Portland for Beginners

They say that Portland is a big city with small town friendliness…and it’s true. The fact is, Portland is a collection of very distinctive neighborhoods, each with their own little community. This, I suspect, lends to its friendly vibe. I’ll highlight just two of Portland’s eclectic neighborhoods here:


Many of the shops are converted houses.

N.W. 23rd Street

Situated in Portland’s historic Alphabet district, this quaint, tree-lined shopping mecca has something for everyone, including fabulous dining.  Begin the day with an espresso and pastry in one of the local coffee shops (but not Starbucks, which you will also find here, if you must). One of my favorite stops in this area is New Renaissance bookstore, situated in an old traditional-style two-story house. While the store offers a variety of topics, they specialize in the new-age genre.

For your own abode, you will find such notables as Kitchen Kaboodle and Cost Plus World Market. You can even splurge on a new hairstyle or mani-pedi in one of several salons in the neighborbood. There are three McMenamins brew pubs, a couple of yummy tacquerias, a fabulous thai restaurant (next to New Renaissance and also converted from a residential house), and several Chinese restaurants. And that’s just scratching the surface. Want a tattoo? NW 23rd has you “covered” (see what I did there?) C’mon, its Portland, you can find a tattoo parlor a stone’s throw in any direction in this town.


Hipsters and Soccer Moms converge.


What was just a few years ago a hippie haven, with its uniquely bohemian shops, has sadly lent itself to gentrification.  However, the McMenamin’s Bagdad Theatre still stands as a beacon to what once was. Enjoy a first-run movie while munching on pizza and beer. And there is still great shopping to be had along with a few good restaurants. Two marvelous 2nd hand shops, Buffalo Exchange and Red Light Clothing offer stylish and affordable threads. The Gold Door Jewelry & Art is prime pickins’ for that unique piece for a gift and home décor. For lunch, check out one of the more well-known food carts, Fried Egg I’m in Love, or for a casual indoor sit-down, the Break & Ink Café is very tasty.

Bagdad Theatre

McMenamins Bagdad Pub and Theatre.

 Other notable stops in Portland:

Pittock Mansion. An interesting historical home in itself, the big draw (at least for me) is the view this property affords. Situated atop a steep hill, you can witness the whole of Portland. On a clear day (gasp!), Mt. Hood and Mt. Saint Helens will greet you in addition to the marvelous city skyline.

Powell’s Books. Yes, this is on every Portland to-do list, and for good reason. If you’re any kind of reader, this is paradise. Exploring every foot of this massive book store would take days, perhaps weeks. They even have a rare book section. Carefully staffed, an expert will guide you to find the elusive book-that-cannot-be found. If Powell’s doesn’t have it, they can certainly point you in the right direction. In addition to the famous main store downtown, there are several other branches peppered throughout the metropolitan area that specialize in a certain genre.

In the weeks to come, I will be highlighting these neighborhoods (and more), to give you an well-rounded tour of my beloved city. Stay tuned.

Portlanders! Where do you take your out-of-town guests when they visit? .

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About Me

Hi, I’m Susan, a travel writer based in Portland, Oregon. THANKS for stopping by my Pacific Northwest travel site! This blog focuses on Pacific Northwest travel, but also is a place showcase all of my travels, and is a great place to start when planning your next vacation to my area of the world. Please e-mail me or leave a comment, I’m here to help!

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