{travelogue} 10 Things I Like to Do in Portland, Oregon

1. Wolf down a wacky doughnut from Voodoo Doughnuts

Voodoo Doughnuts is famous for a reason- they have fabulous donuts and a slick sense of humor. While I opted for a relatively tame maple-bacon bar (maple bar with 2 thick slices of bacon on top) the special that day was intriguing: a caramel/Cheeto mashup called “Chester’s Revenge.” There’s often a line, so get a cup of coffee before you stake out your spot.

2. Sample local music and buy hip t-shirts at Portland Saturday Market

Portland Saturday Market is a must-do in Portland. Despite the name, it happens on Saturdays AND Sundays, and is open almost all year-round. You can do all sorts of things there- eat from food stalls, browse local crafts, people watch, you name it. My favorite things to do are to buy some of the coolest t-shirts from some of the hippest people around, and to check out the local musicians scattered around to entertain. I mean, what’s cooler than playing a trombone and an accordion at the same time? Nothing. Pretty much nothing.

3. Pretend to be a local at Rontoms

Rontoms is the kind of bar you could get very comfortable in. Maybe it’s the mismatched 1970s couches, maybe it’s the snacks available (like deviled eggs and little cups of ice cream from the artisanal place next door,) or maybe it’s the drinks, made with locally distilled spirits. Either way, this is a great place to see how Portlandians live. Hint: if you want to fit in while in Portland, men will need to grow facial hair, and women will need vintage clothing.

4. Dine at Le Pigeon’s counter for a fantastic dinner and a conversation with the chef 

Le Pigeon is a phenomenal restaurant that’s as small as it is good. That is to say, it’s very small and very good. They told us it would be a 2 hour wait when we arrived, but it turned out to be only about 30 minutes. I had one of the best salmon dishes I’ve ever had in my life, and enjoyed the convivial nature of the counter seats, as we got to chat with our neighbors and with the chef as he prepared our food. I only wish there were a Le Pigeon in San Francisco!

5. Smell your way through the Rose Garden

It’s not called the City of Roses for nothing. Portland is famous for its rose husbandry. (Is that word for flora, or just fauna?) It’s actually called the test rose garden, because they test out new hybrid kinds of roses there. How you test a rose, I do not know, but if a stroll through the fragrant lanes of the Rose Garden doesn’t get you in a good mood, you might need another doughnut, you cranky bastard.

6. Capture the princess with a cocktail in hand

A bar + an arcade full of old-skool video games: why are these not more ubiquitous?  Ground Kontrol “barcade” is every adult nerd’s dream hangout, especially those of us who grew up in the Duck Hunt/Galaga/BurgerTime era. A visit there will almost make you question why arcade games didn’t come standard with cup holders. If you’ve got kids, it’s no problem: just visit between noon and 5, it’s all arcade and no bar.

7. Sip strong coffee at Stumptown Roasters

Starbucks might be the talk of Seattle, but this is a town where Stumptown reigns. Coffee-lovers have been known to make pilgrimages to this Portland-based roaster for their dark, dreamy cups of caffeine. The one in the Ace Hotel offers some excellent Portland people-watching opportunities, too.

8. Drink in the Pearl District

Allow your senses to drink in all that this lovely neighborhood has to offer, and/or have a drink while you’re in it. The Pearl District is full of unique shops, cafes, and restaurants. It’s a prime example of warehouse-chic gentrification, that I can easily see myself living in, if only it didn’t rain so darn much up here. The perfectly crafted Latin-influenced cocktails at Andina are my top pick for turning your gray skies blue.

9. Get zen at the Japanese Garden

Near the Rose Garden you’ll find an excellent Japanese Garden. Not only is it a premiere Japanese garden, but they also have cool classes, lectures, workshops and exhibits. Note: the Rose Garden is free, but the Japanese Garden charges a fee for entry.

10. Plan your next trip

Once you’ve gotten a taste of Portland, you’ll want to come back! The best time to visit is in the summer, since it’s most likely to be warm and least likely to rain. July and August are great months to enjoy Portland. And with so much to see, eat, and do there, you will probably want to plan another trip.


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8 Responses

  1. Klara says:

    this should be a really nice trip! i have never been in portland but now i want to get there! i like your plans, they are not only the conventional must-see things, they are really pleasant ideas…

  2. mjskit says:

    Great travelogue of Portland!!! I love that city and you touched on a couple of my favorite things, but introduced me to even more! I love both the Japanese gardens as well as the Chinese garden and tea house in the downtown area. Great coffee, food, music and an awesome bookstore!

  3. camille says:

    I nearly went to college there… I was there one weekend to check it out, actually probably less than 24 hours, and I already knew I’d love it. And being from Vancouver, the weather situation wouldn’t have fazed me! I suppose I’ll make do by reading other people’s travel tips for the place – my friend Kelsey wrote some too.

  4. Linda says:

    Planning is definitely the best way to make most of the trip. Thank you for recommending Portland. I enjoyed reading the things you did there and they do sound really fun. I can’t wait to visit the Japanese garden. I like the picture and it looks very relaxing.