Pacific Northwest Destination
If you described Portland as a scaled-down version of Seattle you wouldn't be off the mark, as both cities share some very enticing similarities. They boast natural settings that showcase the Pacific Northwest's remarkable beauty. Each has a distant but unmistakable landmark: 14,411-foot Mount Rainier rising from Seattle's horizon, 11,239-foot Mt. Hood serving as Portland's backdrop. Water is a prevailing characteristic as well—as Puget Sound helped shape Seattle, so do the Willamette (pronounced “will-AM-ett”) and Columbia rivers define Portland. Both are decidedly pro-environmental, resulting in a bounty of urban parks and green spaces. Coffee on practically every corner? Check and check.
Portland, in fact, has one of the most delightfully walkable downtowns of any major city in the country. Laid out in grid fashion and roughly a dozen blocks east-west and north-south, it's neatly divided into separate districts that are easy to explore individually. Wander around the leafy, art-filled South Park Blocks. Get to know the Pearl District and Chinatown and enjoy one of the many local restaurants. Stop by Powell's City of Books for some serious browsing. Take a brisk walk along Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park.
Getty Images/D Falconer/PhotoLink
Behind the Natural BeautyPanoramic river vistas! Pacific seascapes! Mt. Hood! The Columbia Gorge! The Willamette Valley! Nature was particularly generous in giving outdoorsy glories to Oregon's northwestern corner, and Portland is right in the middle of them all. Oregon's largest city has the feel of a smaller town, and it shares a definite West Coast vibe with Seattle—one that encourages you to relax, slow down and just enjoy the moment.
Mayor Lane's vision seems to have come true in downtown's leafy South Park Blocks. In the late 19th century elms and Lombardy poplars were planted in what was then the outskirts of town, and the blocks became a fashionable residential neighborhood filled with Italianate mansions and, later, apartment buildings. Today it's a perfect spot for a leisurely afternoon stroll or a jumping off point for nearby museums and history centers.
Centuries earlier, the deepwater confluence of the Columbia and the Willamette was a stop on a trading route used by Chinook Native Americans. Over time, wood for campfires consumed more and more of the surrounding forest, creating a large clearing. It was this spot that Bostonian Asa Lovejoy and Francis Pettygrove of Portland, Maine, envisioned as the site of a new town in the 1840s; they called it “Stumptown” for the abundance of tree stumps. Each man wanted the settlement named after his hometown; the matter was decided with a coin toss that Pettygrove won. The “Portland Penny” now resides at the Oregon Historical Society on S.W. Park Avenue, while the nickname lives on in Stumptown Coffee Roasters, a popular purveyor of fair-trade regional beans known for its skilled baristas and killer lattes.
By CarThe major north-south route to Portland is I-5, which originates in Southern California and extends through Seattle and to the Canadian border. I-5 parallels the Willamette's east bank through Portland, affording access to bridges connecting the West Side.
Most traffic from the east follows I-84, which becomes Banfield Freeway on the East Side, then intersects I-5. East-west thoroughfares are US 26 and US 30. Both funnel traffic into Portland from points along the Pacific on the west; from the east US 26 skirts Mt. Hood on its approach, while US 30 parallels the Columbia River, frequently following the I-84 alignment.
Bypass routes are provided by I-405, which skirts the western downtown area, and I-205, which swings in a wider arc through the east. Both interchange with major routes and streets en route.
Street SystemPortland is divided into five sections—S.W., S.E., N., N.W. and N.E.—with the Willamette River dividing east from west and Burnside Street separating north from south. A series of 11 bridges connects the east and west sides. Street addresses are keyed to each of the sections—121 N.E. 21st Ave., or 200 S.W. Taylor St.
The city's major thoroughfares are, from west to east, Burnside Street, Sandy Boulevard and US 26 (Powell Boulevard), and from north to south, Grand Avenue, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and 82nd Street. Many minor streets, especially downtown, are one-way, with alternate streets going in opposite directions.
The speed limit within the city is 20 mph. Most major thoroughfares and express boulevards have limits of 35 mph, unless otherwise posted.
Left turns on red are permitted on one-way streets only; the driver must come to a full stop and yield to traffic with the green light. Right turns on red, after coming to a full stop and yielding to traffic with the right of way, are permitted at all intersections unless otherwise posted.
Rush hours are 6:30-8:30 a.m. and 3:30-6 p.m. Congestion is greatest on I-5, I-84 and US 26 during these times.
ParkingParking lots are scattered throughout the downtown area; on-street parking is difficult to find any time of the day or night. Parking rates range from $1 to $2 an hour, depending on the location.
Public TransportationTriMet transit agency serves three counties and includes the MAX (Metropolitan Area Express), a 60-mile light-rail system; the Portland Streetcar; Westside Express Service (WES), a commuter rail line; and a fleet of city buses. Along the Portland Transit Mall, between Fifth and Sixth avenues, passenger shelters feature video screens that display real-time schedule information. Maps of all routes are displayed in the shelters.
TriMet's MAX Light Rail system is divided into five lines, making it easy to travel around the city. The blue line runs east from the downtown core through Old Town (1st and N.W. Davis) to the suburb of Gresham and west to Beaverton and Hillsboro. The red line runs from downtown to Beaverton and Portland International Airport. The yellow line serves the north and northeast communities from downtown to the Expo Center via Interstate Avenue. The green line runs along I-205 and makes a number of stops between Clackamas Town Center and Portland City Center/Portland Transit Mall. The orange line runs from the Portland Transit Mall to Milwaukie. Most MAX stations are decorated with art created by locals—the works focus on community pride. Trains arrive at least every 15 minutes most of the day with service being less frequent in the early morning, mid-day and evening.
The A Loop travels through Portland clockwise, crossing the Broadway Bridge over the Willamette River to serve the Lloyd Center, Convention Center and Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) then crosses the river again at Tilikum Crossing back to downtown via Portland State University.
The B Loop operates counterclockwise but serves the same districts as the A Loop. Street cars stop roughly every 15 minutes during the day and less frequently on evenings and Sundays. The fare is the same as TriMet.
TriMet's Westside Express Service (WES) is a commuter rail line running between Beaverton and Wilsonville Monday through Friday approximately every 30 minutes during morning and afternoon rush hours. A TriMet fare ticket is required. There are five stations along the nearly 15-mile route; all offer bike parking, and all except Beaverton Transit Center have Park & Ride lots. The stations connect with at least one other transportation service, including MAX Light Rail at Beaverton.
For a ticket valid for 2.5 hours on TriMet buses, MAX Light Rail, Portland Streetcar and WES commuter rail, the fare is $2.50; $1.25 (ages 7-17, ages 65+ and those who are physically impaired); free (ages 0-6 with passenger). Passes good for 1, 7 or 14 days and longer also are available. Fares may vary; phone ahead to confirm. Fares must be paid with exact change or with tickets or passes when boarding. For detailed schedule information about TriMet buses, light-rail trains, streetcars or WES commuter rail, visit TriMet's customer service office, downtown in the visitor center at Pioneer Courthouse Square; phone (503) 238-7433.
Sales TaxOregon levies no sales tax. The Portland area has a lodging tax of 11.5 percent and a rental car tax of 17 percent.
Police (non-emergency)(503) 823-3333
HospitalsAdventist Medical Center, (503) 257-2500; Legacy Emanuel Medical Center, (503) 413-2200; Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center, (503) 413-7711; OHSU Hospital, (503) 494-8311.
Visitor InformationThe Travel Portland Visitor Information Center 701 S.W. Sixth Ave. Portland, OR 97204. Phone:(503)275-8355 or (877)678-5263
The Willamette Week reports on fun places to go as well as weekly entertainment, shopping specials and current events.
Air TravelCheap airline flights can be found from cities all over the country. Portland International Airport (PDX), 9 miles east of I-5 off I-205, is served by most domestic airlines. Transportation from downtown to the airport is available from airport shuttles, which run between the airport and major downtown hotels every 30 minutes daily 5 a.m.-midnight. The public bus and light-rail system, TriMet, also serves the airport; phone (503) 238-7433 for schedules. Taxi fares between the airport and downtown average about $35.
Rental CarsSeveral rental car agencies serve the Portland area. Hertz, (503) 528-7900 (airport), (503) 249-5727 (downtown) or (800) 654-3080, offers discounts to AAA members.
Rail ServiceThe Amtrak passenger train terminal is at 800 N.W. Sixth Ave.; phone (800) 872-7245.
TaxisCabs must be hired by phone or at taxi stations, although a few will answer a hail from the street in the downtown business district. Companies include Broadway Cab Co., (503) 333-3333; and Radio Cab, (503) 227-1212. Fares are metered. Most taxi services charge $3-$5 for one person for the first .1 mile then $2.60 for each additional mile and a $1 fee for each additional passenger.
Public TransportationTransportation by bus, streetcar or light-rail is available in Portland.
What to Do in Portland
Just a 15-minute TriMet MAX train ride from downtown, Washington Park (S.W. Rose Garden Way & S.W. Kingston Ave.) is a must-visit on any vacation, if only to be wowed by the multitude of blooms at the International Rose Test Garden (400 S.W. Kingston Ave.) and experience the Zen-like serenity of the Portland Japanese Garden (611 S.W. Kingston Ave.). The wooded park is home to other attractions that top the list of things to do, including the Hoyt Arboretum (4000 S.W. Fairview Blvd.), with a network of pretty hiking trails that will make you forget you're near a bustling city.
Hang out in Pioneer Courthouse Square. Portland's “living room” is six blocks from the riverfront between S.W. 6th Street and Broadway. Grab coffee or a snack from a food cart, check out the bronze sculptures and then relax on the brick steps and engage in some people watching.
Courtesy of Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau/Bruno Fontino
On the other side of the blocks is the Oregon Historical Society (1200 S.W. Park Ave.), dedicated to preserving the Beaver State's history. Its most striking features are the exterior trompe l'oeil murals that depict the Lewis and Clark expedition. These works won't escape your eye: They soar eight stories high.
Go for a walk at Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park. The riverside promenade follows the Willamette from the Hawthorne Bridge north to the Steel Bridge, where you can cross the river and follow the Eastbank Esplanade south, learning about the region's history from interpretive markers along the way. This 4-mile round trip is guilt-free exercise complete with scenic views.
Forest Park is, well, a forest within the city. Keep your walking shoes on and hit one of the park's more than 70 miles of densely wooded trails. Unpaved Leif Erickson Drive runs for almost a dozen miles and is closed to cars, making it perfect for a bike ride or hike, with views of the Columbia River through the trees an unexpected bonus if you love adventure travel.
Head across the Willamette to the Hawthorne District on the city's east side. There are coffee shops, bakeries and funky shops along Hawthorne Boulevard between 17th and 43rd streets, and there's a hip nightlife scene at neighborhood joints like the Bagdad Theater & Pub .
