Portland, Oregon, is continually thought of as the coolest city to visit in the United States. Being a foodie and culture freak, Portland has been on my radar for quite some time. Imagine how excited I was when a long-time friend, who has been a local for eight years, invited me to visit her while I was on the West coast. I jumped at the chance to visit Kim and Rick and spent 48 hours in Portland, Oregon!
Those Famous Doughnuts
I arrived at the Portland, Oregon airport in the wee hours of the morning. Rick and Kim graciously picked me up at 2 AM. It turns out; this is the perfect time to visit one of the best-known Portland institutions, Voodoo Doughnut.
This kitschy doughnut joint relates sexual innuendo to each of their tasty products and fun decor. Voodoo Doughnut’s pink boxes are as famous as the interesting names of their doughnuts. I opted for the Maple Bacon Bar, and Kim chose the Memphis Mafia. OMG, it was so delicious! Other popular choices included Cock-n-Balls and Voodoo Doll Doughnut.
Delightful German Food
After a few hours of sleep, we started our day with an early lunch at Gustav’s, a well-known German restaurant in Clackamas. Kim, diagnosed with MS in her early 30s, was co-hosting a Multiple Sclerosis meeting. I learned a lot from hearing her speak to the group and appreciated Kim’s expertise on the subject.
At Gustav’s, we started our meal with Mulligatawny and Bier Onion soups, followed by Pretzel Fondue. The fondue was superb! For lunch, I chose the Hungarian Chicken Jager, a breaded chicken cutlet covered in cremini mushrooms. It was topped with a flavorful Hungarian paprika sauce and paired with a bed of homemade spätzle. The chicken was scrumptious, but I could not begin to eat the huge portion. Our service at Gustav’s was impressive, too. Being a lover of German food, I would recommend it. Save room for the raved about Apple Strudel!
Historic Sites Are a Must
After lunch, we headed out for a day filled with Oregon’s beautiful scenery. Our first stop was to Oregon City (previously the territorial capital) and the gorgeous Willamette (pronounced will-AM-it) Falls. Here, we found a park, hiking trails, museum, and white rails that once held a canvas over them resembling a stagecoach. Unfortunately, the strong winds took care of that. Oregon City was the ending point of the 2,000 mile Oregon Trail.
Kim, Rick, and I continued driving for miles, stopping to admire the plethora of lovely waterfalls that Oregon has to offer. The tree-filled mountains were gorgeous, and the air smelled so fresh that it was hypnotizing.
As a bonus, we witnessed a bright rainbow in front of the glistening green mountain range along our drive. Points of interest we saw on the Lewis & Clark Trail included famous waterfalls, historic hotels, cute western-themed towns, and a fabulous view of Mount Hood.
Multnomah Falls was my favorite of the falls that we encountered because it reminded me of being back in the Black Forest of Germany. Kiteboarder’s assembled along the banks of the Cascade Locks Visitors Center on the Hood River, but the winds were not in their favor. Canadian geese feasted on the grasses in front of the center as we photographed the bronze sculpture of a sexier version of Sacajawea (who accompanied the Lewis and Clark expedition) and her dog Seaman.
A Romantic Stop
Rick insisted on taking me to the historic 1904 Columbia Gorge Hotel, where legendary actor Rudolph Valentino loved to stay. The hotel even named the Valentino Terrace and Lounge after the famous heartthrob (Valentino, not Rick). We walked around the hotel and shot photos of the landscape filled with blossoming cherry blossoms. Hundreds of daffodils around the Columbia Gorge Hotel showed the first signs of spring. Do not miss the Wah Gwin Gwin Falls directly behind the hotel, which cascades 208 feet down to the river below. It is stunning!
We popped into the Valentino Lounge at the hotel for a glass of wine and an appetizer. The restaurant was celebrating happy hour and offered complimentary cheese and crackers to those there for it. We enjoyed the free nibbles, then ordered some Sweet Potato Skins from the menu. This killer recipe featured baked sweet potatoes (topped with cheese, bacon, and scallions) paired with a cinnamon crème fraîche that tasted delicious and was so creative
Leaving the hotel, our drive along the historic Columbia River Highway was a gem. The road is commonly said to be one of the most scenic drives in the country, and I could see why. These windy roads were made for early Model T touring cars. How cool would it have been to travel in that style along these scenic paths? The three of us snaked our way past five significant waterfalls, the Cascade Locks, and saw the Bridge of the Gods, which crossed into Washington while driving the Columbia River Highway.
