Portland Oregon (PDX) vacation
July 14, 2019 2:13 PM   Subscribe

I couldn't find a straight-up, 'vacationing in Portland, OR' question*, so here it is! We are traveling there for a wedding and decided to extend on both sides, so we'll be there this Thursday to Tuesday. What would you do with that time? *(despite the fact that 'Portland, OR, USA' is used as *the* example in the Travel Location prompt...if I have just somehow missed earlier questions, please let me know!!!!)

To give an idea of the kinds of things we like, here's what on the docket so far:

1. We plan to bike the springwater corridor rail trail, because we love flat bike trails :) We will likely rent some bikes and do some other exploring that way, but hadn't gotten further than that with bike plans.
2. We are also going to do the Beverly Cleary walking tour because Ramona and Mr. Henshaw were my favorites.
3. I imagine we will check out some breweries, because we like a tasty beer, and we'll eat well, but we haven't looked too much into the specifics of how to accomplish those two goals.

So, any other ideas you would recommend? Nothing is too minor or too unusual! Is there some place cool to go swimming? (We'll be leaving our beloved, oft-visited Walden Pond back here...) How about specific ideas on beverages and food?

Nuts and bolts:
We are staying at an AirBnB in the Sunnyside neighborhood and we didn't plan to get a car. We are two 40-ish adults, in good physical shape - we like to be active on vacation, spaced wtih R&R as needed. No significant dietary restrictions.
posted by Tandem Affinity to Travel & Transportation around Portland, OR (24 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Powell's is an absolute must! This is a good time of year for the Rose Garden, and I'm also fond of Lan Su Chinese Garden.

Portland is justifiably famous for food carts. Pok Pok is a big deal. Deschutes Brewery has a delicious crab sandwich.
posted by YoloMortemPeccatoris at 2:33 PM on July 14, 2019 [7 favorites]

Go to the Columbia River for swimming. There are so many great places!
posted by k8t at 2:33 PM on July 14, 2019

You should definitely go for a hike/walk in Forest Park, and definitely go to Powell’s.

For breweries we love Cascade for sours and Deschutes (which has a huge, fun location near Powell’s) for non-sours.

Salt and Straw has *amazing* ice cream. Have fun!
posted by bananacabana at 2:34 PM on July 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

Salt and Straw is only ice cream and not worth waiting in line for. Please don’t come to Portland and wait in long lines at tourist traps. Do **not** go to Voodoo Donuts. Do *not* go to Salt and Straw unless you are there at a weird time when the line is short. It’s just ice cream!
posted by chrchr at 2:47 PM on July 14, 2019 [14 favorites]

Portland passed Peak Restaurant a couple of years ago. Everybody who was a competent, imaginative chef has opened their restaurant, and so has everybody who was at one time an acquaintance of a competent, imaginative chef. Now, people who read an article about how a competent, imaginative chef opened a restaurant, are opening restaurants. Same for breweries.

That said, PDX Eater has regular and up-to-date lists of new restaurants, must-try cocktail bars, and so forth. And honestly, it's been a while since I had a mediocre meal at a new restaurant in Portland. You might not like it enough to go back (what with all the other restaurants you haven't been to yet) but it'll be interesting and maybe something you haven't had before.

I like Coalition Brewing, which recently opened an outdoor patio. Across the street is Ankeny Tap & Table, which is a newly-opened neighborhood dive-ish bar with an astonishing menu.

Loyal Legion has a great selection of taps but lousy food, and next door, Trifecta is a pretty good example of Portland restaurantalia from a few years ago.

Near downtown, Agnes has traditional French. A bit spendy, but one of only a few places I've gone to more than twice in recent years.


