I love Oregon. I lived in Eugene and Portland for over seven years and the state is like a second home to me.
Two weeks ago, I visited Oregon for the first time in nearly four years. The excuse was the wedding of my two college friends who finally tied the knot after nearly eight years together, and I can’t tell you how good it felt to be in my old stomping grounds surrounded by my people.
My itinerary allowed me to spend all day Friday in Portland, and Saturday in Vida for the wedding – about 30 minutes outside of Eugene on Highway 126 towards Bend. Sunday, it was back to Portland before a very early 8 AM flight to Denver on Monday.
Time was limited and I needed to pack all the activities into one day. And so, I provide here my take on how to have the best day ever when visiting Portland, Oregon (on a budget!).
Start off with a morning activity
Take a stroll on Waterfront Park or through one of the many parks scattered throughout the city; or grab a cup of coffee, tea or morning pastry from the hundreds of coffee shops dotting the different neighborhoods. Activities will be weather dependent, as it’s been known to rain here, but the key to starting off your best day ever is getting up and seizing the day! With only 24-hours in Portland, I wanted to make the most of my day. My morning activity was, of course, yoga.
There are a zillion studios scattered throughout the city and many places offer discounted first classes or trial weeks, which is great if you’re on a budget. If you’re staying in Northeast or Southeast Portland, check out The People’s Yoga (I’ve taken a class at a similar place in Brooklyn, Yoga to the People, and it was awesome); otherwise, this list is a great resource for discounted yoga classes. Be sure to confirm prices with the studio before committing to a class.
Explore Portland’s neighborhoods
Portland’s neighborhoods are split into four quadrants divided by Burnside Street and the Willamette River: Southeast, Southwest, Northeast, and Northwest. Each neighborhood has its own style and vibe, offering different street art, restaurants, breweries, and shops.
Portland’s East Side
My favorite. Over the past five to six years, this area of the city has exploded as the spot to be and has more of the quirky, “Keep Portland Weird” charm that’s come to define the city. Some favorite streets to put on your list while visiting Portland include North Mississippi, North Alberta, North Killingsworth, Southeast Morrison, Southeast Division, and Southeast Hawthorne. Park your car, walk, and explore. Or better yet, ride a bike… How Portland of you!
Southwest Portland is considered downtown. Here you’ll find upscale hotels, department store shopping, nightclubs with DJs and live music, more breweries, and possibly a strip club or two (hey, it’s Portland).
Northwest was the first neighborhood I lived in and it holds a special place in my heart. It has a bit more refinement than the East Side (I still love you, East Side), but I warn you now that parking in this area can be awful – especially if it’s raining. Areas to explore include the Pearl District (near downtown), NW 21st street, and NW 23rd street.
Have an amazing lunch
This is not new news, Portland has amazing food! Seriously. From food trucks to Michelin-starred restaurants, eating your way through Portland is a must when you visit.
Top of my list for lunch was ¿Por Que No?, a city-wide favorite for awesome tacos, housemade guacamole, and delicious, handcrafted margaritas. Oh, did I mention it was a beautiful fall day and we sat outside? Well, that happened too.
You can find great food in any part of the city, but here’s a very, very short list of my favorites depending on your price point and meal:
- Pine State Biscuits
- Ken’s Artisan Bakery & Ken’s Artisan Pizza (two different restaurants & locations)
- Ruby Jewel Ice Cream
- Salt & Straw Ice Cream
- Voodoo Doughnuts
- Fire on the Mountain
- Screen Door
- Tasty N’ Sons
- Bamboo Sushi
- Mio Sushi
- The Portland Soup Company (food truck)
- The Dump Truck (food truck)
- SW 10th & Washington food truck pod
- Bunk Sandwiches
- Olympic Provisions
- Laurelhurst Market
If food is a priority when visiting Portland, make sure you have reservations, where possible, ahead of time. The city is growing quickly and has developed a well-established food scene, which means tables at the best and hottest restaurants can be difficult to come by. You’ve been warned.
Go to Powell’s Bookstore
The infamous bookstore does live up to its hype. It’s amazing. You can easily get lost in the store and it’s a great place to hide out and read a book on a rainy, Portland day. It’s not a successful visit to Portland without a trip to Powell’s.
Relax in a park and enjoy the moment
The latter half of my best day ever was spent enjoying the beautiful weather and watching the sunset (and the full, harvest moon rise!) at Washington Park in Southwest Portland. A beautiful park that offers gorgeous views of Portland, as well as a Japanese Tea Garden and the International Rose Test Garden, Washington Park is a must-see for any newbie visiting Portland.
Oregonians, in general, love their parks so when visiting Portland, do as the locals do: Grab a local beer, bottle of wine, or kombucha, a blanket, and some snacks, and enjoy the moment. Other favorite Portland parks include:
- Laurelhurst Park
- Council Crest Park
- Forest Park
- Mt. Tabor Park
And that, my friends, is how you have the best day ever when visiting Portland, Oregon.
Have more time? Consider this.
If you have more time in the city, I suggest you rinse and repeat the above. But also consider adding the below to your list of things to do if you have a little more time while visiting Portland:
- Go to Multnomah Falls
- Stroll through the International Rose Test Garden
- Go to a Portland Timbers or Portland Trailblazers game
- Portland Saturday Market
- Rent a bike and explore
- Go on a brewery tour – Did you know Portland is home to over 70 breweries?
- Listen to some live music
- Go wine tasting in Dundee or McMinnville
- Take a day trip to the coast – Astoria & Cannon Beach are my favorites
- Go to Mt. Hood and Hood River
- Explore Sauvie Island
Headed to Portland? Be sure to save this for later!