Things to do during lay-over stops in Chicago and Portland, OR.
February 26, 2008 8:35 AM   Subscribe

Extended layovers in Chicago and Portland, OR. What should I do?

Next week, I will be taking the train cross-country from D.C. to Bandon, OR. The trip will take three days, during which I will have a 6 hour layover in Chicago one morning, and a 4 hour layover in Portland, Oregon the a following afternoon.

Can anyone give me suggestions on things to do during the Chicago and Portland stops? I will not have a car, so it will need to be something within walk-in distance or accessible by public transportation.

Also, does anyone have any tips on what I should or places I should go in Bandon, OR? I will be there for about 2 1/2 weeks and will have access to a car while I'm there.

I'm a crunchy-granola-type and dig being outdoors, music and dance, museums, gardening, local arts and crafts, food, coffee and wine. Not a big fan of malls, guided tours, or amusement parks.
posted by eviltiff to Travel & Transportation around Portland, OR (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Keep in mind that these train lines typically run very late, so your layover may be gone by the time you actually arrive.
posted by nitsuj at 8:44 AM on February 26, 2008

You're going to be right in the heart of the Loop. Given that, and the weather this time of year, back-to-nature options will probably be limited.

The Art Institute of Chicago is on Michigan Avenue, pretty much due East from Union Station (where I think your train will stop). Bring some boots and a warm coat, as it will be a bit of a walk and there's likely to be snow/ice/gray slush on the ground. Or you could cab it very easily for a few bucks.

Even though you're not a fan of guided tours, you will be directly across the street from the Sears Tower. If the weather's clear, think about taking the trip and down. If not, skip it.

If the weather's decent, consider a tour of Millennium Park. It's really cool and futuristic, and just north of the Art Institute.

Others will have great suggestions, too, I'm sure. Some may be more crunchy-granola than these. Enjoy your visit.
posted by Work to Live at 8:51 AM on February 26, 2008

When you're in Chicago, might I suggest the Chicago Cultural Center? They've got a variety of free music and art-type events throughout the day, and they're within walking distance of Union Station. Otherwise, the Garfield Park Conservatory might be up your alley (easily accessible by the green line... plan your route here), or perhaps the Museum of Contemporary Art.
posted by tugena13 at 9:12 AM on February 26, 2008

The train station in portland is in the thick of it, and is also within the bounds of fairless square where you can ride trimet for free, within it's bounds. 4 hours is enough to do a couple things pretty close to there...

Top four things to do in fairless square in 4 hours time:
-PowellsBooks. (sort of a visiting-portland staple)
-The Triangle right across the street, Home to Roccos pizza, Reading Frenzy, Jackpot Records and the Thai Peacock (so good, i ate there last night).
-Ground Kontrol 80's style arcade with more pinball than you can shake a stick at. Might not be what you're into, but amaaaazing place.
-A stroll on the Waterfront can't really be beat either.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:24 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Huh. You're gonna maybe have four hours in Portland? Union Station is on the edge of Old Town/Chinatown, aka the historic Homeless Shelter District. It's not exactly filled with things to see and do if your schedule is tight. However, relatively near-by:

Gardening: The Chinese Gardens are a convenient walk, and, if you're unfamiliar with classical Chinese garden style, it'll be particularly interesting. If you like tea, there's a tea room as well.

Food: It being Chinatown, if dim sum is your thing, I suggest Fong Chong. If BBQ pork wonton noodle soup sounds better, try Good Taste. It's divey but it's good.

Coffee: Stumptown Coffee Roasters has a location at 128 SE 3rd. It's a highly regarded cup. They also have wine at that location, and usually are showing local art in that coffee house way. (bonus, Voodoo Doughnut is in the next block.)

Books: you're not too far from Powells and Powells Technical Books, if those interest you.

Outdoors: walk south and wander the waterfront.

Art/Museum: if you're confident that there's time, you could catch a MAX (light rail) at the Oldtown/Chinatown station, ride it (8 minutes) to the SW 10th ave station, and walk to the Art Museum (10 minutes). I haven't seen the current show, but the permanent collection is quite good, and their Native American collection might be revelatory if you're unfamiliar with the Pacific Northwest
posted by mumkin at 9:27 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

You didn't specify which Chicago airport. One is right in the heart of everything, the other... not so much.
posted by herbaliser at 9:36 AM on February 26, 2008

Psst, herbaliser: he/she said "the train", which means Union Station.

I'm going to second the Art Institute in Chicago, especially if you're a fine-art fan and you've never been there before. They're doing some serious renovation right now, so from what I hear there are large sections closed off; but that just means that you'll get to see half of what's available in the time you have rather than only seeing a quarter of it.

The Field Museum is also pretty awesome if you're more into the natural history kind of museum. It's a little farther from Union Station, though.
posted by Johnny Assay at 9:47 AM on February 26, 2008

eviltiff: With regards to Chicago, it's not going to be conducive towards outdoors events at this particular season. We've been getting extremely bitter winds, snow, etc., so much so that even those of us who like the snow are getting pretty damn sick of it. Indoors will most likely be your rule of thumb.
posted by WCityMike at 9:51 AM on February 26, 2008

In Chicago, go to Lou Mitchell's for breakfast or lunch. It's on the corner of Jackson and Jefferson, and it's a great diner. It's been there forever and it attracts a really varied local crowd. The food is great diner fare. It's a good way to get a decent meal close to Union Station, and if the train is late, as it often is, it might be all you have time for. Donna is my favorite waitress.
posted by Kangaroo at 10:06 AM on February 26, 2008

Best answer: On the Bandon front... man, all I associate with Bandon is cheese, cranberries and golf, and they don't make cheese anymore. I gather the links are very St. Andrews-like, if you're at all a golf person. I am not. Apparently, there are other attractions in Bandon, though. It looks like you'll be able to catch their production of On Golden Pond while you're in town.

