Portland Travel Guide
I’m going to share with you how to travel Portland in a weekend without a car (sort of). With our current schedules, it’s very difficult to travel for long since we have to save time off for long visits back to Japan. Though, we do try to visit at least one new place every year, but we only have a little time.
So if you find yourself in Portland and only have three days and are reluctant to rent a car, this is how you can do it:
Take the TriMet streetcar from the airport. It’s $5 for a day pass. We were lucky enough to run into a nice couple who gave us their day pass as they were leaving, and we paid it forward to another couple when we left.
Portland Saturday Market
We started out at the Saturday market at 10am and spent an hour walking around. As for things to do in Portland, this felt like an easy way to start our trip. We grabbed lunch at one of the many food trucks (polish dogs) and just enjoyed the atmosphere.
Where to Stay
Where to stay in Portland? Portland hotels can be expensive, so we opted for Airbnb for this trip. At 2pm, we checked in to drop our bags off early. I thought we were staying kind of far from the city—we stayed near OHSU, but the bus ride was only maybe 10-15 minutes through rolling green hills. It was actually quite nice to be staying out of the urban area. And let me just say Airbnb has been a saving grace for our travels. We’re finding more and more we prefer the Airbnb community. We’ve met so many awesome hosts and have seen so many great things we would have missed out on at a hotel. If you haven’t signed up for Airbnb, you can do so HERE. We’ll both get a $20 credit!
As soon as we put our bags down, we headed back out for a brewery tour with Hopworks. They have free tours every Saturday at 3pm and walk-ins are welcome. This was a little trickier to get to, so we took the tram as far as we could, then Uber’d the rest of the way. This was probably our favorite part of the trip and we really want to go back! Our guide, Adam, was very knowledgeable and friendly and gave us generous samples of brew. It was neat to learn about the brewing process and to see how passionate they are about remaining eco-friendly. If you’re looking for things to do in Portland, check it out. This was probably our favorite.
Sample Japanese Food
By this time we were hungry. We decided to check out one of the higher rated Japanese places in Portland. Fumi has an obsession with trying Japanese food in new places, so we thought we’d check out Yataimura Maru. They have a really great happy hour menu and we ordered a bunch of appetizers and ate izakaya style. The ramen, however, was a disappointment for Fumi. I was still mildly drunk, so I thought it was decent.
All the other things we ate were good and I especially liked the bacon wrapped quail eggs. Totally NOT Japanese, but it’s bacon. And quail eggs are awesome!
Explore the City
From here we decided to walk around and explore the city. Our main stop was Powell’s City of Books. It’s a must-stop for people visiting Portland, highly rated when you search for things to do in Portland. They sell a mix of new and used books, and they even have a room with rare books you need a special pass for. I spotted an original Game of Thrones for a lot more money than I wanted to think about.
By this time, it was getting dark. We made one more stop: Voodoo Doughnuts. There was a huge line at 6pm, but it only took about 20 minutes and we got our box of donuts and staggered home on very sore and achy feet.
*Hint: voodoo is open 24 hours. We went by at about 7:30am the next day and there was no line. Go early!
We wanted to see at least one natural touristy thing on our trip. Looking for more things to do around Portland, we decided Multnomah falls was it.
Here’s the thing: getting to Multnomah falls without a car is a real challenge. There is a bus service, but it only operates during the summer months, and we were about a week too early. Seriously, Oregon? It’s a huge destination. Figure it out! So despite saying we wouldn’t, we rented a car. Sure we could have uber’d, but it wasn’t cost effective. Apparently renting a car in Portland is cheap as hell if you rent through Costco. We spent $16 for an economy rental car for one day. $16! The earliest pickup was 8am, and with it being a 3 day weekend, we wanted to get there fast.
We stopped for coffee at Stumptown Coffee Roasters before the drive. I quite enjoyed the coldbrew. I drink it black, but it was kind of sweet and smooth. Fumi’s mocha had a delicious roasted taste and not too sweet.
The drive to Multnomah Falls took about 30 minutes, and when we got there, the parking lot was already filling up.
