Not surprisingly, a weekend is not enough time to experience all Portland, Oregon has to offer. Here you will find some tips on where to stay, things to do and where to grub if you have just a few days to experience this lush, free spirited and scrumptious city. Pro tip: come visit Portland in the summer and miss the signature rain.
My husband and I love traveling and exploring new cities together. Our travel bug has been on the back burner for the past couple years since we’ve been having kids, but we decided to take a quick weekend trip to Portland. Going away just the two of us was amazing – it was glorious. Sometimes when you’re working and dealing with dinner, bath, bedtime, cleaning up, getting ready for the next day, you and your partner don’t get any real time together. You’re just darn tired. We had a few places we wanted to go to, but we just played the whole trip by ear and Portland is a great city to do that. Let me share a few of our favorite things in Portland.
We stayed at Hotel Lucia, which is right in the heart of downtown Portland. It’s right in the mix – in walking distance from restaurants, bars and shopping. Hotel Lucia has free bikes to use (although, caveat, they only have four and its first come first serve), they have two awesome restaurants on premise and they will deliver a pint of Salt & Straw to your room, which we gladly enjoyed in bed at 11:30pm together with a cocktail from the downstairs bar. I mean, you can’t beat that! They also have complimentary craft beer on tap in the lobby from 5:30-6:30 daily. The lobby is super sexy and a nice place to sit and enjoy your beer or a cocktail. Also, although we don’t have a pet, they are welcome here. We loved Hotel Lucia and would highly recommend it.
I have to admit that we were completely gluttonous on this trip. No Judgment. The first night we went to Afuri, which specializes in ramen and dumplings, and it far exceeded our expectations. We shared the Tonkotsu Tantanmen (pork ramen), homemade shrimp dumplings, grilled skewered pork belly, small pork rice bowl with a fried egg (I don’t see the proper name on the menu) and cocktails. Everything was superb. My husband isn’t really into ramen and he said he loved it. My only complaint is that they did not have many vegetables. So eat a salad for lunch because you won’t get many veggies with this meal.
Right across the street from Afuri is the famous Voodoo Donuts. Since we were right there, we popped over and got dessert and a few for breakfast in bed the next morning. I am not a big donut person, but these donuts are pretty special – the yeast dough they use is magical. It is really soft and yummy. Our favorites were the Viscous Hibiscus, Portland Cream and plain glazed. They even have vegan donuts for the healthy folks out there. We ended up going back the day we left to get a box of donuts for our nanny and her family. Don’t be discouraged by the line – it goes fast, they are very efficient.
The first morning we went to breakfast at Tasty n Adler. There’s a wait, but it’s worth it. While I was pumping (check out my tips for traveling and pumping here), my husband waited for a table and he was able to get one fairly quickly by waiting in the shorter line for a seat at the bar – a great tip if you are flexible about where you sit and have a small party. We ordered the Northwest Migas (had tons of fresh peas and asparagus) and the Duck…Duck….Steak!, which were both fresh, seasonal and scrumptious. The patatas bravas cooked in duck fat in the steak dish were special. We finished with Auntie Paula’s French Toast, which was good, but a bit sweet for my taste.
After such a big breakfast we had a late lunch, which we planned to be small, but it ended up being a small feast. After riding bikes around the city, we stopped at Elephants Delicatessen to get our picnic lunch. We opted to build our own charcuterie and cheese board, but they have many pre-selected combos you can order. We picked a proscuitto, salami, an amazing pate, a few cheeses, olives, a few deli salads and a baguette. We also grabbed a bottle of Oregon wine from the grocery store down the street. The best place to enjoy your spread from Elephants is in Washington Park, which is just steps away.
Late night, we had pizza and salad from The Crown in Hotel Lucia, which is not your average hotel pizza. The pepperoni pizza was pretty excellent and the mushroom deluxe was very tasty, but a bit rich. Quality toppings, tasty crust, great service. They also stay open late night (2:30am Th-Sat and 1:00am Sun-Wed) so this is a perfect post-bar place to grab some pizza.
A great place to grab cocktails after dinner is Departure Restaurant + Lounge, a rooftop bar and restaurant at the top of the Nines hotel. Great views and scrumptious bespoke cocktails with some really fun ice (you just have to see it). I feel old saying this, because we don’t get out much these days, but this is definitely a hot spot in Portland. We had a drink at the bar and did some people watching and had our second drink outside on the rooftop bar with amazing views of Portland. We heard this is a great place to catch the sunset, but unfortunately we opted to nap instead.
Saturday was a balance between wanting to see the sights and just seeing where the day took us. We decided to rent bikes from Biketown, where you can pick up and drop off bikes at locations all around the city. We found this preferable to having a bike the entire day because we could bike, walk, bike and explore. We biked the river front and stopped by Portland Saturday Market, a weekly art, craft and food market. We then biked over to famous Powell’s Books and left our bikes there to spend some time in the biggest bookstore in the country.
We then rode to Elephants Delicatessen to grab lunch to enjoy in Washington Park. We weren’t able to make it up the pretty big hill that leads into the park on our bikes so we dropped them off and walked in. We sat on the steps in the gorgeous amphitheater and enjoyed our picnic lunch and then strolled around the rose garden. It was a perfect afternoon.
The one thing my husband had to check off his list was hitting up the Nike Factory Store. We debated whether it would be any better than any other Nike Outlet and I guess you could say he won the bet. It’s a pretty big store and there’s a great selection – he scored some new sneakers and I got my first pair of Retro 1’s. Pro tip: shop it up in and around Portland because Oregon has no sales tax.
We had a long list of things to do if we had more time in Portland. Next time we look forward to taking a day trip to Willamette Valley to experience the Oregon wineries. and enjoying a wood-fire oven steak at Ox, a restaurant that specializes in Argentine Portland cuisine. Until next time, Portland!