Before I made the trip to Portland, Ore., I had quite a few misconceptions about the place. In my mind, it was solely a haven for bug-spray packing hikers who were perfectly fine going days without phone service. With that said, it wasn’t a city on my travel bucket list. But after seven days in the Pacific Northwestern locale, the sites, tastes and experiences available quickly opened my eyes to its greatness.
Rooftop coffee shops and chic cocktail bars populate the downtown area. Wine tasting in the Willamette Valley and soaking up the serenity of the Lan Su Chinese Garden is a perfect way to spend a solo trip. It is also a surprisingly walkable city, and I sure wandered through it, coming across street fairs and food trucks representing Portland’s artistic spirit.
I was so motivated by what I experienced that I opted to leave my comfort zone and go on a tour. The scenery filled with parks, paths, and incredible views was one of the best parts of the experience, and you did not have to be an experienced climber to get your trek on. You could also go whale watching and waterfall hunting without being a nature enthusiast and have a great time.
But that’s just a tiny bit of what made Portland a city to see. Check out the hangouts in and around the city that you must make it to.
STAY: Hotel Lucia
Hotel Lucia is quiet and stylish. Built in 1909, it is a historic property that sits within walking distance of great shopping and public transportation, and the staff was extremely helpful.
Their gym has Peleton bikes, so you don’t need to miss out on your Alex Toussaint and Ally Love fix during your stay.
A standard room worked well for a solo trip, but if you’re doubling up, you might want to consider upgrading to a suite. Rooms were also equipped with a Nespresso machine and a respectable selection of quality pods.
EAT: Deadstock Coffee Roasters
The coffee at Deadstock Coffee Roasters was exemplary, but it was the decor I couldn’t get enough of. Founded by a former Nike design employee, Ian Williams, they put Nike Dunk designs on their lattes.
But you don’t have to be a sneakerhead to appreciate the funky vibe of the place. It runs efficiently as well. There was a massive line, but I got right in and out on a busy morning.
EXPERIENCE: Lan Su Chinese Garden
Walking distance from Williams’s coffee shop is the Lan Su Chinese Garden. It is the perfect place to spend a relaxed afternoon for a modest admission fee of $14. There is plenty of seating to take in the greenery, as the views of the botanical garden are breathtaking. Gaze at the lily pads from a bench by the pond, wander around while listening to the audio tour, or just sit with your journal and people-watch. An additional tip: Stop by their tea house for a cup of White Peony.
DRINK: The Society Hotel
The rooftop coffee bar at The Society Hotel is a must-visit. It is a cozy little place to hang out that allows you to see the entire downtown area from anywhere on the roof. If you sit in the right spot, you can view the Lan Su Chinese Garden, the Willamette River and the Cascade Mountains.
They do host events (there was a bachelorette party when I visited), but there’s also room to silo yourself off if you like.
EXPERIENCE: Columbia River Gorge Waterfall Tour
You can be a nature novice and still enjoy this tour. The driver takes you to observation decks and over bridges that give you stunning views. There is a choice to be as involved as you like, and the vehicle is air-conditioned and comfortable.
Stop by Akadi on a Wednesday night and enjoy live music with your West African cuisine.
SHOPPING: Third Street Books and Sunrise Books
Portland is one of the most literary loving places I have ever traveled to. The city boasts about its bookishness but seeing it in person is inspiring. Everywhere I went, people were flipping through pages in bars and at parks. They even have a book festival that takes place annually. If you’re traveling with little ones, the Black-owned Sunrise Books is a great option. Grabbing those Instagrammable tacos from Tight Tacos Authentic Street Taquero? Visit Third Street Books nearby and pick up something for yourself.
EXPERIENCE: Portland Art Museum
The permanent Portland Art Museum (PAM) collection includes a welcoming sculpture from recent U.S. State Department of the Arts medal recipient Hank Willis Thomas. In addition, Black Artists of Oregon is on display until March 17, 2024, and Africa Fashion, the exhibit bringing crowds to Brooklyn Museum in New York City, is headed there next.
EAT: Higgins Piggins
An offshoot of the Higgins restaurant chain, Higgins Piggins provides quality food in a cozy setting just steps from PAM and the Oregon Historical Society.
EXPERIENCE: Wine Tasting in The Willamette Valley
DRINK: Abbey Creek: The Crick PDX
Not interested in straying too far from town? Stop by Black-owned for Abbey Creek: The Crick PDX, a tasting room that goes straight from the vineyard to your glass.
EAT: Screen Door Pearl District
Brunch at the charming Screen Door, which is steps from the famed Powell’s Bookstore, was magnificent. Make sure you make a reservation ahead of time so you’re not stuck waiting on the sidewalk. If you forget to, the decadent smells coming from the kitchen will keep you company while you wait for a table.