From scenic day trips, to breweries and wineries galore, to cycling and hiking, it would be impossible to experience all that Portland has to offer in a single day — but you can certainly try. Make a mad dash for all of these places, or space them out over a two- or three-day itinerary:
Start your day with brunch at Tasty n Alder, open daily from 9 a.m., although you may want to get their earlier, especially on weekends. The menu is American with global touches, inspired by Chef John Gorham’s food memories and travels. The decor is modern industrial, with bare bulbs and exposed wood beams, and large windows let in lots of natural light. The food is served family-style, with each dish brought out at different times to encourage sharing. Drinks like a “Brandy Alexander” (brandy creme de cocoa and chocolate bitters) compliment breakfast nicely. Savor entrees like biscuits with venison and pork sauce; a truffle omelette with beef bacon; and Korean fried chicken with short grain rice. The unobstructed views of the Gothic-style First Presbyterian Church add to the atmosphere.
Portland is known from its enthusiastic biking culture. In fact, according to the Portland Bureau of Transportation six percent of residents commute by bike (more than any other large American city) and the city features 319 miles of bike lanes. With that in mind, what better way to work off those Wagyu fat-soaked fries from brunch than with an active cultural experience? Try Cycle Portland Bike Tours. They offer an array of biking excursions from culinary tours to rides that showcase the city’s innovative cycling infrastructure itself. If you’d rather bike on your own, they also rent bicycles ($5 per hour; $20 per day). We recommend the 11-mile “Waterfront Loop” for something scenic and flat that’s almost entirely on a bike path. Along the way, take in views of the Willamette River as well as green spaces like the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge, Sellwood Park, and Willamette Park. If you’re looking for a challenge, opt for the “Short, Steep, and Sweet Trail” that encompasses 15 very hilly miles through peaceful neighborhoods. Your hard work is rewarded with beautiful views of the Tualatin Valley and the surrounding peaks. Tip: Get maps of some of Portland’s most popular bike rides, courtesy of the Portland city government.
Portland has more than 500 food trucks, with a high concentration of them gathering in Portland’s West End neighborhood around 10th St. and Adler. These mobile restaurants offer dishes from Italy, Israel, Thailand, Georgia, Korea, India, Oregon, and beyond. They have offerings for both carnivores and vegetarians, and you can have a satisfying lunch for about $8. This is also the perfect lunch stop for those short on time.
Portland is home to more breweries than any other city in the world. There 54 now, and that number is expected to jump to 60 by the end of 2014. For a quirky excursion, opt for a Brewvana Beer Tour, where a knowledgeable (and beer-obsessed) guide will escort you around the city in a mural-painted bus. You’ll visit three or four breweries and enjoy samples and snacks at each. You’ll also receive a tasting journal, a Brewvana pilsner glass, and a fashionable (and delicious) pretzel necklace. The experience adds energy and dimension to a basic brewery tour, and lets you make new friends. Depending on the day, tours start between noon and 6 p.m., and private groups can choose their specific start time. Beer-themed walking tours are also available.
If you don’t take a tour, make sure to visit Hopworks Urban Brewery, a carbon neutral brewery, and the only certified organic brewery in Portland. Choose from a “Raspberry Belgian Triple” that’s barrel-aged with local fruits; a “Totally Radler” featuring a unique mix of 60 percent lager and 40 percent lemonade; and an “Organic Surival 7-Grain Stout” made with seven different ancient grains like amaranth, quinoa and kamut. If you’re hungry, head to their bar, which is adorned with colorful bike frames, and have a pint and a farm-to-fork meal.
If you’re short on time, there are natural attractions within Portland where you can immerse yourself in the beautiful outdoors. One recommendation is Forest Park. Encompassing 5,171 acres (it’s the country’s largest urban park), you’ll feel like you’ve completely left the city, despite being only 10 minutes by car from downtown Portland. You can hike, cycle, and enjoy a variety of trails, all while trying to spot the more than 112 bird species. Check the Forest Park Conservancy calendar for guided trekking events.
In the evening, further explore Portland’s culinary scene through some of the city’s most interesting establishments. Ox is possibly Portland’s best restaurant. Owned and operated by husband and wife team Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quinonez, the menu focuses on Argentinian cuisine with French, Italian, and Spanish influences. The menu changes seasonally, and when possible ingredients are sourced locally — although you’ll also find a grass-fed Uruguayan beef ribeye, Hawaiian prawns, and wild Alaskan halibut on the menu. Their spiced beef empanadas with green olive and raisin, and the hearty Argentinian asado are must-orders, as are the inspired cocktails. Some recommendations include the “Things Done Changed” featuring pisco, smoked lemon, jalapeno, and egg white, and a “Hand of Fate” made with rye whiskey, Fernet Branca, dry curaco and mole bitters.
If you still have energy, head to Multnomah Whiskey Library, which showcases more than 1,700 bottles of spirits, all of which glow brightly down from five levels of shelving. Like a library, the offerings represent an array of styles and flavors. Decorated with antiques, leather couches, a fireplace, and a portrait exhibit dedicated to important people in the whiskey industry, this is one of the city’s classiest venues. Make sure to order a cocktail on the rocks; your mixologist will prepare it tableside.