Must see in Portland, OR
July 8, 2016 8:40 AM   Subscribe

Hi! I'm going to be in Portland in a couple of weeks visiting friends in the Grant Park neighborhood. I'm staying with them, but I have two days where they're at work and I will be entertaining myself (which I am looking forward to). I have access to a car and the only thing I am certain of is that I will be spending 1/2 a day at Powell's. Is there anything else I shouldn't miss?

I don't drink, so beer stuff is out. I never learned to ride a bike (long story), so biking is out too. I love taking photos, easy-going, natural hikes, reading, craft/hand/home made stuff. I'm a beekeeper and an urban farmer and I knit/crochet. I am a total dork who also enjoys touristy, kitschy stuff, so throw that in if you're so inspired.

I will want to be back at their place for dinner every night, so no staying over anywhere. TIA!
posted by Sophie1 to Travel & Transportation around Portland, OR (31 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Use the max (light rail) and streetcar! Especially when you go to Powell's! It's easy to get to the max from Grant Park, and then you can walk to Powell's from there.

But first: take the max to Washington Park and stroll around there. Then go to Powell's (in case you buy stuff, so you don't have to lug books around).

Parking can be a challenge, and using the local transit is a great way to remove some stress and not worry about navigating in a busier area.

I suppose VooDoo Donuts, which is near Powell's, is the touristy/kitschy thing to do.

Have fun!
posted by bluedaisy at 8:47 AM on July 8, 2016

The rose garden is quite nice, not sure if there's public trans access.
posted by sammyo at 8:49 AM on July 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Wow there's so much. Japanese Garden, Chinese Garden, Rose Test Garden, Washington Park, Forest you want to just stay in the city? Because with a car you can drive along the Columbia River Gorge and see all that stuff and do some hikes, maybe see Hood River for a bit. Use tripadvisor- I've found it to be pretty good here in terms of what's ranked high and will help you narrow down what to do.
posted by FireFountain at 8:49 AM on July 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Also for hiking, here's a great website that lists out lots of hikes in the area, how hard they are, and what kinds of parking passes you may need to go there.
posted by FireFountain at 8:54 AM on July 8, 2016

Things that require shopping or entry fees:

Downtown: Saturday Market happens on the weekend. Japanese Garden. ( Rose Garden by donation.) Chinese Garden.

Near you: Alberta Street. Mississippi Street.

Everywhere: I don't like McMenamin's but lots of people love them and they're definitely a tourist chain.

Free things:
Hike Forest Park. Portland has some amazing parks but that's the largest. Half the libraries are super pretty.

Everyone takes pictures of all the bridges. There are a billion pictures of the St. Johns bridge and I don't like most of the pictures because it's over-photographed but every once in a while I'll see a St. Johns bridge photo that I fully appreciate and it totally makes my day.
posted by aniola at 8:55 AM on July 8, 2016

You know, I learned to swim in the Azores. If you want to learn to bike while you're in the city of bikes, get in touch with me!
posted by aniola at 8:57 AM on July 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Voodoo donuts is not a donut company. Voodoo donuts is a marketing company for selling donuts. In my opinion, it's not worth the line.
posted by aniola at 8:59 AM on July 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

Salt and Straw ice cream shop. Well worth the wait.
Nthing the Japanese Garden, Chinese Garden, Rose Garden and the definitely the Saturday Market.

This is crazy, but can you learn to ride a bike before you go? We did Pedal Bike Tours on a Sunday morning (little traffic) and had a great time, the guides are really great. If you can't, I'd suggest doing another tour of some kind - the city has so much to offer and it's a great way to cover lots of ground in a relatively short amount of time.
posted by onecircleaday at 9:04 AM on July 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh! There's an amazing knitting shop in town, called Knit Purl on SW Alder Street. I'm a knitter myself, and couldn't even walk in because I knew I'd spend my whole paycheck. But from the window, it's a wonderful little shop ; )

I know you're eating dinner at their house every night, but if you get a chance, try Prasad cafe. They have delicious food, you can't go wrong. All organic, lots of veggies, healthy, and tasty as all get-out. Or breakfast at Tasty and Alder's. Not as healthy, but we talk about that breakfast to this day, it was so delicious!
posted by onecircleaday at 9:07 AM on July 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

If the weather is clear, take the tram from the waterfront up to the Oregon Health and Science campus! Great views and a fun unusual experience.
posted by skycrashesdown at 9:22 AM on July 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Counter-opinion: Salt & Straw is not worth the wait. Overly too sweet ice cream that is very expensive.

