Now that I’m out west, I’ve got a whole new coast to explore. We started out with a trip to Portland, Oregon the first week of February. Let me just say, what a gorgeous and cool city. It’s got the best of both worlds…a vibrant downtown with an lively restaurant and bar scene and plenty of fun stuff to do and see… as well as the lush and beautiful mountain landscape all around it, with plenty of opportunities to escape into nature. We tried to fit a little bit of both into our long weekend… but I can already tell you we’ll be visiting again soon (I’ve already got a list!)
So why visit Portland? Well, for one, the wine and beer. The area has a long history of developing craft beer and delicious wine in the oceanic climate for centuries. It’s also been one of the major hubs of the LGBTQ movement in the United States. These days, it’s become a another major tech hub of the PNW. You could call the city a portal to the past and the future of this part of the country. Portland itself is the second largest city in the Pacific Northwest U.S. (behind Seattle). It’s got about 2.4 million people living downtown and in its outer suburbs — however it’s where a whopping 60% of the population of the entire state of Oregon lives. Fun fact, the city is actually named after Portland, Maine (that one came first). The weather gets nice and cloudy like anywhere up here in this region, but the sun did peak out on us while we visited, and the temperatures were pretty mild for winter, which makes it ideal for a visit any time of year. Some
We stayed in the Beaverton area, only about a 15 minute drive east into downtown Portland. The drive itself from Seattle took about 3-3.5 hours, most of which we were surrounded by forest. I’ve quickly learned that road tripping is by far the best way to travel around the Pacific Northwest (and much of the west coast) if you can… it’s gorgeous, serene and, at least up in our neck of the woods, mostly smooth sailing on the highways.
Day 1: Friday
We spent our first full day in Portland downtown, after stopping for breakfast at an AMAZING little spot called Grand Central Bakery. They make their own pastries and breads in house every day, and sweet or savory, they are divine. Avu and I headed into town with a fresh baked ham and cheese croissant, and a blackberry jammer (think a think fluffy biscuit with yummy fruit filling), and a large coffee in hand of course.
Once we drove in, we grabbed parking in a garage for the day. It was only 17 bucks for the full day, and saved us from having to find parking spots to slip into as we tried to meander from block to block. Once you’re downtown, let’s be honest, Portland doesn’t feel that different from other major metros… I could just as easily been in Chicago, Philly or Baltimore. But, each and every place still has it’s own unique characteristics and quirks, if you’re willing to look for them. As you walk around, you’ll also notice boutique cannabis shops in the city… where you can get your hands on relatively inexpensive locally produced marijuana and cannabis products. *Disclaimer, it’s technically illegal to consume weed in public in Portland, but as long as you are discreet, it’s pretty chill. If you’re looking for more info on all this, or where to shop, you can read more HERE.
We went ahead and got one of the most touristy stops off our list first — Pioneer Courthouse Square. Once a giant luxury hotel, then a nondescript parking garage, now a bustling urban park with access to cafes and shops. The name comes from the actual Pioneer Courthouse that sits right across the street. Fun fact, it’s the oldest federal building in the Pacific Northwest. And it wasn’t even erected until the late 1800’s. It’s interesting to consider just how vast the United States is, and the fact that some parts of it are so much younger than others. Another fun fact, there are big adorable statues of seals outside the courthouse. I’m not sure why they are there, but definitely worth seeing.
From there, we meandered over to the water front. Portland is actually split by the Willamette River, which runs right through downtown. There’s actually so many bridges here that Portland is affectionately been called ‘Bridgetown’. On either side, there are recreational waterfront areas where you can take in the views of the city along the jogging path, soak up the sun while picnicking in a patch of grass, or simply watch the people (and the geese, so many geese!) from a bench near the water’s edge at Tom McCall park (named after a former governor).
By this point, we were getting hungry and thirsty (and little tired from all that walking). So we hit up some of the many incredible local breweries in the city. There are dozens of them, each with their own unique back stories and creative craft offerings. And if you’re interested, you can find more information about them HERE. We visited Hair of the Dog in eastern Portland, and Deschute’s back over on the western side.
