A Long Weekend in Portland, Oregon
Last week, I wrote about how we got our trip to Portland, Oregon, for (mostly) free. This week, it's all about what we did. If you’re planning a long weekend to the Portland area or just thinking about it, here are some awesome ideas for where to go and what to do!
Day 1: Arrival
Late start: Our original nonstop flight from Newark, New Jersey to Portland, Oregon was scheduled to leave at 6:50 am, arriving at 10:05 am. Prior to our departure day, we received notice that our flight had been changed to an 8:45 am departure, which meant that we wouldn’t get into Portland until noon. Okay, so it cut into our weekend a bit, but not a big deal.
But then, on departure day, our flight was further delayed nearly two hours. After we got on the plane, shut the door and pulled off the gate giving us an “on time” departure, the captain announced that we had to check out an “engine issue”. Then, we had to wait to be fueled. Then, we waited to take off for about an hour. We took off around 10:30 am and didn’t land in Portland until around 2:00 pm. It really put a dent our day, but what can ya’ do?
By the time we got our bags, picked up our car, and made our way to our hotel, the Embassy Suites Downtown, it was nearly 3:30 pm, and we were starving! So off to the food hall at Pine Street Market we went, located at 2nd and Pine, only a couple blocks from our hotel.
Pine Street Market has gone through many changes over the years. Originally, it was a horse-drawn carriage storage facility. Eventually, the building became storage and retail space for a logging contractor. After that, it was a restaurant, then a nightclub. In May 2016, it opened as the food hall it is today.
Pine Street Market offered a lot of choices – Korean BBQ, chicken, ice cream, but the pizza smelled awesome and made our stomachs growl more. So pizza it was, from Checkerboard Pizza!
After lunch we walked a few stalls down to Wizbang Bar for ice cream. It’s associated with Salt & Straw, which has shops in Portland, Los Angeles and San Francisco. I don’t even recall what we had, but it was ice cream, so does it even matter? It was delicious!
After lunch, we strolled around the damp downtown to get the lay of the land.
Note: Portland has its own quirky personality that it totally embraces. If you’ve ever seen the television series, Portlandia – the show really captures the offbeat Portland vibe. Still, there were some parts that were surprising…
...Like, I was surprised at the number of transients in downtown Portland. Some asked for money, but most didn’t really bother anyone. I did notice that some restaurant owners or managers would ask them not to approach patrons entering or leaving their restaurants.
Dinner – Portland City Grill. Located on the 30th floor of a downtown building, it had spectacular views! The food was great, too, but there was just too much of it. Wh-what? Yeah really. We started with Kung Pao calamari, which could have been a meal in itself. My husband had a sirloin and I had gnocchi. Both outstanding, but we were “sick full” when we left. We passed on dessert in case you were wondering…
Day 2: Doughnuts,Wineries and the Beach
Hilariously, our hotel room conveniently overlooked Voodoo Doughnut. And what visit to Portland would be complete without a visit to the famous doughnut shop? So, it was helpful that we could peek out the window of our room and see if there was a line.
We didn’t get the crazy, fancy ones with gumdrops or peanut butter cups or purple glazed or whatever. I got a maple doughnut and hubby got a blueberry one. While they were delicious, they were, in the end, doughnuts. We checked that off the “to do” list and kept moving.
We drove out to the Willamette Valley to visit a winery or two on our way out to Cannon Beach.
Montinore: When we arrived at Montinore just as it opened, people were already making their way in. The tasting room was really lovely, but for 11 am, I couldn't believe how crowded it was. We each selected our tasting menu and began our morning with a lovely wine. While the wines were very nice, we were on to our next stop...
Dion Vineyard: Although we only visited two wineries, I favored Dion. It's family owned and they treated us like family on our visit. Beth, the winemaker's wife, came out to greet us and told us all about the vineyards and the family's history with the land. While Dion mostly supplies grapes to other wineries in Oregon, they also produce small quantities of wine for their own label, and that's what we tasted. I enjoyed all of the wines, particularly a chardonnay, but we decided not to bring any back to the east coast and risk breaking the bottles on the flight!
While chatting, Beth, asked us what we had planned for the day. We mentioned that we were heading out to Cannon Beach and we asked for recommendations about what we should do. She suggested a place to eat, called the Hardware Store and Public House. She said that it was a hardware with a café inside. We were in! Thanks Beth, for your awesome recommendations for Cannon Beach, and (unanticipated) complimentary wine tasting!
Cannon Beach: Was BE-A-U-TI- FUL! It’s the town where you see the picture of the giant rock at the edge of the beach? That’s Haystack Rock. The fantastic beach homes were decorated with overflowing flower boxes. And the sun was out. So it was a wonderful afternoon.
