Things to do in Portland, Oregon
Oh Portland. You came and went much too fast and I miss you terribly.
I have always loved cold and rainy weather over anything else. It brings me to life. Factor in seasonal blessings like fall foliage or snow (both of which we do not have in Houston) and I am in heaven. That is why Portland had been on my "must visit" list for a while and when the opportunity struck to make a last minute trip there one weekend in October I jumped at the chance.
My friend Emily and I managed to get great flight deals using our airline miles with United Airlines, she scored a ridiculously great deal at The Nines Hotel using Priceline, I spent one afternoon looking at things to do and logistics, and the next day we departed to Portland. It was a whirlwind of 36 hours of "planning". And you know what? Everything worked out perfectly!
We flew in on a Friday evening to PDX airport and took the MAX Light Rail from the airport to the hotel. It was a $2.30 fare per person and literally took us to a stop directly across from the hotel. It could not have been more convenient or inexpensive versus taking a taxi or renting a car that we didn't need yet.
Once we checked in to The Nines, we went upstairs to Departures for some swanky Asian food in a pretty and chic setting before meandering over to the roof top bar for some cocktails. The food was really good and of course the rooftop views are a must see! That Friday night the patio was hopping with people everywhere so it was a lively atmosphere for our couple of drinks before we headed to bed.
We allowed ourselves to sleep in a bit (read 7 AM), and then walked over to Tasty & Alder. Let me tell you...this was the highlight of the epicurean portion of our trip. If only we'd have had more time to go back! They opened at 10 AM on Saturday and when we walked up at 10:12 AM there was already a full restaurant and an hour wait. It was worth the wait... We put our name on the list for a table and managed to find a spot at their standing bar area because the bar itself was full with people ordering brunch there as well.
The perk is that you CAN order food and drinks while at the standing bar but it is a narrow ledge to pile up tapas plates of any kind so order lightly while waiting there. However, you can at least get started with an appetizer easily. There are purse hooks underneath so you can hang your purse and coats for more room. We were fortunate enough to snag a spot at the actual bar after we had placed an order so by the time our food came we were sitting at the bar, AND by the time our names were called for the table we had already ordered and seated at the bar. Note* there was still a line out the door of people coming in...that's how good this place is!
Once we finished up our brunch and drinks, we walked over to the Portland Saturday Market where we walked through hundreds of market tents and vendors selling all kinds of great stuff. If only we had packed light and had extra space in our suitcases! It would have been a great place to acquire lots of Christmas gifts.
There was fall foliage all around the city and the market itself runs from Tom McCall Waterfront Park to the Burnside Bridget that we walked over to the east side of the Willamette River.
Because we had time on our hands before our tour that afternoon we walked the entire way over enjoying the brisk breeze and fleeting moments of the sun which actually warmed us up enough to take off our coats. Along our walk we stopped for pictures and even slow motion videos with the leaves simply because we couldn't handle the beauty any longer and this one tree outside of a random bank spoke to our fall loving hearts.
We made our way over to our tour pick up location early so we went across the street to the Green Dragon Bistro & Pub for their 2016 Killer Pumpkin Fest. They're now called Rogue Eastside Pub & Pilot Brewery. A lot can change in two months! Anyway, the pumpkin fest had over 40 pumpkin ales to sample, food to nosh on, costumes, and plenty of pumpkins to smash with a sledge hammer. I'm not much of a beer drinker much less do I drink or enjoy heavier beers so my favorite part was the pumpkin smashing! I would not have known I could take out aggression on a beautiful pumpkin but there must be a little bit in all of us. If you like beer then the rest of the fest would certainly appeal to you!
Our final stop on Saturday was our afternoon Brewvana Beers & Barrels Tour. We chose this tour because it included wine (score!) as we both are not major beer drinkers to fully appreciate the craft beers that Portland is known for. We wanted to try some local beers though and while half of them did not appeal to me, it was worth the time spent and experience to sample them as most everyone else on the tour had a strong palette for those types of beers and loved them. Hey, when in Rome right? I think Brewvana changes up the stops a little periodically as the current tour doesn't mention wine but instead mentions whiskey & spirits, and for the life of me I don't remember the names of each place we went to though a couple of the current listings look familiar. I'm sorry I can't be of much help here, BUT, I can say that you will enjoy this tour as a means of checking out local brews and sampling food at some of these places. Plus, there is no shortage of beer, etc. so you'll be light on your feet (or perhaps heavy on your feet?) by the time you finish the tour. ;)
We capped off the evening with room service as we got back to the hotel much later than anticipated and didn't have too many late night options that matched our energy levels.
