Tickled pink that the example travel location is Portland...
June 22, 2012 9:19 PM   Subscribe

Help us make the most of 3 days in Portland.

The bf and I are driving to Portland from California on July 4th and driving back July 8th. This leaves us with 3 full days to do stuff and make fun memories! I've read the other what to do in Portland threads, and so far we've come up with:

Powell's Books
Chinese Garden
Aerial Tram
Mount Hood
Shanghai Tunnel (maybe)

and for food:

Pok Pok
Tasty N Sons

We're thinking of spending one day in Mount Hood, but we want to have more options for the other 2 days. Anyone have more cool ideas?

Any hotel/clothing suggestions would be welcome, as well. We already have a reservation at the Phoenix Inn Tigard, but this can be cancelled by July 3 without penalty.

posted by madonna of the unloved to Travel & Transportation around Portland, OR (16 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Columbia River Gorge and Nicholas Restaurant and the farmers market by Portland State Univ on Saturday (which for some reason I like a lot better than the Portland Saturday Market).
posted by MoonOrb at 9:30 PM on June 22, 2012

I'd recommend Decarli in "downtown" Beaverton for the food list. If you're into happy hours, Portland has the most happy hours of... I forget the exact statistic, but there's a lot of happy hours; not to mention lots of wines. The Japanese Garden. Portland is also the City of Roses, so don't forget the International Rose Test Garden. Seconding Columbia River Gorge. A drive and picnic around Sauvie Island, lots of farmer's markets.

Clothing... I'm sure it'll be hot and sunny at some point, but an extra packable layer (e.g. a water-resistant windbreaker with hood for random rain) especially for any mount visit wouldn't hurt. The summer weather has been very hit or miss even now.
posted by Ky at 9:42 PM on June 22, 2012

Cancel the Phoenix Inn in Tigard and get a room at the Kennedy School.

Yes to Powell's and the Chinese Gardens. You can do these on the same day and stand in line for a Voodoo Doughnut in between.

Personally, I'd skip the Tram and go to the Farmer's Market at PSU instead as MoonOrb suggested. Check out the biscuits and gravy place at the market for a snack. Get the vegetarian one, it's freaking amazing.

I'd suggest The Screen Door on Burnside for breakfast if you don't mind standing in a real long line and talking to locals for an hour first.

Don't stay on the westside (downtown). Go the the Hawthorne Neighborhood and walk around.

If you follow my advice and stay at the Kennedy School, you'll be near the Alberta Neighborhood which is also nice for a stroll and some shopping or bar hopping.

Saburo's really does have excellent sushi. The portions are huge though so, look around at your neighbors in the dining area before estimating how much you should order. And expect to wait. One word about Portland restaurant waiting lists, there is often not a hostess and you are expected to walk up to a clip board and write your own name on the list. Ask someone else waiting, the regulars at Saburo are good at estimating the wait list. There's a cool bar up the street called Oaks Bottom. If your wait at Saburo is long, go there for a beer or cider while you wait.
posted by dchrssyr at 10:15 PM on June 22, 2012

I'd also skip the tram and cancel the place in Tigard in favor of staying in Portland proper. McMenamin's Kennedy School would be great.

I'd make your Mt. Hood day the middle day (because it will be a lot of driving) and do it something like this: drive from Portland through Sandy up to Timberline Lodge (if that's your Hood destination; Hood itself doesn't have a town you visit, but hiking trails, views, skiing, etc) and have lunch at hot cocoa at Timberline and marvel at the views. Then, make a loop of it by driving to Hood River and having dinner at a brew pub there and drive back through the Columbia River Gorge. You could do this in reverse, too, which would mean you'd have time to check out some pretty waterfalls during the day. Are you looking to do a long hike or just check out some nice views?

There are some good restaurants, but I don't know that any one place would be worth going out of your way for. If you are staying in a certain part of town, check out the best places there instead of schlepping all over. Part of what's lovely about Portland is strolling through the nearest commercial district in whatever neighborhood you are in.

