The 10 Most Underrated Things to Do in Portland
Or, how not to feel like a tourist in Oregon's largest city.
What's not fun: Waiting in line for an hour (probably in the rain, because it rains a lot in Portland) to get a stale donut with a sexually suggestive name. Hiking past women in heels who have popped out of their cars to snap waterfall selfies. Fighting the crowds at an open-air craft market where the crafts are either made of old forks or flown in from China. If you're in town and want to see the best of what Portland has to offer, here's what should really be on your itinerary.
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1. Kennedy Soaking Pool
For $5, you can drink cold beer while submerged in warm saltwater at the Kennedy Soaking Pool. The ceramic pool is flanked on all sides by greenery, but the chilled-out vibe can get rowdy if there are a lot of kids around. Avoid them by going between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., or after 6 p.m., when minors get kicked out.
2. New Seasons Market
Imagine Whole Foods in the halcyon days and you have New Seasons Market, a crunchy local chain. Their carefully curated home goods department has locally made socks, candles, mugs, and other souvenirs that are just as good—if not better—than anything you'd find in a gift shop. Plus, you can pick up stuff for an awesome picnic. Feel free to ask for a sample of anything; employees are happy to open a carton of yogurt or slice off a hunk of apple for you.
In the time it takes to get to the front of the Pine State Biscuits line, you could drive over to Mt. Tabor, seat yourself in a cozy corner table, and be slathering Coquine's buttermilk-buckwheat biscuit with honey-thyme butter or fig-fennel jam.
4. Horsetail Falls Trail
Nearby Multnomah Falls gets all the love—and all the crowds. But Horsetail Falls Trail, an easy 2.7-mile loop a few minutes away, takes you past 176-foot Horsetail Falls, above Oneanta Falls, and behind Ponytail Falls. Tack on an optional 1.8-mile side trip to see Triple Falls, too.
5. Portland Mercado
Portlanders are obsessed with food carts; and the Portland Mercado pod is worthy of that fixation. You can eat Mexican, Colombian, Salvadoran, and Argentinian food at indoor or outdoor picnic tables, then go home with churros, chorizo, and a piñata made from recycled materials.
6. Eb & Bean
Portland is known for its ice cream, and while places like Salt & Straw have inventive flavors, the wait can be mind-numbing. Go straight to the counter at Eb & Bean, an organic frozen yogurt shop, where the flavors (which always include at least one nondairy option) change every two weeks. Even their toppings are artisanal: Think cinnamon-sugar donuts, salted vanilla caramel corn, and marionberry compote.
7. Portland Aerial Tram
You'll get unique views without feeling like a total tourist at the Portland Aerial Tram, because plenty of passengers use the tram as a means to get to work. The roughly 10-minute-roundtrip ride takes you from the south waterfront district to the top of Marquam Hill, where you can look out over the city.
8. The Alibi
Portland could be accused of taking its beer (and cider, and cocktail) culture too seriously. Avoid all pretension at The Alibi, an over-the-top tiki bar where neon tropical drinks make the nightly karaoke go down easy.
9. Elk Rock Garden
The Japanese Garden is lovely, but it's closed for construction through March 2016, and the Zen vibe is dulled a bit by all the people Instagramming the cherry blossoms. But Elk Rock Garden, a 13-acre once-private garden overlooking the Willamette River, has ponds, waterfalls, magnolias—and no entrance fee.
10. Nossa Familia Coffee
Stumptown, one of Portland's best-known exports, was recently purchased by Peet's. Skip it for beans sourced from family farms in Brazil by Nossa Familia, which offers a free weekly cupping in the Pearl District that includes a tour of the roastery. Or sign up for a brewing class and go home with a bag of beans for yourself.