A fun little guide on what to do in Portland based on our personal experiences!
At first glance Portland is a city of bridges, a vista of grey buildings lend it a working class industrial look and you could even go so far as to say it’s a bit ugly. Luckily, this is simply a thin outer veneer that when scratched reveals a rough-hewn gem ready to be explored.
Generally, and definitely to those living in the North-West of The States, Portland’s reputation precedes it. Most people are aware that Portland is a buzzing and vibrant hub where artists, hipsters, gastronomy lovers and hippies all blend together to form a creative crockpot of cultures and people endeavouring to lead a more unconventional lifestyle.
If you’re into vintage clothes, know how to use Photoshop on your MacBook and have a sleeve tattoo, it’s easy to image you would be sipping a local craft beer in a trendy Portland pub.
There are three things I think Portland is especially “known” for, and that’s what I’m going to share here. Microbreweries overflowing with independent craft beers, food trucks serving up delicious organic fare & quirky vintage clothes shops and funky stores. We did a bit of each, and it was awesome!
Everyone knows Portland does craft beers, and when you start nosing around it won’t take long to realise the choice of local brews is staggering. The city is literally teeming with microbreweries, we went to four very different ones to get a feel for the craft beer scene.
This little brewery concocts a magical mixture of craft beers which it sells amongst it’s infamous brand of McMenamins spots. We checked out “Kennedy’s” which was an old school that had been expertly converted into a hotel, dipping pool, multiple bars and a restaurant. It was funkily decorated and if you’re in Portland, you should definitely go! Find the Boiler Room Bar inside, and try the Ruby Ale – or if you’re feeling particularly adventurous get a “Rubinator” (Terminator Porter mixed with Ruby Ale).
More info: McMenamins – Kennedys School
Classy decor with detailed wood carvings and a friendly atmosphere, Deschutes was the next brewery we investigated. Large windows afforded a view of the huge bronze brewing vats. We ordered a tasting selection and then some food – the beers were great, but the food was average. Ah well, it IS a microbrewery!
More info: Deschutes Brewery
This is more like a normal pub in terms of decor. They don’t show off any brewing vats in the background and it doesn’t feel overly fancy, but the beers have won some international prizes and are certainly worthy of acclaim. It’s also quite a relaxed atmosphere and you can tell everyone is welcome.
Their Amber Ales and IPA’s have won immense numbers or awards so make sure you try them. Trudy and our friend Jane loved the chocolate stouts, perfect for a chilly January day!
More info: Rogue Brewery
Having sampled quite a few beers at this point, we were ready to slow down. The place was definitely busy and they had a decent range of microbrews on tap – it seemed like a popular place and it had an upstairs and downstairs level.
We went for a pale “Summer” ale that was a refreshing finish to the day even if it was the middle of winter…
Overall it was great to see Portland this way and try out some of the local craft brews. Portland is very big into IPAs which I would not say are my favourite type of brew (I like a subtle honey kick or a unique flavour without any overpowering bitterness).
More info: Bridgeport Brewery
There was no way we were leaving Portland without slotting in a quintessential “food truck” experience. We stopped in at a little parking lot showcasing a couple of promising looking food trucks. We went for the one specialising in Mexican and the other in Crepes & Milkshakes. It did not disappoint.
Trudy got a Vegan Burrito and I grabbed myself a Chicken Burrito and a Fish Taco. Both were awesome – especially the taco! Yum!
We also tried a couple of milkshakes, one being Lavender and Honey which was a bit of heaven in a cup. No seriously, super tasty.
We chatted with the bloke behind the Mexican food truck, he couldn’t believe that Portland was known for its food trucks in Australia. He was so amazed he accidentally overcharged me for the fish taco, but he picked up the mistake (I hadn’t even noticed) and made sure to pay me back.
All around Portland there are areas where food trucks abound, if in the area, this is a must-do. In fact, do it more than once. Eat at a food truck for lunch everyday you’re there!
No trip to Portland is complete without playing spot-the-hipster. We wandered around Hawthorne Boulevard, stopping for coffee at the Waffle Window – a Portland icon famous for selling delicious waffles through a little booth window. Unfortunately it was far too cold to be selling waffles through a window when we were there so we settled for warming up inside with coffee and sampling all the different flavours they had on offer which were all equally amazing.
Directly opposite was the Red Light Clothing Exchange, possibly one of the most famous vintage stores in Portland and where our game of spot-the-hipster really took off. One of my personal favourites was a bloke in fluro rainbow leggings, a flannelette shirt, black boots and of course an epic beard. Everyone was really lovely though, I didn’t find that there was any air of pretension and everyone we spoke to was very friendly.
Hawthorne is a neighbourhood filled with awesome boutiquey little shops. Powells book store is yet another Portland icon that had me in book heaven wandering the aisles and exclaiming over the huge variety of cycling culture books available (of course). Just wandering around the neighbourhood I found a huge selection of beautiful gifts, clothing and books.
Everywhere we went in Portland we discovered quirky and unique stores, I could have easily spent a months travel budget in this town. If you are after a bit of a shopping spree make sure you also check out NW 23rd Avenue. While a little bit more chain storey than Hawthorne it had a wide variety of fun shops to discover including Pottery Barn, Kiehls, Paper Source & Moonstruck Chocolate Cafe.
Portland definitely lived up to its reputation and we loved exploring it and sampling all it had to offer (take me back to those food trucks!) If you are on the western coast of the states is definitely worth a trip up north and make sure you include its big sister Seattle in your itinerary!