The Portland Children?s Museum/Steve Hambuchen
Portland Travel with Kids
There's nothing like animal antics to entertain little kids, and the menagerie at the Oregon Zoo (4001 S.W. Canyon Rd.) will not let them down, making this a top destination for families. Critters here range from adorable to strange-looking and everything in between. Don't miss the Zoo Train, which winds through Washington Park (S.W. Rose Garden Way & S.W. Kingston Ave.) between the zoo and the International Rose Test Garden (400 S.W. Kingston Ave.).
Just a hop, skip and a jump from the zoo is the Portland Children's Museum (4015 S.W. Canyon Rd.). The place is filled with educational, imagination-inspiring and—most importantly—fun exhibits, and the latest addition, Outdoor Adventure, is no exception. Add this to your list of things to do this weekend with kids.
Portland has an excellent theater scene, but it isn't just for adults. Both Oregon Children's Theatre, 1111 S.W. Broadway, and Northwest Children's Theater and School, 1819 N.W. Everett St., produce plays for young audiences that will help ignite an appreciation for the arts.
Things to Do With TeensGetting teens excited on vacation is hard, but Oaks Amusement Park (7805 S.E. Oaks Park Way) makes it easy. The whirl-'til-you-hurl rides are as fresh as when the park opened in 1905, and once you're done being dropped, spun and turned upside down, there are carnival games, bumper cars and a roller skating rink.
What to Do for All Ages
Shopping in PortlandOregon doesn't charge sales tax—one of only five states that don't—which is obviously good news for Portland shoppers. Probably the most convenient place to take advantage of this tax-free situation is in and around downtown. Here you'll find compact historic districts with all sorts of boutiques and stores, and the streetcar and light-rail lines make getting around this destination a breeze.
Shop the Day Away in the Historic Districts
With the largest collection of cast-iron-fronted structures outside New York City, Portland has preserved a majority of them in two historic districts: Skidmore/Old Town and Yamhill. The two areas blend historic preservation with modern commerce, as many of these landmarks are filled with shops, galleries and restaurants. These areas top the things to do list of many visitors.
flickr/Jill Allyn Stafford
The Pearl District is a Shopping Mecca
Get Your Bags Filled in Nob Hill
More Shopping Across the River
On the east side of the Willamette River, the Hawthorne District (centered along S.E. Hawthorne Boulevard between S.E. 12th and S.E. 50th streets) offers a somewhat edgier shopping destination than its downtown counterparts. Hawthorne has a counterculture vibe evident in its funky independent shops selling eco-friendly home furnishings and vintage clothing. You'll know you're in the heart of the vibrant district when you spot famous local restaurants such as the Bagdad Theater & Pub with its iconic neon sign.
A few miles north of Hawthorne, the Alberta Arts District is similarly bohemian, although its emphasis on visual arts sets it apart. Along with indie galleries, boutiques, restaurants and coffee shops, the ethnically diverse district features several interesting public art installations—sculptures, murals, mosaics, etc.—along N.E. Alberta Street, the main thoroughfare.
To the southeast of downtown, Sellwood-Moreland is another walkable district known for vintage clothing and antiques, charming bistros and a small-town neighborhood feel. Many shops occupy beautifully restored Victorian houses and Craftsman-style bungalows.
Lloyd Center is a Shopper's Paradise
More Malls Means More Great Finds
Suburban shopping centers worth visiting include the Clackamas Town Center , a beautifully renovated 1980s-era mall off I-205 and S.E. Sunnyside Road. It has more than 180 stores, a movie theater and, since 2009, a MAX Light Rail station. There's also Bridgeport Village , off I-5 south exit 290 in Tigard, a lovely outdoor lifestyle center with manicured planters, hanging flower baskets, a fountain, a gazebo and strings of twinkle lights lit at night. Here you'll find such stores as Crate & Barrel and Urban Outfitters and even a multiplex with an IMAX Theater. Less than 5 miles away, Washington Square , at 9585 S.W. Washington Dr. off SR 217, has Macy's, Nordstrom and Sears as well as more than 170 other stores, including Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma.
One Last Stop
Even if you're about to end your trip and catch a flight out of town, you'll have one last chance to take advantage of Oregon's tax-free shopping before you get to the airport. Cascade Station , right next to Portland International, has a collection of national retailers, hotels and fast-food restaurants arranged around a broad, parklike median between one-way lanes of N.E. Cascades Parkway. Nordstrom Rack and Banana Republic Factory Store are two of the retailers here. The area's hotels are a convenient place to overnight if you have an early morning flight, but even if you're staying downtown, you can easily reach Cascade Station by way of the TriMet MAX red line.
Portland NightlifeGood Brews and Great Food
Don't know where to eat? Kick off an evening out on the town at Deschutes Brewery & Public House (210 N.W. 11th Ave., (503) 296-4906) in the Pearl District. Try one of Deschutes' award-winning brewed-on-site craft beers, and while you wait, check out the carved wood columns and panels throughout the Northwestern-themed dining room. And where else can you try a mouthwatering elk burger or a stout brownie?
EastBurn (1800 E. Burnside St., (503) 236-2876) provides entertainment as well as food and drink with a gastropub upstairs; a heated patio and casual bar downstairs; and Skee-Ball and board games rounding out the amenities. EastBurn is known for its great beer selection, creative cocktails and fun, whimsical atmosphere that includes porch swings on the patio and hanging rattan chairs inside. And after 10 p.m. there's live music. It's a great spot when you are putting together a list of things for couples to do.
Drinks and Games
Pairing cocktails with some other friendly pastime is kind of a thing in the Rose City. At Pips & Bounce (833 S.E. Belmont St., (503) 928-4664) in Buckman's Grand Central Building, two brothers decided to combine their childhood love of ping-pong with a grownup social environment serving beer, wine and cocktails. The result is a laid-back rec room on steroids minus the nagging parents to remind you it's bedtime. Plan to stop here while on your trip to the city.
Sing Your Heart Out
If you are looking for fun things to do with friends, then look no further than Voicebox Karaoke Lounge (734 S.E. 6th Ave., (503) 303-8220) in the up-and-coming Central Eastside warehouse district. Don't fear showing off your vocal chops (or lack thereof) because, like its sister location in Northwest Portland, Voicebox offers private suites, so no one has to know how you butchered “Don't Stop Believin'” except your closest friends. The décor is industrial chic, the wall murals wild and fanciful and the bar is well-stocked and includes an appropriately long list of Japanese sake. Nearby restaurants ensure this is a full service stop.
The Best Cocktails in the City
You won't find ping-pong tables or video games at Teardrop Cocktail Lounge (1015 N.W. Everett St., (503) 445-8109) in the Pearl District because they do one thing and one thing only: serve craft cocktails meticulously prepared using fine spirits, fresh ingredients and house-made syrups and bitters. The setting for these liquid works of art is a chic, sleek, slightly austere room complete with abstract paintings, high ceilings, a circular bar and curtains that serve as movie screens. It makes a relaxing place to visit when you travel to Portland.
A Bar of a Different Kind
If a lumberjack opened a swanky bar with lighting a la “2001: A Space Odyssey,” Doug Fir Lounge (830 E. Burnside St., (503) 231-9663) is what it would look like. Attached to a mid-century modern motel and restaurant in Portland's Central Eastside, the intimate basement lounge schedules musical acts from around the country. The landscaped patio bar with fire pits makes it a great destination for chilling out when the weather is nice.
Portland Performing ArtsThe Portland'5 Centers for the Arts is the focal point for the city's major cultural events and a top destination for visitors. Unlike many such centers, this is a complex with three buildings in separate locations, which helps when planning your list of things to do on your visit. Locations include the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, the Antoinette Hatfield Hall and the Keller Auditorium.
A Tour of the Centers for the Arts
The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, S.W. Broadway at Main Street, is a restored 1928 vaudeville house where the Oregon Symphony performs. “The Schnitz” features other musical concerts, dance and touring shows. If you love this era, then make sure to add this to your vacation stops.
Directly across the street from “the Schnitz” is Antoinette Hatfield Hall, which encompasses three performance spaces: the 304-seat Dolores Winningstad Theatre, the 880-seat Newmark Theatre and the 200-seat Brunish Theatre. These theaters are the hosts for performances by the Portland Opera and a number of choral and orchestral groups. It makes the perfect romantic night out when you're looking for things for couples to do.
Chamber Music Northwest, (503) 223-3202, performs concerts during June and July at Reed College and Portland State University if you want things to do in Portland at that time of year. The Portland Center Stage at The Armory, 128 N.W. 11th Ave., hosts performances by the Portland Center Stage theater company in two theaters—the 590-seat U.S. Bank Main Stage and 190-seat Ellyn Bye Studio. Keep that in mind when planning your trip.
Portland Sports & RecreationPortland offers a wide variety of sports and adventure travel activities, ranging from sailing to mountain climbing. The city's extensive system of parks provides jogging trails, bicycle paths, swimming pools, tennis courts and nature trails. Nearby state parks also have recreational and camping facilities that can accommodate those traveling on vacation and also group travel.
Boating is offered at many marinas on the Columbia and Willamette rivers as well as at state parks; most marinas have many types of boats available for rent in the spring and summer.
Reservations for trips can be made through the following Portland area companies: Oregon River Experiences, 18074 S. Boone Ct., Beavercreek, OR 97004, (503) 563-1500 or (800) 827-1358; Zoller's Outdoor Odysseys, 1248 SR 141, White Salmon, WA 98672, (509) 493-2641 or (800) 366-2004; and River Drifters, 405 Deschutes Ave., Maupin, OR 97037, (800) 972-0430.
Hunting opportunities abound in the mountains and forests surrounding Portland. For information about hunting and fishing areas and licenses phone the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife at (503) 947-6000.
Mountain climbing and skiing are possible a short distance from Portland. Mt. Hood, about an hour's drive from the city, is said to be one of the most climbed mountains in the world. Information about ski resorts and conditions is available from AAA Oregon/Idaho; phone (503) 222-6700. Information about mountain climbing and other adventurous things to do is available from the U.S. Forest Service at Mt. Hood; phone (503) 668-1700.
Tennis players have the choice of the city's indoor courts or outside facilities. Indoor courts must be reserved. Phone the Portland Tennis Center at (503) 823-3189.
Providence Park is home to the Portland Timbers, the city's MLS soccer team, which takes to the field from late March to early October. Providence Park also is where the NWSL Portland Thorns FC play. For tickets to men's or women's games, phone (503) 553-5555.
Note: Policies vary concerning admittance of children to pari-mutuel betting facilities. Phone for information.