The Oregon Coast is pretty underdeveloped (thankfully, IMHO). Lots of small towns, antique shops, so-so restaurants, B&B's, vacation homes, motels, etc. Not terribly happening. It's a slower-pace kind of place. You will definitely encounter art, but much of it will be naive and/or kitschy. March won't be the best time to be out and about, but blustery windswept walks/hikes/meanders are probably your best option. It won't be freezing, but you won't be tanning either.

Bandon Marsh, a federal wildlife refuge, is right there if you fancy wetlands. Big for shorebirds. Given that you'll have a car, and will be in the area for a few weeks, you could go anywhere (heck, you're 4.5 hours from Portland). There's a whole series of national wildlife refuges and state parks up and down the Oregon Coast. You're about 2 hours drive from Indian Sands, within the larger Boardman State Park, where there's some scenic hiking to be had. Heck, there are 11 State Parks in the immediate environs.

I like mussels, and go mussel-hunting whenever I'm at the coast. It's hard to beat a bucketful cooked in their shells on a bbq grill for about 15 minutes. If you favor other shellfish, you can rent crab pots or dig for razor clams or bay clams. Just check the regulations—you'll need an inexpensive license for most species—and the latest safety bulletin, to ensure there aren't any toxins around. Obviously if you're into fishing there's a whole 'nother world open to you, but since you don't mention it, I'm assuming otherwise. Setting crab pots, digging for clams or pulling mussels off a jetty are pretty novice-friendly pursuits, so don't let inexperience stop you if the thought of harvesting your own seafood appeals.
posted by mumkin at 10:55 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

If it's a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, how about a Chicago Architecture Foundation Walking Tour of the Loop?
posted by nax at 12:15 PM on February 26, 2008

Best answer: seconding mumkin's suggestions of chinese gardens, stumptown, and voodoo. three quintessential portland spots, within about 7 blocks of each other.

if you like beer (and if you're visiting portland, you better :), swing over to the Rogue Ale House and taste some amazing brews from one of the best in Oregon. or if you want to take in a second-run movie with your beer, head up just a bit further to the mission theatre.

there's some great eating to be had nearby also if you've got some bucks to spend... some of my favorites are fratelli, sinju, and sungari pearl, while all the foodies rave about andina and fenouil (i'm veggie, so haven't been to either yet).

but if you don't have the bucks to spend on lunch you're not out of luck. the aforementioned thai peacock and Rocco's are excellent, and my favorite thai place downtown is E-San. The new delicatessen Kenny & Zuke's (part-owned by a local celeb chef) is quite a hit. Give Veganopolis a try if you want to see what a vegan deli is like. good pizza and an example of green portland architecture can also be had at Hot Lips in the converted Ecotrust building (there's a sod roof you can visit during the daytime, and the parking area is surrounded by local/native plants in a bioswale to suck up rainwater. Hot Lips themselves tries to source all their ingredients locally and runs off of renewable energy as much as possible).

hmm, seems like most of my suggestions revolve around food or beer. since the timbers aren't in season, i guess those are two of the best things about portland right now.

uhh, so go to ground kontrol and backspace and geek out, too.
posted by acid freaking on the kitty at 12:32 PM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Okay, seriously. There are so many WONDERFUL pizza joints in Portland--Rocco's is NOT one of them. It's one of the lamest places downtown because it attracts a lot of lame hipsters and high school kids and the pizza tastes like ass. Sorry. Head over instead to Old Town Pizza or Pizza Oasis, both within walking distance!
posted by nonmerci at 1:20 PM on February 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

Six hours in Chicago? Yeah, youre staying in the airport. Assuming you are in O'hare your trip downtown will be almost 90 minutes assuming the blue line isnt closed down for repairs that weekend. Then it'll be 120 minutes or more. Assuming you want to get to the airport one to two hours before your flight, well, you're cutting it pretty close.

This is doable but only by paying a cab. Cab rides downtown are 35 or so dollars each way. Even then I-90 is such a nightmare here that you might not do much better than the blue line.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:31 PM on February 26, 2008

Sorry, damn dirty ape, you fail at reading the question. Train station, not airport.
posted by mumkin at 1:40 PM on February 26, 2008

Yeah I'm a dummy. mods please delete. Thanks.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:59 PM on February 26, 2008

Since you mentioned coffee, Intelligentsia might be a good coffee shop to stop in Chicago if you check out the Art Museum. (That or Lavazza).
posted by ejaned8 at 4:38 PM on February 26, 2008

Heed nitsuj's warning: I traveled the Chicago-D.C. leg about 4 years ago, and on the way to D.C. we were about 3 hours late. The way back? About 6 hours.

You will probably spend most of your Chicago "layover" sitting on the tracks in Middle-of-Nowhere, Ohio, waiting for freight trains to pass by. Also, you may travel at incredibly slow speeds for a stretch. So, don't count on having that time to daytrip.

I just went with the flow, and took a lot of photos out the window and listened to a lot of music. Seeing a foggy day in Pennsylvania from the observation car was very cool.

But if Amtrak does pull into Chicago on time, Work to Live's suggestions are good. And here's a Google map of the area. When you walk out of Union Station, head east. If you get turned around, look for a bridge over the river, cross it and keep heading in that direction, towards the lake. Wander around. Give yourself enough time to wander back. :)

Oh, there's a big Picasso sculpture on Daley Plaza, at Washington & Dearborn.
posted by limeswirltart at 6:30 PM on February 26, 2008

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