Portland is known for being a little bit weird, but over the past ten years it’s become quite a popular spot for travelers. This may or may not have had to do with the success of the television comedy series Portlandia, which showcased the cities laid-back lifestyle and quirky characters. Portland has the coziness of a small town and the culture of a big city. It’s the perfect spot for those who love nature, art, and local fine foods. There aren’t many major landmarks or historical sites for tourists to flock to, and that might be what makes Portland so great. It’s a city for the people who live there. So the next time you land in PDX, make sure you experience Portland like a local. We’ve rounded up the best tips for your next adventure in this kooky city.
Getting downtown from the airport
The PDX is known as one of the best airports in the U.S., and the city’s public transit is no different. Visitors can easily get downtown using the MAX Rail in just 30 minutes and for only $2.50. Uber is also a popular choice for visitors, but once you get to the city centre, you’ll feel more like a local by walking, or renting a bike. One thing to know about Portland is that the East end rules in terms of restaurants, bars, shops, and pretty much everything cool. While it’s not a difficult city to navigate, it may be worth your while to book your Airbnb outside of the downtown core.
Brunch like a local
Portland could easily take credit for inventing brunch, or at least for making it so popular. You won’t have to venture far on a weekend morning to find a minimalist cafe or greasy spoon serving up a killer brunch menu. Mother’s Bistro and Bar for breakfast favourites just like mom would make, or Bröder Cafe for Scandinavian inspired dishes, and little to no wait times.
While vegan options are plentiful at most Portland establishments, a few stand out above the rest. We recommend Paradox Cafe for a mix of veggie and meat filled plates, or go all out with the vegan hollandaise waffles at A.N.D. Cafe. And make sure to order some Stumptown coffee with your meal for a localized caffeine fill.
Explore the Saturday Market in Old Town
Every Saturday, the waterfront along the west side of the Burnside bridge turns into an outdoor art and crafts market, showcasing the city’s best locals artists and handmade goods. The Portland Saturday Market began in the 1970s as an easy way for local artists to sell their goods. From the market you also get a great view of the iconic White Stag sign, and if you haven’t been already, Voodoo Donuts is just a short walk away.
Stop and smell the roses
The Pacific Northwest has no shortage of beautiful nature, great parks and hiking trails. And the outskirts of Portland certainly measure up. A hike to the International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park is an easy afternoon activity from downtown, offering great views along the way. The garden, featuring over 5,000 roses, was planted during World War 1 as a way to preserve European rose species.
Wander through the weirdness that is NE Alberta Street
If you’re lucky enough to pass through Portland on the last Thursday of the month, you can’t miss checking out the open air street fair along North East Alberta Street, known as Last Thursday. From May to September, the street is closed off to cars, and filled with artists stalls, live music, food trucks, sometimes acrobats. While NE Alberta Street offers eclectic, if not weird, shops and entertainment all week long, Last Thursday is the best of the best and the weirdest of the weird.
Grab some food truck fare and chill at the Bluffs
Portland has been serving up unique food truck grub since before it was cool. In the warmer months, you can find trucks lining the streets, in parks, and even at a few designated food truck patios. Some local faves include and Mahi Taco, Pastrami Zombie and HomeGrown Smoker for vegan BBQ. We recommend picking up something big and greasy, and then head to the Bluffs at Mocks Crest for dinner with a view.
Finish your night with some local IPAs and live music
Not a city known for wild festivals or posh nightclubs, Portland is better suited to those who enjoy craft beers, cozy bars and indie rock. The Sandy Hut may be one of Portland’s most iconic and oldest dive bars. With cheap drinks and an old-school vibe, it’s where locals like to day drink and where visitors go for late night tiki cocktails. For drinks and a show, check out The Alibi Restaurant & Lounge for karaoke, for live bluegrass and Americana tunes hit up the Laurelthirst Pub, or The Liquor Store for an evening of psyched-out garage rock.
Whether you’re in town for just the day, the weekend, or a whole week, Portland has a bit of something for everyone. You’re sure to be charmed by the cute houses, niche shopping and friendly locals. You may now understand why people from the west coast say it’s the best coast.