The Rose Garden in Washington Park is lovely... check a day or two before and find out if the roses are still in bloom. You also get nice views of Hood from there if it's clear.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:42 PM on June 22, 2012

For alternative lodging, some friends of mine stayed at the Ace Hotel when they were visiting from London a couple years ago. They loved it, and it's a couple blocks from Powell's. Also, Kenny and Zuke's is right downstairs.

I second Ky's suggestion of Decarli in downtown Beaverton. Fabulous restaurant out in the burbs.
posted by nickthetourist at 10:48 PM on June 22, 2012

Don't stay in Tigard.

Kennedy school would be a good reasonably-priced choice, as would the White Eagle (another McMenamins, but much closer in, walkable to Mississippi. Walkable to your west side destinations (powells, Chinese garden) if you are used to walking...

Also, between the Chinese garden and powell's, you might enjoy Ground Kontrol (an arcade). And the 24 hour church of Elvis, if you're feeling quirky for a few minutes.

The rose gardens in washington and peninsula parks are both lovely. If you like gardens, the Grotto might be another good option.

People watching/strolling - Hawthorne and the Pearl probably offer the biggest contrasts.

My personal favorite PDX people-watching spot is an outdoor table at Gilt Club on a summer evening. Tasty cocktails, solid northwesty snacks, and reliably odd passersby - fantastic!
posted by janell at 10:56 PM on June 22, 2012

Thanks for the suggestions everyone.

Quick question: why is everyone so against staying in Tigard? I've checked out The Kennedy School and White Eagle locations on Yelp, and some of the reviews mention limited amenities, paper thin walls, shared bathrooms, etc. While those places seem fun to visit, comfort is our first priority, which is why we chose the Phoenix Inn (it has an indoor pool, free breakfast, etc.)

We're planning to drive from our hotel to Portland, spend the whole day there, then drive back. That's why we don't mind the 15 minute drive.

If anyone knows of more comfortable hotels in Portland that don't cost $200 a night, we would consider those.

posted by madonna of the unloved at 11:03 PM on June 22, 2012

You will be in Portland during the Barbershop Harmony Society's annual international convention, so don't be surprised if you encounter harmonizing in your travels downtown. If you happen to be near Director Park on Saturday at noon, consider swinging by for the MegaSing. It will be about 1000 people gathered together to sing some old barbershop songs for a half hour or so. That's not something you get to experience every day. For extra weirdness you could check out the lobby of the downtown Hilton on Saturday night when you will find people singing (and drinking) in groups of four, in every corner of the hotel, all night long.
posted by Balonious Assault at 11:15 PM on June 22, 2012

Tigard is in the suburbs—and it's nothing like Portland. It's like every other suburb in America. I mean, why come to Portland but not stay in Portland proper? The Kennedy School is great for a moderate price and there's a nice soaking pool—and it's a very "Oregon" experience.

Also, Saburo's is nothing special in terms of sushi—they're just big portions. Go to Yoko's on SE Gladstone (and get the takas tuna) if you want some serious sushi. Same with Shanghai Tunnel—not that great a bar (unless you like dark, hot, and crowded). If you want to experience a really Portland bar experience, try rontoms or Dig A Pony (tho I prefer the Former to the latter, the latter being just way too self-conscious).

I feel like there have been about three "What should we do in Portland?" posts in the past week alone—and the topic has been well-covered on AskMe so maybe search thru those millions of Portland posts.
posted by violetk at 12:26 AM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

There's nothing wrong with Tigard--it's just that for the Portland/Oregon experience, tourists typical start out in a more central location than out in a suburb. If the price is right, though, then staying a bit further out of downtown or "close-in" and driving around shouldn't be a problem--that's up to you. I consider the whole thing Portland Metro anyway--and it's very small compared to the other metro areas I've lived in/visited.
posted by Ky at 8:23 AM on June 23, 2012

I'm staying in Portland that weekend too - there's a blues festival on and the world domination summit will be bringing in a fair few people, as well as the general summer-weekend and July 4 trade, so hotel rooms seem to be quite expensive during this period. Don't cancel your booking til you find something else! Anyway, if you like blues that could be something else for your list. Someone recommended the food tour to me, if that's your kinda thing.
posted by jamesonandwater at 9:40 AM on June 23, 2012

This does seem to come up on Askme alot, but only twice in the last week. And another one just before that.

