Have you ever been to idyllic little towns like Celebration, Florida near Disney World and thought, is there somewhere this cute and perfect where people really live? Well, the answer is yes: Portland, Oregon.
With kids or without, Portland may be the most perfect walking/biking/shopping/dining town, with no shortage of cute neighborhoods filled with all this and more. We just spent a few days there and can’t wait to go back.
Shopping, shopping, shopping. And NO TAX.
Tax free shopping may be reason enough to head to Portland for a long weekend or vacation. Getting engaged? No tax on that ring. Outfitting your family for the summer’s camping trip? No tax on that gear. Need a new wardrobe? Shop ’til your heart is tax-free content in one of dozens of picturesque shopping districts filled with top retail brands, local craftsmen and designers. Among the top districts are The Pearl, Downtown, and my favorite Nob Hill along 23rd Avenue, which has an artistically posh feel. And for authentic, locally crafted goods in one spot, don’t miss the Saturday Market on Naito Street at the foot of Ankeny Street, where artists and crafters gather on Saturday to sell their creations.
Coffee … You’ll need coffee. Luckily, there’s third wave coffee.
During our visit we got the feel for why coffee, beer and pinot noir are the drinks of choice in Portland: the weather. It rains a lot there.
And while it’s rarely cold enough to snow, and summers are typically warm and sunny, those rainy days can feel colder than they are, and a strong cup of coffee eases the chill. Because of this, coffee is an art in Portland, home to many ‘third wave coffee shops’ where artisans hand pick, custom roast and blend coffee beans for a curated experience. There are coffee roasters all over town, and to really get your geek on, you can take a tour of third wave coffee roasters while you’re in town. We had coffee at Stumptown Coffee Roasters and as we expected, it was really good.
Save your calories for Portland
Just like Paris, walk out your door and into the nearest restaurant—or food cart or food truck park— and you’ll likely be happy. (OK, steer away from chains and look for authentic—just sayin’.) The pride of Portland restaurants is fresh, local, artisanal, organic, authentic. We lunched at Little Bird, the second restaurant in town from James Beard award winner Gabriel Rucker and chef Erik Van Kley. Little Birds is among the few restaurants in town to be touted in a New York Times review. We tried a number of things from the French-overtoned menu and the only disappointment was that throughout the afternoon we passed by many more places we couldn’t try because we were so full from lunch. We had to wait until late night happy hour to try the yummy bar snacks at the Driftwood Lounge at our hotel, the Hotel deLuxe.
Burn those calories on local hiking and biking trails
That afternoon we walked around town between rain showers. If we’d thought ahead, we would have biked. That’s what the locals do. They wrap up in rain jackets with hoods, cover their handbags or briefcases, strap those accessories to the bike and tool through town, oblivious to the weather. There are bike rental shops everywhere, so choose one close to your hotel. For more enterprising exercise, Forest Park is an urban green space with hiking trails, or the miles of river front park offer great spaces for strolling or a jog.
But if you’re like me and all the exercise you want is walking from one store to another and comparing menu options all across town, hop on the Max light rail service ($2.50 for a 2-hour ticket; $5 to ride all day) the Portland Street Car ($1) or the WES rail service to the suburbs. These light rail trains run along city streets—tracks are embedded in the streets and will get you to most areas of the city.
Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, find this one: The Hotel deLuxe
In the middle of the day it was nice to take a break at our hotel, the boutique Hotel deLuxe downtown. Stepping through its scalloped glass doors and ascending the staircase into the lobby was like walking into a great classic Hollywood movie: whispering palms fan guests relaxing on art deco furniture, a movie is beamed onto a screen on the lobby’s far wall, and the warm, honed marble that frames the front desk could probably tell its own amazing stories. The 102 year old Hotel deLuxe has been retrofitted with all the modern conveniences but maintains a classic feel and its warm staff makes everyone feel welcome and comfortable.
The decor is thoughtful down to the smallest detail, from authentic-feeling furniture and textiles to the names of the restaurants. Surely Gracie’s was inspired the comedian George Burns’ innocent pixie-voiced wife Gracie Allen who played hilariously, brilliantly naive in their weekly TV program and ended each episode by bidding the audience ‘Good night.’ The Golden Era of Hollywood is celebrated throughout the hotel with photos of great movies decorating the hotel’s walls.
The quaint retro feel with modern touches is seen in the rooms as well. Guest beds have expansive upholstered headboards and the textiles are in muted tones; an art deco glass rolling shelf serves as the mini bar and the bathroom has its original fixtured charm but with modern lighting and clearly updated tiling. But absolutely the most important feature in the room is its best: the bed.
The most comfortable bed. Ever.
This may have been the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in. Ever. I’m a hotel junkie and a bed snob, and I love nothing more than a great bed. Plush, cushy, but not smotheringly so, from the moment I climbed in it cradled me for the most perfect night’s sleep. I awoke the next morning refreshed, relaxed and ready to tackle the day. Guests sleep experience is clearly important, not just in the quality of the bed but also, the selection of the pillow. Guests can choose from a pillow menu if the current selection isn’t perfect, ensuring an even more perfect night’s rest.
Disclosure: I was a guest of TravelPortland at the Hotel deLuxe; opinions and experiences related here are all my own.