Portland, Oregon: One of America’s Best River Cities
Positioned between the snowy white peak of Mt Hood and the Pacific Ocean, Portland, Oregon has a lot to offer. Portland sits on the banks of the famous Willamette River, providing both transportation and recreation. The craft beer industry is in full swing here and wines from the Willamette Valley are on the wine list of every restaurant, wine bar, and wine shop. Outdoor activities abound and Forest Park is one of the most spectacular urban parks in the world. Adding to these assets, Portland has one of the most dynamic restaurants, farmers market, and food cultures in America.
Portland has a variety of hotel lodging options for travelers that includes historic hotels like the Benson, Sentinel, or the Heathman. Modern hotel options that stand out are the Paramount, and the Riverplace. Though not as historic as some, I was wowed by the Hotel Monaco, Hotel Vintage, and Hotel Lucia in Portland’s downtown core. Getting to Portland’s downtown from the airport is inexpensive and easy on the MAX light rail. For a mere 2.50 USD your pass is good for two and a half hours. A 5 USD pass is good for all day and provides light rail or bus travel to most of the best attractions in Portland.
Once you get checked into your hotel it’s time to explore. Taking a bus, Uber, or taxi up to the Portland Japanese Garden is a must for garden lovers. These gardens are one of the best examples of a Japanese Garden in North America. After visiting the gardens a short taxi ride will take you to the historic Pittock Mansion with drop-dead gorgeous views of Portland and Mt Hood to the east. Built in 1914 by Henry Pittock, the owner of the Oregonian newspaper at the time, this French Renaissance-style chateau is definitely worth a visit.
Get outside and explore
From the mansion hiking enthusiasts might want to tackle the 30-mile Wildwood Trail in Forest Park. You could take different paths on the way downhill and grab a taxi/Uber to shorten the hike or walk all the way back into the city. The beauty of Forest Park might convince you to finish the hike but be warned it takes some six hours, even for the fittest folks, to complete this knee-crunching trail. For less strenuous activities head to the Willamette River banks and stroll the waterfront. On weekends catch the Portland Saturday Market. Here you will find a food court, dozens of arts and crafts booths, artisanal foods and more. Open both Saturday and Sunday, find the market on Naito Parkway by the Burnside Bridge. Head upstream by the Riverplace Marina and watch the dragon boat teams practice Some dragon boat teams practice throughout the year. If you feel up to some water activities of your own there are several to choose from. Rent a kayak for solo or duo paddling on the river and go at your own pace.
Try out a small craft from Portland Electric Boat, said to be as easy as driving a golf cart. These fun little boats hold up to ten passengers and offer a safe way to see the river areas. The Portland Spirit is a small cruise ship providing dinner cruises, lunch cruises, sightseeing, and other options. Portland Sprit also has other options in four other boats on the Willamette and Columbia Rivers.
Portland is a city of parks and art. The two go together well and you will see plenty of sculptures in parks and on city streets. Stop by the Portland Art Museum and see their collection of Asian, American, Native American, and Northwest art. Portland has multiple choices for live music, theater, and poetry, rounding out the art offerings. A quick check on Wikipedia.com lists over 100 parks in Portland! For rose lovers check out Washington Park and Portland Rose Garden in SW Portland for a fragrant walk. Lan Su Chinese Garden, located in the SW Portland area, is recognized as one of the cities treasures. Visitors to Lan Su Garden feel transported to another place and time witnessing thousands of years of Chinese culture in one place.
The Tom McCall Waterfront Park stretches out at the foot of Portland with excellent views of the city skyline from below. The North Park Blocks feature one of the coolest sculptures in Portland where an elephant duo (Da Tung and Xi’an Bao Bao) will capture your imagination.
One of the best food towns in the U.S.
Portland restaurants feature both Northwest regional cuisine and ethnic foods too. Andina is one of the best Peruvian restaurants in America and is located in the Pearl District. Join them at 1314 NW Glisan Street for lunch, happy hour, or dinner. Speaking of happy hour, for the best view in town head to the Portland City Grill on the 30th floor of the U.S. Bancorp Tower and gaze at far-off snowy white giants. Mt Hood, Mt. Adams, Mount Saint Helens, and even massive Mount Rainier can be seen on clear days. The menu is tempting with specialties like Kung Pao Calamari, and the wine list is expansive. Don’t forget the food truck and food cart scene in Portland when thinking about lunch or dinner. It is said some of the best food in Portland is served in this low-priced option. Not the best for the rainy day eating but on sunny days it’s hard to beat a meal from one of these vendors enjoyed on a park bench.
Restaurants attached to hotels have gotten a bad name over the years but I have found that is changing. Nowhere more so than Portland are restaurants attached to hotels making a statement of quality food. Swank is attached to the Paramount Hotel next to South Park Blocks and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Try the calamari starter and then the mushroom risotto for a winning combination. At Imperial restaurant, attached to the Hotel Lucia, you will find great food coming from this fiery kitchen that features a rare movable charcoal grill. Try a regional fish like lingcod or salmon from the grill paired with a hot-from-the-oven Parker House Roll. Their hazelnut sundae is a decadent and great looking dessert served in a tall glass vessel of goodness.
It can be rainy
One of the few negative aspects of Portland is the rain. Yes it does rain here but in the summer and fall there’s a good chance of getting plenty of sunshine. And with one of the best bookstores in the world, Powell’s City of Books, you can curl up in your room reading until the showers pass.
With so much fun and tasty options, Portland, Oregon is gaining fame for one of the best cities in the world for food, art, craft beer, wines, and outdoor activities. Come to Portland and see if you agree.
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