By Tab Hauser
Traveling to Portland Oregon is not just about seeing a west coast city. Visiting here is about taking in the region because of the variety of things one can see, do and taste.Portland is located 60 miles from the Pacific Ocean on Willamette River.
The city has a population of over 600.000 with another two million in the metropolitan area.The climate here is moderate with its rainy season in the winter. We spent a eight nights in Oregon and wished we had more time.
Our visit started with a Segway tour to familiarize ourselves with the small but compact downtown.Segway’s are a “stand on” two wheel device that gives a new meaning to “walking tour” (www.portlandbysegway.com).Our tour crossed two bridges and went through the parks and streets stopping at different points of interest including Pioneer Square, known as Portland’s living room.
A Quirky Stop
One quirky stop was at the world’s smallest park in the middle of two lane road measuring only 21 inches in diameters.Another interesting stop was in front the Portlandia sculpture.It is the second-largest copper repousse statue in the United States, after the Statue of Liberty.After our Segway tour we took a more relaxed approach to seeing the area via river by boarding Portland Spirit Cruises (www.portlandspirit.com).
During our pleasant two hours on Willamette River we were given history and trivial facts on both Portland and Oregon.(did you know Oregon grows more pears than any other state?) After our cruise we walked a few minutes to the Oregon Maritime Museum.This small museum that is worth a short visit is housed in the last United States built stern wheel tugboat boat.
Portland is known as the “City of Roses” and to finish our day our last stop was at The International Rose Test Garden.This place is the oldest municipal rose garden in the country having over 7,000 plants for approximately 550 varieties and is free to the public.Because it is opened all the time we strolled around just before dinner when the lighting was perfect and it was void of people.
During our stay in Portland we visited the Pittock Mansion on the west side 1000 feet above the city.This 23 room French Renaissance style mansion was built by Henry and Georgina Pittock in 1914.He was publisher of the city’s largest newspaper.Inside you can take a guided tour and see period piece as well as family furniture and learn its history and history of Portland.One good reason to visit is the view from the front lawn that looks out over the city and towards Mt. Hood. (www.pittockmansion.org)
Visiting Portland is about seeing the region.We recommend at least two day trips out of the city. The first drive we did was up to the Columbia River to visit three different and beautiful waterfalls.On the way we stopped at the Vista House (www.vistahouse.com).
This landmarked 1918 structure gives good views of the gorge to the east.From here we continued east to view the 292 foot Wahkeena Falls, the 242 foot Latourell Falls and the most popular of the falls, the 520 foot Multnomah Falls.Each of these waterfalls is unique and easy to visit.
The Multnomah Falls is actually a two part waterfalls with a scenic bridge between the two. (The best photo is before you get to the bridge where you see the top falls in the background the bridge in the middle and the smaller of the falls flowing underneath it). The Latourell Falls has an easy ten minute stroll to get to its base where you can take it in up close.
Wahkeena Falls does not have a straight down plunge but has a pretty cascade over the rocks on a steep angle.There are plenty of hiking trails in the area to explore the additional waterfalls in the area and get different views.
Another day trip to consider is Mt Hood.This majestic 11,249 foot mountain located 50 miles east of the city can be seen easily on a clear day from downtown.At the base of the mountain is the historic Timberline Lodge (www.timberlinelodge.com).This lodge built as a post-depression project in the late 1930’s makes a very good place to have lunch.We found the tour given by a parks ranger very interesting.Without taking the tour we would have had little appreciation to the material and workmanship that went into its building.At Mount Hood you can take the Magic Mountain Chair ride another 1000 feet up and hike down or ride down.There is also mountain biking here.
A Taste Of Portland
Food and drink is an important part of Portland. Freshness and farm to table is important here. This includes its beer, wine and spirits.According to Portlandbeer.org 66 micro-breweries and brew pubs are in the city.If you are into beer or curious about the different styles you can order a “flight” at any brewery.
Flights are tastings of five or six different beers served usually in 3 ounce glasses. During our visit and purely for research for this story we tasted nearly a dozen of the 143 styles of beer made in the area.Everything we tasted had good body and was full of flavor.
Oregon is a serious wine producer and Portland has many good vineyards one to two hours away making them a good third day destination.The most popular red wine produced is the Pinot Noir while the Pinot Gris seems to be the white wine of choice.
