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. Having spent a few months living in Portland we have come to the conclusion it is one of our favorite urban area’s to explore. Although Portland is not high on the list of cities to visit for most people, I am going to tell you why it should be!
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 marvelous that they dedicate whole corner blocks in some cases to these food carts (known as pods when there is a group of them). We have a pod across the road from our apartment which holds outdoor movies on the weekends during the summer and has fire pits for their customers during the winter. Another pod we know of has under cover T.V. screens and board games available. 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 we love trying new flavors and weird combinations. The best part about the majority of food trucks and restaurants found in Portland is that a main meal is usually between $8 - $10. This is outstanding when compared to cities like Los Angeles or San Francisco!
We love beer. Particularly 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. 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.
The downtown area of Portland has a waterfront location beside the Williamette river. We love the Williamette river because it encourages outdoor activity and is an especially fun place to be in the summer time. 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 skyline. And just in case 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 rent 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. Did I also mention Portland is known as the city of bridges? There are 12 of them over the Williamette. 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 we love about Downtown is how easy it is to get around. Unlike other big cities, almost everything in Portland 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, 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.
So jump on a bus and head into Downtown. Get caffeinated at Stumptown Coffee Roasters and take a peek inside one of the many thrift stores or peruse through the huge book store at Powell’s Books located in the Pearl District.
Believe it or not, we love the weather in Portland. This is surprising for us having both grown up beach-side and accustomed to year round warm weather. But there are some perks to the gloomy fog and rainy weather… such as being holed up for hours in a coffee shop with a good book or not feeling guilty about over indulging in the cities culinary delights. And it is kinda fun walking around in the Pacific Northwest drizzle. I mean who doesn’t enjoy parading around in their gumboots and splashing in puddles?
I'm not sure if the locals want this kept a secret but it doesn't actually rain here all the time. In fact, it can get dang hot here in Summer! This is when it is the perfect opportunity to take a day trip to the Oregon Coast or visit some nearby waterfalls. In the fall, go for a hike in Washington Park to see some fall foliage. Portland has distinct seasons, enjoy them!
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 (it’s quite common to see double-decker bicycles getting around… ahh and 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 restaurants during the week and then hit the slopes or hiking trails for skiing, hiking and mountain biking on weekends. But 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.