Not covered in those posts though is the lodging question. Tigard is way out there...it's not 15 minutes. Google maps is lying to you. You might be able to find comparable hotels near the Lloyd Center mall, which is right on the Max line to downtown...and easily-car-adjacent to just about everywhere else. The Jupiter Hotel has very quiet rooms too, and are pretty cheap...and it's smack dead in the middle of the city. The Ace Hotel is also fairly inexpensive, and right downtown.

I wouldn't go to Nostrana. It's okay, but there's way better food out there in the same vein for the same price. Try Nedd Ludd.
posted by furnace.heart at 3:56 PM on June 23, 2012

We stayed at the Jupiter last weekend, and found it to be pretty nice, and close to downtown and lots of other stuff.

I really, really enjoyed Salt and Straw, and it's in a pretty neat neighbourhood.

Also, if you're into that sort of thing, Schoolhouse Electric is fantastic.
posted by beepbeepboopboop at 4:18 PM on June 23, 2012

also, the joke is that summer officially starts in portland on july 4th, weather-wise. we've actually had a pretty sunny june overall this year, and i'm going to put it out there that we are going to have a nice warm summer, as opposed to the last few summers. still, clothing-wise, bring light layers. hope for high 70s/low 80s and sunny, but don't be surprised if we get some overcast still (particularly in the mornings).
posted by violetk at 7:08 PM on June 23, 2012

The Kennedy School is overrated - crappy food, crappy beer and crappy service. Locals who have never stayed there or have never had to apologize profusely for suggesting it tend to be the only ones who recommend it. Stay away from any of the McMenamins places - there are far too many better alternatives and you'll be stunned by how awful their places truly are.
Yes to the Tram - really awesome. You should add on the Japanese Gardens as well. Voodoo Donuts, well, be prepared to wait. Shanghai Tunnel? Ugh. Walk around in a basement with a dirt floor while carrying a flashlight while listening to someone discuss something that has been fully debunked? Ugh.
There are countless previous links about Portland but a few things have changed recently. Beer drinkers have many new choices (Gigantic, Occidental), there are more micro-distilleries, and some areas have, shall we say, passed their prime (NW 23rd) and some are really taking off (Williams, Mississippi, Alberta, and especially Division).
Restaurants I've enjoyed recently : Wafu & Sunshine Tavern on Division. Tasty/Sons is really great - been going there since day one and it's still a winner. (Take a few pictures of the neighborhood and then come back in 5 years when you won't recognize it.) Genoa ('fancy' italian) has rebounded quite well. Too many good breakfast places to count. Screen Door - yes, and get the fried chicken. K & Zuke's is another place that seems to have stalled, quality wise.
This is a huge, huge tourist weekend so lines will be long and parking will be in short supply.
No to Tigard - stay as close in as you can. Nostrana - good, but there's better. Yes to Toro Bravo.
summation: no to McMenamins anything, no to Tigard, no Tunnel Tour. Tram, Chinese, and Japanese Gardens yes. Enjoy no sales tax but no parking that week either.
posted by TomSophieIvy at 10:54 PM on June 23, 2012

Locals who have never stayed there or have never had to apologize profusely for suggesting it tend to be the only ones who recommend it.

hunh…i'm local, have stayed at mcmenamins, enjoyed it, and have never apologized for suggesting it—and i recommended it upthread. i've even—as a local—enjoyed their soaking pool. gasp!
posted by violetk at 11:56 PM on June 23, 2012

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