Portland in 24 Hours: Experience local life in this perfectly weird city

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.

 

Portland is a small town with big charm, perfect for a day trip (© Jennie Pearson).

Portland is a small town with big charm, perfect for a day trip (© Jennie Pearson).

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.

 

Portland is bite sized-city making it easy to travel by foot or bike (© Jeff Gun).

Portland is bite sized-city, making it easy to travel by foot or bike (© Jeff Gun).

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.

 

Portland is the city to be in for brunch lovers (© Cafe Border).

Portland is the city to be in for brunch lovers looking for new and exciting options (© Broder Cafe).

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.

 

portland market

The Saturday Market in Old Town is a great way to explore local handmade goods (© Jennie Pearson).

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.

 

rose test garden

Just a quick drive west of the city is the International Rose Test Garden (© Jennie Pearson).

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. 

 

Alberta St Portland

Alberta Street comes alive once a month for Last Thursday, an outdoor art fair (© Jennie Pearson).

 

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.

 

The Bluffs at offer a chill space to relax after a long day of walking, biking and hiking (© Jennie Pearson) .

The Bluffs at Mocks Crest offer a chill space to relax after a long day of walking, biking and hiking (© Jennie Pearson).

 

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.

 

The best way to spend in evening in Portland is with live music and local beers (© RSNN TripAdvisor).

The best way to spend an evening in Portland is with live music and local beers (© RSNN/ TripAdvisor).

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