ETA: Oh yeah, Salt & Straw has interesting and pretty good ice cream, but LONG lines. If you want ice cream, maybe try Cool Moon instead.
posted by spacewrench at 3:07 PM on July 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

FYI, part of the Springwater Corridor is closed this summer until November or thereabouts. I think from around Sellwood until around Powell Butte. I'd recommend riding up Marine drive to Troutdale as an alternative (There is bike path on a good portion of Marine drive, some portions without so I guess it depends on how adventurous you are as well. Be warned it can get a little windy.). There's a cute general store in the main downtown stretch of Troutdale and if you keep going a bit you'll run into Glen Otto Community park which also has a nice sort of ice cream/burger place (I think, haven't actually gone there yet, it is new). If you are super adventurous biking wise you could then take Highway 30 towards the Gorge and stop off at the Women's Forum or Vista House.

You could also bring your bikes over to Sauvie Island and ride around the back roads there, and go to the beach (there's a nude beach and a non nude beach, take your pick).

Generally this is a good guide for some bike routes around the city: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/339920
posted by knownfossils at 3:51 PM on July 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

I disagree with the people who say that Voodoo Donuts and Salt & Straw aren't worth it. They sure the hell are. I say this as a fifty-year-old native who is just as jaded and cynical as anyone else. But I don't value hipness for the sake of hipness. And it's hip to diss on these two establishments. But they're popular for a reason.

That said, if you're going to go to Voodoo, hit up Voodoo Too at 15th & Sandy. It's closer to where you'll be staying and it's not nearly as crowded. (I used to live in the apartment building next door, and I grabbed a donut every morning for breakfast. Perhaps I'm prejudiced?)

And yes, Salt & Straw is just ice cream, but it's great ice cream. The "sea salt with caramel ribbons" (or whatever it's called) is amazing. There are multiple locations now, including one on Division (not far from where you'll be). It's worth visiting.

While you're at Salt & Straw on Division, be sure to go to Pok Pok and have the "fish sauce wings" with a tamarind whisky sour. And a lot of other amazing Thai street food. If you can't get a seat there, go across the street to the sister establishment, the Whisky Soda Lounge. I think they let you order certain things (like the wings) from the Pok Pok menu.

While you're here, pick berries if you can. Sound crazy? It's not. The Willamette Valley grows great berries. The strawberries are nearly past (although we have some fresh ones right now in our yard), but the blueberries are going gangbusters and the blackberries are coming on. (We have none ripe, but I've heard some people do.) What do natives do on summer weekends? Once a year, they go pick berries. For real.

Want an amazing Portland experience? The Portland Timbers -- our pro soccer club -- hosts a match this Thursday night. They play Orlando at 7:00 p.m. It's a fun experience with plenty of (expensive) beer and a rowdy crowd. (I'm a season-ticket holder, so again I'm biased.)

The main Powell's downtown is an experience, and if you're a book fan, it's worth it. But if you're only so-so on books, you can still visit the Hawthorne location, which is near where you're staying.

Word of warning: The homelessness situation in Portland is out of control right now, including along Hawthorne. Mostly, these folks keep to themselves and are more of an eyesore than a nuisance. That said, two weeks ago I had a guy downtown chase me (and a friend) around the street for no reason. He threw shit at us and wouldn't let up until we sought refuge with the courthouse security guards. So, I'm saying: Just be on your guard. We've reached a crisis point with this particular problem.

This is relevant because you plan to bike the Springwater Trail. There are plenty of homeless camps along the trail. Again, I've never had an issue myself while biking on this trail, but you should still take precautions. (Carry pepper spray. Be vigilant.)

If you opt to bike on Sauvie Island (as knownfossils suggests), that's a great place to pick berries. And sunbathe nude. ;)

If you like wine, I enjoy Noble Rot, which is close to Voodoo Too. It's a rooftop wine bar with decent food and a great view of downtown.
posted by jdroth at 3:53 PM on July 14, 2019 [5 favorites]

How do you feel about nudity? Going to the strip clubs was a lot more fun and welcoming than I expected. There's even a vegan one.
posted by evilmonk at 4:17 PM on July 14, 2019

I love bicycling, but I don't love the Springwater. Ride around the esplanade and waterfront, if you're going to go yourself! An acquaintance has been running tours around Portland forever, and this is her new gig -- guided walking and cycling tours. Strongly recommend!

