Jeff and I got away to Portland this weekend to explore Seattle’s sister city to our south. It’s only a three hour drive (or a little under depending on who’s driving), so it’s a perfect weekend trip. Most of what we knew about Portland comes from watching IFC’s Portlandia, a show with sketches about hipster life (and life in the Northwest in general), so we were excited to see it first hand. If you’ve never seen Portlandia I can recommend some clips here, here and here (the one with the bags pretty much describes the shame I feel during trips to the grocery store).
We stayed in a hotel that had been converted from an old elementary school, the Kennedy School, that among other things hosts several bars (Detention and Honors, depending on how you’re feeling), two restaurants, a soaking pool, and a brewery (located in the old girls’ lavatory).
The hotel rooms are old converted classrooms, complete with chalkboards:
The school was shutdown in the 1970’s due to decreasing enrollment and was scheduled for demolition but the McMenamin family bought it and converted it. They own a bunch of breweries and historic hotels (repurposed from old theaters, poor farms, etc) throughout Oregon and Washington and we’d heard good things about them.
We spent most of the next day exploring around and were rewarded with cloudless skies. It’s a smaller city than Seattle, but it packs a lot of character and culture. Our first stop was the Japanese Gardens in Washington Park. They’re one of the best examples of Japanese horticulture in North America and the entire place was beautiful sculpted. It was a little cold but we were rewarded with spectacular views of Mt. Hood.
After walking around in the cold we went downtown to warm up at Powell’s, a huge independent bookstore that was as large as a city block.
Somehow we managed to only come out with one book a piece and Jeff found me the only kids’ dental book they had to add to my collection! We took advantage of the mid-day sunshine and walked around the nearby Pearl District. It was nice, and a little hip for my tastes, but nothing spectacular like you couldn’t find in any other city or outdoor mall.
All that pursuing and walking around worked up an appetite and Portland is famous for their love of food trucks so we found a gathering (or “pod” as they like to say here) of them a few blocks away. There were a ton lined up on one block and I had trouble deciding which one to order from, but it ended up (as it so often does) that I couldn’t say no to some grilled cheese from The Grilled Cheese Grill.
While we were waiting on our gooey goodness I realized that it wasn’t just that one block of trucks.. it was several blocks of them. Probably 30-40 food trucks all lined up! They weren’t kidding about this city loving them!
By this point we’d walked around a bunch so we decided to drive through some recommended neighborhoods (Portland is divided for the most part in quadrants and we wanted to see a little of each). Hawthorne in the Southeast was cute and more of what I expected of Portland’s reputation than the Pearl District. We also ended up in the NW 21st and 23rd Avenue corridor near Nob Hill that had some great shopping. Jeff discovered several great finds at Threads Count, a men’s consignment shop that will soon expand to Seattle. Needless to say he immediately signed up to become a registered customer.
We ended our day at Grain & Gristle back near our hotel in the Northeast section and I took a long dip in the soaking pool (think outdoor hot tub the size of a pool).
To sum up if you need to see Portland in a day:
- Washington Park for the zoo and rose garden (it is the City of Roses after all) and the Japanese Garden if you’re so inclined. The Park is free, but the zoo and Japanese Garden charge a fee.
- Powell’s – the exit fee will depend on if your self control
- Food trucks! Food trucks! Food trucks! Click here for a map of where they’re podded (mostly on Alder between 9th and 11th).
- The Kennedy School – even if you don’t stay there it’s cool to check out. Dip into the soaking pool for $5 if you’re a non-guest or catch a movie and soak for free if you stay with them.
- Shopping in Hawthorne or in the Nob Hill (btw 21st and 23rd Ave) neighborhoods
- Eating, just about anywhere! Check out the famous Voodoo doughnuts, we didn’t quite make it there this time, but it’s on our list!
I’d like to thank all my co-ressies for the great suggestions on what to see, eat and do! We’ll have to make another trip back to accomplish everything on the exhaustive lists you gave us 🙂
We headed back this morning and back into some clouds and rain.