When visiting Portland and planning your list of things to do, it helps to be informed about the many sightseeing options the city has to offer. From boats to buses, you should be able to find exactly what works for you. Looking for a special tour, like fun things for couples to do or adventurous tour ideas? The choices provide something for you no matter your travel needs or chosen destination.
Walking ToursCity maps and self-guided walking tours to historic buildings, sculptures and fountains are available from the Travel Portland visitor information center in Pioneer Courthouse Square, 701 S.W. Sixth Ave., Portland, OR 97204. The information center is at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Morrison Street and is open Mon.-Fri. 8:30-5:30, Sat. 10-4, Sun. 10-2, May-Oct.; Mon.-Fri. 8:30-5:30, Sat. 10-4, rest of year. Phone (503) 275-8355 or (877) 678-5263. Contact the center or your AAA travel agent for help planning your trip.
Portland in 3 DaysThree days is barely enough time to get to know any major destination. But AAA travel editors suggest these activities to make the most of your time in Portland.
Day 1: Morning Travel DestinationsFor a sugar fix that will power you through a morning of sightseeing, begin the day at the original Voodoo Doughnut location, downtown at the corner of S.W. 3rd Avenue and S.W. Ankeny Street (a block south of Burnside Street). Despite lots of TV food show hype, it delivers the goods (the bacon maple bar will have you sighing with pleasure). Get some to go packaged in a pink box, and arrive early or prepare to wait in line.
Head for the South Park Blocks (between S.W. Market and S.W. Salmon streets). In the 1850s this was designated park space on the city's western outskirts, and by the late 19th century the Italianate mansions had become fashionable residential addresses. Stroll these leafy squares while taking a look at the public artwork (including statues of Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln) on each block.
Two museums flank the blocks. The Portland Art Museum (1219 S.W. Park Ave.) has noteworthy exhibitions, but don't overlook the permanent collection of Native American art on the second floor of the Belluschi Building; it features Northwest Coast and pre-Columbian objects from Meso and South America. Among the famous paintings is Vincent Van Gogh's early work “The Ox-Cart.”
flickr/Mulling it Over
Portland is rightly celebrated for its green spaces, and (if the weather is cooperating) Washington Park (S.W. Rose Garden Way & S.W. Kingston Ave.) is the perfect place to spend an afternoon outdoors. En route, make a quick lunch stop at Elephants Delicatessen (115 N.W. 22nd Ave.) for a to-go sandwich or salad sack lunch. Any time from late May into October, make your first stop the International Rose Test Garden (400 S.W. Kingston Ave.). It offers thousands of roses in an assortment of varieties, colors and fragrances.
Also stunning is the Portland Japanese Garden (611 S.W. Kingston Ave.). This immaculately landscaped retreat reveals the quiet genius of Japanese gardening, utilizing three elements—vegetation, stone and water—to convey a sense of serenity.
From Washington Park, head back downtown. The best place to spend an afternoon—especially if it's sunny—is Pioneer Courthouse Square (701 S.W. 6th Ave.), Portland's “living room.” This paved plaza is ideal for people watching. Everyone, regardless of age or social status, gathers to sit on the brick steps or lounge on a bench. Spending time here automatically makes you an honorary Portlander.
Day 1: Evening
Courtesy of Andina
After dinner, stroll over to Teardrop Cocktail Lounge (1015 N.W. Everett St.), just a couple blocks away. The mixed drinks here are as elaborate as full meals, and the industrial chic interior creates a vibe somewhere between a friendly neighborhood pub and a sophisticated big-city bar; phone (503) 445-8109.
Day 2: MorningOld Town, the historic waterfront district that extends along the Willamette River, is—as you might guess—the oldest part of the city and offers a few places to eat breakfast or brunch.Try Mother's Bistro & Bar inside the Embassy Suites by Hilton Portland Downtown (S.W. 4th Ave. and Pine St.). This Portland standby has a sunny, cheery dining room and specializes in comfort food every bit as good as mom's. Breakfast is served until 2:30, which means you can order the wild salmon hash with leeks, potatoes and a touch of cream, or dig into Mother's meatloaf sandwich.
For more Zen surroundings, travel to the Lan Su Chinese Garden (3 blocks north of Burnside Street between N.W. 2nd and 3rd avenues). Covering a square block, this walled garden is in a congested part of downtown, but walk through the doors and the city's noise fades to a remarkable degree. This meticulously designed and landscaped space—a combination of water, rocks, trees, flowering shrubs and pavilions graced with lovely woodcarvings—is guaranteed to soothe the soul.
Day 2: AfternoonSpend the afternoon shopping in the Pearl District (north of Burnside Street from N.W. Broadway west to N.W. 15th Avenue). The Pearl has morphed over the last two decades or so from gritty and industrial to chic and upscale, and it has a multitude of shopping and dining opportunities. Browse homegrown stores like Ecru Modern Stationer, 1215 N.W. 11th Ave. (greeting cards, stationery and gifts); MadeHere PDX, 40 N.W. 10th Ave. (leather goods, bags and accessories crafted by local artisans); and Hello From Portland, 514 N.W. Couch St. (all sorts of Portland-themed souvenirs).
Day 2: Evening
Day 3: MorningRoad trip for your last day of vacation! Chief among Portland's assets is its proximity to the scenic glories of northwestern Oregon, a palette that includes Mount Hood, the Columbia Gorge and the Pacific coast. The Columbia River Gorge—an 85-mile-long canyon carved by the mighty Columbia River—is an easy day excursion from downtown Portland (from downtown, take I-5 to I-84/US 30 east).
Your first stop is the Cadillac Cafe, 1801 N.E. Broadway between N.E. 17th and N.E. 19th avenues (near the Lloyd Center). In-the-know Portlanders claim it's one of the city's best diners. One of their egg and veggie scrambles, a breakfast burrito filled with black beans and fresh salsa or a short stack of buttermilk pancakes, plus good coffee, will fill you up nicely.
Day 3: Afternoon
If climbing to the top of the falls works up an appetite, have a late lunch in the restaurant at the Multnomah Falls Lodge . Otherwise, make do with a quick bite from one of the snack vendors, as this is a good turnaround point for the drive back to Portland.
Day 3: Evening
Note: Make reservations in advance in order to secure a window table. Complimentary parking is available for 2.5 hours in the Bancorp Tower's underground facility or the adjacent garage.
Best Attractions in PortlandIn a city with dozens of attractions, you may have trouble deciding where to spend your time. Here are the highlights for this destination, as chosen by AAA editors. GEMs are “Great Experiences for Members.”
By Greg Weekes
Portland must be on Mother Nature's gold star list; it's both a remarkably green city and one that can boast of having Mt. Hood and the Columbia and Willamette rivers as scenic backdrops. And when you take into account that many Portlanders share an environmental fervor as well as a strong sense of civic pride, it's no wonder that a number of Rose City attractions incorporate the outdoors.
Natural Beauty to Behold
At the top of this list is Washington Park , a AAA GEM attraction ideal for those planning a trip to the area and one of the most beloved of Portland's urban green spaces. In 1871, when the original 40 of the park's 130 acres were purchased by the city, thick stands of timber covered the area and cougars lived in the hills. Logging and the installation of a cable car opened up the wilderness, and by the turn of the 20th century it was transformed into a civilized place of drives, walkways, lawns and flower beds. The formal plantings coexist with the natural beauty of trees, native shrubs and ground covers, making Washington Park a perfect place for a walk or bike ride.
Several monuments are located in the circle near the main park entrance (from Burnside Street, take Vista Avenue south to Park Place). The Lewis and Clark Memorial is a 34-foot rectangular granite shaft with bronze replicas of the state seals of Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington on each side. Theodore Roosevelt laid the foundation stone in 1903. Water drips down the Renaissance-style Chiming Fountain's series of bronze pans and also spouts from gargoyles around the base. The nearby statue of Shoshone Indian woman Sacajawea, who helped guide explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark through the then-trackless mountains of the American West, was sculpted by another woman, Denver resident Alice Cooper, out of 14 tons of copper.
You could easily spend a full day of your vacation just wandering around Washington Park, so plan accordingly. Its two standout attractions, however, are must-see things to do in Portland. The International Rose Test Garden , a AAA GEM, is not just for rose growers or even gardeners in general; this garden is for anyone who can appreciate the beauty of flowers. And who doesn't?
A Japanese Garden Provides Tranquility
A stunning contrast is provided by the Portland Japanese Garden , located above the rose gardens and reached by hiking an uphill pathway through stands of Douglas fir or—the less strenuous option—taking an open-air shuttle. This garden, also a AAA GEM attraction, could not be more different; aside from delicate Japanese irises and lovely water lilies floating in the koi ponds, there's nary a flower to be seen (except when yellow forsythia, pale pink cherry blossoms, azaleas and wisteria bloom in spring). Instead, it is a study in shades of green, courtesy of conifers, maples, weeping willows and immaculately pruned boxwoods—and also a testament to the understated genius of Japanese gardening, which combines water, stone and vegetation to create serenity with every twist and turn. The mood here is one of sun-dappled shade and utter peace. There is one note of grandeur, though: a vantage point that frames a breathtaking view of Mt. Hood. This is something you must put on your list of things to do.
Spacious Nature at its Best
If you prefer wide open spaces, explore the park's Hoyt Arboretum , north of the Oregon Zoo. Grouping plants by scientific classification was all the rage when the arboretum was laid out, so you'll find oaks, redwoods and other trees arranged in family groups. Conifers are on the west side of Fairview Boulevard; deciduous trees are on the east side. All told there are some 6,000 individual trees and shrubs representing nearly 1,000 different species. Take time to stroll Magnolia Walk, accessible from the visitor center off Fairview Boulevard. You'll see several varieties of magnolias, including the Southern magnolia, with large, creamy white, fragrant flowers that bloom in the summer months.
An Additional Glimpse of Asian Garden Beauty
We also recommend that you visit the Lan Su Chinese Garden after you've seen the Japanese garden. Although both gardens accurately represent historical East Asian styles and share the principles of harmony with nature, their stylistic differences are striking. As opposed to a meandering wooded garden, this is a compact, walled urban garden covering just one square block. Portland's downtown hubbub is very evident—until after you pass through the entrance, when the sounds of traffic and people seem to magically melt away, making this a relaxing destination. This is a garden of winding walkways, little paved courtyards, open pavilions, a bridged pond and meticulous plantings of trees, shrubs and flowers; it provides tranquility within the confines of a small urban space.
A Forest in the City
Portland's parks even include an urban forest. Forest Park spreads over the city's northwest hills west of the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette rivers. These more than 5,150 wooded acres are distinguished by a tree canopy of massive Douglas firs and lots of undergrowth. The park has more than 70 miles of hiking, bicycling and equestrian trails; it's a great place to go if you want a sense of being away from it all without really leaving town. Leif Ericson Drive, an 11-mile dirt trail, is popular with mountain bikers, and the 30-mile Wildwood Trail connects to other trail routes outside of the park. For information about maps, activities and parking areas, phone (503) 223-5449. Detailed hiking trail maps are available at the Hoyt Arboretum gift shop and Powell's City of Books in downtown Portland.
