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It's not very often that a city's airport doubles as a dining and entertainment attraction, but this is just one of the many ways Portland, Oregon continues to surprise. Seattle’s laid-back counterpart has blossomed into its own as an epicurean and cultural wonderland and a place where artisans and creators can easily set up shop and flourish. Now, thanks to updated flights from carriers like Jetblue, it’s never been easier to visit Portland for a long weekend or quick getaway.
Here, DEPARTURES plans the perfect day in this jewel of a city.
8 a.m: Wake up early and beat the lines at upscale-comfort Scandinavian brunch spot, Broder Cafe. With four locations throughout Portland, all equally popular, plan strategically to ensure first access to fresh stacks of Aebleskiver (Danish pancakes) served with lemon curd & lingonberry jam. Also recommended are the Lefse (Norwegian creps) and the Broder Bord—a smörgås of house-cured gravlax, soft cheeses, and beet pickled egg on royal rye and house crisped bread served with a side of granola parfait and Fika (coffee). Top off brunch with a Danish Mary: the house’s signature drink of vodka, aquavit (or dill aquavit) with house pickles and a celery salt rim.
9 a.m: Take advantage of your early bird status and swing by Powell’s City of Books, the world’s largest used and new bookstore. With over 3,500 sections, six rooms, and thousands of tomes, Powell’s regularly attracts some of the lit world’s biggest names for its frequent readings and events. Stop at nearby MadeHere PDX for wares and products from Portland’s best local, small batch, and indie makers.
10 a.m: The perfect weekend wouldn’t be complete without a trip to one of the city’s many outdoor markets. At the Portland Saturday Market, snag everything from one-of-a-kind pottery pieces and jewelry to beard oil and handmade wood inlay skateboards. For seasonal produce, visit the Beaverton Farmers Market for black currants and Rainier cherries, named after Washington’s Mount Rainier, or the Portland Farmers Market at Portland State University, the area’s largest farmer’s market, which in the summer boasts 140+ vendors and 20,000 visitors per week.
10:30 a.m: Rent a bike, Portland’s preferred method of travel, and visit the Portland Japanese Garden. Inside the Kengo Kuma designed Cultural Village, learn about traditional Japanese arts and culture, stop by one of the garden’s many mossy nooks or Koi-filled ponds, take in the Art in the Garden exhibition series, or sample traditional tea at the Umami Cafe. Then, follow your noses to the nearby International Rose Test Garden to experience over 10,000 rose bushes of 650 varieties (hence Portland’s nickname as the "City of Roses").
12 p.m.: Feeling peckish? Sidle up to one of the cities many “food cart pods”—specially designated enclaves where food vendors offer everything from authentic Thai and Lebanese fare to haute Korean comfort food. We recommend the pod on Alder, the city’s largest grouping and a quick walk from Powell’s.
12:30 p.m.: Work off all those carbs with a hike through Forest Park, one of the most expansive and ecologically diverse urban forests in the world. Designated a protected space in 1903 by John Charles Olmsted and his brother Frederick Law Olmsted, sons of the legendary designer of New York's Central Park, Forest Park contains several quaint hiking paths and is home to indigenous animals like the northern flying squirrel and the great horned owl.
2 p.m: Make your way back to historic downtown Portland’s newly renovated Heathman Hotel for James Beard award-winning Executive Chef Vitaly Paley’s popular Russian Tea service. Available only on weekends, the “star chef” and local foodie fixture cooks up a multi-tiered tasting menu of traditional Russian favorites like mushroom piroshki and blini, the recipes culled from Vitaly’s family cookbook, as well as vodka flights, teas from Steven Smith Teamaker and a luxe caviar selection. Tea is served inside a two-story "tea court" created in homage to the great social salons of Europe.
3 p.m: Cross the bridge to the East Bank for Jacobsen Salt Co’s Marketplace and Tasting Room, where you can sample Jalapeno-infused sea salt culled from the shores of the Pacific Northwest as well as local honey selections. Stay in this up-and-coming neighborhood to scout out one-of-a-kind creators and artisans, many of which ship globally but originated in Portland, including OlO perfumers and the Jasmine Pearl Tea Company (we recommend picking up some loose leaf souvenirs).
4 p.m.: If you prefer your tea with bubbles you’re in luck: Portland is experiencing a kombucha boom. The most popular by far is Brew Dr. Kombucha, made from Townshend’s Teas, so go straight to the source and visit Townshend’s Teahouse to sample a rotating selection of flavors, many of which are also available on tap. If coffee is more your speed, visit the original Stumptown Coffee on Division street.
5 p.m: No visit to Portland is complete without a trip outside the city center to explore the area’s wild natural surroundings. Since you’re pressed for time, grab a Lyft and head for The Grotto, a magnificent outdoor shrine featuring a life-size marble replica of Michelangelo’s Pietàrock ensconced in a cave carved into the base of a 110-foot cliff, set among ancient firs and redwoods.
7 p.m: As twilight sets in, grab a Lyft to town for dinner and drinks at the newly opened OK Omens. Making a name for itself with its natural wine selection (we recommend its crisp orange varietals), dine on locally-sourced delicacies like beignets filled with Tillamook cheddar or crab pasta with fish sauce bisque, lime, chives.
9 p.m: Catch a movie at Living Room Theaters, which offers new indie releases and a craft beer happy hour. Or, for live music, visit McMenamins Crystal Ballroom; originally built in 1914 as a cotillion hall, today the Ballroom’s Romanesque Revival architecture hosts everything from avant-garde electronica to black metal and folk performances. For high culture, visit Portland’5 Center for the Arts to experience the best in local and international opera, jazz, and dance.
11 p.m: Stop in for a nightcap at Multnomah Whiskey Library, which shelves both local and internationally recognized spirits and is considered by Eater to be “of the best whiskey bars in the country.”
Where to Stay
For classic luxury and a taste of Portland's rich past, stay at The Heathman in the heart of Historic Portland. The hotel's restaurant, Headwaters, boasts some of the freshest seafood in the city and a full selection of regional oysters. Later, work off dinner on one of the hotel's many Peloton bikes (sister hotel the Sentinel also offers a full well and fit menu). If you're searching for the chic and impossibly hip, bed down at the Ace Hotel Portland or check-in next month to The Hoxton Portland, the newest offering from the British cool-kid favorite.