Thanks everyone for partnering with Creatively Clo on this Best of Portland roundup!
Portland is located just 3 hours South of Seattle, and is a pretty unique town. Portland is the largest city in Oregon and has an average of 639,863 residents and over 9 million visitors annually. It has the second largest city population in the Pacific Northwest, with Seattle just slightly above with an average of 668,342 residents and Vancouver, BC, right below at 631,486 residents. With a few hours drive or plane ride from many top cities, Portland is the ideal spot for visitors both young and old.
Last week, we were fortunate to spend President’s Day weekend in this town that stands true to its motto, “Keep Portland Weird.” We hit many top destinations and some a little more quirky than others and figured we’d create a little rundown on a few of our favorites.
Our take on the Best of Portland
Things to chow down on
A simple, but unique pub with pizza, salads, beer and Jones soda that has a few Portland locations, and their newest in Seattle. Sizzle Pie is an independent pizzeria that originally opened its flagship location in Portland several years ago. It is known for its late-night hours and live music. The downtown Portland location has a mini arcade where diners can enjoy pizza with a side of Pac Man. Everything is prepared with locally sourced ingredients.
If you want to try something different from the usual greasy pizza realm, head down to Virtuous Pie for a vegan only pizzeria. From vegan ice cream to vegan cheese and gluten free crust, this pizza place has any vegan covered. All ingredients are plant-based, including their exclusive nut cheeses, dough and creamy ice cream. They work with local growers and suppliers to make sure you are getting the freshest ingredients. They also have salads, local craft beers, ciders, wine, cocktails and kombucha.
Voodoo Doughnut is known to be famous for their unusual take on doughnuts (Homer Simpson would be proud). This establishment that was originally opened in downtown Portland in 2003, has been both a local and tourist favorite. They take a unique twist by adding oreo crumbles, cap’n crunch cereal and other yummy salty-sweets like bacon on their maple bar. It’s definitely got a handle on things, as its been featured on several tv shows, hundreds of publications and always seems to have a constant line, especially at the downtown Portland location. There is currently a handful of locations, in Portland, Eugene, Denver, Universal CityWalk in Hollywood and lastly in Austin. They are planning on opening a new location at the Universal CityWalk in Orlando this spring.
Nothing gets better than hitting the bar after a long day of sightseeing, but hitting that local cider joint really hits the spot. Portland Cider has two locations, one in Portland and the other in Clackamas. They have all of their seasonal and regular cider on tap and have an outstanding selection. They also have other local ciders for those who want to mix it up. I appreciate companies who go out of their way to support not only their competitors, but other local organizations. Both locations offer a food menu, however, the Clackamas location does have a much more extensive menu.
Whether you’re a visitor or a local, Ernesto’s is a must! Owner, Chris Wegner is really sitting under a gold mine. This fine dining establishment has been around for over 30 years, and has many original furnishing and menu items from the famed Monte Carlo restaurant on Belmonte in Portland that opened in 1927. It was said to be one of the first places to offer pizza in Portland. All food items are prepared with fresh local ingredients, as well as seasonal specials and scratch made soup. They also continue to offer the salad bar, that was said to be a customer favorite at the Monte Carlo. From salad, to wine, to desert, everything served was exceptional. Ernesto’s also offers many large private areas for parties that can be rented out. The only down fall of this restaurant, is there isn’t one closer to home.
Things to see and do
Come sun, rain, wind or snow, the Oregon Zoo is a must-see when stopping by Portland, especially if you got the family. From bats to elephants, this zoo has a wide selection of animals to keep your day occupied. This 52 acre zoo is one of the oldest zoos west of the Mississippi. It was founded in 1888, and all began with two bears. Now it is home to nearly 2,000 animals, including 19 endangers species. There is a train that takes visitors around the park to see different types of animals and get an exclusive view that those on foot can’t see. The zoo sits inside Portland’s Washington Park, which is home to the International Rose Test Garden, Children’s Museum, Hoyt Arboretum and Japanese Garden.
The Portland Art Museum was founded in 1892, making it the oldest art museum on the West Coast and the seventh oldest in the US. This museum has many new and rotating exhibits including the current Animating Life exhibit, which features local animation studio LAIKA. LAIKA is an Oregon based studio that has produced many family favorites including Coraline, The Boxtrolls and many more. This exhibit which opened in October 2017, runs through May 20, 2018, and features many original set pieces that were used in the filming. This exhibit is pretty fascinating, especially for those who are familiar with the works from LAIKA.
This mansion build in 1914, was home to London-born Oregonian publisher Henry Pittock and his family. It’s a French renaissance-style home in the West Hills of Portland. In 1964, the house was saved from demolition and purchased by the City of Portland. This home now offers self-guided and guided tours and features many original artifacts from the family. Other parts were made up to resemble what the home looked like in the early 1900s. If you’re into history and vintage artifacts, you’ll enjoy stopping by this beautiful piece of property. For the more adventurous types, there is a moderate 5 mile hike through the forest that can be accessed from the mansion.
A fun, energetic nickel arcade and $3.50 movie theater is a fun spot to take the kids or kids at heart. They have a few locations around Oregon and offers current movies for just a few bucks, which beats many theater prices today. Wunderland is a family owned business that offers over 100 arcade games at nickel prices. Imagine going back 20 years or so. There is also a small ticket exchange for prizes. A few locations now offer laser tag, which is available for kids 7 and up. It’s a fun spot to either kill some time or relax from the cold.
Grab your friend or partner and head on down to this little art and wine studio in downtown Portland. Bottle & Bottega offers painting classes for singles, couples or groups and even private parties. They offer wine and drinks to purchase to get your creative juices following. For an affordable flat fee you get a detailed painting class, canvas and paint. It’s definitely a fun, laid-back spot for anyone who wants to get creative and make a masterpiece. These workers really give you a fun time, while reminding you that every piece of art is different and no one is perfect. Bring home a piece of art to hang on your wall or give as a gift, and have fun doing it.
This jazz festival is an annual multi-venue event that offers free and paid concerts featuring local and out of town artists. Usually in the month of February, the PDX Jazz, holds the festival with close to 100 events over 11 days, many being free to the public. PDX Jazz is a non-profit organization that strives to keep the art of jazz alive and kicking. In addition to the annual jazz festival, this organization also offers a variety of year-round performances, and educational, outreach programs.
I have no doubt you’ve been to Powell’s city of books during your visit to Portland, but if you haven’t you’re in for a treat! Powell’s is a multi-story book store that has everything you could want and more. It’s so big, they offer you a map to find your way.
Places to stay
When it comes to places to stay you either have a favorite spot or check out lodging in the area. We have a few spots we highly recommend.
Airbnb has become a very popular site for travelers. It makes it super convenient to find your home away from home, at reasonable prices. Whether you’re looking for a room in a home, or your own unit, it got you covered.
Deborah of Multnomah Village in South Portland offers a cozy room in her home for passer-by visitors. You have a private bath, private room with a TV and is located right off of Capitol Hwy where you have access to many cute shops and eateries in the village.
If you’re looking for something a bit more private, Steve has a nice studio unit in the Alberta arts district in North Portland that offers everything you could need from a full size bathroom, small kitchen area, full size fridge, couch, and even a few books and a record player. Alberta is a great walkable community with a shops within a few minutes walk.
For those who aren’t into Airbnb or prefer the more hotel style feel we have two recommendations for you.
McMennamins has several locations around Portland that feature a fun but quirky environment. The Kennedy School in North Portland offers an offbeat hotel in a restored elementary school with an outdoor pool, shared bathroom, a movie theater and multiple bars. It’s definitely a fun spot to check out even if you aren’t staying with them.
The Ace Hotel is located smack-dab in downtown Portland and is a hip accommodation in a landmark hotel with a popular coffee shop and loaner bike shop. They’re only a block from Powell’s Books and right on the train and bus lines. This vintage style hotel offers many different options from shared rooms to private deluxe suites. There is also a pretty nifty old school photo booth in the lobby that makes for some cute photos.
We always enjoy our travels to Portland and look forward to our next trip as we head back to Portland in April for the Wizard World Comic Com!