After a lovely first week in Portland, OR, our second week was insane. Looking back, I can’t believe we still managed to see and do so much. This is a quirky city with walkable neighborhoods, good food and creative community events. When you want a break from the city, short drives in every direction will take you to scenic landscapes, memorable hiking areas and historic sites. This is definitely a city we’d return to.
Dates of our visit: June 11-24, 2016
Things to Do in Portland, OR
Portland Saturday Market
Portland’s Saturday Market represents a huge collection of local vendors selling everything from art to soap to clothing. We picked up a catnip carrot for Rhythm, which was her first catnip treat ever. The event name is a little deceiving. During the summer, the market runs on both Saturday and Sunday.
2 SW Naito Parkway – Website
Coincidentally, the weekend we went to the market was also the Rose Festival and Fleet Week (annually in June). Military ships from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard and Royal Canadian Navy were tied up, and service members were in full uniform to answer questions. Public tours of the ships were also available with no admission fee.
I love Portland’s walkable neighborhoods, and the Pearl District is definitely one of them. We barely scratched the service of all the shops, galleries and restaurants there…mostly because I found the headquarters of Powell’s Books and got completely distracted. I have a tender place in my heart for Austin’s BookPeople, the largest independent bookstore in Texas. But BookPeople has nothing on the size of Powell’s.
One full city block. One million books. USA Today has recognized Powell’s as one of the best ten bookstores in the United States. I love that this place sells both new and used books, all mixed together. In fact, from what I understand, Powell’s buys 3,000 used books every day!
1005 W. Burnside St. – Website
North Mississippi District
We really enjoyed walking through the North Missisippi District, as well. We walked up and down N. Mississippi Avenue between Skidmore and Fremont, popping into all the shops and indulging in Blue Star Donuts.
Remember what I said about walkable neighborhoods? You’ll have to walk once you get to Alberta Street, considering all the calories you’ll put on while you’re there. Case in point:
- Barista – recognized as one of the better coffee shops in Portland’s inundated coffee scene. I tried the vanilla latte, which is one of my go-to espresso drinks.
- Salt & Straw – seriously some of the best ice cream we’ve had in a long time. You may balk at paying $9 for a sundae…until you eat it.
- Pine State Biscuits – if you love biscuit-based creations, then you’ll really enjoy Pine State. The menu didn’t match my personal tastes as much as Maple Street Biscuit Company in Jacksonville, but I did enjoy a fresh biscuit with apple butter on the outdoor patio.
- Random Order Pie Bar – considering we had already consumed coffee, ice cream and biscuits in the space of an hour, we had to come back another day for Random Order Pie Bar! I’ll admit I have mixed feelings about this place. The pies act like magnets as soon as you walk in the door. But the price is hard to swallow, and I’m pretty sure the low-quality vanilla ice cream negatively affected the taste of my dish.
There are so many local businesses to discover on this relatively short strip of Alberta Street! Pick a day with good weather and plan to spend an afternoon there.
We love finding unique local game stores, and Guardian Games is arguably the coolest we’ve been to in the country (and definitely the largest). They have tons of planned gaming nights, like the Armada event Eric went to. On another occasion, we spent an evening playing games with one of Eric’s oldest friends from elementary school and her boyfriend. Guardian Games has a huge library of open board games that are available for play in-store. There’s also a food and drink area in the back where alcoholic beverages are available for the adults among us.
345 SE Taylor St. – Website
Fort Vancouver is a National Historic Site just north of Portland, in Washington State. With our friend Liz of Life With Dyna, we posed like debutantes (okay, a bit anachronistic), ran our hands over piles of pelts, watched a blacksmith at work, and generally marveled at life on the frontier.
1501 E. Evergreen Blvd. Vancouver, WA – Website
Things to Eat in Portland, OR
Flying Pie was one of Eric’s favorite eateries in town from back in the day. You can find locations across the Pacific Northwest now, but Stark Street in Portland is the original. Eric was worried that it wouldn’t be as good as he remembered, but we weren’t disappointed. I loved the fresh salad bar, and the pies were hearty and filling. Pro tip: Anything more than two toppings may be unmanageable. They pile the goodness on here.
7804 SE Stark St. – Website
Portland has a healthy food truck culture, though they call them “food carts.” The night we went to Guardian Games, we caught dinner nearby at Cartopia “food cart” park. There are at least a half dozen businesses to choose from here. Eric had the insane Good Morning sandwich at PBJs Grilled, and I had Mediterranean from Tahir before taking a crepe to go from Perierra Creperie.
SE 12th and Hawthorne Blvd.
This is what happened. We were on our way to Chinese when Eric saw a sign for Skippers. We took an instant detour. This Seattle-based joint has a plain, fast food atmosphere, but serves killer clam chowder and fish and chips. You’ve got to try it while you’re in the Pacific Northwest.