A Religious Experience
Explore the Wilds
The Washington Park and Zoo Railway operates three trains that travel around the lower end of the zoo and through the scenic forests of Washington Park. The Zooliner and the Oregon Express are diesel-powered streamliner trains; the Oregon steam locomotive, built in 1959 to celebrate the state's centennial, resembles 19th-century passenger trains with its polished brass trimmings. The streamliners run during the summer; all three trains operate on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends and during the Zoolights Festival in December. Zoo admission is required to board. For train schedule information phone (503) 226-1561.
Don't Miss What's Downtown
Three more GEMs await discovery downtown, with two standing on either side of the South Park Blocks. The Portland Art Museum is a good one. It is a nice choice when you are looking for things for couples to do. Among the many masters on display are Sir Anthony Van Dyck, Jean-Honoré Fragonard and Camille Corot. American art includes early portraits by Gilbert Stuart, 19th-century landscape paintings by George Inness and a panoramic Mt. Hood by renowned landscape artist Albert Bierstadt. Four galleries feature Chinese, Japanese and Korean art in the form of prints, screens, scroll paintings and ceramic tomb objects. The museum also has collections of Northwestern and Native American art and outstanding silver pieces, among them a 15th-century drinking bowl and a Victorian tea service.
Scholars take advantage of the extensive research library and huge collection of historical photographs at the Oregon Historical Society , but there also are top-notch permanent exhibits in the building's museum. Oregon My Oregon fills an entire floor with interactive and hands-on displays, re-creations of a Hudson's Bay Co. ship hull and a 19th-century explorer's tent, and a Newberry's lunch counter salvaged when the downtown store closed in the 1990s.
The eight-story mural of Lewis and Clark and other historical figures on the exterior west wall is an outstanding example of the trompe l'oeil style. The technique involves using realistic imagery to give the impression that the objects depicted actually exist; in French, the term means “trick the eye.” It was created by Richard Haas, whose architectural murals have decorated structures from the Fontainebleau Hilton Hotel in Miami Beach to the Bank One Ball Park in Phoenix.
As is the Portland Children's Museum , where youngsters will be having too much fun to realize they're learning about life skills. Building Bridgetown is a two-story house where young construction workers can panel a wall, build with blocks or practice plumbing. Water Works is a contraption where H2O flows, squirts and pours with the aid of such things as kitchen objects and an old shoe. Storytellers, musicians and puppeteers hold court in the museum's theater.
The Pittock Mansion is the legacy of a hard-working couple who achieved their American dream in a city they grew to love. Both Henry Lewis Pittock and his wife Georgiana migrated west to Portland in the 1850s. He, “barefoot and penniless,” had joined a wagon train in Pennsylvania; as a child she had crossed the Oregon Territory from Iowa with her parents. Pittock went on to build a business empire, while his wife devoted her energies to improving the lives of the city's women and children. The large and beautiful home they built on 46 acres of land, high in the hills and overlooking the city, is notable not only for its lovely design and dazzling collection of furnishings and art but for the memorabilia—from an 1887 Steinway grand piano to family portraits to Pittock's ceremonial sword—that offers a glimpse into their lives.
Oaks Amusement Park , along the Willamette River southeast of downtown, is the real deal as far as amusement parks go: a looping roller coaster, a Ferris wheel, thrill rides, kids' rides, a roller skating rink, bumper cars, carnival games. It's pure old-fashioned fun. The park, surrounded by the trees for which it was named, first opened its gates in 1905, and many people in those early days arrived by trolley car.
Spend an afternoon exploring Portland's vibrant downtown waterfront. The stern-wheeler PORTLAND houses the Oregon Maritime Museum . This steam-powered, stern-wheel, ship-assist tug played an important role in the development of the city's harbor, and you can walk around the main deck, peek into the captain's and pilot's quarters, inspect the engine room and take in the view from the pilot house, 32 feet above the water.
Explore the Water
If you'd rather be on the water instead of viewing it from land, hop on the Portland Spirit , a triple-decker yacht. It cruises the Willamette south (or upstream; the river is one of a relative few in the country that flows south to north) down to Lake Oswego and then back. Pacific Northwest-inspired food, live entertainment, the Portland skyline as a backdrop—all are part of brunch, lunch and dinner cruises aboard the Spirit. Be sure to look for great packages on travel sites and with AAA when booking your trip. You also can travel in the footsteps of explorers Lewis and Clark—minus the hardships their Corps of Discovery expedition party put up with—on an excursion along the Willamette and Columbia rivers, with historical narration provided.
If Books Are More Your Thing
Continue on Nearby
Speaking of Powell's, it's located at the southern edge of the Pearl District, one of downtown's most delightful neighborhoods. And in Portland even the neighborhoods are attractions, given that you could spend all morning or afternoon wandering, window shopping and nibbling through a couple of them. Less than two decades ago this was an undesirable area, gritty and industrial. Today, however, it's the picture of chic urbanity, a leafy enclave of high-rise condos, luxury lofts, casually upscale restaurants, dozens of art galleries and shopping galore.
If it's a sunny afternoon, while away an hour at Jamison Square, a park between N.W. 10th and 11th avenues and Kearney and Johnson streets, which has as its focal point a fountain simulating a shallow tidal pool. Check out the totem poles (not authentic, but colorful). Two blocks due north is Tanner Springs Park, a little bit of wetlands habitat in downtown Portland (a century ago this part of the city was boggy marshland).
One of the best ways to experience “the Pearl” is to attend one of Portland's evening “First Thursday” art walks, held on the first Thursday of the month. The galleries open their doors to the public, and there are wine tastings and live music. This also is a good excuse to have dinner at one of the many good restaurants, like Bluehour . And remember that most of the Pearl District (as far north as N.W. Irving Street) is accessible by way of the Portland Streetcar, which travels a loop route between the South Waterfront district and Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital on N.W. 23rd Avenue.
Don't Forget the Northwest District
Adjoining the Pearl District on the west is northwest Portland, variously referred to as the Northwest District, Nob Hill or “Trendyfirst and Trendythird,” a nod to the shopping and people-watching magnets that are N.W. 21st and N.W. 23rd avenues. The neighborhood's narrow streets are lined with refurbished turn-of-the-20th-century Victorians, many housing boutiques and bookstores, and lovely historic homes. It's the kind of place where 20-somethings scarf down microbrews at sidewalk cafés and well-heeled shoppers search out high-end purchases at stores like jewelry emporium Twist, on 23rd Place. Plus, you won't have to wonder where to eat because there are plenty of area options. For an afternoon pick-me-up, try one of the decadent confections at the Moonstruck Chocolate Cafe on 23rd Avenue; their specialties include hand-crafted chocolate truffles and unusual beverages like chocolate chai tea. A couple blocks away is Papa Haydn West , where you can pop in for a full meal or choose a sweet treat from their extensive menu.
Across the Bridge
From the lower end of downtown, head east across the Hawthorne Bridge to the Hawthorne District, east Portland's most diverse neighborhood. S.E. Hawthorne Boulevard between 17th and 43rd avenues is lined with cafés, restaurants, coffee shops, vegan bakeries, antique stores, offbeat clothing retailers and very cool gift shops. This is a neighborhood to stroll around, not drive through, with an atmosphere that's a mix of hippie '60s, retro '70s bohemian and '90s alternative. That blend is evident at such landmarks as the Bagdad Theater & Pub, an old relic of a building brought back to life by a local theater chain. The Bagdad's interior is pure golden age movie palace, and you can order a slice of pizza and a fresh pint of beer to enjoy while watching the show. Outdoor tables at the casual pub fronting the theater are jam-packed for dinner in the summertime.
A Hawthorne morning could start with breakfast at the Cup & Saucer Café on Hawthorne Boulevard, a popular local hangout. Order the tofu veggie scramble, whole-wheat pancakes or the house-made scones, knock back a couple of cups of good strong coffee and you're ready to explore. Venture onto some of the tree-lined residential side streets, which contain an interesting mix of older craftsman and bungalow-style houses set in small, garden-filled yards. Nearby at S.E. 39th Avenue and Stark Street is lush Laurelhurst Park , which has a lake, paved paths, green meadows and lots of trees.
See all the AAA recommended attractions for this destination.
Best Restaurants in PortlandOur favorites include some of this destination's best restaurants—from fine dining to simple fare.
By Greg Weekes
It stands to reason that a progressive, cosmopolitan city would offer a variety of dining choices, and Portland certainly doesn't disappoint on that front: You can be adventurous, sampling exotic cuisines, or stick to standards done reliably well. And it goes without saying that the seafood is outstanding more often than not. But what really sets Portland apart is its proximity to the Willamette Valley's rich farmlands and vineyards; for local restaurants, the result is an agricultural bounty that's practically at their doorstep. Foodies, rejoice.
A Peruvian Treat
For starters, when was the last time you dined at an upscale Peruvian restaurant? Andina is an explosion of colorful décor and has large windows with a view of the Pearl District's urban bustle. It's a bold-looking restaurant, and bold is a good way to describe the intense, earthy flavors of Peruvian cuisine. Start with one of the house ceviches—artichokes with mushrooms and Peruvian corn or green mango, passion fruit and prawns. Traditional main courses (platos de fondo criollos) include a braised lamb shank slow-cooked with onions, garlic, chiles, cilantro and beer and served with bean stew, or simple but succulent golden-skinned roast chicken with quinoa. A traditional side dish is papas a la huancaina, sliced boiled potatoes topped with a ricotta cheese sauce made spicy with aji chiles. For dessert, try alfajores, Peruvian cookies filled with manjar blanco (sweet, thickened milk) and scented with Key lime. Andina also has a good South American wine list and specialty drinks like Peruvian Pisco, made with white grape brandy.
Make it Moroccan
Although it looks unassuming on the outside, Marrakesh Moroccan Restaurant is an oasis of lively atmosphere. On a trip here, you sit on comfortable cushions on the floor, surrounded by beautiful Moroccan woven rugs, tapestries and silver urns. Dinner is a several-course feast eaten with your hands, which are bathed in warm water by the server before the meal starts. Lentil soup, salad and appetizers like B'stellela Royale, phyllo dough filled with ground chicken and spices, are followed by a main course (selections might include rabbit or chicken with apricots) and dessert of fresh fruit and aromatic mint tea. Belly dancers add to the fun five nights a week. Marrakesh is a restaurant where everyone always has a good time.
