Thanks to a good friend of ours we were fortunate enough to spend a couple of months living in the city of Portland. After having spent much time travelling the west coast we have come to the conclusion that Portland is our favorite U.S. city.
Portland is Oregon's largest metropolis and is a haven for eco-activists, cyclists, artists, outdoorsy folk, hipsters and vegans. It is a laid back city with a small town feel, filled with charming neighborhoods and a hip downtown area. A place where it is the norm to rock up to five star restaurants in Gore-Tex outerwear and hiking boots.
Portland consistently tops the "Greenest Cities in the USA' lists and has been able to nudge its carbon emissions to below 1990 levels. Although Portland is not on the top of the list of cities to visit in the USA for most people, I am going to tell you why it should be!
Why You Should Visit Portland
Food & Food Trucks
Portland is famous for its large number of food trucks found throughout the city. From what I have read, there are over 500 to choose from!
The best thing about the food trucks is the diversity in the type of food offered. There is the usual type of fare you would expect to see from a food truck like Greek food, hamburgers, and pizza, but you can also find food trucks serving up Egyptian, Ethiopian, African, Indonesian and Polish cuisine just to name a few. There are even food trucks that serve only grilled cheese sandwiches (highly recommended), gourmet crepes (equally as good), and just this week we discovered a new food truck which serves up fresh to order gourmet donuts (with flavors like French toast).
I think it's really awesome that they dedicate whole corner blocks in some cases to these food carts (known as pods when there's a group of them). We have a pod across the road from where we have been living which holds outdoor movies on the weekends during the summer and has fire pits for their customers during the winter. Another pod we have been to had under cover T.V. screens and board games available for some after dining fun! And naturally you can B.Y.O.
Besides the food trucks, there are many great restaurants to choose from in Portland that are equally as diverse such as Lebanese, Spanish and Cuban. I especially love how the local restaurants reinvent classic meals because I love trying new flavors and weird combinations. And they are really into organic produce, another plus in my books. But the best part about most of the restaurants and food trucks found in Portland are that a main meal is usually between $8 - $10 which is outstanding when compared to cities like Los Angeles or San Francisco!
We love beer. And especially craft beer, so how could we not love a city which has over 50 breweries? This is more than any other city in the world!
Ever since discovering the 'sample flight', we have been totally obsessed with visiting breweries and seeing what seasonal's they have to offer. And we rarely leave unimpressed.
Sipping and savoring beer as you would wine is a fun past time, especially when the gloomy weather rolls in. Portland brewer's add copious amounts of hops to create IPA's that include flavors reminiscent of everything from pine to grapefruit.
Many Portland craft beer drinkers proudly call themselves hopheads which is appropriate considering 90% of the nation's hops are grown in the region. And did you know you can now study the art of craft beer at Oregon university?
The downtown area of Portland has a waterfront location beside the Williamette river. We love the Williamette river because it encourages you to get outside and be active and also because it's a fun place to hang out and relax along in the summer months.
You can take an afternoon trip on a brew barge which is a pedal powered, 14 person vessel (just like a mobile pedal bar if you can imagine, but on the water). But personally, we like to grab some locally brewed craft beers and chill on the wharf whilst watching the sun set over the city.
And just incase you haven't heard, Portland is the USA's most bike friendly city and also boast's the highest percentage of bicycle commuters meaning there are plenty of city bike trails to be explored. So hire a bicycle and go for a ride along the waterfront and take in the beautiful skyline views.
The Portland Saturday Markets which is held beside the river, is a great place to grab a bite to eat, sample wine and watch buskers in the park. And if it's summer time, bring the kids to splash in the water fountains! ...Did I also mention Portland is known as the city of bridges? They are really pretty to see at night when they are all lit up.
Portland has a number of historic buildings downtown and throughout the city as a whole that we enjoy admiring. Even the neighborhoods have lovely old Victorian homes. These historic buildings not only give Portland city it's wonderful character but add charm to everyday life.
Old Town was Portland's original city core and where many early sites and buildings still remain. This area is listed as a National Historic Landmark. You can also find cast iron buildings from the mid 19th century around the Ankeny Plaza.
What I love about downtown is how easy it is to get around. Unlike other bigger cities nearly everything is walking distance and even if it is not, Portland has a really good public transport system consisting of buses and trams that are cheap and reliable.
Also unlike other cities throughout the USA and even other countries, you will not find generic stores on every block. You know the kind, Forever 21, H&M, etc. Sure you have the usual chain stores near Pioneer Square and the Mall over at the Lloyd District but they are tiny in comparison with other places. Instead, Portland is full of unique boutique stores, vintage shops, small businesses and art galleries.
Another great thing about Portland is Powell's Books located in the Pearl District on Burnside street. This book store is claimed to be the largest new and used bookstore in the world and occupies a full city block. It is just like a library inside and they have free wifi throughout the building for customers. A small coffee store serves delightful pastries with tables available to set up your laptop. Don't worry about getting lost because all the rooms are color coded.
Believe it or not, I love the weather in Portland. This is surprising for me having grown up beach side and accustomed to warm weather year round but I am increasingly beginning to think winter is my new favorite season.
I enjoy being able to wear winter outfits. In my opinion it is kind of fun going for walks in the Pacific Northwest drizzle. I mean who doesn't like putting on gumboots and splashing around in puddles? And I'm not sure if the locals want this kept a secret but it doesn't actually rain all the time.
It can get really hot in the summer which is a perfect time for chasing nearby waterfalls and swimming in crystal clear river's. In the fall, go for a hike in Washington Park to see the tree's in their autumn colors. On a clear day you can see Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier. What I'm saying is, Portland has seasons and I really like that.
The people of Portland are an interesting bunch. They are fanatical about the environment, have hardcore beliefs about buying organic produce and supporting local businesses, are passionate about animal welfare, and have taken their love of bike riding to the extreme (double decker bicycles are quite normal here... unicycles too). Recycled fashion is cool, as is 'urban agriculture'. Why would you buy eggs from a grocery store when you can get them from your backyard?
The city's close proximity to forests and mountains help define the lifestyle of Portlander's. You can take in a world class show and eat at five star restaurant during the week and then hit the slopes or hiking trails for skiing, hiking and mountain biking on weekends. And while they love the outdoors, Portlander's are just as happy indoors reading a book whilst sipping lattes at one of the many coffee roasters when the winter weather sets in.
Interesting fact: the people of Portland were successful in keeping fluroride out of their water in 2013.
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