If you're in the Sunnyside neighborhood, it's easy to get to Ladd's Addition, where the roses are still blooming. People watching on Hawthorne or Alberta is a favorite activity. Also the city organizes movies and concerts in the park all summer, which might give you a fun excuse to explore! Oh, and there's a Sunday Parkways on the 21st of July which could be fun.
posted by linettasky at 4:31 PM on July 14, 2019

Im going to suggest you get a car, tbh. You don’t need a car, sure. But I’ve had friends visit with cars and friends visit without cars. Touristing carless cuts down the stuff you can see experience in a day by a lot and makes the whole ordeal way more exhausting.
I’ll return to this thread as I think of stuff but Rimsky’s is really worth checking out. It’s a dessert/coffee place in an old Victorian house that’s one of the few old Portland weird things left.
posted by Betty_effn_White at 4:59 PM on July 14, 2019 [3 favorites]

Blue Star Donuts over Voodoo. The food carts are great. Perhaps the Rose Garden, if you like that sort of thing?
posted by kerf at 5:12 PM on July 14, 2019 [5 favorites]

Alma chocolate for local chocolate. The Meadow for a mind-numbingly vast array of chocolate bars from around the world. And salt. And bitters. But mostly chocolate.
posted by Gorgik at 5:21 PM on July 14, 2019 [3 favorites]

The breakout hit my New Year's trip to Portland was Kargi Gogo, an unassuming Georgian restaurant with excellent Khachapuri. They also have a reasonably priced selection of Georgian wines if you'd like to give that a try.

I had been to Portland 3 or 4 times without making it to Voodoo Donuts (I don't like lines and I'm not a big fan of the "lots of stuff on top" genre of desserts), but we finally wandered into one at 10 or 11 PM after having a few drinks because we wanted dessert and the line was only 5 or 10 minutes long. I got a Homer donut, the icing actually tasted like strawberry instead of just being pink, and it was perfect.
posted by asphericalcow at 5:40 PM on July 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

I approve of a late night visit to Voodoo. Before it was a tourist trap, it was open from like midnight to 9 a.m. and you would go as you were stumbling home after a night on the town.

Ok I will offer some positive information too:

* Happy Hour! Oregon law requires bars to sell food, so pretty much every bar/restaurant has a decent food menu with happy hour specials. Usually between 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm, but some places go later.

* If you’re not in a legal marijuana state, go to a freakin’ dispensary! They’re interesting! It’s a trip seeing a whole store full of products that until recently carried heavy criminal penalties!

* Do check out Top Down Cinema if you happen to be in town on those dates. I don’t know, maybe you could use something you bought at the dispensary before watching “Wayne’s World” outside on a beautiful summer night. Up to you!

* Did you know that Portland’s roller derby team are the defending world champions?? They are! They have bouts of various skill levels pretty much every weekend. Check The schedule at their website. They *do* sell out, so plan ahead. Their venue is an old seaplane hangar in the parking lot of Oaks Park, a very old amusement park with a good roller coaster and good miniature golf. Adequate corn dogs.

* You could do far worse on a sunny vacation afternoon than to lay on a blanket in a park and read a book while discretely drinking wine from a can or a juice box. Suggested parks include Council Crest — a historic park waaay up in the hills with an amazing view — or Cathedral Park, in the shadow of the majestic St. Johns Bridge. Maybe Tabor Park, which also has some nice hiking trails. No, you can’t do this in Waterfront Park.
posted by chrchr at 6:21 PM on July 14, 2019

You will be here for the Cathedral Park Jazz Festival . It's in Cathedral Park under the St John's bridge. It's a wonderful laid back Portland experience, with local Jazz, food carts and beer. It's worth taking a bus or Uber up to St Johns if you don't have a car.
posted by monotreme at 8:07 PM on July 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

I second going to Voodoo Too at 15th & Sandy. If you go before 10am you'll wait less than 10 minutes. If you go before 9am you will probably walk right up to the register. Even on weekends.