A Taste of the Middle East
The emphasis shifts to Middle Eastern at Al-Amir Lebanese Restaurant , where the high ceilings and exposed brick walls are reminiscent of an English manor house—albeit one adorned with Persian rugs. If you want to know where to eat for something out of the ordinary, then this is the place. Lebanese cuisine is strong on appetizers, and you might as well try them all by ordering the “mazza,” a sampler plate of hummus, stuffed grape leaves, tabbouleh, falafel (spicy chickpea patties) and baba ghanouj (charcoal-broiled eggplant with tahini sauce), all served with warm bread. It's enough for a meal, but the menu also includes kebabs, vegetarian entrées and Kharouf Mohammar, seasoned lamb roasted over a low fire and served with yogurt and cucumber sauce. Finish with orange blossom-perfumed baklava and thick, dark Middle Eastern coffee—the real thing, brewed in a brass pot.
A Twisted Mix of Mexican, Cajun, Latin and Caribbean
Salvador Molly's bills its menu of Caribbean-, Mexican-, Latin- and Cajun-inspired specialties “pirate cookin'” and is one of the most fun, loud and lively local restaurants. It's the kind of place where you snack on peanuts while deciding what to order and toss the shells on the floor. Favorite starters include bollitos, crunchy Caribbean fritters made from mashed black-eyed peas, chopped onions, garlic and herbs. Habanero chile-spiked cheese fritters come with a fiery dipping sauce; if you manage to finish your order and survive you will be added to Molly's “Wall of Flame.” Other choices are Ensenada-style fish tacos, a Barbados mac pie (elbow macaroni, four different cheeses, roasted tomatoes and sweet peppers baked in a banana leaf), and chicken or artichoke heart tamales steamed in banana leaves and served with guacamole and pickled onions. Among the tasty Caribbean libations are fruit smoothies and a mango/passion fruit juice squeeze.
Explore Treats from the Sea
Courtesy of Jake's Famous Crawfish Restaurant
Dan & Louis Oyster Bar is another venerable (since 1907) seafood establishment. It's a restaurant filled with tradition: Founder Louis Wachsmuth, who began shucking oysters in California at the age of 5, opened a wholesale and retail seafood store in Portland that also served oyster cocktails before branching out into the restaurant business. His son Dan died of influenza at age 27, and his name was added as a tribute. Successive generations of Wachsmuths have kept the business in the family. Savor a plate of pan-fried Yaquina Bay oysters in the main dining room, which resembles the interior of a sailing ship. Other dinner entrées cover the waterfront from Dungeness crab cakes to scallops to broiled halibut or cod. The full-service Old Shucking Room bar has beers on tap and by the bottle. A special kids' menu also makes Dan & Louis a great place to take the family if you travel to the area.
Chow Down on the Best Steak in Town
Courtesy of Ringside Steakhouse
Oriental Treats Galore
Down-Home Food to Fill Your Belly
Cozy Options in Local Neighborhoods
The Pearl District—Portland at its urban best—is a great neighborhood for exploring nearby restaurants. The Pearl Bakery is a cozy little café that turns out top-quality European-style pastries and artisan breads. The Danishes with seasonal fillings, chocolate and almond croissants, cornmeal pound cake, cookies, brownies and fruit tarts are all homemade and all excellent, as are the walnut and pecan rosemary panini loaves. Pugliese, silky-textured with a wonderfully chewy crust, is the bakery's signature bread. Ask for it with the caprese sandwich—locally grown heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, organic basil and balsamic vinaigrette—for an intensely flavorful summertime treat. When every table is taken at lunch you'll have to stand at the counter overlooking N.W. 9th Avenue—but it's worth it.
Portlanders line up early on weekends to taste the labors of Dominique Geulin and his baking team at St. Honoré Boulangerie . This neighborhood bakery and café turns out a delectable array of breads, rolls and pastries—and with a statue of Saint Honoré, patron saint of bakers, standing watch over the clay firebrick oven, quality is not an issue. Northwest-grown wheat berries are milled in house to make flour for Parisian loaves and walnut Kalamata olive bread. Order the French doughnut, a pastry shaped like a bicycle wheel filled with hazelnut butter cream and toasted almonds. You can sit at a massive wood table similar to one you might see in a French farmhouse, or at an outdoor table in good weather lingering over coffee and a prosciutto and brie panini with fresh spinach leaves. It's a destination that provides a little bit of France in Northwest Portland.
The Hawthorne District, a laid-back mix of hippie tie-dye and '70s retro, is one of the city's hippest areas—and the Cup & Saucer Café, on S.E. Hawthorne Boulevard a block west of S.E. 37th Avenue, is one of the neighborhood's most popular meeting places, especially for breakfast. It's essentially a diner, which means small tables and cramped space, but it also has funky art (by local artists) on brightly painted walls and a real neighborhood vibe. The Cup & Saucer also is a bakery, and their lightly sweetened scones and vegan carrot cake earn raves. The tofu veggie scramble (with the option of free-range eggs), meat-free garden sausage, blueberry pancakes and breakfast burritos are all good. Caveats: There's street parking only, it's very busy on weekend mornings (be prepared to wait if you get there after 9 a.m.), and service is friendly but slow when the place is packed.
See all the AAA Diamond Rated restaurants for this destination.
Courtesy of Portland Rose Festival
In addition to its many cultural and historic landmarks, this destination hosts a number of outstanding festivals and events that may coincide with your visit.
End of Winter Jazz
Celebrating black history month in late February, the Portland Jazz Festival brings together top jazz musicians from around the world as well as talented local artists for nearly 2 weeks of performances at venues downtown. The festival also features lectures and films highlighting various aspects of America's jazz heritage.
Portland Rose Festival Association/Portland Rose Festival Association
Courtesy of Portland Rose Festival
The selection of a queen from a court of high school seniors leads up to the Grand Floral Parade, the festival's highlight. A procession of marching bands and eye-popping all-floral floats makes its way from Memorial Coliseum across the Burnside Bridge into downtown.
During the Rose Festival's Fleet Week in early June, ships from the United States Navy, Coast Guard and the Canadian Maritime Forces arrive for a 4-day visit. Free dockside tours are given on a first-come, first-served basis. Also part of Fleet Week, the colorful spectacle of dragon boat races are held by the Hawthorne Bridge near the south end of Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park.
And don't forget the roses: Growers from across the Pacific Northwest enter their blooms for the venerable Spring Rose Show, also in early June, turning the ice rink at the Lloyd Center in east Portland into a fragrant wonderland of all types of roses.
Getty Images/Digital Vision
Summer Brings a Variety of Fun Things to Do
In late June, balloons take to the sky from Cook Park in nearby Tigard during the Tigard Festival of Balloons , creating a beautiful spectacle rivaled only by the nighttime balloon glow event. Rounding out the festival's offerings: live music, a beer garden and a car show.
Internationally acclaimed musicians perform in a series of classical concerts at the Chamber Music Northwest Summer Festival . Performances take place from late June to late July at Kaul Auditorium on the Reed College campus, the Catlin Gabel School and St. Mary's Academy.
Nearby Lake Oswego presents the Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts in late June. The festival features a keynote exhibit that focuses on a specific or emerging art form, style or artist. A juried craft “faire” in George Rogers Park includes a food court and musical entertainment, while the Lakewood Center for the Arts has exhibits spotlighting regional artists and offers a series of hands-on activities that may bring out your own creative impulses.
Music on the water is a summertime tradition embraced by Portlanders at the Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival in early July. Performances on the grassy banks of the Willamette at Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park feature world-renowned blues musicians. Giants like Pinetop Perkins, Koko Taylor, Buddy Guy, Etta James and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown have been joined on the festival's four stages by acclaimed performers from Eric Burdon to Buckwheat Zydeco, making this a true celebration of blues music. The event includes a rousing Fourth of July fireworks display over the river, which makes this a great way to spend your holiday and travel to the city.
Mid-July brings the Portland Highland Scottish Games , saluting Scottish music, dancing and athletic competitions, to Mt. Hood Community College in the eastern suburb of Gresham . Scottish highland dancing, an old form of folk dance, originated in the 12th century. Everyone's heard of the highland fling—once performed by victorious male warriors following a battle and said to derive from a stag's hillside antics—but you'll also see the Sword Dance and the Seann Truibhas (“shawn trews”), a defiant toe-tapper that was the response of 18th-century highlanders after they regained the right to wear their beloved kilts. The dances are accompanied by the Scottish sounds of bagpipe, fiddle and drum.
Traditional “heavy events” at the games include throwing the Portland Stone, which weighs a daunting 96 pounds; heaving the Scottish hammer, a 16-pound steel ball; and tossing the caber, a 20-foot spruce log. The winner earns a very well-deserved rest.
Oregon's thriving microbrew industry is showcased at the 5-day Oregon Brewers Festival , held the last full weekend in July. It tops the list of fun things to do with friends. Beer aficionados from all over the country flock to Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park (between the Morrison and Burnside bridges) to sample the brews on tap at the festival's beer tents. And if you've ever wondered about the finer points of hop growing or how home brewers create their product, there are plenty of educational exhibits that will answer your questions. There's also live musical entertainment and food offered by local restaurants.
Traditions are Key in the Fall
The annual late-September Paulaner Oktoberfest at Oaks Park features two stages where local and German oompah bands perform, along with dog shows, craft vendors, kids' entertainment and, of course, plenty of German food and beer. Watch for the wiener dog races and cheer on your furry favorite.
In early October the fit descend on the City of Roses to participate in the various events that make up the Portland Marathon . The course begins downtown on S.W. 4th Avenue and winds along both sides of the Willamette River before ending back at the starting point. This is not only a walker-friendly race; it also has one of the highest percentages of female competitors of any marathon. In addition to the signature 26.2-mile test of endurance (a qualifier for the prestigious Boston Marathon), there's a half-marathon run/walk, a 10K Mayor's Walk, a 2-mile Kids' Marafun Run and a wheelchair race.
Celebrate the Holidays in Portland
Lovers of literature celebrate the written word at Holiday Cheer: A Celebration of Oregon Authors , held at the Oregon Historical Society in the South Park Blocks. Mingle with Northwest writers as they autograph and promote their latest efforts. The event takes place in early December.
AAA/Photo submitted by Denise Campbell
AAA/Photo submitted by Denise Campbell
See all the AAA recommended events for this destination.
A Plethora of Public ArtBy Greg Weekes
Portland wears the adjective “artsy” particularly well; this is a city brimming over with displays of outdoor art, from the whimsical to the monumental to the all-around delightful. Better yet, many of the works are concentrated in the downtown area, making it easy to search them out on a walking tour during your trip.
