My favourite things in Portland

by Karen Viehoever on 26 February 2014, 10:02AM

I moved to Portland from the eastern part of the USA in my early twenties, and delight in the wisdom I showed at that early age!  I still love to visit the East Coast, but Portland, Oregon is where I want to live.  Why?  Here are a few of my favourite things…


Everyone is welcome.  Portlanders can’t help it.  We are friendly.  Strangers talk to each other and be warned; visitors brandishing maps will be accosted by well-meaning residents who want to help.  Not everyone looks the same, either.  We have hippies and hipsters, people with politically incorrect nick names and identifying initials, like L G B T Q.  So what?


The outdoors is everyone’s playground.  Granted – Portland is a vibrant city but part of the charm is the ease of going outside and playing in Nature.  From Forest Park (one of the country’s largest urban reserves) to the Columbia River Gorge or the Oregon Coast or Mount Hood, it is no big deal to go for a hike or a pedal or a paddle, like kayaking gentle waters in the Willamette or Columbia, or rafting through the rapids on the Clackamas River.


It is a region of small businesses, which are more apt to act like collaborators rather than competitors.  How else did Portland get to boast over 50 breweries?  It’s not because we drink that much beer, it is just that instead of one or two really big breweries, we have a bunch of creative beer lovers who love to brew.  They share their knowledge and secrets while encouraging each other, believing that variety of the spice of life here.


We have also got an abundant wine country. Excellent growing conditions have fostered the rapid emergence of Oregon as one of the world’s finest new wine regions. There are wineries in Portland itself as well as in the wider the region.  These tasty wines are award-winning and certainly challenge the old world wines. And even if you don’t want to drink the wine, you can get drunk on the views of the vineyards set against gentle, rolling hills with old red barns and whitewashed farmhouses and lazy dogs… I think you get the picture?


Portland is very walkable! Which means you really can walk pretty much everywhere, and people certainly do.  They also ride their bikes a lot.  More people commute to work by bike in Portland than any other city in the USA, even though we do actually have hills.  Most people wear helmets, some wear spandex, but most just wear whatever they want, that fits with where they are going.  Like work, the theatre or the supermarket.


Good food is certainly available!  But it is confession time as I am not really a foodie.  I look at some menus and need a dictionary.  But I do love to eat fresh, locally grown, sustainably raised food. I appreciate creative chefs who focus on the seasonal bounty and put food on a plate that comes out looking like a piece of art.  The proof is in the tasting and we have awesome food here.  There is white-linen, fine-dining with James Beard award-winning chefs de cuisine.  But there are also food carts that feature versions of everything from Thai street food to that old American favourite; the peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Even the fast food burger joints feature Oregon raised beef, locally made cheese and seasonal strawberry milkshakes.  In Portland you can eat well for $5 or for $50.


The range of cultural offerings is astounding.  From punk to jazz to blues to symphony to opera, the challenge is trying to figure out what you are okay missing (because you just can’t do it all).  Visual arts range from really funky to classical beauty, and from Portland Art Museum galleries to street art.  If someone says they are bored in Portland, it must be because they want to be.


Oh!  I’m forgetting shopping!   There aren’t many places in the US where there is no sales tax, but that’s the case in Oregon.  As a result, we have awesome shops, which range from local boutiques to internationally recognised name brands.  We have crafts markets and farmers markets, funky shopping streets, as well as traditional shopping centres with your favourite department stores.  And of course the Woodburn Premium Outlets; the largest tax-free shopping centre in the West.  Regional guidebooks suggest that visitors should plan to bring or purchase an empty suitcase.


Did I tell you that the weather is awesome in Portland?  Spring, summer and autumn are all beautiful, and winter is pretty mild.  It rains a bit, more so in winter, but the air feels crisp and clean. If it wasn’t for that rain, we wouldn’t have the incredible green lush surroundings we do from April through October.  Our roses are so happy they bloom into December.  Portlanders just don’t let the rain keep them from living their active outdoor lives.


Did I mention the wider region of Oregon?  The coast will take your breath away (but it will give it back).  Mount Hood has snow on it all year round.  It is very cool to throw snowballs in July.  And if it happens to be raining in Portland, just go over the mountains to the sunshine in Central and Eastern Oregon.  Explore alpine mountaintops and raging rivers to endless national parks and bustling town. Try your hand at digging for dinosaur bones in the John Day Fossil Beds or paddle down Lake Billy Chinook in The Cove Palisades State Park.


So these are just some of my favourite things.  When you visit, let me know some of yours!

For more information about holidays to Portland, click here

All images courtesy of

Author bio: Karen Viehoever spreads the gospel about her adopted home of Portland, Oregon.

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