Case Study Coffee
I had the best of intentions when I planned to do a Portland coffee shop tour. I’ve alluded to some challenges that cropped up during our stay, and they consumed my best-laid plans. However, I did enjoy Barista (which I mentioned above), as well as Case Study Coffee. A Yelp photo caused me to order something at Case Study I never would’ve otherwise, and it was crazy delicious. It was a chai with almond milk and house vanilla syrup. Trust it.
5347 NE Sandy Blvd. – Website
Day Trip to Columbia River Gorge
If you’ve seen the Columbia River Gorge, you know it’s one of the most beautiful places in the country. If you’re going during peak season, you will probably encounter a parking nightmare at Multnomah Falls. To avoid this, we parked at Wakeena Falls and hiked to Multnomah Falls (only half a mile and it’s gorgeous). Even Wakeena Falls was getting busy, though. For that reason, there’s now a shuttle to and from Multnomah Falls that you may want to look into.
As far as Multnomah Falls, it’s the second highest waterfall in the country after Yosemite. Moreover, it looks like fairyland magic, especially with the bridge in the foreground.
From there, we drove into Hood River for a yummy sandwich lunch at River Daze Cafe. Hood River looked like a lot of fun, with tons of shops and restaurants and an active, outdoorsy Colorado feel. We’d like to stay there at some point in the future.
From Hood River, we took 35 south to 26 into Gresham. This is basically a big loop that takes you right around Mount Hood. What a splendid drive!
Day Trip to Astoria
During our second weekend in the area, we headed out to Lewis & Clark National Historical Park. It couldn’t have been a more beautiful day–this is what we wanted from summer in the PNW!
On our way through Seaside, we stopped for lunch at Bell Buoy and neighboring Buoy’s Best Restaurant. The folks here were so generous and good to us. While we waited for the restaurant to open, we had fresh crab from Bell Buoy, served with crackers and lemon.
Once seated inside Buoy’s Best, we had a feast of razor clam, salmon chowder, a crab melt and a tuna melt! Everything was fresh and local. The razor clam was a unique treat we had never tried before. We highly recommend this small local business in Seaside.
1800 S. Roosevelt Dr. – Website
Lewis & Clark National Historical Park
Continuing on our way, we reached Lewis & Clark National Historical Park. This National Park Service park commemorates and preserves the location where Lewis and Clark spent the winter after finally reaching the Pacific Ocean. They actually landed across the Columbia River in Washington State, but they crossed the river to build their fort and make camp.
The original fort is no longer standing because it was always intended to be temporary. But based on Clark’s drawings, the NPS has reconstructed Fort Clatsop and visitors can now wander through the rooms. It doesn’t seem so bad on a sunny summer day. But we recognized this small space held 32 men, one woman, one baby and a dog for almost five months, and the winter weather was horrible.
We are huge Lewis & Clark fans, and have come to believe they are two of the most underrated individuals in our nation’s history. We made sure to watch the film at the visitor’s center, and browse through the museum exhibits.
92343 Fort Clatsop Road – Website
We finished our day trip by driving into Astoria and walking up and down the main street (Commercial Street). It was towards the end of the day during the weekend, so shops were starting to close. But it was still fun to window shop and see what was there.
It was on the way home from Astoria that our problems began. More on that in a minute.
Columbia River RV Park in Portland, OR
We stayed at Columbia River RV Park and it worked perfectly for us. If you wait until the last minute to book during the summer, you’ll only get a night or two, and it probably won’t be over a weekend. But if you call a couple of months in advance, you shouldn’t have a problem getting a spot.
While Columbia River RV Park is on the north end of Portland, it’s a quick 15-minute drive to the city center via I-5. We also found the location was perfect for the things we wanted to explore, like Fort Vancouver, the Columbia River Gorge and the coast.
It was fun when Jake and Liz (Life With Dyna) came to stay in the park with us. And the Shearers (Tinywheel House) also stayed at a park nearby and came over one afternoon for board gaming.
Issues With Various Modes of Transportation
Okay. So everything blew up on us during our trip to Astoria on Saturday, June 18. Smaug (our family member/Jeep Commander) gave out on us, and we could tell it was serious. Thus began a week of vehicle-less-ness, mechanics, vehicle shopping, vehicle buying and general insanity. The big stress factor was that our kids were flying into Seattle one week later, on June 25. We had to be there to get them, and then we were spending a month with them and needed reliable transportation.
Add to this the fact that I needed to fly out of Portland on Monday night (when Smaug was still broken and we were still figuring out what to do), for a red-eye to Austin, TX. I had a prenatal appointment scheduled for Tuesday morning, and then I was turning around and flying back into Portland on Tuesday night.
Well, about fifteen minutes out of Seattle (where I was connecting to Austin), the pilot came over the intercom to tell us Sea-Tac had shut down because of a lightning storm. We were turning around and going back to Portland. So around midnight, after a long day of Smaug issues and our regular work commitments to clients, with pregnancy hormones raging, I found out there was no way I was going to make it to Austin for my doctor’s appointment.
I could go on, but basically everything was a total mess.
There was resolution to this mess, but I’ll have to save that for another time! I am way overdue sharing Portland with you.