Lots of great places for beer. Stay far away from McMenamin's, they are aggressively mediocre. Hopworks on Powell on the east side is a good place for beer, food, and people watching.

Downtown Portland is worth a stroll, it's so small that you can walk from Powell's to PSU in 20 minutes. There's a very popular food cart pod between Park and Broadway two or three blocks south of Powell's that has a lot of variety. Get some food and go eat in O'Bryan Square for people watching, for a true Portland experience.

If you like donuts, Blue Star is pretty good, and their downtown location is usually the least busy. Expensive, though.

I would recommend public transit while you're in the city, although be aware that A) the streetcar is very slow and B) the Max doesn't go a lot of places in the actual city of Portland. You'll be relying on buses, which are okay, especially if you're taking them to the usual places (Alberta, Hawthorne, etc.) as they are all on Frequent Service lines. Download the PDX Bus app for real time tracking (despite the name it tracks buses, the Max, and the streetcar), and the Trimet Tickets app so you don't need to deal with exact change or getting to a Max or streetcar stop to buy a pass. Day passes are $5, so if you're taking even one round trip it's worth it. But be aware that a $2.50 ticket is good for unlimited rides for 2.5 hours.
posted by Automocar at 9:39 AM on July 8, 2016

Regarding VooDoo: There's a secondary Voodoo (VooDooToo) that has the exact same doughnuts, but way shorter line right next to where you'll be staying, so if you must, go there.

See if there are any movies that interest you playing at Hollywood theater (near your place) or at the living room theater (near powells).

Perhaps OMSI or just walking the esplanade (bridge photos, etc.)

Kitchy to me says McMens. Go to Kennedy School, wander around, and have a burger and cajun tots. It's pretty close to you.

Visit a record store or two, Everyday Music on Sandy is close to you.

Weed shops?

I can't recommend hiking forest park if you're just here for a few days. It's fairly boring, but worth checking out next time you're here. Instead hike around Mt. Tabor or the Hoyt Arboretum or the Audubon Society (those last two are sub sections of forest park I suppose).

Walking around the Reed campus is pretty.

Eat a slice of cake at Papa Haydn's. Just do it.
posted by TomFoolery at 9:46 AM on July 8, 2016

We just visited in May.

We loved Forest Park for a hike (me) and a run (my husband). We entered near the Rose Garden and headed toward Washington Park and back, and found it incredibly lovely.

We also loved Salt and Straw. Hot tip: You can skip the line if you buy a pint to go, and your hosts will probably love you if you bring one or two home for dessert after dinner. The Salted Caramel was sooooo good.

If you like the brewery scene but not the actual beer, the Deschutes location near Powell's is fun. I don't really drink either (other than some tastes of my husband's beer), so I just enjoyed an enormous bar pretzel (soooo good) and watching other folks enjoy their food and drinks. The food at Cascade was also awesome.

Have fun!
posted by bananacabana at 9:49 AM on July 8, 2016

Oh yes, go to Mt Tabor park so you can tell people you climbed a volcano on your vacation!
posted by skycrashesdown at 10:09 AM on July 8, 2016

You might enjoy Crafty Wonderland and Tender Loving Empire for locally made crafts and gifts, both located Downtown.
posted by rivtintin at 10:33 AM on July 8, 2016

I haven't been there in a million years (probably more like 7 or 8, but you know...), but Eat Pizza is right down the street from Powell's and was so good that my partner and I talk about going back to Portland just to eat there.
posted by jabes at 10:58 AM on July 8, 2016

With the caveat that I wasn't super whelmed by Portland proper when we visited a couple of years ago, in your situation I'd take advantage of a day to explore by taking a looping road trip up the gorge to Hood River (about 1 hr), with a stop at Multnomah Falls along the way (about halfway), then after Hood River hit up some likely spots along the "Fruit Loop" before heading to the beautiful Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood (about 1 hr from Hood River), then back to Portland. From the lodge it's a pretty short hike up to the edge of the snow pack, which is always fun in the summer.
posted by drlith at 11:39 AM on July 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

Multnomah Falls is a nice day trip. But go early as the parking lot fills up.

Get ice cream at Cool Moon (the kulfi is my favorite) and wade in Jameson Square if it's hot.
posted by vespabelle at 11:48 AM on July 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I haven't been there in person, but the collection of the Oregon Rail Heritage Center is pretty cool.
posted by Namlit at 11:56 AM on July 8, 2016

If you're into beekeeping, I would certainly check out MeadMarket, not necessarily for the meads, but they have tons of awesome honey too.

While you're in the neighborhood, I would certainly check out Happy Knits. They're good folk and have some fantastic knitting gear.

