As born and raised New Englanders, my roommates and I road-tripped the West Coast to experience life on the other side of the country. For us, Portland, Oregon was the Best of the West with its edgy (and cheap!) food and drink scene, progressive artsy atmosphere, friendly locals and undeniable weirdness. The city is compact, historic, easy-to-get around, cheap and endlessly entertaining. Make sure you don’t miss these five essential experiences for a perfect girlfriend getaway in Portland Oregon:
1. Portland Oregon is for Nature Lovers
It’s not hard to see why Portlanders have earned a tree-hugger reputation in this city surrounded by natural beauty. View the snow-capped summit of Mount Hood, bridge-hop over the Willamette River, hike through thistle and stop to smell the roses in city’s gardens. Explore Forest Park, the United States’ largest urban forest with over 80 miles of trails. While in the City of Roses, visit the oldest official, public rose garden in the United States. Set up to preserve flower species during World War I bombings, this is a free attraction. If roses are out of season, sip tea by the Lan Su Chinese Garden, which showcases hunks of wood and hulking rocks brought from China.
2. Portland: Home of Yummy Ice Cream and the World’s Best Street Food
If you and your girlfriends would prefer to connect to nature through food, try Salt & Straw “farm-to-cone” ice cream. The ice cream is handmade in small batches with ingredients from local, family-owned farms. Chose from flavors such as Strawberry Honey Balsamic Vinegar with cracked black pepper, Blood Orange Chocolate Sorbet and Freckled Woodblock Chocolate.
When it comes to a real meal, you don’t have to go far or pay a lot to get an innovative and exotic lunch. Portland has earned the accolade “best street food in the world” with over 700 food carts. The trend began so workers could get cheap eats to go but now carts serve gourmet meals concocted by the city’s most inventive chefs. Seek out carts in pods around town to try gourmet grilled cheese, southern soul food, farm-to-table Italian or made-to-order Mexican flatbreads.
3. Funky Pubs, Bike-Up Bars and Beer Bus Tours
Reach Beervana at the beer capital of the world, where you can find 55 breweries within the city. What began as a refreshing beverage for miners and lumberjacks, beer has become an institution in the city. Chose from a vast array of funky pubs, serving up unique brews for less than $4 a pint. Sign up for a laid-back beer bus tours, pub hops or even cycle to a bike-up bars, such as at Hopworks Urban Brewery. It’s hard to beat an organic beer after pedaling around the wide-bike lanes of America’s Best Bike City.
4. Art, Crafts and Outdoor Markets in Portland Oregon
Art is everywhere you look in Portland, in both big downtown art venues as well as funky out-of-the-way, alternative spaces. Rock out to alternative bands, check out European and contemporary art at the Portland Art Museum or watch a play at the intimate Newmark Theatre. For local crafts and one-of-a-kind gifts, check out the Portland Saturday Market, the largest continuously operating American outdoor market. Every Saturday and Sunday from March to January, find 300 vendors selling jewelry, clothing, artisan food items and art, made from every material imaginable. In addition to dozens of craft stalls, you’ll find affordable ethnic food and free music and entertainment.
5. Portland Weird
To experience the quintessential kookiness of Portland, stop by Voodoo Donuts. This neon-colored, 24-hour establishment dishes out over 100 varieties of donuts, which are topped with anything from Cocoa puffs to bacon to bubble gum. Try the namesake donut, shaped like a voodoo doll which oozes blood red jelly or giggle with your girls over Cock-N-Balls, the penis-shaped concoction filled with Bavarian cream and topped with chocolate frosting. Around the city, unusual encounters are common. Find people LARPing (Live Action Role-Play) with medieval swords, unicycling while bagpiping around the farmer’s market or yarn-bombing telephone poles.
Portland is a perfect location for your girl’s getaway, especially if you’re looking for something affordable and different. You’ll find Portlanders to be an easygoing bunch, eager to offer a hearty hello or share their terrific restaurants with you. You’ll leave the city well fed, with a smile on your face, a silly story to share and money left in your pocket.
Katie Foote is a doctoral student who travels the world any chance she can get. Physics trips to India, Taiwan, Brazil and Singapore funded her first international travels and since then, she’s been hooked and found ways to travel the world on a graduate student budget (cheap!). She seeks out off-the-beaten-path destinations and tries to authentically experience new places through a local lens. When she’s not doing physics or globe-trotting, she likes to swim, do yoga, experiment with multicultural cuisine and activities where she currently resides in Raleigh, North Carolina. Follow her travels at Gypsy Soul Itchy Feete