*Tip: Get there EARLY or you won’t find parking. On our way out at about 10am, traffic was backed up for a good mile or two trying to get into the park. If you’re lucky enough to take the shuttle, it shouldn’t be an issue.
Lunch at Pok Pok
After returning the car, we then headed to Pok Pok, another Portland must. We thought we’d be clever and get there before they open to beat the rush. 10 minutes before opening there was already a line down the sidewalk, but the wait wasn’t terrible.
We ordered the Fish Sauce Wings like everybody else, sampled the brew, and tried a noodle dish. Everything was delicious and I wished I had more room in my belly or went with a larger group so we could sample more dishes. Between two people it was just so much food. Thank goodness Fumi is a black hole.
Exploring Downtown Portland
We made our way back to the city and returned to Powell’s City of Books because once wasn’t enough. Then we thought we’d check out the Ira Keller Fountain Park. AND IT WAS SHUT OFF! Of all the free things to do/see in Portland, we were really looking forward to the fountains and were devastated to find it turned off. I don’t know if it’s a weekend thing, or if it was just under construction, but keep in mind the fountain may not be running.
Instead, we wandered the local urban park with beautiful flowers in bloom. We don’t get this kind lush scenery in Phoenix, so we enjoyed it.
*Tip: Sunday in downtown Portland can be a challenge, though. We found lots of places closed downtown, so if you’ll be there over the weekend, plan accordingly. Sunday is probably a good time to venture outside the city.
International Rose Test Garden
Finally, we headed to the International Rose Test Garden. I was looking forward to it, but didn’t know what to expect. It looked difficult to get to, so we uber’d. It actually ended up not being too terrible to walk from the bus and cut through the park (we did this on the way down because it was too hectic to call an uber).
I planned to arrive at the rose garden as the sun was setting because I wanted to catch the beautiful lighting. Unfortunately, the roses were mostly green buds. I swear it was like someone didn’t want us to have TOO much fun on this trip. But the garden itself was beyond my expectations. It was BEAUTIFUL. I had no idea there’d be so much lush, green open space. It would have been perfect to bring a picnic lunch and a book and to simply hang out, nap, and just enjoy the place. I highly recommend it!
Boise Fry Company
On the way down, we took a bus, and not far from the bus was the place with the most amazing French fries and dipping sauces I’ve ever tried. Boise Fry Company. They had a bunch of different sauces to try (Spicy ketchup, vegan berries, etc.) and several different types of potatoes—including the Okinawa purple potato! Unfortunately, they were sold out of those (again, I really feel like someone was trying to keep me in line on this trip). This was probably my favorite place we ate in Portland. We ordered beer and a couple big baskets of fries and just chowed down.
Exhausted, we eventually staggered back to our Airbnb.
The next day (our last and day of flight) we planned to go to Tasty n Adler for breakfast, but the line was so long. So I pulled up Yelp and found The Daily Feast and decided to give it a try. We had a delicious and hearty breakfast. Everything there was moist and flavorful.
From where I sat, I noticed a homeless man selling newspapers outside. He waited very patiently and didn’t reach out to try and stop people or approach them. He just stood there holding out his paper with a kind smile on his face. I watched him wait for about an hour. I’m not sure if he got a lot of sales. Whenever I looked over at him people seemed to be avoiding eye contact.
He wasn’t doing anything but offering his paper for sale, so I bought one and gave him a tip. I wanted to do more, but he just wanted to sell his paper. As we wandered to our next coffee destination, I started reading the paper to discovered this (Street Roots) was created to give income opportunities to people experiencing homelessness and poverty. There is a huge homeless population in the city and this paper, though small, is working hard for change. They have publications weekly, so if you’re there, check it out and purchase one. Lots of great articles and information and it’s for a great cause!
We ventured back to the airport by tram and were sure to hand our transportation passes off to the next tourists we could find.
My highlights for the trip:
Is it sad that 75% of my favorites involve food? If we had to do it over again, I would have spent more time at Hopworks after the tour and eaten dinner there. I would have eaten at Boise Fry Company twice. And I would have packed a picnic for the rose garden.
Hope some of this is helpful to you on your adventures! Have you ever been to Portland? What were your highlights?