Planning a visit to the city of Portland in Oregon? Here are some recommendations*. To view all the photographs (with the captions in full) of the city, click on any image and navigate using the left and right keys.
1. We started the trip with a box of Voodoo Doughnuts, and in particular the bacon-maple bar was excellent. In fact, the combination of the sweet maple and the savoury bacon was adopted across a number of other dining establishments we visited.
2. Next was Pine State Biscuits, where we had a biscuit with fried chicken, bacon, and cheese as well as the excellent chicken pot pie.
3. The Oregon Zoo in Portland is perhaps one of the best zoos I have visited, even though a number of attractions were undergoing renovation. While some of the enclosures felt a little too small, the zoo was well-designed with plenty of walking space and sights.
4. One of the exhibits was Elephant Lands, where the only Borneo elephant in the United States is showcased.
5. The Oregon Zoo is located within Washington Park, where there is a free seasonal shuttle connecting other sites, including the International Rose Test Garden. As the oldest continuously operating public rose test garden in the United States, the over 10,000 rose bushes make for great photo opportunities, and even on a hot summer day there were plenty of visitors in the garden.
6. The International Rose Test Garden.
7. From the garden, one can also get a small view of Mount Hood – the highest mountain in Portland – in the distance. In fact, on a clear day, it is also possible to see the mountain in the distance when one arrives from the Portland International Airport, as we did.
8. Portland is famed for its over 500 food carts, which are organised in outdoor food courts as pods. We had Stretch the Noodle, specialising in hand-pulled noodles which are made on the spot. This was a huge portion – which we shared – for eight dollars.
9. A short walk from the Stretch the Noodle food cart was Mill Ends Park, recognised by the “Guinness Book of Records” in 1971 as the smallest park in the world. As an official city park its design changes from time to time, and what was surprising for me was the lack of attention it received. Pedestrians and cars whizzed by, and we appeared to be the only visitors interested in snapping a quick picture.
10. Mill Ends Park is located along the Willamette River, which is marked by a number of bridges across it.
11. Even though the Portland Aerial Tram was designed to carry everyday commuters – one of only two commuter aerial tramways in the United States – we paid about five dollars each for a round-trip ticket, boarding from the South Waterfront district and taking in a panoramic view of the city from the vantage point of the main Oregon Health and Science University campus.
12. For dinner, we had Thai food from another food cart, Anna Thai Basil. We stayed in a comfortable Airbnb in the Piedmont area.
13. This generous serving of chicken and waffles – which we shared, alongside a serving of hush puppies, deep-fried balls made from cornmeal-based batter – was devoured at “Screen Door Restaurant”, a popular brunch spot. Arrive early to avoid the long queues!
14. Next, we took public transportation to Gateway Transit Centre, where we would board the Columbia Gorge Express to Multnomah Falls. In general, public transportation in Portland is very affordable, efficient, and extensive, and travelling around was a breeze.
15. Multnomah Falls.
16. There are two vantage points. The first is the viewing bridge, which takes about five to 10 minutes to get too. The second takes one to the beginning of the waterfall, which takes about 45 minutes to an hour, across 11 switchbacks. It can be quite a hike up the waterfall, but the views along the way of the waterfall and of the greenery and lake can be quite stunning.
17. We hiked all the way up to the beginning of the waterfall, and this is the view about one-third through the journey.
18. After a long hike, we travelled to Pip’s Original Doughnuts and Chai for: Doughnuts and chai tea. The doughnuts are small, but there is a good variety of different flavours and is best shared. We got eight doughnuts, and the chai tea was pretty good too.
19. Again with the combination of sweet and savoury – in addition to the maple and bacon – there was sea salt with honey or Nutella. This was probably the best doughnuts we had in the city, compared to Blue Star Doughnuts and even Voodoo Doughnuts.
20. The Grotto – a Catholic outdoor shrine and sanctuary – is located near Pip’s Original Doughnuts and Chai. The ground level is free and includes the “Stations of the Cross” exhibit, “The Grotto”, and the “Chapel of Mary”, though there is a fee to take the elevator so as to access the upper level gardens. We decided against taking the elevator up, and spent some time walking the lower level instead.
21. Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen serves generous and tasty portions of Vietnamese food, and it is very near the Pioneer Place shopping district. Be warned though: We arrived at 6pm on a weekday evening, and the establishment was already crowded.
22. The next day, we had sweet and savoury waffles at The Waffle Window. In general, the food in Portland was very affordable, and there is no sales tax. This means that patrons are expected to bus their own tables, but it does not feel like a big deal.
23. Another day, another hike. We took the trail from Lower Macleay Park to Pittock Mansion, and the first leg of this trail is pretty manageable: With low elevation, plenty of shade, and beautiful views along the way.
24. After the halfway point, however, it starts to get steep and the going can be tiring. Be prepared to take multiple rests during this second leg. We took about 90 to 100 minutes to do a one-way hike, before taking public transportation near Pittock Mansion.
25. At the end of our one-way hike was Pittock Mansion, a 46-room house originally built as a private home. There is a fee to access the mansion, but it is free to walk around the grounds and to take in a stunning panoramic view of the city.
26. Mount Hood in the distance.
27. Again, Mount Hood in the distance, together with a beautiful view of Portland.
28. Another hilltop park which offers panoramic city views is the Council Crest Park, though it is possible to – as we did – to take a bus near the top and to hike five to 10 minutes to the park. Besides Mount Hood, we were also able to spot Mount Saint Helens.
29. After a long day, we had much-needed Korean comfort food at bibi2go.
30. And although we were completely stuffed with Korean food, we had ice cream from Salt and Straw, which was absolutely divine. The service was great – with the option to sample the many unique flavours – and we had two generous scoops on a biscuit cone.
31. Finally, we ended our Portland adventure with tacos from ¿Por Qué No? Taqueria. Not the best we have had, and the meat options were better than the pricier seafood ones. The place does get crowded throughout the day, so – as with most places – arrive early!
* Not an advertisement, and also not sponsored (unfortunately).