If you do weed at all, that's all over the place, but (again same neighborhood) Farma is pretty high end, and full of super knowledgeable folks (several of whom have science backgrounds) and unlike lower rent shops, the employees don't seem super stoned all the time. Super nice and professional.

Good Coffee and Coava both have locations around there too, and if you like coffee, they're certainly upper tier spots...bonus points for being ultra nice, and smashing the snobby barista trope to pieces.

Depending on the days of the week that you're free, check out a local farmers market. Things are in high swing here, and you'll be able to find all sorts of goodies.

If you're going to head to mt tabor, I would totally suggest overshooting a little bit and checking out the Montavilla neighborhood. It's a nice spot, and a really down-to-earth hidden gem. If you're looking for evening food options with your friends, and have no dietary restrictions, I would suggest Tanuki or Country Cat.
posted by furnace.heart at 12:08 PM on July 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've only visited Portland once and spent much of that time at a conference, but I still daydream about the pastry at St. Honoré Bakery. I was staying around the corner from the location on NW Thurman and fell in love strolling around that whole quiet, green, leafy neighborhood in general. On the kitsch end of the spectrum The Peculiarium is also out that way... I would rate it "worth poking your head in if you're in the neighborhood, not worth making a special trip."

(I know Voodoo Donuts has been decreed No Longer Cool, but I dug it and embraced it as the unabashed tourist that I was. I think I as at the downtown location at mid-late morning on a weekday, and there wasn't much of a line. The donuts themselves were decent though nothing extraordinary. My only regret is that they were sold out of souvenir coffee mugs.)
posted by usonian at 12:22 PM on July 8, 2016

One more trip with driving is Mt. Saint Helens. It's an hour drive without traffic there. It looks like permits to hike to the rim are sold out until October, but the view from the observatory is worth it on its own.
posted by Hactar at 12:29 PM on July 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Just thought of two more things if you feel like driving- the coastal towns are pretty and within about 1.5 hour drive depending on where you go, like Cannon Beach. Good views (if the weather cooperates) and good seafood, and some lovely hiking.

Sauvie Island can also be fun for hiking, fruit picking, birding and lazing about and it's not a far ride.
posted by FireFountain at 1:02 PM on July 8, 2016

Astoria is even closer, and has a lot to offer, including barking sea lions.
posted by megatherium at 2:21 PM on July 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

I would say that the Columbia River Gorge is a must-see. Specifically the hike up Wahkeena Falls, past Fairy Falls, over to Weisendanger Falls, down to Multnomah Falls and then back to Wahkeena. It's absolutely spectacular.
posted by cnc at 3:01 PM on July 8, 2016

The Chinese Garden is worth the price of admission and they have a tea house to hang out in.

The Central Library downtown is gorgeous. Walk up the staircase and check out all of the levels, pop in to see the children's section on the main floor, and they have a little gift shop too. -And right across the street is a Goodwill Boutique that my friend got a red leather jacket that she loves more than most people in her life.
posted by sweetmarie at 3:20 PM on July 8, 2016

I'm pretty excited about checking out Control Voltage in a few weeks when I visit.
posted by oceanjesse at 4:18 PM on July 8, 2016

I did some serious yarn tourism when I visited Portland, and far and away the best store I went to was Twisted. Lots of things there that I can't get in my local yarn shops; they're especially good for sock yarn if that's your thing.

I also highly endorse Nong's chicken and rice.
posted by ActionPopulated at 7:10 PM on July 8, 2016

Within walking distance from you (and also where I live):

Coco Donuts is right on Broadway and 26th (on the edge of Grant Park) and it's better than Voodoo (but less Portland kitschy). The Tiki bar next door more than makes up for it in kitsch - maybe you're friends will want drinks at night.

There is a knitting store right on NE Broadway between 23rd and 24th. Have breakfast at Costello's Travel Cafe on the same block or churros at the place right next door to it.

The library in Hollywood is nice (there's a cool map of Ramona Quincy's neighborhood in it, which is where you are staying), and there is a theatre in the neighborhood which shows good art films.

Those are close-up easy things, but the stuff people listed above is great and fun: Downtown Portland, Forest Park, etc.
posted by montag2k at 7:41 PM on July 8, 2016

There is a really nice eggleston show at the Portland Musuem of ARt right now
posted by PinkMoose at 8:30 PM on July 8, 2016

*your* friends. Sorry, I can't have an autocorrect typo like that being on my permanent internet record without fixing it. Have fun in Portland.
posted by montag2k at 10:18 PM on July 8, 2016

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