(45 minutes) Most of what you’ve heard about Portland is true: an eclectic city with lots of distinct neighborhoods. Some highlights include:
- Powell’s City of Books where you can find new, used and rare books. With 68,000 ft2, it’s just darn big yet they ran out of room and had to put the Technical books across the street. Take my advice and pick up the store map at the info center.
- Gardens – start with the International Rose Test Gardens, Portland Japanese Garden or Lan Su Chinese Garden. In the spring, the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden is ablaze with color.
- Food– We don’t do food trucks, we got serious and made pods of 3-60 food carts instead. Check out Cartlandia or Cartopia or the Mississippi Marketplace, or whichever pod is near wherever you end up.
- The Pearl District is full of shops, galleries, and restaurants to explore.
- People watching supreme and handcrafts from local artisans are at Portland Saturday Market (and Sundays, too!) and Voodoo Donuts, for although there is considerable competition (see: Blue Star Donuts, Cocodonuts) donut supremacy, Voodoo is who gets the national press.
- Columbia River Gorge (starting point: 1 hour 10 minutes) Washington and Oregon were split many eons ago by the Columbia River and the Missoula Floods at the end of the last Ice Age. Left behind are dramatic canyon walls, waterfalls and a lazy river. Drive the whole Mt Hood Scenic Loop out through the Gorge, then circle around Mt Hood to make your way back. Along the way, detour to the Historic Columbia River Highway for a panoramic view of the Gorge at Crown Point Vista House and check out some of our waterfalls, including Multnomah Falls – our largest waterfall in Oregon. There are hiking loops at Multnomah Falls and its neighboring falls. For the engineers and fish counters out there, the Bonneville Dam has a good tour explaining the energy production that has tamed the river since 1938.
- Oregon Coast (1 hour 30 minutes) A day trip from here to the Central Coast will take you to Lincoln City, and then either south to Newport’s Oregon Coast Aquarium and the sea lions who have made the bay their home, or north to Pacific City and Tillamook, home to Tillamook cheese and ice cream (tasting!). Whichever way you head, there are pullouts for great views of the rugged coastline and lighthouses.
- Silver Falls State Park (1 hour 15 minutes) Take scenic back roads east of the Willamette River through fields of clover, wheat, nursery stock and hops. When you need to stretch your legs, you’ll be at the 8.7 mile Trail of Ten Falls. If you’re not up for the whole hike park at North Fall and do a 3 mile loop or park at South Falls and do a 4.5 mile loop.
- Oregon Garden (55 minutes) Nearby Silver Falls State Park, the 80-acre garden consists of more than 20 specialty gardens, including a 9-pond wetlands habitat that filters the nearby town of Silverton’s waste water and uses it for irrigation throughout the garden. The conifer garden highlights Oregon species, while for the Tropical House showcases plants from elsewhere. The Gordon House, the only home in Oregon designed by Frank Lloyd Wright is just next door to the garden.