Must-See Sculptures and Statues
Among the monumental is 36-foot-tall “Portlandia,” crouching above the entrance of the Portland Building on S.W. 5th Avenue. She cuts quite a figure, her left arm raising a trident while her right hand reaches out in a gesture of welcome. You can't see the entire figure if you're standing on the sidewalk below (from this perspective it appears to jut out from the side of the building); for more of an eye-to-eye view, ride the escalator at the front of the Standard Insurance Plaza building up to the landing level. This hammered-copper sculpture is impressive from any angle, however.
Sculptures and statues adorn the South Park Blocks. On the block between S.W. Hall and Harrison streets is “Holon,” an abstract piece carved from white Indiana limestone. “Peace Chant,” in the center of the block between S.W. Columbia and Jefferson streets, is a simple plea for peace embodied by three large granite pillars. In the next block stands a bronze statue of Theodore Roosevelt astride his horse, leading the Roughrider regiment he commanded during the Spanish-American War. This block, named Roosevelt Square, also has gardens planted with roses and seasonal flowers. It's a lovely, quiet oasis in the middle of the city.
A Very Special Weather Forecast
If you want to find out what sort of weather the afternoon has in store, stop at Pioneer Courthouse Square for the daily forecast as predicted by the Weather Machine. This fanciful contraption plays a musical fanfare at noon, followed by the appearance of one of three different symbols. Helia, a stylized sun, welcomes clear skies; a blue heron indicates misty or transitional weather; and a dragon means stormy conditions are imminent. Guess which one Portlanders root for.
More to See on the Square
On the south side of the square stands “Allow Me.” This life-size bronze sculpture of a man holding an umbrella is one of the city's best-known icons. Another whimsical (some might say startling) bronze stands 3 blocks north of the square on S.W. 5th Avenue (between S.W. Washington and Harvey Milk streets). Entitled “Kvinneakt,” this sculpture is more easily recognized by its translation: Nude Woman.
Head to the North Park Blocks (between W. Burnside and N.W. Couch streets) to see one of Portland's most striking public sculptures, “Da Tung & Xi'an Bao Bao.” The 12-foot bronze elephant is an enlarged replica of an antique dating from China's Shang Dynasty. Little Bao Bao (baby elephant) stands on the figure's back, symbolizing that children shall be safe and prosperous. “Da Tung” means “universal peace.” The pachyderms were a gift from businessman Huo Baozhu, who was motivated by both a love of Chinese history and admiration for the city he visited many times.
Water Features Abound in the City
Fountains certainly qualify as works of art, and the Rose City is graced with a number of decorative examples that serve as landmarks as well as refreshing meeting places on hot summer days. Turn a corner in downtown Portland, in fact, and it's almost certain that you'll encounter H2O flowing in some fashion.
Start at the symbolic center of town, Pioneer Courthouse Square. The waterfall fountain here cascades down a succession of granite blocks, providing a soothing background burble. At the top of the fountain is another piece of fanciful art: a bronze hat. Just east of the square along S.W. Morrison and S.W. Yamhill streets, a series of nine pools feature bronze statues of native Oregon animals. The menagerie includes sea lions, beavers, otters, ducks and a bear enjoying a freshly caught salmon. Sculptor Georgia Gerber's intention was for passers-by to “interact” with the animals, and the oils deposited by the touch of human hands actually are beneficial for the bronze.
On S.W. Main Street between S.W. 3rd and 4th avenues stands the Elk Fountain. The bronze elk sculpture is a reminder that these animals once grazed nearby. A block north and 3 blocks east of the Elk Fountain at the foot of S.W. Salmon Street is Salmon Street Springs, one of the city's most frequented fountains in the summer due to its cooling, computer-controlled jets of water.
flickr/Howard Lewis Ship
From the Skidmore Fountain, head west 4 blocks to the tubular-shaped oddity known as the “Car Wash” at S.W. 5th Avenue and Ankeny Street. This fountain would likely live up to its name on blustery days, when a wind gauge automatically shuts off the pumps. Two blocks farther west at S.W. 6th Avenue and Pine Street is the Kelly Fountain. Water flows in sheets over the abstract steel shapes of this fountain, designed by prolific Portland artist Lee Kelly.
Take Ankeny Street a couple of blocks west to the North Park Blocks. Off N.W. Park Avenue (between N.W. Davis and Everett streets) is Dog Bowl, a fountain set on an 8-by-10-foot checkerboard of black and white granite tiles that resemble the squares of a linoleum kitchen floor. According to designer (and noted dog photographer) William Wegman, the fountain is a canine version of the “Benson bubbler” public drinking fountains scattered around the city. The bronze, four-bowl fountains are named for local businessman and philanthropist Simon Benson, who donated $10,000 to the city in 1912 to provide drinking fountains as a way to cut down on saloon patronage by loggers.
Exploring these downtown works of art is not only an aesthetic pleasure—it's convenient to work them into your plan for things to do in Portland. All of them are located within an area easily accessible by light-rail and streetcar.
Columbia Gorge TourBy Greg Weekes
The mighty Columbia River flows 1,243 miles from its headwaters in British Columbia to the Pacific Ocean, in the process carving a passage through volcanic rock that follows much of the Oregon/Washington border. It also is a must-visit spot for anyone interested in adventure travel. Running for about 80 miles from the town of Troutdale east to Biggs is the Columbia River Gorge, characterized by towering basalt cliffs and sweeping panoramic views. The Oregon side also boasts the largest concentration of easily accessible waterfalls on the North American continent.
The creation of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area in 1986 preserved some 253,500 acres of this breathtakingly scenic natural region for the enjoyment of visitors, so lace up your walking shoes, hop in the car and check it out. Based solely on drive time it's possible to cram this itinerary into a single day of your vacation, but why rush through paradise?
Day 1Get up bright and early and have breakfast at Milo's City Cafe , on Portland's east side at 1325 N.E. Broadway (two blocks north of Lloyd Center Mall). Owned by two local residents, Milo's has a spiffy interior that's a step up from typical diner décor and some choices that go beyond the usual omelets (try the smoked salmon hash with potatoes, onions, bell peppers and sour cream). You might also want to pack a lunch or bring along fruit and snacks, since restaurants are few and far between and you'll be busy exploring nature.
From Milo's it's just a short distance to I-84/US 30 east. To the left, peeking through alternating ridges that form the western foothills of the Cascades, is the snowy dome of Mt. Adams; also visible (if the weather's clear) is the sculpted peak of Mount Hood. The gorge's western end is a deep cleft through which the Columbia River flows.
Get off I-84 at exit 22 and follow signs to the Historic Columbia River Highway . The first modern paved highway built in the Pacific Northwest, it opened in 1915. Running parallel to I-84 but below it, the road follows the land's natural contours, winding in and out of lush green woods, crossing moss-flecked stone bridges and providing direct access to an awesome series of waterfalls.
Just east of the town of Corbett, take the signed turnoff to the Portland Women's Forum State Scenic Viewpoint parking lot. Chanticleer Point's elevated perspective provides your first grand vista of the gorge, with the river framed by tawny bluffs on the Washington state side and thick growths of trees on the Oregon side. Note the building in the distance perched atop its own promontory—that's the Vista House.
About a mile past this parking lot is the signed turnoff (on the right) for Larch Mountain. We highly recommend this side trip, especially if it's sunny and visibility is good. The woodsy drive is along a winding two-lane road that climbs the mountain. After about 15 miles the road ends at a parking lot. (During the winter months this road may be closed at the Oregon National Forest boundary, 4 miles below the summit.)
There are several hiking trails, but take the quarter-mile trail that leads to Sherrard Point. You'll climb a couple of flights of wood-plank steps, but it's nothing too strenuous. The trail ends at a lookout point, enclosed by a chain-link fence. This rocky perch is 4,056 feet above sea level and looks out over a stunning 360-degree view of solid green forest, with five mountain peaks (St. Helens, Rainier, Adams, Jefferson and Hood) looming on the horizon. Note: If you're afraid of heights, sit on the bench provided and don't look over the top of the fence; you can still enjoy the view without freaking out too much.
From Larch Mountain, go back to the Historic Columbia River Highway and continue east a few miles to the exit for Crown Point State Park and the Vista House at Crown Point State Scenic Viewpoint . This octagonal stone structure stands 733 feet above the river. The view is amazing: To the east the Cascades look down on the river; back toward the west, cliffs retreat and wooded islands dot the Columbia's broad reaches. There are historical displays in the building's visitor center, and staff workers are quite knowledgeable about the gorge. The Vista House is a good rest stop.
Now you're ready for some waterfall action, which is perfect when you need fun things to do with friends; there are literally dozens along a 20-mile stretch of the highway. Many of them can conveniently be viewed via short walks from parking lot turnoffs, all prominently signed. Latourell Falls, first in the series, is one of the most easily accessible (watch for the Guy W. Talbot State Park sign; the parking lot is right off the road). Reached by a 10-minute walk along a shady paved path, it's a beauty—a plunge fall that cascades straight as an arrow into a small pool. The wooden footbridge that crosses the creek is a good vantage point for photos.
Bridal Veil Falls is in Bridal Veil State Park. Located in a shady glen, this two-tiered fall also drops into a pool. The round-trip hike is two-thirds of a mile. The trail descends to the falls, but you'll have a moderate climb coming back. There are benches along the way where you can stop and catch your breath.
The king of gorge waterfalls is undoubtedly Multnomah Falls, a two-tiered drop with a total height of 620 feet. From the parking area it's a short uphill walk to the Benson Bridge, a stone arch directly facing the falls that offers a perfect view. If you want to hoof it to the very top, be advised that it's a steep trek up a narrow paved trail that zigzags repeatedly. And to be honest, the view of the falls is much better from the bridge below. But you'll certainly get your exercise, and the expansive vistas of trees and the Columbia River in the distance are very pretty.
If all that climbing works up an appetite and you wonder where to eat, grab a late lunch in the restaurant at the Multnomah Falls Lodge. Otherwise, make do with a quick bite from one of the snack vendors and press on toward Hood River. Horsetail Falls, about 2.5 miles east of Multnomah Falls, is also worth a look; this 175-foot drop is near the parking lot and is easily viewed.
The Historic Columbia River Highway rejoins I-84 at the town of Dodson. From here to Hood River the scenery—conifers, mountains and river views—is beautiful. At Bonneville is Bonneville Dam, westernmost of a series of dams along the river. At Bonneville Lock, ships can bypass the dam and negotiate the 60-foot elevation change between the river and the reservoir created by the dam.
Hood River is the “metropolis” of the Hood River Valley, famous for its pear, apple, cherry and peach orchards. The fruit-packing industry is still important here, but Hood River has become better known—courtesy of the persistent winds that blow through the gorge—as an ideal spot for windsurfing. Whitewater rafting, kayaking, hiking and mountain biking are big here, too.
