As a bay area resident, a weekend trip to Portland makes for the perfect weekend getaway. There’s something to do for everyone; incredible food culture, jaw-dropping nature, and just the right touch of quirkiness. In our little band of three girlfriends, we traipsed, drove, and tasted our way through this diverse city. Follow along for a real itinerary with a pinch of nature, heaps of delicious eats, unique sites, and genuine people.
Friday – Out of the Office and Onto the Plane
Flying in on a Friday afternoon or evening is the way to go. We quickly got settled into our adorable Airbnb cottage in the Alberta Arts District, which is mostly known for a stretch of delicious restaurants and shops on Alberta Street. It has an artistic, hipster vibe about it; with plenty of food truck clusters and dog-friendly establishments. Just a few blocks away, we walked to dinner for tacos and drinks at Cruzroom. I sipped on one of the house favorites, called the “Downward Spiral”, which was a blueberry infused vodka sage drink. Welcome to Portland.
Anyone that travels with me is typically a foodie too and is always game to search for dessert or second dinners when in new places. Luckily for us, a one-minute walk led us straight to Pine State Biscuits, which is a dream for any biscuit and gravy lover. This place is notorious and has shown up on many “best of” Portland roundups that I’ve seen. I’m not sure if this qualified as dessert or dinner, but I feasted on two buttery biscuit pillows topped with a mountain of crumbled gravy sausage.
The next morning, we set out for downtown; our antenna pointed directly at Blue Star Donuts. This establishment is highly regarded for their use of quality ingredients and a wide array of flavors. Oh me, oh my, there was not a single donut I wanted to eat. Although I eventually settled on the Blueberry Bourbon Basil, my eyes were locked and loaded on the Maple Bacon… and the Lemon Poppyseed and Raspberry too. The list (plus vegan options) goes on and on.
By sheer chance, we also happened upon the inaugural Tilikum Crossing opening celebration too. It is a fresh and modern bridge with clean, strong lines. A marching band clad in silver American Apparel-esque spandex and questionable outfits blared tunes up and down the length of the bridge for everyone’s enjoyment. As they say, “Let’s Keep Portland Weird”!
After walking across the bridge, we drove back over to the SouthEast area for sustenance at Ground Breaker Brewing. This cozy brewery and gastropub has an impressive collection of gluten-free beer and savory bites. Their menu regularly rotates like a revolving door of mouthwatering gifts; so it is a place you would certainly want to frequent. I enjoyed a thick Cubano sandwich and a pale ale, which definitely hit the spot.
Our late lunch put a little zing back in my step and we piled back into the car to drive to the Southwest area to explore the International Rose Test Garden. I was astounded to see the sheer magnitude of this impressive and well-manicured rose collection. Make sure your sinuses are clear for this visit because you will definitely want to stop and smell every flower (and take allergy medicine). There is an informational sign in the center of the garden that displays the winners of each category and which bed they are located in. Do check this place out; it’s incredible!
I seem to have a knack for collecting foodie friends, but also friends that support the rejuvenating powers of a solid nap. We took a late-afternoon siesta and spent a bit of time enjoying each other’s company at the Airbnb before dinner at Saucebox located in SouthWest Portland, downtown. This area of downtown is loaded with restaurants, bars, and shops within easy walking distance. We walked a little under 10-minutes to get to our next destination at the Multnomah Whiskey Library.
To say this place is” just a bar” would be an extreme understatement. The Multnomah Whiskey Library is an experience. Upon entry on the first floor, you are greeted by a podium and a tall staircase. There’s a lounge room to the side with a long wooden table fixed with iconic library brass lamps with green glass shades. There is a smaller bar here, which helps pass the time as you wait for your reservation in the elusive upstairs.
On a busy night, the wait can be well over an hour long. I typically opt out of restaurants or bars with long queues, but I had heard multiple times that this was a place I had to visit. The stairway reveals a luxurious room with brick walls, hardwood floors, supple leather chairs, an endless stretch of shelves with whiskey, topped with a sliding ladder. Drink orders are taken with care; interpreted by an impeccably dressed bartender, and made to order directly from your side from a whiskey trolley.
Lodging: Homeward Bound
The Alberta Arts District is a haven for weekend brunch spots, so just stroll up and down Alberta Street and take your pick. We had a light breakfast at Fuel Bistro and Coffee Bar, which suited us well because there was no wait and we were eager to hit the road for Multnomah Falls. This gorgeous two-tiered waterfall is less than a 30-minute drive outside of Portland but feels like an epic escape with the unreal scenery. The hike to the top of the falls is about 3 miles and is well worth the climb to view the cascading water below.
To continue along the theme of nature, our next stop was The Grotto, a lovely natural Catholic sanctuary with a botanical garden. The shrine is carved into an 110-foot cliff, with a statue of Mary propped on a tall pedestal with a recreation of Michelangelo’s Pietà to her left. It’s easy to spend quite a bit of time here going through the visitor center, visiting the gardens, or just taking in a quiet moment on the grounds.
With the last bit of afternoon fading away, we stopped for an early dinner in the NorthEast over full plates La Buca’s pasta. While our weekend in Portland had been nothing short of fabulous meals, brilliant drinks, and moments in nature, we knew there was still much we had left unturned. Like a good book, Portland will remain as a place I’d like to revisit and uncover new nuances, time and time again.
A Foodie’s Dream Street: Alberta Arts District
The Perfect Donut: Blue Star Donuts
Smell The Roses: International Rose Test Garden
Order an Old Fashioned: Multnomah Whiskey Library
Chasing Waterfalls: Multnomah Falls