Portland, Oregon’s nickname is “The City of Roses”, but there is so much more than just roses in Portland. During my recent trip the roses were not in bloom yet, but I did make the obligatory trip to the International Rose Test Garden just in case. Portland is an eclectic city. It has an excellent mix of professionals, college students, and hippies.
I opted to take the train from Seattle to Portland for the weekend. With a short visit I wondered if I could fit in enough activities and sites to get a feel for the city. I did.
I departed King Street Station, in downtown Seattle, Saturday at 7:30 am. The three and one-half hour train ride was a blessing. It didn’t save time in comparison to driving, but knowing I could sightsee or surf the internet (Wi-Fi is provided free) during that time was an excellent alternative.
Train tickets from Seattle to Portland, on Amtrak, range from $32 to $53 (each way).
Getting Around in Portland
Portland has a very walkable downtown area, which was what I chose as my mode of transportation. However, their TriMet public transportation has been touted as one of the best around.
Both the Max Lines and Street Car are free within the boundaries of NW Irving, the Willamette River, and Interstate 405.
Portland also has bus service but the most popular sights can be reached using the Street Car and Max Lines.
For best access to the most popular sights, I stayed in the downtown core area (the area covered by free service of the Portland Street Car and Max Lines). The hotels in the area range from $65 to $249 per night (according to a quick search of Expedia). I chose a midrange hotel. I don’t always stay at luxury hotels, but since I only stayed one night I decided to splurge at the Westin.
Based on my experience, I’d recommend a hotel near Portland State University, as opposed to a hotel near Union Station or Portland’s Saturday market. This area is centrally located to popular sites.
Sightseeing in Portland
I was fortunate to receive input on what to see, for my short visit, from a co-worker and Kim at the travel blog So Many Places. I took their advice and came up with the following itinerary. Looking back I might have done a couple of things differently, so I’ve provided an alternative itinerary as well.
Saturday – Day One
- 11:00 am – Arrived at Portland’s Union Station.
- Walked to hotel, checked in, and ate lunch across the street.
- Walked to Portland’s Farmers Market on The Portland State University campus.
- Walked to Washington Park and visited the International Rose Test Garden and Japanese Garden.
- Walked back to hotel, rested, and showered.
- Walked to dinner.
- Walked around the historic district near Portland State University.
- Walked back to hotel for a much needed night’s sleep.
Sunday – Day Two
- Got up, showered, and walked to breakfast.
- Walked around the Portland Saturday Market. While there, I enjoyed the sights, smells, sounds, tastes, and people.
- Walked to Portland’s Chinese Garden.
- Walked to Portland’s Union Station.
- 2:50 pm – Departed Portland.
Of all the sites I visited, only the Japanese and Chinese Gardens had an entrance fee. Each cost $9.50. I thought the Japanese Garden was worth the entrance fee, but the Chinese Garden was small and crowded.
If I had it to do over again, I would make some adjustments to my itinerary.
Saturday – Day One
- Arrive (maybe even the night prior).
- Visit Portland’s Farmers Market (skip unless you really enjoy farmers markets or want photo opportunities).
- Take the Red or Blue Max Line to Oregon Zoo.
- Take the train from Oregon Zoo to Washington Park (near the International Rose Test Garden).
- Visit International Rose Test Garden.
- Visit Japanese Garden.
Sunday – Day Two
- Visit Portland’s Saturday Market.
- Visit Portland’s Chinese Garden.
Other Things I’d Do Differently
- I’d use Public Transportation.
- I’d eat at the food trucks.
A couple of the places I ate while in Portland came as recommendations from friends and a couple I stumbled upon.
Voodoo Donuts (22 SW 3rd Ave – (503)241-4704)
Over the years I’ve heard a lot of hype about Voodoo Donuts. They even made an appearance on the Food Network. While I thought their décor was creative and their donuts huge, the actual taste of their donuts was just ok. They are best known for their Voodoo Doll and Bacon Maple Bar donuts. I had the Bacon Maple Bar ($2.50). It was good, but I could have bought any maple bar and slapped a couple cold piece of bacon on it. It definitely wasn’t worth the cost. Wondering if it was me, I asked a couple of nice ladies what they thought. Their opinions were the same…good donut; nothing spectacular. I’ll hand it to them for good marketing because they are known as “the place to eat donuts in Portland”. I got there early and still had to wait in line. I was told the line can get long, but luckily I only waited about 15 minutes.
Pizzicato Gourmet Pizza (SW Alder off Broadway – (503)226-1007)
I had a slice of Italian Soppressata pizza, which had dry cured soppressata (salami) and fresh mozzarella. The crust was thin and it had light sauce. It was good pizza and reasonably priced at $3.75 per slice. This downtown location is closed on Sundays.
Gyro Stand (located in Portland’s Saturday Market)
I’ve eaten a lot of gyros, so I felt like a bit of an expert (at least when it came to gyros in the United States). The traditional gyro ($6.00) I had from this stand was the best I had ever eaten. The only negative was the unripe tomatoes. Considering their not in season right now, it was forgivable.
Jake’s Grill (611 SW Tenth Avenue – (503)220-1850)
Jakes Grill is a McCormick & Schmick’s restaurant. It opened in 1994 adjacent to the historic Governor Hotel. The décor includes dark woods, beautifully tiled floors, and taxidermy in the bar. The White Wine Sangria ($5.00) was one of the best I’ve ever drank. The Kobe Beef Pot Stickers ($8.95) were basically hamburger inside a wonton wrapper and the Iceberg Wedge Salad ($7.95) could have come from any restaurant. Over-all the food was good, but not great. I did not try their steak entrees because I wasn’t that hungry and the prices were high ($24.95 – $44.95). Typical of the Pacific Northwest, jeans were acceptable attire.
While my trip to Portland was short (27 hours and 50 minutes), I felt like I got to see a lot of what it had to offer. Have you been to Portland? If so, what did you see and how long did you stay?