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 For 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.”
The museum in the Oregon Historical Society has top-notch exhibits like Oregon My Oregon, a full floor of interactive, hands-on displays about the Beaver State. The eight-story Richard Haas mural on the building's exterior depicts the expedition headed by Lewis and Clark, who explored a large portion of the American West at the beginning of the 19th century. Executed in the trompe l'oeil style (French for “trick the eye”), it's impressively realistic.
Don’t miss the Portlandia statue, above the entrance of the Portland Building (1120 S.W. 5th Ave.). This hammered-copper likeness of a woman holding a trident is 36 feet tall but crouches on a third-floor landing, so you don't get the full effect standing on the sidewalk looking up. She makes her presence known nevertheless, a striking contrast to the building's sleek postmodern lines.
Day 1: Afternoon
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: EveningCourtesy of Andina
Have dinner at the Peruvian restaurant Andina (1314 N.W. Glisan St. in the Pearl District). Order the traditional lomo saltado (beef with onions, tomatoes, garlic and spicy aji chiles) and accompany it with papas a la huancaina, boiled potatoes topped with a ricotta cheese sauce.
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.
Burn off the calories with a brisk stroll in Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park, where a wide concrete walkway follows the west bank of the Willamette River. Three bridges—the Hawthorne, Morrison and Burnside—cross the river, and boats bob on the water.
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).
Practically everyone makes the pilgrimage to Powell's City of Books (1005 W. Burnside St.), Portland's largest independent bookseller. Wander around the maze of rooms offering expertly curated books of every conceivable description (plus Powell's-branded gifts and apparel), then cozy up with a book and a chai tea at World Cup Coffee and Tea inside the bookstore.
Day 2: Eveningjulichka/iStockphoto.com
Head back downtown for dinner at one of the many local restaurants. Dan & Louis Oyster Bar (208 S.W. Ankeny St.) has been family owned for more than a century. Oysters, as you might guess, are the house specialty, and you can get them on the half shell, in a stew or pan-fried. Seafood is the thing here, but carnivores will be happy with the flat-iron steak smothered in sautéed onions and mushrooms.
Huber's, in the Oregon Pioneer Building on S.W. 3rd Avenue between S.W. Harvey Milk (Stark) and Washington streets, is another old-timer; in fact it's the city's oldest restaurant. The house specialty here is turkey—specifically, roast tom turkey with all the trimmings, including Huber's celebrated sage dressing. Linger over Spanish coffee, another specialty. It's gussied up with whipped cream, nutmeg, Kahlúa, triple sec and rum, and you can have it on ice or with the rum theatrically flamed at your table.
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.
I-84 runs along the Columbia River soon after leaving the downtown area. The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area begins at the Sandy River near the eastern Portland suburb of Troutdale and extends east more than 80 miles, as far as the Deschutes River. You're almost always within view of the river, which explorers Lewis and Clark navigated to reach the Pacific Ocean.
Get off I-84 at exit 22, which leads to the Historic Columbia River Highway . It runs parallel to I-84 but below it, tunneling through lush green woodlands, crossing stone bridges carpeted with moss and providing direct access to a lovely series of waterfalls.
Just east of the town of Corbett is the signed turnoff to the parking area for Portland Women's Forum State Scenic Viewpoint, situated on Chanticleer Point. The vista from this elevated perspective is grand indeed: the river flowing lazily through the gorge, framed by yellow-brown bluffs on the Washington state side and dense growths of forest on the Oregon side. The building perched atop its own promontory in the distance is the Vista House.
About a mile beyond the parking lot, watch for the signed turnoff to Larch Mountain on the right. The winding two-lane road climbs up into the Cascades, entering Mount Hood National Forest after 10 miles. At the 14-mile point the road ends at a parking lot near the summit. Several hiking trails begin at the lot, but take the quarter-mile trail that leads to Sherrard Point, 4,056 feet above sea level. This rocky perch, enclosed by a chain-link fence, looks out over a stunning 360-degree view—an unbroken green carpet of forest and five mountain peaks (St. Helens, Rainier, Adams, Jefferson and Hood) standing on the horizon.
Backtrack to the Historic Columbia River Highway and continue east a few miles farther to the exit for Crown Point State Park. Dedicated in 1918, the Crown Point-Vista House State Scenic Corridor is an octagonal stone structure that stands 733 feet above the river. It offers another stunning panorama: 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. In addition to the glorious view, the Vista House makes a good rest stop, and you can pick up coffee or a cold beverage at the Espresso Bar.
Day 3: AfternoonAAA/Frank Swanson
From the Vista House, backtrack to the highway and continue east. The Columbia River is the only major waterway that manages to cut through the Cascades. Add seasonal heavy rains characteristic of the Northwest and you have the combination of geography and climate that gives the Columbia Gorge its remarkable concentration of waterfalls.
One of the most beautiful and easily accessible is Latourell Falls, in Guy W. Talbot State Park (watch for the sign; the parking lot is right off the highway). It's only a 10-minute walk to the waterfall along a shady paved path. Latourell is a plunge fall; the water descends vertically without contact with a rock surface, cascading straight as an arrow into a small pool. The wooden footbridge crossing the creek is an ideal viewing point.
There are numerous additional falls along a 20-mile stretch of the Historic Columbia River Highway; most of them can be seen from viewpoints or are accessible via short hiking trails. The big daddy of them all is Multnomah Falls, about 7 miles east of Latourell Falls.
Multnomah's two-tiered drop gives it a total height of 620 feet. The Benson Bridge, a short uphill walk from the parking area, provides an excellent view of the waterfall and is a great spot for photos. You also can go to the very top by walking along a narrow paved trail that zigzags up the side of a mountain. It's a steep 1-mile ascent that might have you stopping frequently to catch your breath. The small platform at the top offers a bird's-eye view below (it will be difficult to look over the railing if you have a fear of heights).
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: EveningAAA/Inspector 31
Since you've spent the day marveling at one view after another, don't stop now. Have a relaxed dinner at one of the nearby restaurants, the Portland City Grill (111 S.W. 5th Ave. in the U.S. Bancorp Tower). It's on the 30th floor, and the views of downtown, the Willamette River and Mount Hood are spectacular. This is a place to splurge, since the food and service are superb. Start with Dungeness crab cakes or blackened ahi tuna with mango salsa. A steak, tea-smoked duck or macadamia nut-crusted chicken breast are all worthy main dishes, and there's also a full sushi bar. It's a perfect capper to your adventures in the City of Roses.
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.
AAA’s in-person hotel evaluations are unscheduled to ensure the inspector has an experience similar to that of members. To pass inspection, all hotels must meet the same rigorous standards for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality. These hotels receive a AAA Diamond designation that tells members what type of experience to expect.
Oregon levies no sales tax. The Portland area has a lodging tax of up to 14.5 percent.
Adventist 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.
1132 S.W. Harvey Milk St. Portland, OR 97205. Phone:(503)427-1372 or (888)503-3291
Cheap airline flights can be found from cities all over the country.
Several 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.
The Amtrak passenger train terminal is at 800 N.W. Sixth Ave.; phone (800) 872-7245.
Cabs 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.
Transportation by bus, streetcar or light-rail is available in Portland.