We also had to make a stop at Powell’s! It’s a HUGE and famous bookstore in Portland (AKA neverland for me and my book worm fiancé). We (admittedly a little drunkenly) browsed aisle after endless aisle, painstakingly chose just 3 books each we wanted to buy, and then had to high-tail it out of there before the whole evening was lost. Anyone who visits Portland should check it out… just maybe don’t have 2 beer flights first. 😛
To cap the night, we had dinner at Higgins. The white table-cloth bistro was recommended to me by someone I met in the airport, and it did not disappoint. The place had a dark, old fashioned feel, which was perfect for a rainy date night after a long day. The food is locally sourced, and absolutely delicious. I feasted on the special, braised lamb with squash gnocchi, and Avu ordered the house specialty, the Marget and Confit of duck. Pair all that with a classic Oregon Pinot (a Stephen Goff to be exact) and… there are no words. Finished it off with a peach sour cream tart, and I was blissfully asleep the moment we got home.
Day 2: Saturday
When in Portland, you absolutely MUST visit the Willamette Valley wine region. This is probably what I was the most excited for. Anyone who knows me knows how I feel about a good Pinot, and this region is famous for them. Willamette Valley produces bright bold wines known for their combinations of youthful acidity and old-school complexity. There are hundreds of wineries and vineyards in this region, but a lot of them are pretty close together once you get out into the mountains.
The first winery we stopped at, Montinore, was a fully bio-dynamic vineyard, so we got to spend some time learning so much more about what exactly bio-dynamic wine is, and why you should be drinking it.
Click HERE to read more about biodynamic wine, why you should drink it, and when.
You can find out more information about the region and all the wineries you can visit HERE. Here are the one’s we made it to:
Each of these wineries are nestled in the hillsides, offering gorgeous views of the valley to accompany your wine tastings. The staff are all wonderful, and clearly passionate about PNW wine production. The prices for the tastings all ranged from 15-20 bucks…and most wineries offered to waive those fees when you purchase bottles of wine. (Which we did…at all of them….). So let’s just say we were feeling good by the end of the day. I’ve been to wineries before, but our day long excursion also made me realize that there is definitely a right way and a wrong way to do wine tastings…I’m thinking about that as the subject for a future post. (Stay tuned…)
We ended up having to cut our day a little short after our car got stuck in the mud. No joke, check my instagram highlight from this trip if you want to know more. It was hilarious, but we eventually made it out thanks to a friendly stranger and the gods of AAA.
For dinner on Saturday, we stayed closer to the suburbs, eating at a trendy Italian restaurant called Decarli. The cocktail menu is fabulous, and everything we tried on the menu (from the polenta fries to the original pizzetta) was delicious. Also, discount the dessert menu here. It’s small but mighty (we ordered three dishes from it…). And once again, after all that food (and let’s be honest, all that wine)… I slept like a baby after getting home from dinner.
Day 3: Sunday
After the vehicle mishap from the day before, we had to switch our schedule up around for Sunday (another part of the reason I need to come back and visit again so soon!). We finished our winery tour in the morning, before heading back into town in the afternoon. We had a late lunch at Loyal Legion, where you can also try even more local Oregon brews. Sausage is also big up there, and the hand-dipped corn dog off LL’s menu was INSANE. I could have eaten 10 of them.
Finally, we capped off our Portland trip with an NBA game at Moda Center…in the Rose Quarter. We watched the Trailblazers beat out the Miami Heat (sorry Avu) but I was too full and tipsy by that point to even care about the score.
We called it an early night, and hit the road before dawn Monday morning to beat any rush hour traffic.
All in all, this trip was a blast. It definitely fell somewhere in the middle between a relaxing and a very active trip… but I think that’s what is so awesome about Portland. You can get that combination of both (and A LOT of great beer and wine to go along with it.) The links throughout this post will take you to some of the cool places I visited, as well as ways to learn more.
And in case you were wondering, here’s some of the things on my list for next time that we didn’t make it to.
- Huber’s – this trendy cafe and restaurant has been around since 1879 and is partly known for its bold Spanish coffee
- Ground Kontrol – this is an old school bar full of vintage video and arcade games…how cool is that?!
- Portland Art Museum – the oldest art museum on the west coast
- Widmer Brother’s Brewing – now the oldest operating brewery in Portland