It rained today, and it made me think of our trip to Portland this past summer. I thought about Portland not because it actually rained while we were there, but because I expected it to. In fact, Portland was not at all what I expected and that made for a fun and adventurous weekend.
We knew going into the weekend that we were going to eat. I read enough travel media to know that much. We met up with with my sister-in-law, her husband and two kids (11 and 14) and my mother-in-law, and so with a larger group, we knew we needed to plan out food a bit in advance. We relied on tripadvisor and Yelp and they served us well, for the most part. But as far as major foodie adventures, we will have to make an adult trip to Portland another time. Our desire to hang out (and cater to our kids’ palates) overrode our desire to explore Portland’s outstanding restaurants.
DONUTS. We literally planned our walks and events around two icons, Voodoo Donuts and Blue Star Donuts. The short version of this story is that Voodoo wins if we are comparing the two. The longer version of the story is that we don’t really like fancy donuts, and that ultimately, Sidecar Donuts of Southern California is better than Voodoo and Blue Star combined. I know that is blasphemy for Pacific Northwest foodies, but I’m just being honest. As far as any recommendations at all, I think my older daughter got it right at both Voodoo and Blue Star by sticking with the classics and ordering the plain old fashioned/buttermilk variety.
BEER AND WINE. They were good. Oh, do you need more? Buy local. Still more? Ok, I will say that we went with the touristy option in the beer department and ate/drank at Deschutes Brewery. I think it worked out really well because it was during World Cup soccer, and there was something for everyone in the family. The vibe was fun and friendly. No complaints on the food either. The beer tastings look interesting, but I just went straight for something light because it was hot outside, and it was delish. As far as wine goes, I was disappointed not to visit wine bars and do tastings in Portland (do not dispair…see the separate blog about our excursions). However, we had a beautiful rooftop hangout area at our hotel (see below) and a great gourmet store across the street. One thing that I found in Portland is that there is Oregon wine for sale that I had NEVER seen before (and will be hard pressed to find) in my non-Oregonian wine shopping locations. I really had a fun time buying multiple bottles to try and share with my sister and brother-in-law. Ultimately what I learned is that most of the Oregonian Pinot Noir that I can buy at my California grocery store is crap. That is probably because the California wine industry doesn’t want the competition. 🙂
PIZZA. Portland is not known for it’s Pizza necessarily, but given we were a larger group with teens and tweens, it’s not surprising and we went on the lookout for a pizza option. Sizzle Pie was as much of a cultural experience as it was a culinary one. Go into a store and grab a slice, and you will see what I mean. There is one location very close to Powells Books, so you could combine pizza and book browsing, which is a winning combination. Afterwards, you could get some very strong coffee at Stumptown Roasters nearby. Did I mention it is very strong? Yes, they are not messing around.
One of the most pleasant surprises of our trip was our hotel. We stayed in the Hampton Inn and Suites in the Pearl District. This place is newly renovated with an excellent location, nice (not fancy, but surprising) rooms, plentiful free breakfast and a plethora of gathering space both in the lobby and on the rooftop for groups of people traveling together. It was ideal for our multi-family vacation. I would stay there again in a heartbeat.
Because we traveled with teens, we wanted to find a creative way to get them engaged in the sightseeing. In the spirit of, “if you can’t beat them, join them,” I took the advice of a friend and introduced the kids to “The 10 Most Instagrammable Spots in Portland.” We used this to plan out our city exploration and give us some objectives for the day. Having a plan is so critical when traveling with a group. But having buy-in for the plan is even MORE important to help ensure harmony on the trip. And, by following the recommendations in the post, we had several memorable experiences. We risked our lives standing in the middle of the street posing in the smallest park in the world. But we also discovered beautiful views of Mount Hood from Pittock Mansion that we wouldn’t have otherwise seen. Overall, having these objectives for our day added to the enjoyment. Try it!
Portland is a fun, walkable city. My recommendation for a Saturday in town is to walk to Voodoo on Burnside, snap a photo at Dante’s “Keep Portland Weird,” and buy a donut (remember the old fashioned). Then take a short walk to the riverfront and sit and eat your donut with a view. The riverfront is beautiful, and the Saturday Market there is a fun place to wander. Then, walk south along the river to find Mills End Park. After that, you can walk toward the Courthouse and do some shopping or eating in that area…there are so many options! Enjoy!