After hours of admiring Portland’s beautiful scenery, we stopped at one of the legendary McMenamin’s properties to listen to some live music at Edgefield in Troutdale, Oregon, some 20 minutes from central Portland. It was a night of fierce bluegrass, tasty wines, and ice-cold beer.
We walked through Edgefield’s eclectic property grounds, circa 1911, checking out the whimsical walls, furniture, and a plethora of gardens. Edgefield is Portland’s premier outdoor venue, with a 128-room hotel, several restaurants, bars, tasting rooms, glass-blowers, potters, and a library, to mention a few. Besides being pet-friendly, it is also on the National Register of Historic Places.
If you live in the Portland area and are a “cosmic tripster,” start your passport documenting your McMenamin visits. Purchases accumulate towards gifts, free food, and grand prizes of hotel stays, concert tickets, or happy hour for a year. Yes, you read that right, happy hour for a year! The passport costs $30 and available to those over 21 years of age. The McMenamin’s brothers own roughly 57 venues throughout Oregon, 44 within the Greater Portland/downtown areas and donate significant amounts of money to fighting childhood cancer.
A Cool Vinyl Shop and Damned Tasty Lunch
On my second day in Portland, Kim, Rick, and I hit the ground running to see all that we could around the greater Portland area. Our first stop in the Burnside area was Music Millennium, a vintage vinyl shop offering any kind of music you could want, plus fun t-shirts, posters, and gifts. Portland’s slogan is “Keep Portland Weird” and Music Millennium definitely displayed that!
We ate brunch at EastBurn, a spectacular foodie spot serving brunch seven days a week. EastBurn had cool swinging wicker chairs in the window area, but since they were not conducive to a party of three, we sat in a booth.
Our brunch choices from EastBurn’s impressive menu were Brisket Hash, Lobster & Crawfish Benedict, and the Über Sandwich. My Über Sandwich was a pork medallion topped with a potato pancake, caramelized onions, scallion sour cream, and bourbon apple chutney on a damned tasty bun. For a small upcharge, I upgraded my fries to “trinity” fries, russet and sweet potatoes topped with fried leeks and roasted tomato aioli. The entire meal was phenomenal! There were no complaints from Kim or Rick either.
We topped off our meal with a brunch flight featuring a Bloody Mary, Greyhound, Mimosa, and Coffee Nudge. EastBurn is often featured on Portland’s top 10 happy hour lists.
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Columbia River Gorge Views
In Corbett, Oregon, we visited the Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint with the best vantage point views of the Columbia River Gorge vistas. Vista House, a memorial to Oregon’s pioneers, was built on the summit of Crown Point so that travelers on the highway could see the wonders of the beautiful Columbia Gorge.
The gorge is spectacular, and it is one of Oregon’s most visited landmarks. There were visitors from all over the world there. I loved this visit for the scenery as much as the incredible architecture. Visa House also had a terrific gift shop selling postcards, posters, cute sweatshirts, and hand-crafted local artisan pieces.
(Due to rain and weather conditions, my pictures were less than desirable; hence the reason for none featured.)
We spent the remainder of our day strolling and driving through the trendy Mississippi, Old Chinatown, Rose Quarter, Pearl, Nob Hill/Uptown, Hawthorne, and Lents neighborhoods. The ones that appealed the most to me were Mississippi and Nob Hill.
An interesting mention is that the area adjacent to Nob Hill/Uptown is referred to as the “alphabet historic district” because the streets go in alphabetic order of words (A, B, C,…). The classic Victorian houses were pretty to look at, and the boutiques were exciting and unique to shop at. Portland’s chic Pearl District contains upper-end eateries and cultural institutions.
