I wrote this for a friend of mine who was visiting Portland, but I thought it was worth expanding on. And so here is a quick introduction to Portland, OR.
Portland is basically a four part grid, with the Willamette River and Burnside Street splitting it into 4 quadrants– Northeast, Northwest, Southwest, Southeast. (There’s a fifth part, called North Portland, but I haven’t been up there much and as it’s not walkable from everywhere else, it sort of doesn’t count.)
Each area has something to be said for it.
Northwest is the home of the Pearl District–lots of outdoor stores, cafes, parks, etc. It’s a bit yuppy, a bit corporate but a nice place. Lots of the “big” stores in Portland are here. Powell’s Books is the largest bookstore in the world, and you could easily spend an entire day (or more) there. Deschutes and Rogue Brewhouses are both nearby, and both worth some sampling. More breweries are opening all the time, or you could just go to Henrys and sample over 100 beers on draft.
Southwest is basically downtown–which is not the highlight of portland. It’s worth walking around, visiting Pioneer Square as well as all the food carts. The waterfront is very nice in the summer but might be rainy and chilly in winter. You can get food from about anywhere in the world for not too much money.
Northeast is a huge area, but streets like Mississippi and Alberta are some the best in Portland. Lots of cool places to eat, drink, shop, people watch, etc. The Bye&Bye is one of my favorite pubs, but you can’t really go wrong anywhere.
And then Southeast is sort of the portlandiest part of Portland. Hawthorne, Belmont, Division, Clinton, are all close together and have more bookstores, pubs, microbrews, teashops, brew and views than you can shake a stick at. Apex Brewpub on Division has a lot of tasty beers and you can get cheap & tasty mexican food from the place next door.
That’s a pretty basic overview. Biking is easy–you can bike just about everywhere. There are a couple of bike only trails as well; these will be easy to find.
More importantly, hiking.
You can take the bus or max to WASHINGTON PARK, which connects you to more than 30 miles of trail in Forest Park. It’s nice up there, and there is a tree arboretum with redwoods and other cool stuff.
In SOUTHEAST, it’s an easy climb up to MT. TABOR, but it’s one of the greatest places to view the city.
There are quite a few urban hikes available–the city is half forest and it can be quite easy to get out of civilization.
OUTSIDE THE CITY.
Portland has three great outdoors areas within an hour drive.
The Oregon Coast is beautiful and the town of Astoria (where Short Circuit, Goonies, etc were filmed) is great. There are tons of great hikes out there; some flat coastal, some mountain climbing, giant wandering elks, misty mountains.
Even better than the Coast is the COLUMBIA GORGE. The famous destination here is the Multnomah Falls (which could very well be frozen over in the winter). But there are hundreds of hikes in the area. All of them are at low enough altitudes that you can hike them year round. Salmon Creek is nice, and Latroull falls is as well, to name a few. Take the old highway and just stop at any hikes that look nice. A lot of them are pretty much the same–some climbing through forests, some waterfalls, and then loop back to the parking lot.
But the best place to hike in the Portland area, in my opinion, is MT. HOOD. The hikes here are out of the world. However it might be too snowy to get up in the winter. Nonetheless, a visit to TIMBERLINE LODGE (exterior shots for the Shining) would be a great day.