T+L's Definitive Guide to Portland, Oregon
With forward-thinking chefs, green urban spaces, and a laid-back sensibility, Portland, Oregon, is the perfect weekend getaway.
Lay of the Land
North Portland: This rapidly gentrifying arts district is dotted with galleries and shops.
Northwest: Victorian town houses and boutiques line the streets of this leafy neighborhood.
Old Town: Welcome to Chinatown, where street food vendors hawk snacks and stores sell quirky bric-a-brac.
Pearl District: With its warehouses now converted into luxury lofts, the Pearl District is downtown Portland’s upscale style center.
Southeast: This sprawling area has indie shops and Craftsman bungalows; it’s also home to Division Street, the city’s newly minted restaurant row.
West End: In downtown’s creative hub, hipsters converge at packed cafés and buzzy lounges.
Looking for a high-design retreat downtown? Or a distinctive waterfront landmark? Here, the city’s top hotels.
Ace Hotel: Everything you’d expect from the Ace brand is at this Portland outpost in the West End: hoodie robes, Pendleton blankets, and, in Deluxe rooms, turntables (and LP’s from local legends such as Pink Martini). The new bar-meets-breakfast-buffet in Room 215 is full of local fare, from Clyde Common granola and house-made rhubarb jam to Olympic Provisions charcuterie and smoked trout. $$
The Heathman: Adjacent to the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, this 1927 mainstay has Art Deco–inspired interiors and a contemporary art collection with works by Andy Warhol, Hap Tivey, and Henk Pender. Don’t miss the hotel’s weekend brunch (order the malted Belgian waffles with brandy-soaked cherry compote). $$$
The Nines: On the upper floors of Portland’s 1909 Meier & Frank department store, the Nines has 331 rooms decorated in Tiffany-blue velvets and dark woods. At night, head to Departure, the rooftop Pan-Asian restaurant and bar, for coconut-cream cocktails and an Instagram-worthy view of Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens volcano. $$
Riverplace: Tucked away on a quiet bend of the Willamette River, the 84-room Kimpton was recently revamped with an Out of Africa aesthetic (tufted leather headboards; braided-rope armchairs; tribal art). Borrow a bike to explore the waterfront, then return to the hotel’s lobby lounge for a negroni. $$
Hotel Deluxe: Built in 1912, the Hotel Deluxe has Hollywood Regency interiors, with stills from classic movies by Alfred Hitchcock, Frank Capra, and more. We love the Marlene Dietrich Suite, with its eight-foot circular bed and shimmering crystal lamps. $$
The Sentinel: A Rose City icon since 1909, this 100-room grande dame is fresh from a top-to-bottom overhaul. The Northwest-style touches include mounted wooden deer heads, framed Columbia Gorge sword ferns, and souvenirs of “genuine Portland rain” in the mini-bar. $$
Hotel Pricing Key
$ Less than $200
$$ $200 to $350
$$$ $350 to $500
$$$$ $500 to $1,000
$$$$$ More than $1,000
See + Do
Portland Art Museum: The oldest museum in the Northwest houses nearly 800 Japanese woodblock prints and indigenous work excavated from the Columbia River Gorge. This summer’s premier exhibit: “The Art of the Louvre’s Tuileries Garden,” which considers the Paris park as inspiration for paintings by Manet and Pissarro, and large-scale sculptures by Antoine Coysevox.
Pittock Mansion: Built in 1914 for the owner of the Oregonian newspaper, this French Renaissance–style estate is open for tours and popular with bird-watchers, who come to spot raptors and warblers. We suggest combining your visit with a hike on the five-mile Lower Macleay Park Trail, past old-growth evergreens and Balch Creek.
Smith Teamaker: Years after local entrepreneur Steven Smith started (and sold) Stash Tea and Tazo, he launched this tea company with a tasting room in a 1900’s blacksmith’s shop. Order the tea flight for a guided tour of varied infusions (our favorite, Jasmine Pearls, is hand-rolled and scented with jasmine blossoms).
