Portland, OR


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Portland is known by many names -- Stumptown, Bridge City, City of Roses and most recently, courtesy of Portlandia, "The Place Young People Go to Retire." Portland lives up to all these names and more. It has towering trees, gorgeous bridges crossing the Willamette, the scent of roses pervades the air in spring. And yes, there are a lot of 30-somethings in Portland, drawn to it by the relaxed atmosphere, the flourishing food culture, the microbreweries, the delicious coffee and the break from the rat race. Portland has all the amenities you would expect of a vibrant city -- good hotels and restaurants; plenty of museums. It also has miles and miles of parkland and forest trails within city limits, and is just an hour from the ocean and skiing at Mount Hood.

Must see in Portland
Adventurers should check out Forest Park, the largest urban forest in the United States with more than 80 miles of trails. Museum-goers should stop at Portland Art Museum, which boasts works from masters like Van Gogh and Monet along with American, Modern, Native American and other genres of art. For families, a stop at the Oregon Zoo is a must -- they have tigers, lions, elephants, giraffes, bears and just about any other animal you and your children would want to see.

Where to stay in Portland
Portland has dozens of unique neighborhoods, each with a very different feel. Portland's Pearl District is well-known for its high-end shopping and booming restaurant and bar scene. (Try Andina restaurant for an amazing take on Peruvian food; Fratelli for Italian.) In addition to a large shopping scene, the Pearl District also houses many art galleries and several museums, including the small but well-appointed Museum of Contemporary Craft. With boutique hotels and urban inns, you're sure to find a trendy place to stay.

If you're traveling for business, downtown Portland has the widest range of options for hotels, including the larger chain hotels. Within downtown Portland are the Portland Art Museum, the Oregon Historical Society, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall (affectionately called "The Schnitz"), Powell's City of Books and the famous Voodoo Doughnuts. With Portland's large transit system, it is also an easy bus ride to nearly any location outside of downtown.

Located further west of downtown Portland is the Nob Hill area, which includes "trendy third" - the area of Nob Hill extending along 23rd street. Many of Portland's top-rated restaurants are in this small neighborhood (you can't go wrong with Papa Haydn's extensive dessert menu or St. Jack's French fare). There is also plenty of fabulous shopping to be had in their small boutique stores - or at Moonstruck Chocolate. And it abuts Portland's Forest Park. There are limited hotel options in this neighborhood, so Airbnb or Vacation Rentals by Owner may be your best bet.

Best and worst time to go to Portland
Portland is at its most vibrant from July to September, when the rain abates and the days are nearly uniformly sunny and glorious. However, that is also when most of the crowds emerge. Portland's rainy season goes from around October to June, with the rain starting to let up a bit usually in April - when the roses and rhododendrons begin to make their appearances. However, Portland stays relatively moderate throughout the year, rarely dipping into freezing temperatures during the day. If you prefer to avoid the summer crowds but still want a good a chance at seeing some sunny days, April through June would be your best bet to come visit. If you are looking for the absolute most amount to do, come in the summer.

Where to get lost in Portland
With its miles and miles of trails, Forest Park is a great option to wander about. You could easily spend an entire day meandering about its clearly-marked trails. Portland's Hawthorne district is another great option for wiling away the day. Hawthorne Street fully embraces Portland's unofficial motto to "Keep Portland Weird," and its eclectic array of shops, plus amazing coffee shops and restaurants, make this area well-worth the visit.

The best deal in Portland
Bank of America and Merrill Lynch card holders can get free admission to the Portland Art Museum, Portland Children's Museum and the Portland Japanese Garden on the first full weekend of every month.

Transportation in Portland
Public transportation in Portland is excellent, with dozens of bus lines, light rails, street cars and even a tram. A one-way bus fare is under $3 for adults. You can also live it up like a true Portlander and rent a bike at spots across town.

Getting in from the Portland International Airport
The airport is served by light rail (known as The MAX), which runs regularly and makes many stops downtown. If you decide to rent a car, most car rental locations are actually at the airport, so you can avoid the shuttle.

Local tip for visitors to Portland
A strange characteristic of Portlanders is that very few actually own an umbrella. Most umbrella-toters around here are tourists. So if you want to blend in, leave the umbrella in the hotel room. But if you want to stay dry, by all means bring one along.

Author's bio: Ali Wilkinson is a mom to three young children and she loves exploring all Portland has to offer with them. She is the founder of a Portland events website aimed at families, and writes about parenting on her blog run.knit.love.