How to see Portland, Oregon hotspots like a local
From one local to yet another wannabe
Portland has become the new ‘cool’ place to visit in recent years, resulting in ridiculous waits at restaurants, no parking and a whole lot of hype about some okay-ish doughnuts. Having grown up in America’s favorite hipster hub, here’s a local’s to guide you through some of the popular tourist stops as though you were one of us locals.
Just don’t stick around too long, okay?
Washington Park/Oregon Zoo
This place is a Portland classic. To lower costs, get there and back on the TriMet system. You get zoo entrance discounts for using it. Avoid the afternoon craze and summer heat by going early in the morning or closer to closing. Also, get out of the zoo! Wander through the Hoyt arboretum, stop and smell the roses at the International Rose Test Garden, and marvel at the recently revitalized Japanese Gardens.
Multnomah Falls/Columbia Gorge area day trip
Okay, so there isn’t really a special ‘local secret’ way to see the falls. It’s overcrowded, there’s never parking available, and it makes you wonder how those professional photographers managed to get shots with no people in them. The only advice I can give is to take the shuttle service from the city to the falls and to be respectful of the area. And for the love of God, stay on the trails at all times. Every year, there are anywhere from one to five accidental deaths by people falling off the various ledges and cliffs the trail system is built on. Be smart. That selfie ain’t worth it.
This massive trail system is a gem. Get off the gravel main path and get into the woods for some great scenery. It’s a popular running haven too, so be respectful and move over for runners. Also, carry everything of value with you. Due to its popularity, it’s a break-in hotspot. If you leave items in your vehicle, hide them and be okay with them being taken. I know locals who even leave their cars unlocked while they visit to avoid having to replace windows.
Ah, my nirvana. The central Powell’s downtown is best reached by public transit due to the horrid parking availability. If you’re a Bibliophile like myself, prepare for an all-day affair here. Eat a good breakfast, scout out a restaurant for lunch, and load up your debit card. And for those who enjoy a quieter, more intimate experience, check out Powell’s on Hawthorne Boulevard.
Salt and Straw
Wherever you go, it’s going to be slammed. But if you’re determined, here’s a tip from a former employee to a first-timer: Go in with a little research done, at least an idea of the flavors available and what you want to try. Alternatively, check out Ruby Jewel, Fifty Licks or Cloud City ice cream for fancy flavors. For gelato experiences, try Pinolo gelateria (the closest I’ve found to a true Italian gelateria) or Staccato Gelato, a Portland staple. And for frozen-yogurt lovers, Nectar and Eb & Bean are excellent options with plenty of dairy-free choices. Just looking for some decent ice cream to quell the craving? Ben and Jerry’s is always a classic.
Make a reservation WAY ahead of time, or be prepared for a two-plus hour wait out on the sidewalk. Alternatively, I highly recommend Lemongrass Restaurant. Family-owned and located in a beautiful, quiet old house in NE Portland, it has some of the best traditional Thai food I’ve ever tasted. Another great option is just down the street from Pok Pok: KaTi Thai is a delicious vegetarian Thai restaurant run by women, including the kitchen head who has 30-plus years of restaurant experience.
Frankly, ditch it. There are way better doughnuts available. Blue Star Doughnuts and Pip’s Original Doughnuts are seriously amazing. But if you’re hell-bent on getting that pink box full of these quirky fuckers, do a quick Internet search to find the mobile truck’s location. It’s way less crowded and far friendlier. No, you don’t get to see the weird brick-and-mortar store, but you don’t have to wait in line forever only to be hurried right out the door by a surly cashier. And Instagram doesn’t need anymore pictures of it. Trust me.