Since you're getting bikes, I recommend the Thursday Night Ride. It's a weekly ride group ride, usually 150 or so riders this time of year, sort of a rolling party on wheels. It's a great way to see a lot of the city, and ride places you don't normally get to (like the traffic lanes of the bridges), and often visits cool parks and hidden places.

If you like movies, I recommend the Hollywood Theater. The tickets are reasonably priced, the building itself is really cool, and the concessions are cheap and they use real butter on the popcorn. There's a screening of Moon on Friday night, FYI. There's a cool pinball bar 4 blocks down from there, WedgeHead.

If you like cider, go to Reverend Nat's taproom. If you like fun bubbly fruity drinks, go to Hi-Wheel Fizzy Wine (and get a tamale next door at Tamale Boy). For over-the-top amazing tiki bar, check out Hale Pele (go early!). For beer and food carts, The Baerlic Barley Pod.

Some of my favorite stuff close to Sunnyside:
- The chicken sandwich at Basilisk (and the Dan Dan Fries holy shit)
- The white pie at Baby Doll Pizza
- Basically every restaurant on 28th between Glisan and Ankeny, esp. Stammtisch and Pambiche
- Take a hike and watch the sun set over the city from the top of Mt Tabor
- Get out of the heat, grab a beer, and play arcade games at Quarter World
- Visit the other side in a sensory deprivation tank at Float On
- Fish and Chips at Hawthorne Fish House
- Check out all the cool movie memorabilia at Movie Madness

Have fun!
posted by slagheap at 11:27 PM on July 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm sad to see that Rachel's Ginger Beer on Hawthorne seems to be closed, because I was coming in here specifically to recommend that place for cocktails on tap and chicken from the previously mentioned Pok Pok. But I'll echo the recommendations for Powell's, Alma chocolate and the Chinese Garden, and add Ken's Artisan Pizza. And another vote for Blue Star over Voodoo.
posted by emelenjr at 6:02 AM on July 15, 2019

I have been to Portland exactly once, more than a decade ago, and I still think reverently about going to The Barefoot Sage and getting a long, professional foot massage -- so relaxing that we could barely walk out the door and down the street to the restaurant afterwards.

I have no clue about the geography of this w/r/t where you are staying - maybe a local person who reads this can say more. I just know it was worth whatever we had to do to get there.
posted by mccxxiii at 6:02 AM on July 15, 2019

If you end up in Ladd's Addition (linked above), or you need an excuse to - make a reservation at Burrasca (if Italian food is your jam). We ate there in May, and sat outdoors in their wonderfully serene patio. After dinner we wandered around the neighborhood, and saw the most wonderful P-patch/community garden - I think it was the Clinton Community Garden. Def one of my favorite PDX neighborhoods.
posted by dbmcd at 7:38 AM on July 15, 2019

There is a lot of low key stuff going on in Portland that most other cities don't have that gets overlooked in the Salt and Straw/Voodoo Doughnuts/that new food cart mania.

Here are some of those things:

- Movie houses that serve food and wine/drink, like the The Living Room Theater and Laurelhurst. If that is not something you have in your neck of the woods, it is so great to experience. The Living Room Theater is fancier, and the Laurelhurst is pizza and beer.
- I have rediscovered McMenamin's, specifically the Kennedy School. You can sit out in their fantastic courtyard and enjoy dinner. I haven't tried, but their soaking pools are supposedly nice. Save some money and got for Happy Hour (lots of great food and local beer everywhere in Portland during Happy Hour). It's not hip, but it is very popular amongst locals, comfortable and reliable, and you won't be expected to participate in any performative food theater.
- The sprawling urban park that is Mount Tabor, an extinct volcano, also some historic water reservoirs. Very nice place for a walk, jog or hike.
- Many Portlanders will be found driving out to the coast for the day during the summer months, so if you are not close to a coast where you are from, you may want to do that. 1.5. hours out of the city and you are at Cannon Beach, a popular tourist location.
posted by nanook at 8:23 AM on July 15, 2019

My recommendations for family and friends. Note that the recs are a bit biased towards N/NE Portland.

