It’s easy to find things to do in Portland. Just a quick Google search will turn up a vast array of “Top” attractions. Everyone from the NY Times to your grandmother-who-has-a-blog can give you a list. So why should I, being a self-proclaimed authority of the great town of Portland, OR, add my 2 cents to the fray?
Answer: I won’t.
Instead, I’ll offer an alternative view and tell you what NOT to do in the Rose City. And that’s almost as good, right? No, you say? Well, let me change your mind (if just a little.) Consider this a list that will save you time, money, frustration and offer a more well-rounded view during your visit to our beautiful Rose City.
Ready? Here we Go!
1. Don’t visit the original Voodoo Doughnut, located downtown, near the Burnside bridge. You’ve no doubt heard of their incredible (and sometimes lewd) versions of popular donuts. Go to their Eastside location instead! The lines are way shorter, and the place is bigger. The kids can enjoy the pinball machines and mechanical horse that the tiny downtown location doesn’t have. BRING YOUR CASH – it’s the only form of currency they take.
2. Don’t go on the Underground Tunnel Tour, centering around Portland’s seedy past regarding human trafficking of immigrants from China. It’s crazy cheesy, and the stories told are questionable, at best. The Seattle Underground Tour is world’s better, more informative and much more entertaining. ‘Nuff said.
3. Don’t rent a car if you’re going to be staying in the city. Portland’s transit system is among the best in the world. It’s a great way to see the city and you’ll save some money. As of this writing, it’s only $2.50 for a 2 ½ hour block of time, or $5 for an all-day pass.
4. Don’t go to Multnomah Falls. That’s right, I said it. Sure, it’s majestic and all that, so go to it if you must. But EVERYONE goes there. Avoid the crowds and hike Horsetail Falls Trail, instead. You’ll see three different falls on this trail. Three is better than one, in my opinion. (Note: You WILL need a car to get here, as it’s a few miles east of Portland.)
5. Don’t order Jo Jo’s at Mad Greek Deli, a local fast food joint. They are called Greek Fries. I know this from firsthand experience. When I placed my order, I made the grave mistake of calling them Jo Jo’s. The guy behind the counter berated me for a full 2 minutes. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t joking. Not a good experience. The food was decent, though.
6. Don’t count on the weather being generally cloudy and/or rainy (unless you’re visiting in the thick of winter, then well, yeah…) Portland does get wet a lot, but we have our share of sunny days too. Don’t forget your shades, and take advantage of that sun when it does come out.
7. Don’t forget that this is a bike town. It’s another wonderful way to explore the city. Nike and the City of Portland have teamed up to provide pay-as-you-go bike rentals throughout the city. Also, most bike shops provide rentals. If you are driving a car, you will find many cyclists sharing the road with you, and many streets have separate bike lanes. Be mindful!
8. Don’t restrict yourself to just one or two areas of Portland. Take time to visit several different neighborhoods. Each has a distinctive feel. There’s the Pearl District with its art galleries, NW 23rd street shops for epic shopping, Mississippi St/Albina Arts neighborhoods for some of the city’s finest cuisine, and the Buckman neighborhood for more world-class food and quirky residential homes. These are just a few of the many diverse and eclectic sections of Portland, which creates a nice patchwork cultural experiences.
9. Don’t assume Portland is exactly like the show Portlandia. I love this show, and yes, they do offer a hilarious if not uncanny similarity to some people’s sensibilities here, but it’s not to be taken literally. I only WISH Kyle MacLachlan was our mayor!
10. Don’t forget to eat at a food cart! Hell, my advice is to visit as many of them as you possibly can. There are stand-alone carts as well as food cart pods scattered all over the city. As of this writing, there are over 500 carts, more than in any other city in the U.S. You can find a food cart for every single type of food imaginable (vegan and gluten-free as well), so no excuses for not trying one. A great many of them are run by honest to gosh chefs, with world-class cuisine.
Hopefully this alternative view will give you a better idea of what to expect when visiting this beautiful and diverse city. As with most lists, it is certainly not complete, and I am open to suggestions of what your experiences have been, whether you’re a visitor, or resident! I am proud to call Portland, OR my home.
“Portland is where young people go to retire.” – Anonymous