As we drove through Cannon Beach, we almost missed the Hardware Store since we were expecting a stand-alone building. Nope. It was just a store in a tiny, non-distinct, strip mall. We walked in and sure enough, it was a hardware store, with the door hinges and plastic beach buckets for sale mixed in with mannequins, a row of airplane seats (I swear!) and tables. There were people buying you know, hardware stuff, and people eating. My grilled cheese sammy was wonderful and my hubby’s buffalo chicken sammy was enormous (and delish, too!). It was one of our favorite meals.
Highway 101. Upon the recommendation of Beth at Dion Vineyard, we drove down
Highway 101 and soaked in the unbelievable cliff views of the ocean. Here’s just one of the many photos we took….
Rainy drive back to Portland: We paid for our day of “fun-having” with a totally stressful drive back to Portland. The weather was cold, rainy and foggy (surprise!) and the mountain road was winding and unlit except for road reflectors. Although the distance was only 70 miles, it took us nearly 2 hours to get back to Portland.
Dinner: We made it back to Portland, unscathed, but hungry (again). We opted for ramen noodles and dumplings at a place within a few blocks from our hotel. I had a vegetarian spicy peanut ramen and a side of dumplings. My husband had wings and dumplings. We both enjoyed the food, but the hubster probably should have ordered more to eat, since he was still hungry when we left.
Day 3: A Bit of a Hike
When we originally planned this trip, we intended to visit Multnomah Falls. Unfortunately, due to forest fires, not only were the Falls closed, but even the road and highway exits to the falls were closed. Instead we opted to go to the Lewis and Clark State Recreation Site to hike. It’s less than 30 minutes from Portland. After a wet hike (uh, it’s Portland), we drove into the City of Troutdale, the western gateway to the Historic Columbia River Highway, the Mount Hood Scenic Byway, and the Columbia River Gorge. We warmed up with a cappuccino at an adorable little coffee shop/gift store in the adorable city of about 15,000.
Heading back to Portland, we needed some lunch. We parked the car at the hotel’s garage and headed to a place that served Veracruzian Mexican food right around the corner on SW 4th Avenue called La Jarocha. We noticed that it was always packed, so we thought it had to be good. We entered and had a hard time deciding what to order. In the end, I ordered a huarache (know, like the sandals) it's masa (corn) dough with smashed pinto beans and all other kinds of goodies on it, like onions, salsa and queso fresco (a traditional Mexican fresh cheese). It was awesome! My husband had a chicken burrito. Both were fantastic. I couldn’t finish mine there was so much! For about $25, it was the perfect lunch.
Saturday Market: After lunch, we walked the Hawthorne and Burnside bridges, and ended up at the Portland Saturday Market. It’s allegedly the largest continuously operated outdoor market in the United States. Installed at Portland's North Waterfront Park and Ankeny Plaza , there were stalls selling everything from wood carvings, tie-dye clothes, jewelry, and other what not. There were food trucks with every kind of food imaginable – pizza, jerky, empanadas, whatever. There was live music under a tent set up with tables, so you could relax, listen to music and eat.
For dinner, we went to Mother’s Bistro. It was Saturday night and packed and I thought it took a really long to get our meals, but it was wall to wall people, so... Anyway, the food was fantastic! The chef even came out and talked to the tables – wow! I had the house with organic field greens, feta cheese, sunflower seeds, cranberries and red onions. Hubby had a sirloin, followed by the biggest piece of chocolate cake I’ve ever seen! It was so big even he, the chocolate cake king, couldn’t finish it... which certainly says something.
Day 4: EARLY Morning Departure
…Back to the east coast. Our flight left at 6:30 am - ugh. Not pretty. We got there a bit early so we had some breakfast and waited for our flight. We took off on time; landed on time; picked up our luggage (which was first off the carousel –that NEVER happens to me - and got to our car in short order.
What I Thought:
I really liked Portland and I would definitely go back to Oregon. Next time, I’d like to explore the mountains and the coast a bit more. Still, it was nice to get a taste of it to know that I want more!
The food: Was awesome! You could tell people really cared about the food, where it came from and how it was prepared. No wonder it’s a considered a great food and foodie town.
The wines: Were delicious! I always think of Oregon as Pinot Noir country, but there were great whites, too! And why not? The Willamette Valley has a cooler climate well suited to growing chardonnay grapes, as well as pinot noir!
The scenery: Was spectacular! Everything from the mountains to the beaches was so much more than I anticipated.
The people: Really laid back, friendly and nice! As someone from the east coast, it took a minute to get used to it.
Anything I didn’t care for? The rainy-ness of it all. Okay, not the whole time, but there was always a sense that it was about to rain or that it had just rained. Hello, Mother Nature? Yeah, listen, I’m gonna be on vacation in Portland. Can you not, like, do your Mother Nature thing while I’m out there? Yup, yup, sunny and 60 degrees would be perfect. Thanks…No wonder it’s so green.
Have you been to Oregon? What did you do? Tell me about it on Facebook on in Traveleidoscope's comment section!