If you decide to tour vineyards a popular web site to visit is www.willamettewines.com/wineries. Here you can click around to see which varietals are produced at which vineyard. For a wine experience without the drive out of the city the PDX Urban Wineries offers their PDX Passport for $20.
This lets you sample wines from seven urban wineries (pdxwinetour.com). We visited the Southeast Wine Collective (sewinecollective.com) to taste the products of several micro wine producers that share the equipment on premises.
These urban producers all bring in their grapes to be made on premises in small lots.Here we sampled several styles from not just in house producers but also ones from the wine region nearby.We recommend coming here before 6PM when they have their happy hour prices. We also recommend trying the wines with the locally sourced meat and cheese board.
Portlanders also love their small distillers for strong spirits and to accommodate their taste they have Distillery Row (www.distilleryrowpdx.com).This group sells a card for $20 that allows you to taste from about a dozen places around the city.We visited the House Spirits Distillery and sampled in thimble size shot glasses their micro batched single malt whisky, gin, vodka and Krogstad Aquavit.
Portland takes its food both seriously and fun.Places we enjoyed most included the high end restaurant named Jake’s downtown for the freshest seafood and creative cocktails.We also loved the food carts because of the diversity of the foods offered in a small area.
One place we visited called Cartlandia (www.cartlandia.com) had over two dozen food trucks or carts producing over a dozen styles of food. Here you can order your meal and have it delivered to the bar that is attached to the property and enjoy a local brew or glass of wine with it.
For a very local and fun calorie worthy snack visit Voodoo Donuts. At Voodoo Donuts you will find some unusual creations that may include a Fruit Loops topping or a very large crème filled style named after certain body parts.For a happy hour with a view go to the Portland City Grill 30 floors up. On a clear day see all of the city, suburbs and Mt. Hood in the distance.We found their food specials as good as the view.
Road Trip to the Scenic Coast
After three days in the Portland area we did a road trip to visit the rugged and scenic Oregon Coast.Our highlights on the coast included easy hiking in the virgin rainforest and beach paths of Cape Pretoria, checking out Sea Lions Cave (www.sealioncaves.com) via an elevator through the rocky cliff near Florence and driving the Three Capes Loop from Pacific City.
Driving any part of the coast should not be missed.While on the coast we enjoyed dining on just off the boat fish and chips in Yachats that included a trio of tuna, salmon and ling cod.Our favorite restaurant in Newport City was Local Oceans where they walk the seafood across the street from their boats.
After lunch we went down to the piers to see the 50 or so sea lions jousting and barking for position on the floating docks up close.
For a quiet couple of nights on the coast we recommend Pacific City because it is not on Highway 101.The Cottages of Cape Kiwanda (www.kiwandacottages.com) is the best place to stay because their luxury condo units are just above the beach and their hotel rooms are across the street from the beach.
Here each night we watched a beautiful Pacific sunset in the background with the 327 foot Haystack Rock in the foreground just three quarters mile out in the ocean. (This is the fourth tallest monolith in the world making an impressive foreground to a golden orange sunset).
From our condo in the morning we watched the surfers as well as the fishing dories getting launched into the surf.Pacific City also has a beautiful and uncrowded beach to stroll as well as a 230 foot sand dune and cape to climb around.
One Beautiful Lake in a Crater
To finish our week we drove inland and spent a night at the rustic lodge at Crater Lake National Park (www.nps.gov/crla).This fifth U.S. National Park is a must see when in Oregon.Crater Lake is an ancient volcano that blew its top 7700 years ago.With its bottom sealed after the blast, water from the massive amounts of snow melt filled the void.The lake which is circular in shape has an average diameter of over five miles.
It deepest spot at 1943 feet makes it the deepest and clearest lake in the country.The views looking down and out from all sides of the rim are inspiring.One of the appealing parts of the scenery is the mini dome that rises from the lake at one side.
Getting to Portland is easy with most airlines serving it. For information on the city, state and events go to www.oregoncvb.com.
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Tab Hauser is from Long Island’s North Shore. When not at home he is embracing his passions by combining travel, photography and writing. Tab is a member of the Explorers Club and has been to the seven continents and over 50 countries