Portland Japanese Garden: Hidden away in the West Hills overlooking the city are nearly six acres of cultivated gardens inspired by Japanese botanical design. Cross iris-embellished bridges and a waterfall in the Strolling Pond area, then Zen out in the raked karesansui Sand and Stone Garden.
Powell’s Books: A bibliophile’s mecca, this 68,000-square-foot bookstore is filled with new and used titles and hosts frequent author readings (recent notables: Junot Díaz and Jimmy Carter). In the rare-book room, you’ll find two first-edition 1814 volumes by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark priced at $350,000. (Yes, that qualifies for free shipping.)
Our picks for made-in-Portland clothing, housewares, and more.
A band of ex-Nike executives recently opened Wildfang, a well-curated boutique that stocks trendy men’s-style shirts and suits for women (Wildfang means “tomboy” in German). Among the 80 brands: Tilda Swinton–worthy labels such as Shades of Grey and Red Wing boots inspired by Annie Oakley. At Beam & Anchor, you will find ties made from vintage Japanese boro fabric, wild-harvested Douglas fir tea, and Eames rocking chairs reupholstered in the workroom upstairs. In a 1910 former wool warehouse, the Portland flagship of interiors shop Schoolhouse Electric carries hand-loomed herringbone rugs, exposed-bulb chandeliers, and tufted velvet headboards with kiln-dried alder-wood frames. For leather hiking boots, head to Danner, a Portland-based shoe company beloved by loggers and indie musicians.
Where to dine in Portland now.
Ava Gene’s: At this trattoria-inspired spot owned by Stumptown Coffee founder Duane Sorenson, chef Joshua McFadden turns out Italian dishes such as rabbit agnolotti with chicory and striped bass with duck-egg mayonnaise. $$$
Castagna: Justin Woodward, a Noma alum, spotlights foraged ingredients at Castagna. What to expect? A 12-course tasting menu with such dishes as Dungeness crab and yellow-foot chanterelles with an infusion of hops. $$$$
Laurelhurst Market: A former convenience store is now an airy brasserie and a popular butcher shop. Standout menu items include the pan-seared imperial Wagyu steak with caramelized radicchio. $$$
Le Pigeon: Grab a seat at the bar of James Beard Award–winning chef Gabriel Rucker’s kitchen to watch tattooed cooks turn out meat-centric platters: beef-cheek bourguignonne and—of course—squab, served here with kumquats and charred marrowbone. $$$
Multnomah Whiskey Library: Portland’s hottest restaurant is a speakeasy-like bar in a former piano store, with stained-glass skylights and more than 1,100 types of whiskey. Order an Old-Fashioned from the roving bar cart and, for dinner, Kentucky fried quail with a smoked-blue-cheese biscuit. $$$
Ned Ludd: Chef Jason French cooks everything on his menu over a cherry- and maple-wood fire. The result: roasted Idaho trout and charred brussels sprouts with lemon, feta, and farro—all presented on mismatched vintage plates. Pair it with house-made nettle soda. $$
Roe: Slip through the hidden back door at Block & Tackle restaurant and enter an otherworldly seafood paradise. The four-course tasting menu might include poached-calamari ceviche with a Thai herb emulsion and lime crisp or mero (sea bass) with hedgehog mushrooms. $$$
Sen Yai: Andy Ricker’s latest venture—a drive-up Thai-street-food noodle shop—joins his bucket-list stop Pok Pok. Try the Singaporean coconut curry rice noodle soup and any of the vinegar spritzers. $
Restaurant Pricing Key
$ Less than $25
$$ $25 to $75
$$$ $75 to $150
$$$$ More than $150
Wine Country Detour
Here, the places to sip and stay in the Willamette Valley.
