Visiting Oregon Soon? Here are Some Recommendations from a Local

There are a lot of things to do in and outside of Portland. Here’s a list I’ve compiled over the years and provide to my visitors for things to do and eat in and outside our fun, foodie city. I've included some links here for your convenience. 

Things to do in Portland

  • Visit the international Rose Test Gardens, Japanese Garden and Hoyt Arboretum (all near the Oregon Zoo)
  • Walk around the city and its unique neighborhoods (I recommend Mississippi, Alphabet District, the Pearl (north of Burnside on the west side), NE 28th Street, SE Division Street or SE Hawthorne Street)
  • Read a book at Powell's City of Books
  • Watch live performing arts at Portland Center Stage at the historic Armory or see a movie at Hollywood Theater or McMenamins Kennedy School
  • Listen to live music at Mississippi Studios on Mississippi Street or the Crystal Ballroom in downtown Portland
  • Play board games at Game Knight Lounge or classic arcades at Ground Kontrol
  • Eat, drink beer or coffee and be happy (see the list of all the food and drink recommendations below)
  • Relax at Portland’s quirkiest nail salon, Fingerbang (conveniently located in the Zipper food hall, and yes that is really the name); soak at the heated outdoor pool at McMenamins Kennedy School or pamper yourself with a float and an Ashiatsu massage at Mudra
  • Drink tea at the beautiful Portland Chinese Gardens and/or if you are a big tea fan go to Smith Tea or enjoy free tastings at the Jasmine Pearl Tea Company (a personal favorite)
  • Enjoy Portland Farmers Markets (the one near Portland State University is a big one on Saturdays)
  • Experience culture at the Oregon Historical Society, Portland Art Museum, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
  • Sip on drinking chocolate and eat churros (if you love fried dough and need more than donuts in PDX) at 180, then head up the street for unique Tiki drinks at one of the top Tiki bars in the world Hale Pele
  • Picnic at Pittock Mansion, Laurelhurst Park or on the waterfront
  • Hike in Forest Park
  • Bike around the city using BIKETOWN or rent a bicycle for the day (contact Timbuk2 about their free bike share). You also opt for a Pedal Bike Tour and choose the Columbia River Gorge tour, historic downtown, breweries, food carts or create your own. Portland is very bike friendly and one of the best ways to get around to the beautiful neighborhoods with some really easy-to-ride bike paths. I recommend the Portland waterfront loop.
  • Shop and enjoy no sales tax in Oregon. Hit the boutiques on Mississippi Avenue or Alphabet District/NW 23rd or take a piece of Oregon home with you by visiting Union Way, Made Here, New Seasons (look for shelf signs that say “local”), Made in Oregon or Hello From Portland.

Portland Restaurants & Food

Portland food courts and dining halls

Portland is known for its numerous food carts and pods throughout the city, but micro-restaurants, food courts and halls are a recent addition to the food scene. They too can be found throughout the city. Here’s a list to try.

  • Pine Street Market is in southwest downtown Portland at Second Avenue and Pine Street in a historic carriage building.
  • Portland Food Hall is in downtown Portland at Second Avenue and Yamhill Street located next to another popular Portland Vietnamese restaurant, Luc Lac.
  • The Ocean is in East (NE) Portland with several food stalls and outdoor seating. I like the vegan Indian restaurant The Sudra.
  • The Zipper is in East (NE) Portland on Sandy Boulevard with indoor and outdoor seating. If you go on a nice day, get a smores kit from Paydirt and sit by the fire.

Portland’s New and Best Overall Restaurants

Portland Eater is a great resource for all the newest, hottest and essential restaurants in Portland getting a lot of positive buzz. A few of my favorite places off and on the aforementioned lists are listed here.

Just a warning and a few tips:  Portlanders love to brunch on Sundays. In addition, most restaurants do not take reservations (no matter what time of day). Plan ahead and expect to wait. Pick a neighborhood with other things on your "must see" list. Then, add your name to the waiting list and go check off those items. 