Sunday morning we woke up with a fun day planned to drive out to the Columbia Gorge Water Falls so we walked over to an Enterprise location in downtown Portland. Have you noticed the theme of how conveniently located our hotel was? First thing we did after getting the rental car was head over to the Tin Shed Garden Cafe for breakfast. Disappointingly they had an hour wait so we popped into Fuel Cafe next to it for a great breakfast that was even easier for my dietary restrictions. What a great find! They had vegan and gluten free options and substituted my bread for veggie sausage. I took one bite of it as I was finishing up my last few days of the first month of Whole 30, but that one bite was delicious! I suspect there were beans in it. --> And yes, as noted multiple times before I still drink though I eat Whole 30...I'm not that "Whole" in the end. ;)
Once we finished breakfast we headed out into the cold and drizzly weather (LOVE IT) to the Flea & Food Market that is on the last Sunday of the month. If you're into hipster anything, and vintage clothes this is the place for you! There were beautiful things everywhere...if only we lived nearby and didn't have to pack things into luggage! I did manage to score a beautiful luxury brand purse from the 1980's after talking myself out of everything else that caught my eye.
Once we wrapped up at the market we headed out to the Historic Columbia River Highway Scenic Byway. There's a lot of options for stops along here and they're all beautiful. We stopped at the Vista House at Crown point and almost blew away, literally. The wind gusts were so strong that Emily's scarf blew off and we managed only one picture in the pelting rain barely able to keep our eyes open and rushed back into the car. The momentary views that we got to see were stunning! We just happened to have bad weather for this particular view point because of it's location and height allowing it to be a direct target for both rain and wind. The rest of the falls' stops were not windy like this as they're lower and protected in inlets basically.
We drove next to Latourell Falls to scope out the beauty there. The leaves were as big as our heads!
We drove into Horsetail Falls Loop and walked down to the edge to look at the Columbia River but we didn't want to walk the actual loop for timing's sake so we hurried back to the car and drove on to Multnomah Falls for a quick look around. This was the busier of the stops thus far on our journey and by this point we were ready for lunch and wanted to make it out to an apple orchard to pick apples. In hindsight, if we had more time in Oregon I would have dedicated the full day to the falls as there was more to see and you can hike/walk around them a bit on trails if you'd like. Our mood at the time didn't quite desire to do that and we were hungry enough to not want to spend more time at any given one. But, there is SO MUCH natural beauty at each of the falls for the eyes to indulge in.
We stopped off at the Saw Tooth Roadhouse to grab a quick, late lunch as it was the only thing we saw along the way to Draper Girls Country Farm. Saw Tooth looks like a local's place where some patrons in there know everyone, while some random tourists like ourselves stumble in. It was quaint and warm compared to the cold rain outside as we were further up in elevation and further into the country so the weather was much colder! We had great service, a couple of cocktails, a warm lunch, and got back on the road to Draper Girls.
At Draper Girls Country Farm we wanted to go apple picking. Unbeknownst to us we would have to pick 20 lb bags of apples. Well, I love me some apples but I couldn't do much damage to one 20 lb bag in the 2 days remaining in Portland so we didn't get to actually pick them. One of the owners was there and was kind to show us around a little and explained their orchard, how many varieties they grow and how the apples are picked, etc. They have bins of vegetables and apples as well as a cute gift shop with a lot of home made products the farm produces from the apples. We bought 4 apples each and I focused on varieties I haven't heard of nor can get locally in Houston. All of the apples you see on the ground around the trees cannot be used. Thousands upon thousands go unused once they fall to the ground because the farm is not allowed to sell them because food regulations restrict it due to potential e coli. This was interesting to learn because they pick so many (by hand) already but lose an abundance that naturally falls and turns into compost.
