Renowned for its parks and gardens, bridges and bike paths, microbreweries and coffeehouses, lively restaurant scene, hipster culture and crunchy behaviour (the liberal and environmentally-friendly mindset depicted on the cult TV hit Portlandia), Portland has always been the picture of West Coast cool.
Nestled at the top of the Willamette Valley, Oregon’s famed Pinot-producing wine region, the city is a magnet for creative, outdoorsy types with a serious obsession with food, beer and wine. Now, thanks to a growing reputation for liveability, coupled with an injection of new tech industry jobs in what is referred to as Silicon Forest, the City of Roses is in full bloom. But it hasn’t lost its edge.
So, grab a java and head out, rain or shine, to see what’s hot in this perpetually cool town.
On tap at Wayfinder Beer. Wayfinder Beer
Portland is a beer lover’s paradise. Known for its microbrew culture and dynamic craft beer scene, this pioneer of the craft beer movement currently sports 76 (and counting) breweries – more than any other city on earth.
There’s always something new on tap in ‘Beervana.’ Bustling brewpubs, beer tours and beer-themed events run year long. Brew masters concoct innovative lager and ales at craft breweries around the city. Knock one back in the Central Eastside at Wayfinder Beer, named one of RateBeers’ best new brewers in the world in 2018. There are nearly a dozen house-made brews and a constantly-changing feature list on tap at this renovated, century-old, brick-and-wood warehouse in the trendy industrial district. Grab a pint to quaff in the 110-seat tap hall or by the outdoor fire pit on the massive 2,000-square-foot deck.
Also located in the Central Eastside is the stylish bistro Canard. This tiny slip of a restaurant is the little sister of James Beard Award-winning chef Gabriel Rucker’s famed Le Pigeon, which sits next door, and its imaginative spin on traditional French cuisine comes from the same creative team.
Foie gras dumplings at Canard. Canard
The popular eatery with all-day service (cozy café by day, wine resto by night), was voted Portland’s Restaurant of the Year in 2018 by the Oregonian and is hailed as having one of the best brunches in town – not bad for a town much obsessed with food – and it’s not hard to see why.
The open kitchen in churning out inventive dishes such as the legendary Duck Stack, a pile of golden pancakes smothered in duck fat gravy topped with a duck egg and seared foie gras; White Castle-inspired Steam Burger sliders; foie gras dumplings; and French toast soaked overnight in soft-serve ice cream. Divine. Champagne cocktails, Gin Rickeys and martinis served with a freshly-shucked oyster on the side, round out the menu. Open morning until midnight, seven days a week at East Burnside and NE 7th.
Portland is renowned for its bicycles and doughnuts so what better way to explore the city than on a ‘Donuts of Portland’ bike tour.
Make a pitstop at four of the city’s famous (doughnut) holes-in-the-wall as you pedal your way around Old Town, Chinatown, the Pearl District and Park Blocks on this two-and-a-half-hour, six-kilometer (four-mile) tour.
A cyclist pedals along the Willamette River. Travel Portland
The route starts at NOLA in The Pearl for one of their chocolately La’ssants, then goes on to Blue Star for a French brioche-based doughnut, followed by Coco for a doughnut and coffee (this local favourite roasts their own), and ends at Voodoo Doughnuts, where people famously line up often for an hour (you skip it with the tour) for their sought-after bacon maple bar. You’ll be glad you’re pedalling to counteract all the extra calories.
Delicious doughnuts line the case at Blue Star. Travel Portland
For a real sense of zen, stroll the flagstone paths around the tranquil oasis of the Portland Japanese Gardens.
High on the West Hills of Washington Park overlooking the city, the peaceful gardens afford a commanding view of Portland itself and, on a clear day, all the way across to Mt. Hood.
The perfectly raked flat garden and pavilion seen from beneath the weeping cherry at the Portland Japanese Gardens. Jonathan Ley
Considered one of the most authentic Japanese Gardens outside Japan, the 12-acre site offers eight different garden styles by famed Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, all beautifully manicured and laid out between streams, koi ponds and an authentic Tea House. Even in the drizzly Portland rain this is a lovely urban sanctuary. After your visit, stop by the Umami Café for a traditional Japanese tea ceremony.
No trip to Portland would be complete without a visit to Powell’s Books, the world’s largest new and used independent book store. Taking up an entire city block this behemoth of books is still the best way for book lovers to while away an afternoon in the City of Roses.
Portland’s renown ‘City of Books.’ Travel Portland
In the Pearl District, Oblation Papers and Press is a stationery store carrying high-quality handcrafted papers, fountain pens, vintage typewriters and custom stationery printed in-house on century-old letterpresses. The boutique stationers use traditional techniques and an urban paper mill to produce handmade paper sheets using remnants recycled from the garment industry.
The writer travelled as a guest of the Hyatt Regency and Tourism Portland. No one from either organization reviewed or approved this article prior to publication.
If you go
Skip the five-and-a-half-hour drive and fly into the Portland airport in just one hour and 15 minutes. Air Canada offers four daily non-stop flights from Vancouver.
Two of Portland’s newest hotel offerings come from Hyatt. The new Hyatt Regency Convention Centre opened at the end of 2019. The 600-room property is centrally-located in the Lloyd District across the Willamette River from downtown, steps from the Oregon Convention Centre and Moda Centre, and near the cultural hubs of the East and Westside neighbourhoods. The rooms, including 16 suites, are spacious and modern, featuring huge picture windows with views of the city, river or mountains.
Right outside the lobby door is a MAX Light Rail stop which links directly to the airport in one direction and is two stops to downtown in the other, making this a convenient location for exploring the city from the other side of the river.
Downtown, the new boutique Hyatt Centric is scheduled to open in spring 2020.