  • You can’t go wrong hitting any of the restaurants between SW 13th and SW 11th Avenues on Washington and Alder Streets. Heart Coffee, Grassa, Lardo, Blue Start Donuts, Tasty and Alder and Multnomah Whiskey lounge are all in this area. One short walk/block away is a small alley Union Way, a small shopping and dining area.
  • Marukin ramen (Japanese)
  • Toro Bravo (tapas)
  • Screen Door (Southern comfort food)
  • Apizza Scholls for the good stuff or Blind Onion or Baby Doll for a few of my favorite comfort pies (pizza)
  • Pambiche (Cuban) - Get breakfast (one of the brunch places without a line)
  • Han Oak Restaurant (Korean)
  • Laurelhurst (meat) Market
  • Pok Pok, Langbaan or Paadee -- all different restaurants on the east side of Portland (Thai)
  • Wolf and Bear’s (Middle Eastern)
  • Little Bird (French Bistro)
  • Fire on the Mountain (chicken wings)
  • Laughing Planet Cafe (cheap eats)
  • Tanuki (Izakaya)
  • Lardo (sandwiches)
  • Nong’s Khao Man Gai (PDX famous chicken and rice dish)
  • Chizu (cheese)

Coffee & Coffee Shops

Skip Starbucks and Stumptown and head to one of these local roasters and coffee shops.

  • Coava Coffee Roasters
  • Nossa Familia Coffee
  • Barista
  • Heart Coffee Roasters
  • Ristretto Roasters
  • Full Life Coffee – coffee with a mission
  • Case Study Coffee
  • Rimsky-Korsakoffee House (quirky coffee spot)

Ice cream

  • Fifty Licks
  • Salt & Straw (Always busy. You might try the others first.)
  • Cool Moon
  • Ruby Jewel

Donuts

If you are a serious donut lover, skip Voodoo and head to one of these three donut shops instead: Blue Star, Coco Donuts, Pip's Original (personal favorite)

Portland Breweries, Brew Pubs & Beer

My husband and I at Crater Lake National Park

My husband and I at Crater Lake National Park

  • 10 Barrel (check out the rooftop deck)
  • Breakside
  • Hair of the Dog
  • Back Pedal Brewing (small scale brewery next to 10 Barrel)
  • Deschutes
  • Fat Head’s
  • Bailey’s Tap Room
  • Loyal Legion
  • Burnside Brewing
  • Belmont Station
  • APEX (best beer-only place to bike and grab a drink. I also like to get snacks at the Mexican restaurant next door. Note: cash only.)

    Drives/Day Trips from Portland/Outside of Portland

    Trips outside of Portland with estimated drive times. 

    An Oregon Winery

    An Oregon Winery

    • Mount St. Helens in Washington -- check weather and plan ahead (2 hours)
    • Ape caves/lava tubes (2 hours)
    • Bagby natural hot springs (2 hours)  
    • Oregon coast (2 hours)
      • Cannon beach
      • Haystack rock
      • Tillamook cheese factory/ice cream
      • Great camping 
    • Mt Hood/Timberline Lodge (2 hours) 
      • Option: Do the entire scenic loop of the Columbia River Gorge and Hood River to Mount Hood 
    •  Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area (hiking and water falls) – (30-45 minutes on the way to Mount Hood/Timberline)
      • Most Popular: Multnomah Falls
      • Personal favorite: Latourell Falls
      • Most Overlooked: Oneonta Gorge and Trailhead
      • Other stops: Bonneville Dam/Cascade Locks/fish ladder; Bridge of the Gods
    • Hood River (1 hour)
      • Recreational area for kite boarding and other hiking (Columbia Gorge/waterfalls are on the way). There are also some great breweries in Hood River--pFriem is a personal favorite
    • Wineries – (1 hour)  
      • Dundee
      • McMinnville
      • Carlton
    • Crater Lake National park (5 hours)
    • Bend, a small recreational town (3 hours)
      • Stop in Sisters, an Old Western town on way to Bend
      • Stop at Smith Rock returning from Bend (near Redmond, Oregon)
      • Camp at Detroit Lake or other places along the way
    • Wallowas alpine area (6 hours)
      • Stay in Joseph or camp in the Alpine area

    Have an Oregon favorite? Let me know. Send a tweet to @SaysDash!