Just 30 miles outside Portland, two of Oregon’s pioneering wine families have new, modern tasting rooms. At Sokol Blosser, the first LEED-certified winery facility in the United States, a cedar-walled and hickory-floored room overlooks the red hills of Dundee; sample the Pinot Noir. In summer, you can take a four-hour guided hike through the vineyards—complete with a picnic lunch. A brief drive north, the 130-acre Ponzi Vineyards is known for its fruity Arneis. Bring a glass of Pinot Gris to the bocce court or stay in the airy tasting room for a flight with smoked salmon, ricotta, and house-made crackers. The Allison Inn & Spa ($$$) is a cozy place for a night or two; all 85 rooms have gas fireplaces, soaking tubs, and balconies looking out over the vines.
Three insiders share their top places in the city.
Lead singer of the Decemberists and author of Wildwood Chronicles
“My favorite spots happen to be within a single block on North Mississippi Avenue. Reading Frenzy is an amazing small-press bookstore that’s been a Portland institution since the nineties. It shares a building with Black Book Guitars, a left-of-center music shop that stocks retro and odd instruments. Down the street, Por Qué No Taquería ($) serves the famous ‘Bryan’s bowl’ (meat or vegetables, rice, beans, guacamole, and queso fresco).”
Chef-owner of Beast and Expatriate
“I love the feeling of being a regular, so I go to the same places a lot. Davenport ($$), a restaurant in Northeast, focuses on local flavors and has an excellent wine list. Try the nettle dumpling in chicken broth. On Southeast 82nd, Ha VL (503/772-0103; $) is a hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese joint with solid bánh mì; the two soup specials sell out quickly, so get there early. Nearby, Hong Phat is an Asian grocery store that’s become my one-stop shop for unique ingredients like banana blossoms.”
Author of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
“I can’t think of a more inspiring destination to begin a Portland adventure than Mt. Tabor Park. Hike or bike to the summit for a stunning view of the city. For lunch, don’t miss Costello’s Travel Caffé on Northeast Broadway, my go-to neighborhood hangout. It has the best chocolate pie in town. A short walk away, you can sample wines at Great Wine Buys; the staff members always recommend exceptional reds, whites, and sparkling from both near and far.”
Get your daily jolt at these three coffee roasters.
Heart: Owned by Finnish pro snowboarder Wille Yli-Luoma, Heart has Scandinavian interiors and a Hikari siphon table that vacuum-steams grounds to bring out flavor.
Coava Coffee Roasters: At this low-key café, your single-origin cup may come from Las Capucas, Honduras, or Kilenso, Ethiopia, but it’s roasted in-house by a vintage Probat at the bamboo-lined bar.
Water Avenue Coffee: You’ll find truly inventive brews at this spot in the Southeast Industrial District, where raw beans from El Salvador are aged in Pinot Noir barrels before roasting.
Portland Japanese Garden
Five gardens—Flat, Strolling Pond, Natural, Tea, and Sand & Stone—span 5.5 acres, set to expand in late 2015, of this Japanese garden located near the Rose Gardens in Washington Park. Commissioned by the Japanese Garden Society of Oregon, the Portland Japanese Garden was designed by Takuma Tono, professor of landscape architecture at Tokyo Agricultural University. It incorporates the traditional stone, water, and plants in its landscape, plus accents like stone lanterns, bridges, and pagodas. Visitors may explore the five gardens daily throughout the year, except during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.
The TriMet transport system even serves trendy areas like "The Pearl."
Located in the heart of downtown in a historic 1909 building that was once the city's finest department store, The Nines features trendy steakhouse Urban Farmer, and Asian-fusion restaurant, Departures, run by a Top Chef finalist.
Powell's City of Books
Flip through hardbacks in the Rare Room at Powell's City of Books, the country's largest independent book store.
Old Hollywood-style glamour prevails at this elegant, slightly-off-the-beaten-path hotel; you’ll feel it from the moment you ascend the wide marble steps into the grand lobby, with its ornately carved moldings and coffered ceilings. At the dark, wood-paneled Driftwood Room (one of Portland’s iconic lounges), local deal-makers hobnob in cushy leather banquettes; sophisticated diners frequent the restaurant, Gracie’s, which serves globally influenced Pacific Northwest cuisine. The old-school plushness is reinforced in the 130 rooms, with their angular Art Deco-esque furnishings, crystal lampshades, and black-and-white stills from classic films adorning the walls (more modern nods to entertainment—flat-screen TV’s and iPod docks—are here, too). The extra $20 for a King Feature suite which includes an elongated sitting area as well as a bedroom is worth the splurge.
