Best time to visit: Spring / Summer
Moniker: The City of Roses
Reasons to visit
- To live Portland’s quirks: Portland might be the coolest city in the world (definitely one of our favourite cities in the world). The quirks of Portland,which you will see many of, make up the city’s vibe. Fans of the TV show Portlandia tune in to keep up with it’s slightly exaggerated view of the city (a clip below). For some specifics, there is the “Keep Portland Weird” sign, many art shops have so many birds on things, street art, etc. You’ll also most likely see kilted unicyclists. We love how awesome Portland is.
- Visit the world’s largest bookstore*: Home to 1 million books, Powell’s City of Books is a Portland institution. It takes up a whole block making them the world’s largest independent bookstore. However only 2 other bookstores in the world claim to be larger in volume terms which means it’s still pretty fricking big. This place is a must-visit if you come to Portland, not just for the bibliophiles. Yoda can pretty much live there if she could. Check out the Pearl room & it’s collection of rare books.
- Smell the roses: Portland is also home to the International Rose Test Garden a short bus ride from Downtown Portland. It’s a spectacular place to visit when the roses are in full bloom during the summer. Portland is lucky to have such varied flora a spitting distance from the city centre.
- Tip: The best time to visit Portland, especially to see the roses, is the annual Portland rose festival’s Grand Floral Parade scheduled for June 11 2016 (generally the 2nd Sat of June). What worked out really well for us was getting a room in the Quality Inn Downtown Convention Center as the parade passed from next door & was not as crowded as the core Downtown area.
- Speedboat down the Willamette river: The Willamette Jetboat Excursions is the most fun & exhilarating way to see the city. We won’t spoil the manoeuvres the boat does but it is fast & you will get wet. The 2 hour scenic tour culminates at the Willamette waterfalls. This tour sells out in the summer so pre-book as far ahead as possible.
Food & Drink
- Portland has one of the best street-food scenes in the USA. There are multiple parking lots in the city that serve up some great & inexpensive seafood with a wide variety of cuisines on offer. We are embedding the Food Carts Portland map below. (9th & Washington was our go-to spot)
- Staying with the quirky vibe, going to Voodoo doughnuts is a must. One of their doughnuts contains Nyquil in it & it’s open 24×7, that’s all you need to know. Super delicious & worth any line you may need to wait in to get into the O.G. store near SW 3rd & Burnside.
- Similarly, a breakfast of Mancakes is another must do at the Stepping Stones cafe which was made famous by Man vs Food. These are 13 inch pancakes & is named so because it needs a “real man” to finish a stack of 3. We shared 1 blueberry mancake & another egg based breakfast item & that lasted us most of the day.
- We also loved Japanese pub food (Izakaya) at Shigezo, seafood at Jake’s Famous Crawfish & macaroons at Nuvrei. We have stuffed our faces in Portland 🙂
- Last but not least, do not miss craft distillery row in the industrial part of Portland. We have had some of the best tasting gin & raki in this area (Gin is definitely Portland’s speciality).
Getting in & around
- PDX international airport is pretty well connected to the rest of the continental US (Delta & Alaska airlines hub). It’s also well connected to SkyTeam hubs (Amsterdam, Seoul, etc).
- From Seattle, it’s also really easy to hop on a bus (BoltBus/Greyhound) or an Amtrak train to get to Downtown Portland in 3-4 hours. This is what we usually did as fares are cheap ($15 per person one way)
- Portland has the best public transit system in the USA by far. A 1-day pass is $5 and is great value (usable on all modes of transport, bus, light rail & tram). We feel it’s actually comparable to European city standards of public transport. We saw the whole city just by public transit with no issues at all. We’ll be writing a public transit guide for Portland.