I second Cathedral Park Jazz Fest. It's free, and the park is beautiful, especially if you like looking at cool trees.

Food: Bollywood Theater (Indian street food), Shalom Y'all (Israeli street food, go there at lunch for a shorter wait), Lovely's Fifty (pizza), Casa Zoraya (Peruvian), Grassa (counter-service house-made pasta)

Food cart pods: I second Barley Pod on Halsey (has a full service Baerlic tap room). Many carts are good about using reusable dishes and utensils.

Beer: Ecliptic (also good for food), Ex Novo (non profit), Oregon Public House (good for food, non-profit), Gigantic, Cascade Barrel House (sours), Breakside (good for food), Hair of the Dog, Labrewatory (more experimental brews)

Ice cream: Salt and Straw, Fifty Licks, and Cool Moon

PDX Pop Now (free, all ages music fest this weekend)

If you like trees: Hoyt Arboretum, Leach Botanical Garden, checking out some Portland Heritage Trees, and hiking in Forest Park or up to Council Crest for a view. All free.
posted by bread-eater at 8:54 AM on July 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

I just got back from Portland last night. I was only there for three days, but I went to Great Notion Brewing twice. Really nice service, good food (vegan Crunchwrap!), and I thought the beers were fantastic. You have to like sour beers though.

Definitely go to Powell's! I went to Blue Star donuts over Voodoo (we have two Voodoos in Denver, so it's not a draw for me).

Other random good things: Ecliptic Brewing, El Diablito food truck, walking in Macleay Park, Deschutes, public transportation.
posted by GoldenEel at 1:26 PM on July 15, 2019

Response by poster: Thanks for all the ideas! Loving the viewpoints on ice cream and donuts! It’s interesting to hear about the Springwater corridor trail - we figured that was an easy hit because it’s in the Rail Trail Hall of Fame. We will now consider some other ideas or in addition. We hadn’t really known of Sauvie Island before... ok will report back on what we end up doing! There’s still time to get your suggestions in !!!!!
posted by Tandem Affinity at 8:33 PM on July 16, 2019

Response by poster: Post vacation update, as I now have some data to answer my own question :)

We ended up renting bikes at the one place that had them still available. Prices seemed comparable amongst shops but demand was high! We did take the bike tour recommended above and were thoroughly pleased with the whole thing, which included smelling a lot of roses in Ladd’s Addition, checking out some dumpster contents (really! At a glass factory!) and picking lots of berries and such outside a food co-op.

On our own, We did not take Springwater corridor trail but instead zigzagged across the bridges and along both sides of the river and up to the Columbia River and just generally enjoyed the very bike friendly streets. We went to mt tabor park and Laurelhurst park and WOW the trees are huge! We walked from Sunnyside up to klickitat st and marveled at everybody’s front yards and wondered how the Quimbys ever could have afforded that neighborhood. We hiked to the top of the cable car route and rode it for free down. (If you are in the metafilter Strava group, you can see my tracking of the route as well as biking around town.)

For food, we did make it to Ankeny tap and table and then had the golden milk ice cream at fifty licks. Hawthorne st was an easy walk from our Airbnb and had all kinds of choices too. We did not find time for a brewery but did enjoy some very good and economically priced edibles and smokes... so much cheaper than our own legal state and so much better... fried egg I love you and waffle window were two other hits.

Random finds - the student union downtown is a great place to take a quiet breather on a hot day. Waterfall park nearby is excellent and everybody wades in it despite the signs.

I’m sorry we didn’t have time to try all your suggestions but I hope we will go back. We are now watching Portlandia and exclaiming over all the things we recognize from our trip...
posted by Tandem Affinity at 7:06 PM on August 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

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