26 Jun Welcome to PDX!
Post written by Nick Adkins
You decided you want to go West! Welcome to Portland, Oregon – ground zero for pinksocks! My friend Dave Kittle from NY was recently in town and I was texting him recommendations on what to see while he was here for his friend’s wedding.
My friend Rasu Shrestha from Pittsburgh was preparing to come to town to keynote at the annual SIIM conference which was being held in Portland and I was compiling an email list of things for him to visit. I’ve emailed or texted similar recommendations through the years, so Dave’s & Rasu’s visits motivated me to share my favorite Portland (PDX) spots in a blog. This is my quintessential list of things to do when you’re being a tourist in PDX. In no particular order:
- The International Rose Test Garden on the West Side (downtown) of town…..in Washington Park. There’s every variety of rose on the planet (in bloom May-June)…..plus on a clear day = awesome view of the city and Mt. Hood. If you have time…..the Japanese Zen Garden is right next door and is beautifully peaceful.
- Walk NW 23rd for cool shops. Salt & Straw ice cream is a yes!
- Jump over to the Pearl. Lots of cool shops. Conveyor belt sushi at Sushi Land SW 10th & Washington. This will set you up to be close to Powell’s Books, Buffalo Exchange (vintage clothes), & Blue Star Donuts (way better than Voodoo), but you have to go to Voodoo and get some donuts just cuz!…..and Voodoo’s boxes are pink!
- 9th & Alder….a few blocks from Pioneer Square…..check out the block of food carts. Download the free PDX food cart app “Cart Compass PDX” which will come in handy to locate food carts wherever you are in the city. PDX is full of awesome restaurants, most of which began as food carts, we’re talking gourmet chefs in food carts…..good stuff!
- There’s a path along the river downtown called the Spring Water Corridor. Cool to walk on either the West or East side. On the weekend there’s a huge market down by the river on the West side…..you won’t miss it.
- Best view of the city at night is from the east side……the Burnside Bridge is the best one for this (the Burnside also is where you’ll find the building with the iconic neon Portland sign that has a deer on it). Also…..behind OMSI (great museum for kids in the daytime) along the Spring Water Corridor is an epic view of downtown at night.
- The river that divides the city into its 4 quadrants (NE, SE, NW, SW) is the Willamette. Pronounced “Whe-lam-it” like damnit. The Willamette turns west outside of the city headed towards the coast and into the Willamette Valley which produces some of the best Pinots in the world…..so yeah, while you’re here drink Oregon wine! Downtown is on the West side. Burnside Street divides the city into North & South sections.
- The prettiest bridge is the St. Johns. It’s the farthest bridge north. About a 15 min drive from downtown. Beautiful park there called Cathedral Park. Walk under the bridge…..up the hill from the park…..and look back thru the underpinnings of the bridge and you’ll see why the park got its name. The bridge is a beautiful verde green color…..its design will remind you of the Golden Gate Bridge in SF.
- Multnomah Falls is about 45 minutes east of town along the Columbia River Gorge (one of the most beautiful drives ever!). Out the 84 East to exit 28 and take the historic Columbia River Hwy. Beautiful 2 lane highway. Stop at Crown Point Vista House. When you look west across the Columbia…..you’re looking at Washington state on the other side. The buildings, bridges, roads that you’re on are all from the New Deal under Roosevelt’s administration and the WPA…..cool stuff. There are about 7-8 falls along the way…..stop and see all of them. Multnomah falls are the largest falls…..and they are the last ones you come to on your drive. This will burn up at least half a day or a full day so plan accordingly…..take a picnic and soak it all up!
- Mt. Hood. Timberline Lodge. Wow. Again…..thank you Roosevelt! All of the craftsmanship was from local workers….the building, the furniture, the art….all of it. Stunning drive. The lodge will remind you of the film “The Shining”…..cuz it was used in the movie! It takes a little over an hour to drive from downtown to Timberline.
- The historic Benson Hotel at 309 SW Broadway has a great lobby lounge. Usually live jazz. Lots of history in this hotel…..and it’s where presidents stay when they visit PDX. And….dog friendly!
- SE Hawthorne Blvd on the SE side between SE 20th & the SE 40’s or higher is a fun street for hippie shops and lots of vintage clothing stores (Red Light at 3590 SE Hawthorne is a winner). Blackbird Pizza is at 1935 SE Hawthorne….owned by a very good friend……kid friendly…..but they also have a full bar FTW!
- The Bagdad Theatre on Hawthorne……make sure to walk around the corner on SE 37th and check out the bar behind the Bagdad. Really cool bar with billiards, snooker, and a 7 story high ceiling……and an epic tapestry on the wall!
- Coolest bar = The Doug Fir at 830 East Burnside. Check out the construction of the bar and watch yourself when you go to the bathroom. Trippy!
- Best burger = Slow Bar at 533 SE Grand Avenue. Get the Slow Burger, the heaviest whiskey pour in town, and kick back and enjoy some industrial thrash music.
- Don’t use an umbrella! Everyone will know you’re a tourist. 🙂
Portlanders are a fun, hospitable, helpful bunch. You’ll have a great time. You’ll want to come back. You’ll want to live here. Sorry…..we’re all full!
Soak it up. Be the sponge. Life, it ain’t gonna live itself!