Portland is a lot like that cool uncle of yours, the one with the tattoo and the longish hair who used to show up at family functions with stories flushed with innuendos about hot girls and smoking pot, which only sounded mysterious and cool as a seven year old. Also, he bought you Mario Bros 3 for Christmas.
Portland could also be your estranged aunt, the one with the tattoo and the longish hair who once traveled the world in search of enlightenment and turned down dozens of suitors to settle in a remote forest cabin to hunt mushrooms. Also, she has a cat.
OK, enough with the metaphors. Portland is its own stereotype, but ultimately it sums itself up in one word: weird. To visit Portland is to embrace weird, and if you can fully wrap your arms around it all, you might just come away all the better for it.
A Few Weird (and Not-So-Weird) Things to Do/See in Portland:
- Breweries. I say “breweries” instead of simply “beer” because for those of you who don’t like beer, you must know that the brew-pub experience of delicious craft brew tastings paired with locally sourced, hormone-free burgers is quintessentially Portlandian. I fit in Deschutes and Rogue in my few days there, but I know I only barely tapped the surface of the Portland beer experience. Deschutes, 210 NW 11th Ave. (map) and Rogue, 1339 NW Flanders St. (map).
- Powell’s. I’d venture to say very few other cities in the world promote a bookstore as one of its main attractions. In Portland, it’s a given. Multiple levels of books combined with a spacious cafe make it a great time killer or daylong excursion. You choose. Plus, the option of free bag check makes it a good home base for anyone who needs to store a suitcase before a flight or hotel check-in. Powell’s, 1005 W Burnside (map).
- Cargo. This mega-store in the Pearl District bills itself as a showroom, flea market, and international bazaar (thought mostly with an Orient twinge). Colorful sinks and tables share space with posters of Mao and giant foam lotus flowers. It also has the widest and arguably weirdest assortment of Asian knickknacks I’ve ever seen. This includes baskets full of vintage Asian family photos going for $4 a pop. Cargo, 380 NW 13th Ave. (map).
- McCall Waterfront Park. The people-watching at this riverfront spot is prime. Plus it’s got a decent running and bike path (albeit crowded). On a nice sunny weekend, you may get lucky and run into a festival with carnival rides and elephant ears, or perhaps you can lay in the grass and hear the latest musings from the local transients. Either way, you’re bound for hours of entertainment. Tom McCall Waterfront Park (map).