if you’re short on time Barista is a great place to go. Although Barista now offers their own roasted coffee, they began by just highlighting other Coffee Roasters from all over the West Coast of Canada and the US, and so they always have a wide selection of excellent coffee that’s both local and not.
Heart Coffee is my favorite local Coffee Roaster. They specialize in lighter roasts, that are often very floral, and have locations on both the east side and west side of the city making it easy to check out no matter where you are. They also offer a selection of pastries from local bakery Nuvrei, including the iconic Kachapuri made just for Heart, which is only faintly sweet and flavored with a heavy dose of green cardamom making it a perfect pairing for the floral notes in their coffee.
Tea Bar serves the world's best selection of high-quality teas sourced best farms around the world. We love the clean look of there stores and how the menus hosts plenty of options without being too overwhelming.
BLUE STAR DONUTS
In a city that is obsessed with donuts, Blue Star is firmly at the top of the heap. Created with freshly risen brioche dough and transformed by seasonal flavors, these are probably the best gourmet donuts we’ve ever had. Our favorite is the Creme Brulee donut filled with a vanilla bean pastry cream, topped with a bruleed sugar crust, and served with a little pipette of Cointreau, but the Meyer Lemon Curd filled donut, Apple Fritter, and Valhrona Chocolate crunch aren’t far behind.
SHOPS and EXPERIENCES
Union Way is a little walkway that passes between two buildings that is filled with interesting little businesses. We usually stop at Steven Alan to check out their clothing and Quin Candy to buy the smoked cola gummies, and Danner to swoon over the beautiful hiking boots.
PROVIDORE FINE FOODS
If you’re a grocery store nerd like I am, Providore is definitely worth checking out. Rather than a single store, it’s a collaboration between multiple businesses, each focusing on what they do best. Providore brings together Pastaworks - the core of the store which carries an impressive selection of cheese, charcuterie, gourmet pantry items, and ready made food, Rubinette produce, ____ Wines, Little T Bakers (they have an incredible slab bread topped with tomato sauce and soppresata), and Flying Fish among others. Grab a seat at the Flying Fish Counter for a glass of crisp white wine, and some of the freshest Oysters you’ve ever had, and then grab some snacks for later.
Even if you’re not in the market to pick up a book while in town, Powell’s is definitely worth a visit. Touted as the largest bookstore in the US, Powell’s spans two levels over an entire city block, with color coded rooms dedicated to different topics. This is a great place to browse and discover new books to read, and they have a decent selection of used books so you can always find a deal.
Located in the heart of the Mississippi district, Pistils Nursery is the epitome of a Portland plant shop. Not only is there an amazing variety of plants to spruce up an indoor or outdoor space, but they’ve also got a wonderful pottery selection, some apothecary goods, crystals, incense, and a coop with chickens in the back that are let out to wander during the summer months.
The Meadow started as the first artisanal salt shop in the country, and has expanded to include a huge variety of cocktail bitters as well as chocolates, and is now at two locations. This is a great place to pop in to grab a souvenir for your favorite foodie or hopeful mixologist.
Knot Springs is the perfect place to spend a couple hours totally relaxing. The modern “Springs” is located in the heart of the city with views of downtown, the Willamette river and the iconic Portland sign. The space is modern and open with a touch of Portland’s hipster vibe, complete with Pendleton towels, delicious herbal tea, and a green roof. Follow their instructions by rotating between their Tepidarium, a lukewarm soaking pool, Caldarium (a heated soaking pool), a steam room, dry Cedar sauna and their Cold Plunge (cooled to a chilly 45*), and leave feeling limber, relaxed, and ready to take on the world (or take a nap!). If you’re feeling extra indulgent you can add on a massage as well.
GET OUT OF TOWN
Portland is lucky to be located just 45 minutes from one of the fastest growing wine regions in the country, quickly being recognized as a premier wine producing area. On sunny weekend days we often make a day trip down the Willamette Valley wine region. Although there are some wineries that require reservations, there are many that you can just pop in at. Our favorite day trip starts with a stop at the small but gorgeous Alloro winery. Alloro is a smaller winery, with the winemakers living on site in a Tuscan style home, surrounded by a farm (complete with sheep, goats, ducks, and a very sweet old golden labrador). Their stone paved outdoor patio overlooks the valley, and is a great quiet spot to drink some excellent Pinot Noir and enjoy the view. We then head down the road to Ponzi winery. Ponzi is well known in Oregon wines, and the winery reflects this. The space is much bigger, and can get very busy. Their space is complete with two bocci courts as well, and attracts some big groups. Our last stop of the day is at Stoller Winery. Stoller makes amazing Pinot Noirs (we love the Reserve Pinot) and a very lovely Rose made with Pinot that is perfect for the hot summer days we get here in Portland. They sell a good selection of cheese, charcuterie, and crackers but they are also open to guests bringing outside food. This combined with ample seating, both indoors and outdoors, makes Stoller a great place to sit and enjoy the view (and wine) for hours.
THE COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE
Many people travel to Oregon exclusively to visit the Columbia River Gorge (more commonly referred to as simply The Gorge locally). Filled with hundreds of hikes for every level of fitness, there is truly something for everyone here. Our three favorite hikes are Wahclella Falls, Angels Rest and Larch Mountain. Wahclella Falls is an easier 2-mile lollipop loop with minimal elevation gain. It is one of the more popular waterfall hikes in the gorge, and it deserves to be. It’s a short hike that takes you to two stunning waterfalls and has an open area for plenty of photo opps. Angles Rest is a moderate 4.8 mile trail. Along the way, you’ll get an overhead view of Coopey Falls through the trees, and a small detour will take you to Upper Coopey Falls.
The top of Angels Rest is an exposed bluff that gives you 270-degree panoramic views of Beacon Rock, Silver Star Mountains, and all the way down the gorge. It’s also a unique viewpoint of the river since it gets you so close to it. Larch Mountain is a more strenuous hike, 6.8 mile trail (13.2 out and back) that offers incredible views of the Multnomah, Wisendanger and Ecola falls (including a view from the top of Multnomah Falls).
If you want to make a day out of it, head down Historic Highway 30 to the for gorgeous views, and then keep heading east until you get to Hood River. Hood River is the home of numerous local breweries including Pfriem (our favorite big one), Logsdon (a small unique brewery specializing in Belgian farmhouse style beers), and Double Mountain.