We headed back to Portland after our apple adventure in time to rest briefly and head out to dinner at Nel Centro. We walked through downtown to the restaurant to enjoy the fall evening and leaves. In downtown it was much warmer than further east of Portland where we had driven for the falls and apple orchard. Dinner was pretty good food wise, but the restaurant itself lacked in any special decor (bummer and surprising as it is located in the Hotel Modera). After a couple of glasses of wine we forgot all about the decor and just enjoyed our food and conversation.
On Monday we walked across the street to get some coffee and take some pictures because, how could we not when everything around us was so pretty? We had a long day ahead of pumpkin patch-ing, wine tasting, exploring the Pacific coast, and ultimately driving back to Portland for dinner and Halloween festivities.
We walked the couple of blocks to get our rental car from the parking garage and headed over to VooDoo Doughnut not because we wanted doughnuts but because they're sort of infamous. I opted for a vegan doughnut with coconut on it, took one bite and that was it! I've honestly never liked doughnuts much, but my palette couldn't handle the sweetness after Whole 30 anyway. But, for normal person's diet I am sure they're all delicious. The doughnuts are definitely pretty!
We got on the road to Bella Organic to walk through the pumpkin farm and patch. It was a cold and rainy morning and the farm was empty! Most of the pumpkins had been picked because it was Halloween morning but we didn't care. We walked back to the farm just to take a look around despite the mud and rain and of course had to say hello to the little animals too! Had we gone on the weekend it would have been fun to go through the corn maze. The farm also has a nice grocery store with fruits and vegetables that they grow or that are locally sourced around Portland.
Once we left the farm we headed west towards the Pacific coast but stopped at 3 vineyards in Forest Grove that were essentially along the way, plus a delicious lunch at Bites mixed in between wine tastings.
We stopped at David Hill Winery first and definitely agreed that this was the best of the three we visited. Oregon is known for Pinot Noir but they also grow white grapes, etc so we were able to sample a variety.
We went to Shafer Vineyard Cellars next to sample their wines. We enjoyed their wines and especially the view, then quickly perused their Christmas Shop before getting back on the road. How is Oregon this beautiful? I'm in love.
Our last wine tasting stop on our way out of Forest Grove to Cannon Beach was Apolloni Vineyards. We weren't super crazy about their wines so we hurried through our tasting to get on the road to head towards the coast.
We stopped by Ecola State Park for a quick picture (it was cold!)...
Then stopped in a few stores in Cannon Beach before going to Haystack Rock.
We originally planned to stay in Cannon Beach to watch the sunset and have dinner but between being tired, having a long drive back to Portland ahead of us, and the VERY cloudy sky, we opted to cancel our sunset dinner reservation and go back to Portland to try the restaurant we originally planned to dine at on Saturday evening. Andina wasn't so great despite that it was rated #1 out of 3,418 restaurants in Portland. WHAT? We thought the food was bland. But, the drinks were good so I guess there was that little ray of light!
When dinner was finished we went back to our hotel and seriously struggled on energy levels to go out for Halloween (it's not normally something we're interested in) so opted to dress up and drag ourselves upstairs to the Departures roof top bar for drinks before turning in for our last night in Portland.
Our final morning in Portland was a lazy one. We attempted to sleep in, packed our bags, headed to breakfast at Mother's Bistro, returned the rental car, and headed out to the airport to fly home. Mother's Bistro was delicious and a great way to finalize our stay in Portland. There were a few places we didn't get to go to like Eb & Bean for frozen yogurt, Laurelhurt Park, the Tin Shed (as previously mentioned), and Wayfarer in Cannon Beach to see the sunset. But all in all we fit in a lot, didn't feel rushed at all, and saw a lot of beautiful things around Portland and Oregon.
The state is beyond gorgeous in natural beauty, there a lot of gluten free and vegan friendly restaurants throughout the city, everyone we met was super friendly, and Portland is a great place for people watching. It's safe to say I'm in love with the city and state for that matter, and if it wasn't for my family being far across the US from it I'd consider moving there in a heartbeat.
I hope this post is helpful and inspiring for you to plan a trip to Portland (or Oregon in general)! If you want to read more details about the places we visited there you can check out my reviews on TripAdvisor. Also feel free to email me should you have any questions!