First things first: Portland isn't nearly as granola as I thought it might be.
Before visiting the Western city for the first time, I was told/warned ( by various individuals ) that Portland is, among other things, a giant version of the Chicago neighborhood Logan Squarefull of hipsters. However, what I discovered was that Portland is full of different neighborhoods and attractions. ( The population downtown, where I stayed, was pretty homogeneous ( in a non-hipster way )but was also uniformly nice and patient. ) Also, as an aside, the state does not have sales taxso shopping is a more enjoyable endeavor.
Welcome to the Duniway
I was fortunate enough to stay at The Duniway Portland, A Hilton Hotel ( 545 SW Taylor; www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/oregon/the-duniway-portland-a-hilton-hotel-PDXTPHH/index.html ), a stately boutique hotel filled with some of the friendliest staffers I've encountered ( and most of them didn't know I was there, in part, to write about my lodgings ).
My room was quite spacious, and amenities included a pretty impressive pool/fitness room on the 11th floorand they lead to an 11th-floor area called Abigail's Hideaway, a relaxing outdoor space that's perfect for congregating with friends, family or a mysterious stranger ( depending on how much privacy you desire ).
Also at the Duniway is the wonderful Jackrabbit restaurant. Helmed by chefs Chris Cosentino and Chris DiMinno, the restaurant features an extensive raw bar featuring fresh Pacific Northwest selections, an in-house cured meat program, indulgent signature feasts for sharing family-style, and creative seasonal vegetable-focused dishes. The bar incorporates Portland's world-famous craft-beer program. ( I tried Dirty Pretty beer, which was certainly tasty. ) And, thankfully, hotel guests can take selections to their rooms.
If that's not enough, the pet-friendly hotel has other features ranging from a business center to laundry/valet service to in-room massage.
Part of the reason Portland is such a thoroughly enjoyable city ( and one I could almost see myself moving to in a couple years ) is that there's such a wide variety of attractions.
The Portland Japanese Garden ( 611 SW Kingston Ave.; japanesegarden.org ) was unforgettably beautifuleven if the flowers were not in full bloom. And even though dozens of people were walking around simultaneously, the flora and decor established a serenity that I honestly found captivating. This attraction is highly recommended. ( The Lan Su Chinese Garden merits mentioning as well. )
The family-friendly OMSI/The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry ( 1945 SE Water Ave.; omsi.edu ) particularly intrigued me, having been an undergraduate science major. However, even if your background isn't steeped in physics or biochemistry, you'll find this place enjoyable, thanks to interactive exhibits as well as showings such as "The Science Behind Pixar." Also, I implore you to go on a tour of the decommissioned Blueback submarine, which is moored on the Willamette River ( and you can even reserve a night on the ship ).
The Portland Art Museum ( 1219 SW Park Ave.; PortlandArtMuseum.org ) is an absorbing venue that includes exhibitions such as "Sun, Shadows, Stone: The Photography of Terry Toedtemeier," which features the work of a self-taught photographer who studied geology in college; and "Dramatic Impressions: Japanese Actor Prints."
Powell's City of Books ( 1005 W. Burnside St.; www.powells.com/ ) Is aptly named, as the huge bookstore covers an entire block. I could've spent an entire day here, with its huge selections of books, nooks and activities. It also resonated with me that there was a large display of works by trans+ writers on a week when the city council officially recognized the Transgender Day of Visibility. ( By the way, Powell's actually originated in Chicago, and Portland's store is near Harvey Milk Street. )
Mill Ends Park ( 56 SW Taylor St. ) is unlike any other park you'll ever encountermainly because of its size. Deemed the world's smallest city park in 1971 by the Guinness Book of World Records, the park is only two feet wide, and the circular area is in the middle of Naito Parkway.
Also, feel free to explore The Oregon Historical Society ( 1200 SW Park Ave.; ohs.org ), which is dedicated to preserving the state's legacy. In addition to an impressive research library, there are talks ( with upcoming events including "Oregon's Enigmatic Black History" ), and ongoing exhibits like "Barley, Barrels, Bottles, and Brews: 200 Years of Oregon Beer" ( no samples, though ) and "Experience Oregon." ( Also, be sure to look at the online exhibit "Black Athletes Disrupting White Supremacy in Oregon." )
Other attractions include the many bridges servicing Portlandincluding Tilikum Crossing, a majestic bridge that only allows public-transportation vehicles as well as bicycles, pedestrians and emergency vehicles. ( No private vehicles are allowed. ) Also, there are venues like the Oregon Zoo, The Grotto, the Pittock Mansion. and the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Educationas well as the stately Mount Hood, which is perfect for outdoorsy types who enjoy everything from hiking to camping to viewing wildlife.
Food, glorious food
Chicago is known, in part, for its culinary scenebut Portland certainly has some noteworthy restaurants of its own.
For example, there's West End spot Bistro Agnes ( 527 SW 12th Ave.; www.bistroagnes.com/ ) is a charming French spot with dishes such as duck fennel sausage with duck egg; cassoulet; truffled vegetable pithivier; and French fries with catsup and anchovy mayo.
I was also ensnared by Thai restaurant Hat Yai ( 1605 NE Killingsworth St.; hatyaipdx.com/ ). I've always said that some casual spots offer the best dishesand Hat Yai supports that theory. Muu hong ( jasmine rice with braised pork belly and shoulder, with fried egg ) is divine comfort food, but Hat Yai is also known for its fried chicken as well as its curry and roti ( Thai pan-fried bread ) sets. And next door is Seastar Bakery ( 1603 NE Killingsworth St.; seastarbakery.com/index.html ), which offers innovative items like apricot-cardamom tarts and rosemary chocolate-chip cookies. ( Also, it's housed in the same spot as Handsome Pizza, which offers pies in 12- and 18-inch versions. )
And please pay attention to Portland's food-truck scene, which is the most impressive I've seen in any city. Fried Egg, I'm in Love ( www.friedegglove.com/ ) has pun-worthy selections like the Yolko Ono and Smells Like Protein Spiritand the sandwiches are absolutely delicious.
Other spots worth visiting are the retro-candy spot Rocket Fizz, the James Beard Award-winning Beast, the surprising Matt's BBQ, the steakhouse Ox and vegan spot The Sudra.
Many thanks go to Travel Portland for arranging this trip. This writer definitely plans on returning.