You’ve heard about the bikes, the beers, the flannel shirts, the food trucks, and, yes, the ironic mustaches. They’re all true—or have been at one time or another—but Portland is too busy doing its thing to conform to any static image of itself. To immerse yourself in today’s Portland, explore its neighborhoods. On both sides of the Willamette River, you’ll find business incubators, pop-ups, artist collectives, and a slew of restaurants and bars offering surprising twists on classic food and drinks. As you’ll discover, the creative locals behind these ventures are bringing new energy to what makes Portland “Portland.”
GET YOUR COFFEE ON: Coffee is in Portland’s DNA, and local hero Stumptown has gained national acclaim for pioneering “third wave” coffee, which emphasizes quality beans bought directly from growers. The company has several outposts, but the Old Town location is its biggest in the area, with midcentury lounges and rotating art exhibits displayed on white-painted brick walls. 128 SW Third Avenue. 855-711-3385.
BIKE THE RIVER: Paved trails along the Willamette River downtown offer a great way to orient yourself. Walk the 2 miles on each side—or better yet, cycle them. Rent an orange ride-share Biketown bike and pedal across Tilikum Crossing, the cable-stayed bridge spanning the Willamette. Rental stations abound; try the kiosk at 25 SW Salmon Street near the river. You’ll pay a onetime $5 fee, then 8 cents a minute.
DINE SOVIET-STYLE: Now in its fifth year, Kachka is the nation’s hippest restaurant devoted to cuisine from the former Soviet Union. Inside, you’ll find old Soviet propaganda posters, a bar stocked with vodkas, and the sounds of ’70s Russian crooner Vladimir Vysotsky. Don’t miss the Siberian pelmeni (meat-filled dumplings) and the seven-layer herring salad. 503-235-0059.
SLEEP HERE: Opened in November 2018, The Hoxton brings British style to downtown Portland. Conveniently located steps from the Pearl District and the waterfront, the hotel inhabits two adjoining buildings—one dates to 1906—and has 119 modern rooms. Locals are drawn to the hotel’s two restaurants, which were created in conjunction with James Beard Award–winning chef Joshua McFadden. The rooftop restaurant and bar offer city views. Rooms start at $115. 503-770-0500; thehoxton.com.
HOOFING IT IN THE ’HOOD: Some of Portland’s best stroll-worthy neighborhoods sit east of the river—including NE Alberta Street’s Alberta Arts District, which runs west of NE 33rd Street. You’ll find galleries, bars, the cat-themed shop Roar, and ice cream. Try the Aussie-style breakfasts at Melbourne import Proud Mary.
COMMUNE WITH GOATS: Portland has no official mascot, but locals love “the Belmont Goats,” a herd of 14 that clears brush on specified sites. The goats were likely going to be separated, but in a very Portland move, the goats’ caretakers formed a nonprofit to ensure the herd’s future together. Stop by their new home in University Park on weekends to visit Lefty, Carl, Hickory, and the gang—petting and brushing permitted. 6631 N. Syracuse Street.
KEEP ON TRUCKIN’: Portland has a huge food-cart scene. The latest go-to spot is the Portland Mercado, a Latin America–themed food-cart collective in the far-flung Foster-Powell neighborhood that offers faithful dishes from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Colombia, and beyond. Don’t miss Tierra del Sol’s Oaxacan specialties, including giant tlayudas (crispy tortillas coated with black beans, cheese, avocado, and various meats).
LAUGH IN: Portland’s a funny place, with comedy clubs hosting regular open-mic nights. Helium Comedy Club, which was featured in the opening credits of the IFC sketch-comedy show Portlandia, brings some of the nation’s best-known stand-up comics to its intimate stage. 888-643-8669.
FEED YOUR INNER LUMBERJACK: Olympia Provisions charcuterie offers French- and Spanish-style meats made on-site and cocktails served with spicy salami skewers. Of the six Portland locations, the Central Eastside’s converted warehouse is best. 107 SE Washington Street. 503-954-3663.
FOR ART’S SAKE: The new 16,000-square-foot Portland Institute for Contemporary Art building is worth the trip for exhibits and performances merging pop culture, politics, and indie rock. 503-242-1419; pica.org. To get even more artsy, check out the galleries in the Pearl District, located north of Burnside Street between Broadway Avenue and Interstate 405. More than a dozen galleries host pop-ups and other events on the first Thursday of each month.
DUCK AND WINE: Opened in 2018, cozy Canard bistro won instant praise for its wine list and its playful, highbrow variations on fast food. The epic “duck stack” pancakes are topped with onion, chunky duck gravy, duck egg, and foie gras. 971-279-2356; canardpdx.com.
PILGRIMAGE TO POWELL’S: You can’t leave Portland without visiting one of the country’s great independent bookstores. Powell’s City of Books fills an entire downtown block. 1005 W. Burnside Street. 503-228-4651.
Robert Reid performed as an extra on Portlandia during his five years of living in the city.
AAA Travel Alert: Many travel destinations have implemented COVID-19–related restrictions. Before making travel plans, check to see if hotels, attractions, cruise lines, tour operators, restaurants, and local authorities have issued health and safety-related restrictions or entry requirements. The local tourism board is a good resource for updated information.
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