Relax over a leisurely dinner at Stonehedge Gardens . A former summer getaway, this lovely old country inn on 6 secluded acres of land was converted to a restaurant in 1977. Dine on the enclosed porch or, if the weather's nice, the outdoor terrace. Start with an appetizer of crab cakes or grilled goat cheese and roasted garlic, then move on to seared ahi tuna, chicken cordon bleu or portobello mushroom ravioli with walnuts and Hood River pears. And be sure to indulge in the house dessert, bread pudding topped with crème brûlée and then flamed. You've earned it today.
Day 2Stroll Hood River's compact, walkable downtown. First stop: Bette's Place (416 Oak St. in the Oak Mall). They serve breakfast all day, so order something good like the Dungeness crab omelet, filled with chunks of crab and slices of avocado. But what Bette's is really known for are cinnamon rolls; big suckers oozing sticky caramel and anointed with cream cheese frosting, they're rightly praised. Pick up a couple of freshly made rolls to take with you.
The downtown core is sandwiched along Oak and Cascade streets from 1st to 6th streets. Many of the century-old brick storefronts that were once feed stores and other businesses have been renovated and now house art galleries, gift and clothing boutiques, and outfitters serving the outdoor adventure crowd. Many stores specialize in locally created and environmentally responsible products. Reminder: Bring a stack of quarters for the metered street parking.
Duck into the Ruddy Duck (504 Oak St.), a mini department store that sells a little bit of everything. Made in the Gorge (108 Oak St.) has jewelry, pottery and crafts. Knitters can inspect the Northwest-produced dyed yarns at Knot Another Hat (11 Third St.) while non-knitters gaze out on the spectacular view of the Hood River. Then take a peek at the lobby of the Hood River Hotel (102 Oak St.), which has a lofty ceiling, big windows and decorative touches that recall its early 20th-century heyday.
Now you're ready to hit the road again. Pick up I-84, head east and watch how dramatically the vegetation changes over the next 5 miles or so. You're passing through the transition zone from the moist, humid climate of the west gorge on the west side of the Cascades (one of the reasons for all those waterfalls) to the drier bunchgrass prairies that characterize the east gorge.
Get off I-84 at the Mosier exit. This 9-mile section of US 30 between Mosier and Rowena, known as the Rowena Loop Highway, was part of the original Historic Columbia River Highway. You'll have to really slow down, but this stunning detour is well worth it. The two-lane road climbs through clumps of oak trees toward Rowena Crest, a plateau some 700 feet above the Columbia River. Over time alternating lava flows and catastrophic floods helped to create the area's topography.
The winding ascent passes peach trees and offers views of bluffs overlooking the river. It then heads inland, twisting and turning around blind curves that open up to reveal breathtaking vistas. Park at the Rowena Crest Viewpoint (watch for the sign) and take in the 360-degree panorama of the river and the buff-colored hills that rise on the Washington side. The wind blows almost constantly here, so be careful while you give your camera a workout.
The viewpoint is within the Tom McCall Nature Preserve, a protected area of grassland crisscrossed by two hiking trails. The preserve's spring wildflower display is particularly impressive, when the landscape is brightened by the likes of lupine, shooting stars and Indian paintbrush. April and May are the best wildflower months. You might also hear the melodious song of the Western meadowlark, Oregon's state bird.
From Rowena Crest Viewpoint east to the town of Rowena the route is a series of switchbacks (the Rowena Loops), so drive carefully as you admire the spectacular rock, bluff and river views that unfold with each sharp turn. Trees become increasingly scarce and sagebrush increasingly common in this dry, ceaselessly wind-whipped landscape. At Rowena you can rejoin I-84 or stay on US 30 to press on to The Dalles.
Either route will take you to the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum , a must-stop if you're interested in the region's human history and especially the geologic forces that helped create the gorge. At the close of the last Ice Age, the Pacific Northwest was affected by some of the planet's greatest scientifically documented floods. Towering masses of ice and rock pulverized their way across eastern Washington state, stripping away much of the soil and carving deep channels, or coulees, into the underlying basalt bedrock. The Columbia Gorge was gouged by floodwaters up to 1,000 feet deep, and for a time the site of present-day Portland lay beneath 400 feet of water. Nowhere else on Earth, in fact, do such singular landforms carved from repeated massive flooding exist on this grand a scale.
The Dalles (rhymes with “pals”) sits on the left bank of a pronounced southward bend of the Columbia. The name, derived from the French word dalles, which means “flagstones,” refers to a series of basalt-lined channels upstream. These turbulent waters forced early river travelers to detour around them.
Evidence suggests that the area around The Dalles has been inhabited for more than 11,000 years. In prehistoric times Native American tribes gathered on the banks of the river to fish, trade and commune. The city itself is rich in history. Lewis and Clark stayed here in October 1805 on their great westward exploration, and again the following year on the homeward trek. A mission was established in 1838. The site became a strategic point on the Oregon Trail 5 years later. A post office opened in 1851. Stop by the Original Wasco County Courthouse , then take a walk along 2nd Street between Taylor and Liberty streets and peruse the historical murals painted on many of the buildings.
Grab some grub at the Baldwin Saloon (downtown at 205 Court St.). Brothers James and John Baldwin were the saloon's original proprietors back in 1876, and the building has also served as a steamboat navigational office, a coffin storage site for a nearby mortuary and a shop that turned out custom saddles. Slide into one of the golden oak booths and check out the beautiful oil paintings, the 1894 Schubert mahogany piano and the big brass cash register that sits on top of the bar. Have a steak and then linger over a raspberry-truffle vodka martini or the house specialty, Spanish coffee fortified with flaming rum, Kahlúa and a splash of Triple Sec and topped with whipped cream.
Day 3Before beginning the return trip to Portland, head to Sorosis Park for some fresh air and exercise (to get there take Trevitt Street south to W. Scenic Drive). The park occupies the slopes of a tree-covered hill just south of The Dalles, and from this vantage point you get a dramatic view of the city's riverside setting, with snowcapped mountains Hood and Adams on the horizon.
The views between Hood River and The Dalles are perhaps the best of the entire trip, and the perspective going west on I-84 is different than it is traveling east. The highway runs right along the river, with imposing naked bluffs looming up on the Washington side. If you really enjoyed the Rowena Loop Highway detour, get off I-84 at the Rowena exit (exit 76) and take US 30 west to Mosier; the 9-mile scenic stretch is equally rewarding going in the opposite direction.
Just east of Hood River is the junction with SR 35. Turn left here and head south. A quarter of a mile south of the I-84/SR 35 junction is the turnoff (East Side Road) for Panorama Point County Park. Take another left here and continue past fruit trees and front yards filled with rose bushes to the park entrance. Turn right and follow the short, sharply winding drive as it ascends to a parking lot and lookout point. On a clear day, the view of Mount Hood and the orchard-filled Hood River Valley is breathtaking.
Backtrack to SR 35 and continue south. Agriculture is big business here, and this is a really gorgeous drive through fruit orchards and farmland, with Mount Hood frequently in view. What you'll see depends on the season. In April, thousands of acres in the valley are carpeted with pink and white pear, apple and cherry blossoms. With special events from pancake breakfasts to antique sales and the best photo opportunities of the year, this is a particularly busy month.
Harvest season extends from June through October. Strawberries are first, followed in succession by cherries, raspberries, blueberries, apricots, peaches and Bartlett pears. August brings Gravenstein apples, lavender, herbs and tomatoes. September is another busy month. The boughs of Anjou and Bosc pear trees are weighed down with golden, red-tinged fruit, and local farms and orchards offer tours, hay wagon rides, barbecues, meet-and-greets with cuddly animals and other family activities. October brings chestnuts, pumpkins and lots of u-pick opportunities.
Looking down on the valley is 11,239-foot Mount Hood, Oregon's highest point and the fourth-highest mountain in the Cascade Range. Due to its proximity the snow-covered peak is a prominent backdrop. Mount St. Helens is visible from the valley as well.
The valley's farms and orchards welcome visitors; most are open seasonally from August to early November. The fruit stands are great places to pick up apples, pears or whatever else is being harvested, along with homemade jam, honey and fresh cider. For more information about what the valley has to offer, contact the Hood River County Fruit Loop; phone (541) 387-4769.
The landscape changes markedly as the valley floor is left behind. Thick growths of conifers replace orchards as SR 35 enters Mount Hood National Forest. Ski resort signs start to appear. Rocky outcrops rise up on either side of the highway, and bridges cross over the meandering east fork of the Hood River.
SR 35 ends at the junction with US 26 (take a right). Lofty, tree-covered ridges are a rugged contrast to the flat, fertile valley. The four-lane highway narrows to two lanes just outside the blink-and-you'll-miss-it hamlet of Rhododendron; notice how close the trees are to the road here. If you want or need to take a break, the town of Sandy has all the necessary pit stop amenities.
It's been an activity-filled 3 days, so once back in Portland why not opt for a casual and relaxed dinner in the Pearl District? The Deschutes Brewery & Public House (210 N.W. 11th Ave.). Mouthwatering elk burgers and stout brownies pair well with one of Deschutes' award-winning craft beers.
Willamette Valley TourBy Greg Weekes
The Willamette Valley is not only Oregon’s food basket; it supplies the wine as well. An ideal destination for couples looking for a romantic spot, this long, broad valley stretches more than 100 miles from the Columbia River south to Eugene. It’s hemmed in by two mountain ranges, and together they create a climate that’s just about ideal for agriculture—a long growing season, warm summer days, mild winters and rain at the right times. The result: a bounty of berries, veggies, hazelnuts and Christmas trees, for starters.
With more than 500 wineries, this also is the state’s leading wine region. Pinot noir is the most celebrated of the cool-climate grape varieties the valley is known for, but Willamette wineries also produce Pinot gris, Pinot blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc and sparkling wine. Touring wineries isn’t the only thing to do, though; the lushly scenic countryside is a flat-out delight to drive.
Portland is your base. This scenic tour covers the northern portion of the valley as far south as Salem before heading east to Silver Falls State Park for a look at some spectacular waterfalls, then passes through a couple of quirky little towns on the way back to Portland.
Day 1Get an early start today. From downtown Portland, access I-5 and head south to exit 294 (SR 99W). You’re still within the greater Portland metro area so the surroundings are a little congested, but suburban sprawl is soon left behind as you head into the heart of Willamette wine country—fewer shopping centers, more rolling green hills.
Stay on 99W as far as McMinnville . You’re in Yamhill County, a corner of the northern Willamette Valley that was the final destination for many 19th-century pioneers making the westward trek on the Oregon Tail. Forestry and farming were the traditional livelihoods of these settlers, but in just the last decade or so new kids have joined the block: vintners producing premium Pinot noir wines.
But first it’s time for breakfast. Most everything on the menu at the Crescent Cafe (526 N.E. Third St., 4 blocks east of Baker Street/SR 99W) is made from local or organic ingredients; try the chicken hash or the caramelized banana pancakes. Molasses cornmeal bread makes terrific toast, and you can purchase a loaf to go.
