My 48 Hours in Portland, Oregon
Portland, Oregon is continually thought of as the coolest cities 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 8 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!
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Voodoo Doughnut Lived Up To The Hype
I arrived at the Portland, Oregon airport. Due to my United Airlines flight delay, Rick and Kim graciously picked me up at 2 AM. As it turned out, this was the perfect time to visit one of the best-known institutions, Voodoo Doughnut. It is a kitschy joint that relates sexual innuendo to their products and decor. Voodoo Doughnut’s pink dozen doughnuts box is as famous as the weird names of their pastries. I opted for the Maple Bacon Bar and Kim chose the Memphis Mafia. Check out their outrageous list of donuts here, including the popular Cock-n-Balls and Voodoo Doll Doughnut.
Delightful German Food
We started our day by eating lunch at Gustav’s, a well-known German restaurant in Clackamas, for a Multiple Sclerosis meeting. Kim was diagnosed with MS in her early 30’s and has since become an advocate and therapist for those dealing with this affliction. I learned a lot from attending this luncheon seminar and enjoyed seeing Kim share her advice and situation with others.
At Gustav’s, we started with Mulligatawny and Bier Onion soup followed by Pretzel Fondue. The fondue was superb! For lunch, I had the Hungarian Chicken Jager, a breaded chicken cutlet covered in cremini mushrooms. It was topped with a Hungarian paprika sauce and paired with a bed of homemade spätzle. The dish was amazing but I could not begin to eat it all as the portion was huge. Our service was impressive, too. Being a lover of German food, I would definitely recommend Gustav’s. Save room for their Apple Strudel.
Historic Sites Are a Must
After lunch, we headed out for a day of admiring Oregon’s 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 (but the winds took care of that). This was the ending point of the 2,000 mile Oregon Trail.
Portland is Known For Their Falls
Kim, Rick, and I continued driving for miles, stopping to admire the plethora of lovely waterfalls that Oregon has to offer. The mountains, covered with dense, lush trees, were magnificent and the air smelled so clean that it was hypnotizing. We even witnessed a bright rainbow in front of the glistening green mountain range on 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 because it reminded me of being in the Black Forest of Germany. Kiteboarder’s congregated 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 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, Historic Hotel
Rick insisted on taking me to the historic 1904 Columbia Gorge Hotel, where legendary actor Rudolph Valentino loved to stay. In fact, they even named the Valentino Terrace and Lounge after him. We walked around the hotel and admired the landscaping and vibrant cherry blossoms. Hundreds of daffodils around the property 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.
We visited the Valentino Lounge for a glass of wine and appetizers. The restaurant was celebrating happy hour and offered complimentary cheese and crackers. We still opted to order from the menu because the Sweet Potato Skins sounded divine. This killer recipe included baked sweet potatoes topped with cheese, bacon, and scallions served with a rich cinnamon crème fraîche.
The Scenic Drive
Our drive along the historic Columbia River Highway was a marvelous adventure. The road is commonly said to be one of the most scenic drives in the country. These windy roads were made for early Model T (touring) cars. How cool would it have been to travel in that style? We 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 went to hear live music at Edgefield in Troutdale, Oregon at one of the legendary McMenamin’s properties. It was a night of bluegrass, tasty wines, and beer. We walked through the eclectic McMenamin Brothers grounds and viewed their whimsical walls, furniture, and a plethora of gardens. Historic Edgefield was built in 1911. It is only 20 minutes from the central hub of Portland, near the Columbia Gorge scenic area. Edgefield is Portland’s premier outdoor venue, with a 128-room hotel, several restaurants, bars, tasting rooms, live entertainment, glass-blowers, potters, and a library, just to mention a few. Bonus, it is pet-friendly.
If you live in the Portland area and are a “cosmic tripster“, start your own 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 was $25 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 major amounts of money to fighting childhood cancer.
A Cool Vinyl Shop and Trendy Lunch
On my second day in Portland, we 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 classic 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 7 days a week. EastBurn had really 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 $2.50 more, I upgraded the fries to “trinity” fries, russet and sweet potatoes topped with fried leeks and a roasted tomato aioli. My 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 repeatedly featured on Portland’s top 10 happy hour lists.
Great View of the Columbia River Gorge
In Corbett, 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. I can see why! There were visitors from all over the world there. It was an enjoyable stop as I enjoyed the scenery and superb architecture. Visa House also had a terrific gift shop selling cool postcards, posters, 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.)
Exploring Portland’s Neighborhoods
We spent the remainder of our day strolling and driving through the popular 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 interesting and unique. The 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.
Don’t Miss the Photogenic Riverfront
All of 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. Do not miss the USS Blueback, a decommissioned Navy submarine, in the river 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. Pioneer Courthouse Square also has a great view. I like traveling across the cool Steel Bridge. It has a lower deck for carrying railroad, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic plus an upper deck for Portland’s Max Light Rail (mostly above ground metro/subway).
Portland, Oregon Pub/Food Crawling
Throughout the day, Kim, Rick, and I stopped in a few bars 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 had beer and Crab Dip. It offers 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 very 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 disagree because I think it is #1.
So Much To See and Do
Portland has a photogenic skyline and all sorts of interesting 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 up 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 from this point. The views below the lookout point were the site of the 1905 World’s Fair, the Lewis & Clark Centennial Exposition.
Portland is a Beautiful City
My whirlwind trip was far greater than I had anticipated. I covered a lot of territories to have only been in Portland, Oregon for 48 hours and plan on going back to see much more. A return trip may take me to see the close-by towns of Vancouver, Washington, and maybe even Eugene to take in a Ducks basketball game. Nature, food, history, and culture lovers will fall in love with this city. If you have been to Portland, please share some of your favorite things to do. Did I make fair progress in the City of Roses?
Portland Fun Facts
FYI: An important term to know in Portland is “growler“. In the 1800’s, 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.
Next Time: 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.
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.
FYI: Marijuana is legal in Oregon and dispensaries are abundant, although they must abide by strict rules. Weedmap brochures walk you through the city’s medical and recreational offerings.
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.
Oregon Photo Gallery:
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: