We’re back from a little blog hiatus. So much travel — so little time (or maybe more importantly, Internet access!). For the past 2 weeks, we’ve been in South Africa and Zambia having some crazy adventures. However, just as we were about to book that trip a few months back, we got the big news from our friend Julia — she was getting married in Portland. Quick change of plans! We definitely didn’t want to miss this – so packed our bags for a SLIGHT detour from Africa to Portland!
Now, I’ve been to Portland several times. And let’s just say, the first thing that comes to mind is that it’s cold and VERY wet! But maybe the fall is the magic time to go? This trip, there was no rain with sunny skies (though still very cold for us despite locals proclaiming it was hot!). I wouldn’t go that far.
So whether you’re heading to Portland for your next trip — or taking a slight detour along the way to Africa (okay, only us!) — here are our recommendations on the best food spots and sites you can’t miss.
5. Bite to Eat at Charlie’s Bagels
Okay, so they may not be the quickest. But wow, these bagels are to die! Before the wedding, we headed into downtown Portland to walk around and came across Charlie’s Bagels by chance. The worker inside called out to us – which I normally avoid because I find it pushy! But I was hungry. Plus, I knew we needed a little food before the big wedding. The chilly day felt like bagel weather to me! They bake the bagels fresh right on site – in fact, they were finishing up a batch when we ordered. At last, we finally got our veggie sandwich on the everything bagel. The verdict? Definitely the best bagel we’ve had on the west coast! In fact, it rivaled just about anything back home. And even better yet, no jet lag!
Hours: Weekends 10am-5pm
4. Movie at McMenamins Kennedy School
McMenamins Kennedy School is everything that Portland should be — quirky, super cool and understated from the outside. I could tell Kevin definitely had some doubt as we pulled into a dark parking lot of what was once a school, now converted into a hotel. Once inside though, the place was hopping – with a happening bar in the boiler room, pin ball machines and a massive movie theater showing first run films!
Before coming to Portland, I never heard of McMenamins. But it’s certainly a big deal in the Pacific Northwest. The brand is synonymous with taking historic buildings and restoring them into chains of various bars, hotels, movie halls and restaurants. But at least if you’re caught drinking here, you won’t end up in detention (though they still have a room for that!).
3. Tasty Sweets at Voodoo Doughnut
Voodoo Doughnut is an institution in Portland. Don’t let the line scare you away – it wrapped along the back of the building like a ride you’d see at Disneyland. But they know how to move a crowd — we stood in line less than 20 minutes! And if you go on a weekday, the wait is even shorter.
I’m not a huge fan of doughnuts – but it’s the thing to do in Portland and a fun experience. Kevin and I tag teamed going up to the front of the line to check out what they had. The inside of the shop is tiny – so you’ll have to maneuver your way inside. But in the end, we walked out with a selection in their signature pink box.
2. Perusing Portland’s Saturday Farmers Market
If there is one thing I love, it’s a good farmer’s market! And the Portland Farmers Market doesn’t disappoint. Held on Saturdays from 8:30 AM – 2 PM, you’ll find artwork, food stalls and food trucks, live musicians jamming out and all of Portland’s cool crowd out and about. You’ll lose count of all the signs proclaiming “Organic” and “Vegan.” There is no doubt you’re in Portland. Time your trip with a stop at Voodoo Doughnuts and Charlie’s Bagels – both just steps away from the market and making your toughest job deciding what to eat!
1. Walking Among Nature At the Oregon Zoo
Without a doubt, the Oregon Zoo ranks as the most scenic/relaxing zoo experiences we’ve ever done. Are the kids better behaved in Portland? Are the parents giving fruit rather than sugar? All questions we wondered since we barely heard a scream, a cry or saw a temper-tantrum kick! But in reality, the tranquility is likely due to the fact that the zoo stretches across a vast space. It’s like a zoo scattered inside a forest.
Our recommendation is to head straight to the “Great Northwest” section of the zoo — where you’ll get to see condors, black bears, mountain goats and other animals found in the region. Maybe not so exciting for a local? But for a visitor from Southern California, it was very unique!
As you make your way through the local animals section, you’ll come across a train as well as a carousel and food stalls with beer, wine and hot dogs. Now this is our kind of zoo!
The park is open daily from 9:30 am – 4:00 pm. But if going on the weekend, get there early! We showed up at 10 AM and had to park about 10 minutes away from the gate. Admission is $14.95 for adults (12–64) and discounts for senior citizens, youth, military and free for children under 2 years old.