This hotel is pure Portland: creative, authentic, irreverent. Rooms in the revamped 1912 hotel are decorated with murals and fitted with vintage claw-foot tubs; bedside tables are fashioned from secondhand tomes (the famous Powell’s Books is just down the block). It’s no wonder bands on tour like to stay here: there are in-room turntables and vintage LP’s, and guitar strings for sale at the front desk. Staff dressed in Nom de Guerre–conceived ensembles (button-down shirts, crisp Dickies pants) are as cool as the surroundings.
Designed to resemble a grand Victorian seaside hotel (but with a Northwest craftsman style—it was actually built in the early 80’s), the waterfront RiverPlace easily has the city’s best Willamette River views. Set at the southern edge of downtown (at a nice remove from the central hustle and bustle), the property overlooks the grassy Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park, a marina, and a promenade lined with boutiques and sidewalk cafés. A library stocked with books and a glowing fireplace warm the lobby; on sunny days, guests can sit in teak rocking chairs on the porch, admiring boats on the river. The 84 rooms have earthy color schemes and Arts and Crafts–inspired furniture, as well as Wi-Fi and CD and DVD players; many have separate sitting parlors. Three Degrees Restaurant and Bar turns out top-notch regional northwestern fare and has romantic water views.
Room to Book: Rooms 325 and 425 are both enormous fireplace suites with whirlpool tubs and panoramic views of the Willamette River, Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park, and downtown skyline. Rooms ending in 02, 08, 16, and 17 also have terrific views.
Brought back into the spotlight in Fifty Shades of Grey, this classically-styled Italianate property is attached to the Concert Hall. With Art Deco interiors, the standard rooms are on the smallish side and have a quaint feel. Insiders tip; as for a room ending in 06 or 1 as they're the Deluxe Kings and offer substantially more space.
Allison Inn & Spa
Situated in Willamette Valley wine country, the LEED Gold–certified Allison Inn & Spa is surrounded by colorful gardens, sprawling lawns, and seven acres of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris grapevines. The 85 guest rooms are decorated in subtle earth tones, and all have gas fireplaces, large soaking tubs, and views of the valley from both a cushioned window seat and a private terrace or balcony. In addition to an indoor pool and sauna, the renowned spa provides treatments that incorporate local ingredients like berries, roses, wine, and honey. Similarly inspired by the region’s bounty, the Jory restaurant serves farm-to-table cuisine along with 40 by-the-glass wines.
Le Pigeon may be small, but what it lacks in physical space it more than makes up for in cuisine. Half civilized French bistro and half culinary crack den, where your darkest desires are realized (think foie gras torchon with buttermilk pancakes or sweetbreads with blue cheese are indulged). One bite of the Beef Cheek Bourguignon is all you need to get you hooked. Grab a seat around one of the communal tables or elbow up to the chef's counter.
A small-scale, pure-hearted restaurant with a wood-burning oven in place of a stove, Ned Ludd is named for the storied leader of the Luddites (19th-century English textile workers who protested against labour-economizing technologies). Almost everything on the menu—from the slow-roasted chops and vegetables (think: braised carrots and fennel) to meat pies and flat breads goes into the oven. The team also pickles, cures, smokes, and butchers in-house.
Sokol Blosser is pushing the green envelope with its certified organic vineyard, solar panels, and a new 5,000-square-foot tasting room that architect Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture is hoping will achieve “Living Building” status. (Living Building Challenge, which is more stringent than LEED certification, requires the building to give back energy and water to the grid.) The tasting room, which is slated to open this summer, will have four distinct spaces: a main room, a library of vintage wines, a kitchen (for food pairings), and a VIP cellar for club members. Open daily 10 a.m.–4 p.m.