When I had to go to Portland for work last year, my husband and I decided to make the most of it and tack on a weekend trip. It was such an amazing trip and very budget friendly. Besides food and the hotel, we barely had to pay for anything and still had the best time! Below are some of our favorite stops from our Portland trip and here are a few additional money saving tips:
- You don’t need to stay at a hotel in downtown. You will pay a major premium to stay in a hotel right in the heart of downtown. And I really don’t think it’s worth it. We stayed in a Best Western or something on the outskirts of Portland and would take mass transit into Portland and around the city all day. Which leads me to my next tip…
- You don’t need to rent a car. The mass transit in Portland is amazing! It is super affordable and takes you everywhere you need to go.
Now for the must-see spots for your weekend trip to Portland:
1. Salt & Straw Ice Cream Shop
Almond Brittle with Salted Ganache. Sea Salt with Caramel Ribbons. My mouth is watering just thinking about Salt & Straw’s menu. This adorable ice cream shop has three locations in Portland. We went to the one on NW 23rd which I recommend because it is a fun area to window shop and walk around as well.
While they have the most amazing decadent flavors like those mentioned above, what really makes Salt & Straw unique is their outlandish pairings that are downright delicious. Wildflower Honey & Ricotta Walnut, Strawberry & Cilantro Cheesecake, Mint Leaves & Sea Urchin Meringues, Pear with Bleu Cheese. I swear these are actual flavors!
You may wonder how these flavors could possibly work together, but I assure you every single flavor I sampled (and there were a lot) was delicious! The people that work there are super friendly too and encourage you to try as many flavors as you’d like.
They recently expanded to locations in Los Angeles as well, which we obviously had to check out as soon as they opened. This is one instance that I am thankful for LA traffic or I probably would have been there every week.
2. Powell’s City of Books
When in Portland, visiting the flagship location of Powell’s City of Books is like a rite of passage. No picture you have seen does it justice. This place is huge! Around every corner, there is a staircase to a new area and just rows and rows of books. It is incredible.
Powell’s is the world’s largest independent bookstore. They have an incredible array of new, used, and rare out-of-print books (over a million in total). You will be hard-pressed to find a title they don’t carry. Actually, I take that back. You may have a hard time finding it in the sea of books, but they will surely have it.
3. Alder Street Food Cart Pod
There are food trucks galore in Portland. The easiest way to sample them is to visit one of the food truck “pods” where there are a whole bunch in one location. We visited the Alder Street Food Cart Pod (at SW 10th and Alder), which is a very convenient location if you’re sight seeing since it’s right near downtown. Food Carts Portland is a great resource to check out and even includes a map of where you can find the various carts.
4. Saturday Market at Waterfront Park
Every Saturday there is a huge street market with all sorts of vendors. Not totally unlike many street fairs you have been to, but the setting is awesome. Many of the booths are right by the water and you can stroll and eat and enjoy the afternoon.
5. Ground Kontrol Arcade
This was my husband’s addition to the itinerary, but I totally enjoyed it. What’s better than facing off over your favorite 90’s arcade games? Doing it with a beer in hand. Ground Kontrol features over 90 arcade games from the past four decades. After 5pm, they also have a full-service bar. So stop by for a bit of nostalgia and a cold beer.
6. Le Bistro Montage
This was my favorite dinner in Portland. Crawfish Hushpuppies, Gator Bites, Etouffee and Jambalaya. So much Cajun goodness. This place is on the outskirts of Portland in this industrial area under a bridge. We had heard you had to get there early before it opens if you don’t want to wait because they don’t take reservations. When we first got there I was beginning to question if we were in the right place. Then, right before it opened, people started flocking in from everywhere! It was wild.
You sit at long family-style tables and it is such a fun, authentic experience. Have some of the Old Mac while you are at it; Food Network even has a recipe to try to recreate it at home. And now’s the time to add alligator to your weirdest things you ever ate list. Make your you save some leftovers and ask for them to go for a little surprise at the end!
Looking for other places to eat? Screen Door is another popular dining recommendation serving Southern comfort food, but it gets super busy so be prepared for a long wait.
7. Deschutes Brewery
Microbreweries are king in Portland. There are actually more breweries in Portland than any city in the world! So you have plenty of choices to choose from. One we stopped at was Deschutes because we drink their beers and wanted to check it out. It was a great atmosphere, amazing selection of beers, and surprisingly good food! We got flights of all sorts of intriguing craft beers and I devoured a Reuben after a busy morning of walking all around the city.
8. Voo Doo Donuts
Have them in the morning. Have them late at night after the bar. Have them whenever. This is a super touristy stop so you will inevitably wait in a long line. But again, it is just one of those places you definitely have to go. This place embodies the “Keep Portland weird” motto. They have donuts with every topping you can imagine from Froot Loops to Butterfingers and the names are not exactly G-rated.
9. Washington Park & Rose Garden
Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses. (Sorry, couldn’t resist). But seriously, you have to check out the Rose Garden at Washington Park. Portland is actually nicknamed the Rose City and the garden began to protect European rose species during WWI. This two-acre park has nearly 9,000 rose bushes with every type and color you can imagine. Plus, it’s on top of a hill so it has a really cool view of Portland. Bring a picnic and you’ll earn it walking up the hill to get here.
10. Multnomah Falls
If you do end up renting a car or have a friend in Portland, it’s worth heading out to Multnomah Falls and get a taste of Portland’s natural scenery. Multnomah Falls is about a 30-minute drive outside of Portland and it is breathtaking. Just a short stroll from the parking lot there is an incredible 600+ foot waterfall. Then, there are miles of hiking trails with tons of smaller falls along the way. It is an awesome getaway and truly a sight to see!
I hope y’all enjoy Portland as much as we did – just writing about it makes me want to go back! Happy travels!