Travel Diary: 9 Things to do in Portland

October 27, 2017

Take a weekend up to the Pacific Northwest and make sure you check out these 9 things before you leave Portland.

Portland Travel

As part of our life on the West Coast, we’ve been trying to explore as much of this part of the country as we can. Portland’s been on the list for a while and this past weekend we finally made it up there. Only a short hour and a half flight from SF, it’s perfect for a quick weekend getaway.

Portland’s got a lot going on, and much like the way I often travel, it was a mix of eating a lot, working out, and wandering around. When I go on vacation, I want to try the local favorites (Portland’s famous treat would be donuts!), but I also want to feel like myself and feel good (even after that third donut…), which is why I try to fit in a few workouts, or at the very least hit my 10,000 steps each day. Thanks to an active scene in Portland, I was able to visit two awesome studios and kept well above my step goal while exploring.

We created our itinerary based on recommendations from friends and friends of friends and I think we hit up a lot of the musts. If you’re planning a Portland trip, here’s what you shouldn’t miss.

(1) Sample the Donuts

I’m no donut connoisseur (I’m more of a cake gal), but when it comes to Portland, eat the donuts! The two most recommended spots were Voodoo Doughnut and Blue Star Donuts; to get the full experience we had to try both. These two shops are pretty much complete opposites of each, though both house unique flavors. Voodoo is kitschy, bizarre and grungy and Blue Star is upscale, refined and classy. Both spots were pretty tasty though–I preferred the Voodoo flavors and MM preferred Blue Star, so it’s a toss up.

Portland Travel

Portland Travel

(2) Drink your way through breweries

Portland’s got a great beer scene, grab tastings (& food) at Deschutes Brewery and 10 Barrel Brewing, I highly recommend the cucumber sour at 10 Barrel. Looking for more beer? Check out 19 more Portland options from Eater here. If you experience rainy Portland weather, ducking into a local brewery for a flight is a great way to pass the time.

portland travel

(3) Break A Sweat

You know I didn’t eat all those donuts and drink all those beers and NOT workout. It’s not really about burning off the calories though; I love visiting studios in new cities to check out the scene. After asking around, I narrowed it down to two studios. First I visited Firebrand for a row class. This studio was enormous with separate studios for row, Lagree, cycling and barre and the biggest boutique gym lobby I’ve ever been in. The staff was super friendly and the class was awesome. The class was intimate with about 10 rowers. It was a mix of rowing, floor work and resistance band moves. Great vibe and great instruction.

Next, I visited Barre3. This studio is now open in NYC too, but it didn’t arrive until after I left. I see so many fitness bloggers raving about the workout so I was pretty excited to have the opportunity while in Portland. Barre3 was founded in Portland so it was the perfect place to give it a go. The hour long class had bigger movements than your typical barre class and everyone was pretty sweaty by the end. Another class with really good energy.

Between the two classes I visited, I can report that everyone is super friendly and the instructors are extremely welcoming. The vibe is more low key than a lot of NYC or SF studios and there are far fewer Lululemon-clad gals filling the classes (lots more Nike!). Maybe it’s because I was going at odd times, but the classes were also filled with people of all ages, whereas I feel like everyone in the boutique fitness scene in SF is under 40. I know some people get intimidated by boutique studios, but these didn’t have that vibe at all. If I were to visit Portland again, I’d go back to both studios.

(4) Stay Central

We stayed at the Kimpton  Hotel Vintage and I highly recommend it. We were walking distance to many of our activities (15 minute walks to Firebrand and Barre3, plus close to restaurants and breweries) and the hotel was super cute. They host a wine hour from 5-6 every night and it was quite the social hour in the lobby/bar area. Our room was spacious and it’s a very dog friendly hotel, they even stopped by the room to bring Ollie a special bag of doggie treats!

(5) Explore the Neighborhoods

There are a bunch of cute little hoods throughout Portland, one of our favorites was walking 23rd. It’s full of shops, restaurants and Salt & Straw ice cream (which is also in SF so I was able to hold myself back this time around).

(6) Eat, Eat, Eat

So many restaurant recommendations, so little time. Much like the rest of our itinierary, after getting recommendations from a bunch of people, we made sure to hit up the most recommended. First on the list, brunch at Tasty n Alder. It seems like waiting for a table is a big thing in Portland, so be prepared. Not in the mood for an hour+ wait, we ended up eating at the bar at a few places. We had a delicious dinner at Pok Pok. Go and order the spicy chicken wings. I don’t even care for wings and these were amazing–best I’ve ever had.

And on the day we left, I grabbed lunch at Por Que No, a Mexican spot on Mississippi that a bunch of locals recommended, including a friendly guy in my row class.

(7) Hike, Walk & Take it All In

While everyone recommended visiting in the summer, or September at the latest to avoid the rainy season, it felt pretty magical to visit Portland in late October. While the weather didn’t totally cooperate (see #9), the fall weather was gorgeous. The colorful leaves and crisp cool air (when it wasn’t raining of course) reminded me of fall in New York or New England. The weather in SF is consistency pretty good, but when I feel the changing seasons elsewhere, it makes me miss it.

portland travel

(8) Drink all the Coffee

If you go to Starbucks while in Portland, I’ll be mad at you. It’s not that I don’t like Starbucks (love you sbux!), but there are so many cute coffee shops in Portland, and you should try as many as you can. Even if it means 2+ coffees a day 🙂 We visited Stumptown, Barista, Public Domain and a few others along the way. Stumptown was my fave, but they were all great.

(9) Embrace the Rain

When we realized it was set to rain the entire weekend, we asked some folks living in Portland–what do people do in the rain? The answer? Everything! Fortunately it only rained one full day while we were visiting, and we powered through. We didn’t go on any big hikes like we had wanted, but we still explored the city in the rain. You never know what kind of weather you’ll get on vacation; don’t let it stop you from exploring and enjoying. I appreciate that the people of Portland seem to ignore the rain and go about their business. I used to feel like a badass when it would be blizzarding or 0 degrees in NYC and I’d wake up for a 6am workout, trudging through the snow. Now in SF when it drops below 55 I’m freezing and complaining. It’s crazy how quickly you can become a weather wimp out here! Thank you Portland for reminding me to push through whatever the weather is and just embrace what’s around me.

Portland Travel

Have you been to Portland? Any favorites we missed out on?


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