Hawthorne offered hip thrift stores and ethnic eats. Blackbird Pizza and House of Vintage were my favorites! There is so much to do in this area. Stop to admire the sweet Belmont goats (recently relocated) in Lents; the city houses and feeds them. Riverplace was a neat spot, too, with views of the river and colorful dragon boats. In the summer months, Riverplace hosts dragon boat races.
Portland’s Photogenic Riverfront
The boats docked along the Willamette riverfront, and a passing red, white, and blue sternwheeler looked gorgeous with the Marquam and Tilikum Crossing bridges in the background. This is a great photo-op area you won’t want to miss.
You’ll also see the USS Blueback (a decommissioned Navy submarine), which starred in the hit movie “Hunt for Red October” and on episodes of the “Portlandia” TV show. In 2008, the USS Blueback was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Portland Pub and Food Crawling
Periodically during the day, Kim, Rick, and I stopped in a few bars, shops, and restaurants. One of the highlights was Paxton Gate, an oddity shop filled with treasures, bones, and pricey displays of taxidermy inspired by nature and gardens. At the Portland Brewing Company, we drank beer and ate creamy Crab Dip. They offered reasonably priced souvenir t-shirts.
For happy hour at the St. Jack Restaurant and Bar, we enjoyed discounted cocktails and rich, flavorful Bourguignon Poutine. I found the Poutine (Pommes Frites and cheese curds with cremini mushrooms, bacon, caramelized onion, peas, and red wine gravy) very fussy, but tasty. St. Jack’s beer selections were limited.
I enjoyed scoops of Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper and Pear with Blue Cheese ice cream from the trendy “farm to cone” Salt & Straw, a natural dairy handmade ice cream store. All of this deliciousness came in a delectable waffle cone. I am not usually an ice cream junkie, but this place was worth the hype. Food Network claims that Salt & Straw’s Strawberry Honey Balsamic is #2 top ice creams in America. I’m afraid I have to disagree because I think it is #1.
On my next visit, I will try a food pod, found throughout the city. From full food truck size to tiny campers, the food pod menus look incredibly desirable. I like the individuality they all offer.
The Fun Never Ends
Portland has a photogenic skyline and all sorts of gorgeous bridges. It really comes alive at night when all of the signs are lit in neon pastels. Crossing the Burnside Bridge and seeing the white stag neon sign was one of my favorite Portland experiences.
A visit to the history-rich Pittock Mansion for the panoramic views of the city’s skyline was also high on my to-do list. This French-style chateau, home to the former owner of the Oregonian newspaper, was closed by the time we arrived, but we did get to visit the gift shop and walk around the property. Pittock Mansion is a popular place for both visitors and locals, as the locals often walk their dogs here.
On a clear day, you can see Mount Adams, Rainier, Hood, Jefferson, and St. Helens. The views below the lookout point were the site of the 1905 World’s Fair, the Lewis & Clark Centennial Exposition.
Portland, Oregon: A City With Loads of Fun
My whirlwind trip was far greater than I had anticipated. I covered a lot of territory in Oregon to have only been there for 48 hours. I’ll have to plan another adventure to see more.
If you have been to Portland, please share some of your favorite things to do. Did I make good progress in the City of Roses?
Portland Fun Facts
FYI: A vital term to know in Portland is “growler”. In the 1800s, beer was carried from the local pub to one’s home in a galvanized pail. When the beer sloshed around the pail, it produced a rumbling sound due to the CO2 escaping through the lid; thus, the term growler was coined. Today, it refers to a 64+ ounce container in which tap beer is poured for home consumption.
FYI: Book lovers will go gaga over the selection and size of Powell’s independent bookstores, with over 2 million books in inventory and more than 500 author events per year. City of Books is their flagship location.
Next Time: I was hoping to visit the freaky but true Peculiarium and Museum, but it was closed. This museum contains oddities, Sci-Fi art exhibits, gag gifts, and other freaky things that celebrate urban legends and just plain weird stuff.
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Many thanks to my friends Rick and Kim (who live on what I refer to as a “dirt” road but they call an “unimproved road”), the perfect hostesses. They really put thought into all of the things they wanted to show me, knew the history about the places we visited, and kept me smiling and laughing the entire trip. I hope to be back soon!
More cultural fun places to check out: