Always a little late to the party, I felt like we were the last to visit Portland. Honestly, we had been putting it off, feeling like we’d get to it someday. Well, the time came last month, and what we found was a restaurant scene, amazing coffee shops, and incredible experiences.
Out of Portland was born, James Beard. The now foundation gives some of the highest accolades to the culinary world, like chefs and restaurants. As home to this, it’s no surprise that an incredible food and beverage scene has blossomed. Perhaps it is reason alone to visit, Portland has an endless list of restaurants, breweries, and other sweet eats to work through.
What makes this city unique is certainly the location. A region frequently abbreviated as PNW, Portland is nestled in the heart of the Pacific Northwest. What this means is that the city is almost entirely surrounded by nature and gives access to incredible outdoor destinations. I feel that most trips to Portland should include an extra night or two. Because if you’re headed all the way there, why not check out the hiking in Mt Hood or the scenic Cannon Beach area.
With a long list of things to do and only 20 minutes from its well-ran airport, Portland makes for an incredible weekend getaway. I’d even argue it’s one of the easiest weekend getaways in the U.S. we’ve done. A quick flight, an affordable Uber to the city, and walkable neighborhoods — what more can you ask for?
Ready to plan your Portland adventure? Here’s a look at my picks for a weekend away.
A Weekend Guide to Portland
Google Maps for All Places Mentioned
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Travel Logistics for Portland
Getting to Portland
It’s one of the major airport routes in the U.S., is into Portland International. Many airlines run flights from other major airports, with Southwest and Alaska Air being often the most affordable.
Best Time to Go
Portland can honestly be a year-round destination if you don’t mind a bit of rain and clouds. We went in mid-February and it was mild enough to walk around with a coat. The summer crowds are notorious, so I’d suggest April-May and August-October for the best weather.
Transportation in Portland
Getting into the city is quick and easy with Uber or even taking the MAX light rail. Within the city, the neighborhoods are spread apart. So you may need to Uber from one to another.
Currency & Money | $ USD
Credit cards are accepted everywhere. Some cash may be needed for tipping at hotels and taxis.
What to Know Before Visiting Portland
Reserve in Advance.
If there’s a restaurant you’re eyeing, I’d recommend booking one-two weeks in advance. There seems to be a select list on everyone’s trip so they will fill up. Dinners would be the highest priority for booking.
It is good to be mindful in neighborhoods at night when walking around like you would in any city.
Rental Car Travel Tip.
If you plan to head out to another destination in Oregon, you’ll certainly need a rental car. There are multiple agencies in Portland that have a pickup location in the downtown and you can choose to return it to the airport on your departure.
Where to Stay in Portland
The Hoxton, Portland
We stayed for two nights at the Hoxton Hotel in Portland in partnership and loved the hotel. Its location is perfect and central to most neighborhoods. Nearby, there is plenty to do within walking distance and made for a great home base. The design at the Hoxton is wonderful, one of the key parts we loved about the hotel. Second, the amenities like the breakfast bag in the morning and onsite dining made this hotel stay. It’s ideal for those wanting to explore the city and experience a chic hotel.
Where to Eat in Portland
Arguably our favorite meal was at Tusk. This Middle Eastern restaurant serves incredible food like lamb skewers, fresh hummus, and more. Good for dinner or lunch.
We were so happy to find our favorite Tokyo ramen restaurant here in Portland. This was a highlight, the ramen was amazing as was their fish selection.
Inside the Hoxton Hotel, Tope is on the top floor with epic views. With it, a killer cocktail list and some great Mexican cuisine. But more fun, like a doubledecker taco or queso that will have you coming back for more.
The atmosphere at this restaurant is everything. Their Italian menu is one for the books, many reserves in advance for. If you love the classics or are craving a bowl of pasta, head here.
Tasty n Alder
We loved this spot so much, we came back for a second round. They are known for their brunch which served through the afternoon. Order the bibimbap breakfast bowl that comes out sizzling hot, and it was our favorite dish!
Downstairs in the Hoxton is the Lovely Rita, an awesome bistro for an all-American fare. Their dishes are bright and if you’re looking for a healthier meal, you can find it here. For vegetarians, I loved their falafel.
Other restaurants we didn’t quite make it to
(but came recommended)
- Pok Pok for Thai food
- Arden Restaurant for Pacific Northwest fare
- Proud Mary Cafe for a classic Australian cafe
- Salt & Straw for ice cream
- Shalom Y’all for modern Israeli food
- Pépé le Moko for cocktails
Coffee and Sweets
One of our favorites during the trip was a visit to Coava Coffee. They have multiple locations across the city and their beans were mild yet smooth.
Keeper Coffee Co
Located inside the cutest store, Keeper Coffee Co is a must when visiting. They also have fresh pastries in the store as well!
Blue Star Donuts
Oh, the debate! Blue Star or Voodoo? I say you can’t compare the two as they’re very different. Blue Star, I feel have great texture and rich flavors — like the old fashion with lemon poppyseed glaze.
Voodoo Donuts feels wilder, the kind of crazy flavors like topped with Oreo cookies or cereal. It’s delicious and their donut is massive!
Things to Do in Portland
Visit the Portland Japanese Garden
Arguably my favorite thing we did in Portland was an afternoon at the Japanese gardens. It’s incredible and worth the trek up the hill (take an Uber!). The gardens are stunning and one of the most impressive Japanese gardens outsides of Japan.
Explore the World’s Largest Independent Bookstore
Only in Portland, where people go in and buy their books in person — it’s actually quite special. This bookstore blew my mind, with over 4 floors of every topic you can imagine. Worth just a pop inside to see.
Check Out the Neighborhoods
You’ll find that Portland is split into different neighborhoods. Hawthorne and Division on the Eastside of Portland was my favorite for checking out local design stores, antiques, and cafes. Another popular area is the Alberta Arts District, where it is full of street art, small shops, and a few restaurants.
Shop the Local Design
Portland’s design scene is something you’ll notice immediately. There are so many local design stores, here are my favorites:
– Shop Boswell for curated clothing
– Spartan for high-end sculptural design
– Una for clothing
– Association Shop for curated goods
– MadeHere PDX for all things made local
Take a Day Trip to the Coast
If you’re up for an adventure, I would recommend booking a car even for just a day. Head out to Oregon coast and spend your time walking around the sandy Cannon Beach. The town is very quaint with lots to see, hiking in Ecola State Park, and more. Grab dinner at Pelican Brewing before heading back.
Other Things to Do (that we didn’t get to)
You can’t do it all so we left a few things for our next trip. Here was my larger list of recommended activities:
International Rose Test Garden
Willamette Valley for wine tasting.
Portland Aerial Tram
Travel Planning & Travel Insurance
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My favorite companies that offer the best coverage and rates are: