Portland is eclectic, quirky, weird and wonderful all bundled up into one city. The largest city in Oregon on the western coast of the United States, Portland sits on the Columbia and Willamette rivers meaning the city is divided in half, with numerous bridges closing the gap. Some of the highlights that come to mind when you think of Portland may be the many breweries, its famous doughnuts, hipster coffeehouses and vibrant music and art.
We spent a weekend in Portland on our way down the coast on this summer's roadtrip. We spent the entire trip camping, and reveled in the opportunity to dive into a king size bed in a hotel for one night (and a proper shower!).
How to Get to Portland
Portland's international airport can be reached by all major global destinations, just north of the city. Named the USA's best airport by Travel + Leisure for the last 6 years (!!), PDX is easily accessible, features great food and drink and airport Wi-Fi! You can get into the downtown area via the MAX light rail train which is a 40-minute journey costing $2.50/adult.
We drove down from Vancouver via many national parks and beautiful coastlines, all of which took us a couple of days. If you're driving direct, it's just under 6 hours between the 2 major cities; Portland is just 3 hours from Seattle. There are also long-distance buses and trains between Vancouver-Seattle-Portland; check out WanderU for itineraries and tickets.
Where to Stay in Portland
Nestled right on the Willamette River with the comfiest beds I have ever stayed in, the StayPineapple at the Rose Hotel is a quirky themed hotel that stays true to its motto of "Keep Portland Weird!". While they seemed to be a bit under-staffed leading to a check-in line out the door, the rest of our stay was perfect. The room was spacious, we never wanted to get out of our king-sized bed, and its in walking distance of all the highlights you want to check out. The front desk has great tips for things to do in the area.
Things to Do in Portland
Wander the Streets
One of the best ways to get acquainted with a new city is to grab a paper map and hit the streets. Friendly locals will guide you in the right direction and you can explore the different alleys and streets that make up the city. Portland has a couple different neighbourhoods:
- Downtown - full of food, shopping, music and art, and lots of places to stay
- Chinatown - entertainment district, markets, Chinese Gardens, famous Voodoo Doughnuts, not a place you want to be after dark
- Northwest - boutique-y and upper class shopping and neighbourhood streets
- Pearl District - former warehouse and loading docks, now a stylish and chic restaurant district
- Lloyd District - business hub, Moda Centre Mall and NBA arena
- Central Eastside - across the Willamette river next to downtown where railways meet breweries
Spend Hours at Powell's Books
Quite honestly, if we had spent our entire weekend at Powell's Books, I wouldn't have been upset. Powell's is the world's largest independent bookstore, and it covers an entire city block. It's HUGE. A combination of new and used books line the many, many shelves, in the dozens of colour-coded rooms, all arranged by subject and author. There is something for everyone; from the old man browsing the World War 2 archives, to the family checking out the board games, to the lady poking through interior design books. The categories are so specific and so vast, you'd be hard-pressed to ask for a topic that isn't covered.
Powell's also hosts many author nights and other fantastic reading events - it's not just a bookstore, but a whole community. Check out their rare book room on the top floor, as well.
Dance Through the Roses at the Portland Rose Garden
They don't call this the City of Roses for nothing - check out the beautiful Portland Rose Garden, home to over 10,000 rose bushes of 650+ varieties. The garden is the International Rose Test Garden where different roses are grown and types are explored. The gardens are free to visit, with the biggest and brightest blooms in Spring.
Bite into a Delicious Voodoo Doughnut
You honestly cannot come to Portland without stopping in at one of the 2 Voodoo Doughnut shops. Hot tip: go first thing in the morning! You may think eating a doughnut for breakfast is crazy, but trust me, you'll want to the avoid the hour-long line ups and pushing and shoving (yes - we spoke to the cashier) that can crop up! There's over 50 types of doughnuts available, including vegan options, with customizations on offer as well. And they're addicting.
Things to See Near Portland
Portland is a great base for checking out the surrounding areas, home to some stunning natural sights and gorgeous coastline. Click on each photo below for more information!