There’s a wealth of Yamhill County wineries you can tour; here are two suggestions. Anne Amie Vineyards (6580 N.E. Mineral Springs Rd. in Carlton) hugs the steep hillsides of the Chehalem Mountains. The tasting room is open daily 10-5, Mar.-Dec.; Thurs.-Mon. 10-5 and by appointment, rest of year; phone (503) 864-2991. Sokol Blosser Winery (2 miles south of Dundee off SR 99W; watch for the blue sign) has picnic areas and a big deck from which to enjoy the view. The tasting room is open daily 10-4. Tours of the vineyards are offered daily; to make reservations phone (503) 864-2282 or (800) 582-6668.
South from McMinnville, SR 99W winds through farmland that is a checkerboard of green from spring through fall. The low mountains in the distance to the right are part of the Coast Range; the mountains to the left form the more extensive Cascade range. Amity is one of the most charming of the small towns along the way.
At the junction with SR 22, just north of Rickreall, there are a couple of choices. You can take SR 22 east to Salem. You can take SR 22 west a quarter-mile to the junction for Dallas and then follow the road about 5 miles to this bustling mill town that was once known as “Prune City, USA.” Delbert Hunter Arboretum and Botanic Garden in Dallas City Park, where native Oregon plants are showcased in different settings, is a scenic spot to spend an hour.
Or if the valley scenery has you sufficiently enthralled, continue south on SR 99W as far as Corvallis. On a sunny summer afternoon the views of hills, fields, farmland and orchards are delightfully pleasant. At Corvallis you can either backtrack to SR 22 or take SR 34 east to I-5, then I-5 north.
Whatever route you decide on, you’ll end up in Salem . Oregon’s capital sits astride the Willamette River, which runs the length of the valley. Wind down the afternoon strolling around Riverfront Park, an attractive green space with lots of paved walkways.
For dinner, throw on some nicer duds and head over to Bentley's Grill (291 Liberty St. S.E.), located just a few blocks from Riverfront Park. Here you'll find well-prepared steaks, fresh seafood, a few rotisserie items and artisan pizzas straight from the kitchen's brick oven. The warm décor and upscale atmosphere make this restaurant one of Salem's finest. If you can pull your eyes away from the centerpiece of this spacious restaurant—a large, copper-vented fire pit—you may see a dessert that strikes your fancy. Delicious cakes (the Konditorei cheesecake with berry compote is popular) come from a local Viennese-style bakery. Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Gris wines from Oregon growers are part of the impressive wine list.
Day 2This is going to be an active day, so fuel up at Elmer's (3950 Market St. N.E., at the corner of Lancaster Drive), a regional chain committed to honoring the culinary legacy of the Pacific Northwest—meaning they use local ingredients whenever possible. Blueberry pancakes or an omelet with chipotle bacon, jack cheese, salsa and green onions and topped with avocado and sour cream are both good bets. Your coffee cup will be refilled often, and the waitresses are unfailingly cheerful.
From Salem, proceed east on SR 22. After about 5 miles take exit 7 and get on SR 214 (Silver Falls Highway) heading for Silver Falls State Park. You’ll want to stop at pullouts and take pictures of the panoramic views along the route. The two-lane road winds up, over and around hills and passes lots of Christmas tree farms made up of precise rows of evergreens.
Silver Falls State Park is a stunner. This is the natural splendor of the Oregon outdoors on full display. The highlight here is the Trail of Ten Falls, an 8-mile hiking trail that follows the north and south forks of Silver Creek in a lush forest of second-growth Douglas fir and western hemlock, salal (a shrub with leathery leaves and dark blue berries) and sword ferns. If you’re not up for the entire hike, 177-foot South Falls is a short walk from the main parking area and can be viewed from several points along a canyon rim walking path. You can walk behind the falls, too.
From Silver Falls State Park continue north on SR 214 toward Silverton. This is yet another beautiful stretch of Oregon countryside—undulating hills, stands of conifers, more tree farms. If all this natural beauty speaks to your inner gardener, stop at the Oregon Garden , where more than 20 specialty gardens feature everything from native Northwest trees and plants to orchids and roses. The lovely water garden, a circular design that incorporates crisscrossing paths and a bridge, also provides a habitat for wildlife. The landscape diversity means there’s something to see in every season.
Silverton got its start in 1854, when westward-bound pioneers built a sawmill on Silver Creek. Water power drove the timber industry on which many western Oregon communities depended for their livelihood. Metal piping was another early industry, and metal street and sidewalk fixtures in town still bear the stamp “Eastman Brothers Metal Works.”
You can drive through the Gallon House Bridge (north of town on Gallon House County Road), an 84-foot-long covered bridge built in 1916. According to local lore, the name refers to the fact that Silverton citizens had to leave their dry town to pick up a little moonshine during the pre-Prohibition era.
Stretch your legs walking around the compact downtown area, where big oaks shelter stately old homes. There’s a thriving arts community here; check out the works on display at the Borland Gallery (303 Coolidge St. next to Coolidge-McClaine City Park). It’s open Mon.-Fri. 9-noon and Sat.-Sun. noon-4. Shoppers can browse the gift and antique shops along First Street.
Silverton is also known for its murals. The mural movement began in the early 1990s when a local artist painted a depiction of Norman Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” (Freedom of Speech, Freedom from Fear, Freedom of Worship and Freedom from Want) on a building at the corner of Second and E. Main streets. Since then more than a dozen murals have turned downtown buildings into an outdoor art museum. Take a peek at the “Largest Camera in the World” (499 N. Water St.) and the nostalgically romanticized “Gallon House Bridge” (corner of Lewis and S. Water streets).
When hunger strikes, try the Silver Grille , a casual bistro with a changing menu that takes advantage of whatever the Willamette Valley has to offer. That means savory creations like bruschetta with wild mushroom pâté, apple chutney and white cheddar; a roasted beet salad; and maple bacon-glazed meatloaf served with seasonal veggies. There’s live music the first Friday of the month. Seating is limited, so reservations are suggested.
Day 3From Silverton continue north on SR 214. You’re on the homestretch back to Portland, but several small towns en route are worth a stop. The Bavarian-style storefronts in Mount Angel, 4 miles north, are appealing evidence of its German heritage. The quaint factor is upped in summer, when oversize hanging baskets filled with flowers line downtown streets.
The Glockenspiel at the corner of Charles and Garfield streets is a prime photo op. Rising 49 feet, it has seven figures representing Mount Angel’s Native American, German and Swiss forebears: a Kalapuya Indian brave; Mathias Butsch, an early community leader; Sister Bernadine Wachter, first prioress of the Benedictine Convent; German settlers Robert and Katrina Zollner; Prior Adelhelm Odermatt, who established a Benedictine monastery here in 1882; Papa Oom Pah, a rosy-cheeked, tuba-playing Oktoberfest mascot; and two Bavarian children who sing “Edelweiss.” Bells ring as the figures dance daily at 11, 1, 4 and 7 p.m., and crowds gathered to watch the performances have been known to temporarily hold up traffic.
The Mount Angel Abbey in nearby St. Benedict was founded in 1882 by Swiss Benedictine monks. It stands imposingly atop a 300-foot bluff, a vantage point that offers a wide view of the surrounding countryside. The museum in the monastery is worth a look if only to check out what is reputedly the world’s largest porcine hairball (it was produced by a hog) on display along with liturgical robes, Civil War memorabilia and natural history exhibits. The abbey is open daily 8:30-5. The museum is open Tues.-Sun. 10-5.
Mount Angel’s Oktoberfest is the state’s biggest folk festival. The 4-day celebration begins on the second Thursday after Labor Day, around the time of the local hop harvest (Oktoberfest is a traditional German harvest festival). It’s good old-fashioned family fun: live music, street dances, chalets offering all kinds of ethnic food, an arts and crafts show, wiener dog races and a traditional Biergarten and Weingarten.
North of Mount Angel the views of Mount Hood become more frequent. In late summer, roadside fields of daisies splash the landscape with a carpet of bright yellow. Stay on SR 214 as far as the junction with SR 99E (just before the town of Woodburn), then take 99E north. Between Woodburn and Canby are plant nurseries, fruit orchards and fields of hops. The hop plant’s female flower cone is used to flavor beer, and the Willamette Valley is an important hop-growing area. This herbaceous perennial is a vigorous climber, so hop fields are equipped with wire netting on which the plants can be trained and supported.
Dahlia lovers in particular and flower lovers in general will want to pay a visit to Swan Island Dahlias in Canby, one of the city's popular travel sites. From SR 99E turn left on Ivy Street (there’s a 7-Eleven on the right), then left on 2nd Ave., then right on Holly Street to N.W. 22nd Ave.; the farm is about half a mile down on the left. Fields of dahlias are open to the public daily August through mid-September, when the blooms are at their peak. There’s also a show garden at the beginning of the path leading into the flower fields. In addition to glorious flowers, the annual Dahlia Festival (last weekend in August and the following Labor Day weekend) offers food booths, floral arranging demonstrations and growing tips. For details phone (503) 266-7711 or (800) 410-6540.
North of Canby the scenery changes from farmland to forest. Rock cliffs line the highway, which follows the winding Willamette. Stay on 99E as far as Oregon City , where there are more building murals. This was the end of the line for the Oregon Trail, the great overland route that funneled a procession of 19th-century pioneers westward. Today it's a must-see piece of history to add to your list of things to do this weekend.
From Oregon City follow the signs for SR 43 (get on I-205 south, then stay in the right lane and take exit 8 for Lake Oswego/SR 43). SR 43 continues to Lake Oswego, a tony Portland suburb. Finding a place to park in downtown Lake Oswego can be a bit of a challenge, but you’ll be rewarded with window shopping in a very pretty landscaped setting. Have a leisurely late lunch at St. Honoré Boulangerie (315 First St.) where the patron saint of bakers, St. Honoré, watches over the handcrafted French breads and delicious pastries. The lovely lakeside location makes this bakery especially appealing.
From downtown Lake Oswego continue north on SR 43 (Riverside Drive). The leafy, lovely drive follows the river. Back in the big city, keep it simple—stroll along the Westside Riverwalk watching pleasure boats sail past the Hawthorne, Morrison and Burnside bridges. Then pop into Voodoo Doughnut (3 blocks west of Naito Parkway and a block south of Burnside Street at 22 S.W. 3rd Ave.) and get a pink box of goodies to go. Take your treats to downtown Portland’s open-air living room, Pioneer Courthouse Square (the large paved plaza bordered by Morrison and Yamhill streets, Broadway and 6th Avenue), find a spot to sit and listen to the soothing sound of the waterfall fountain while you munch away.
Places in Vicinity