Portland-theater-signWhen business sends you to the Pacific Northwest, why not add an extra day or two of vacation? See the sights in Portland, Ore., including the food pods (carts), shopping, free public art and more.

Modern Boutique Hotel in Portland
Hotel Modera is located in downtown Portland and a few blocks from Portland Stare University’s campus. The hotel has 174 guest rooms and suites with contemporary touches throughout – from the mod lobby with sleek furniture and terrariums on the tables to guest rooms with big picture windows looking out at the courtyard or downtown Portland. It’s a great place to relax after a business trip and enjoy a little “me time” without the kids.

Happy Hour with a City View
After checking in, head out to dinner at Portland City Grill, located downtown on the 30th floor of the US Bancorp building. While the views of the city are spectacular day or night, the food is equally impressive. Northwest, Island and Asian influences can be found in dishes including steaks, salads, and desserts.

For a more informal experience, try happy hour (4-7 p.m. and 9 p.m.-close and all day Sunday), where an abbreviated menu provides generous portions of appetizers and drinks at a lower rate. I ordered the Rice Paper Spring Rolls, a deliciously fresh tasting salad wrapped in rice paper and served with a spicy peanut sauce. Along with a drink, the meal came in at $10 and was filling enough to be dinner.

Wake up with Breakfast at Nel Centro
Part of Hotel Modera, Nel Centroserves three meals a day, all based on culinary traditions of the French and Italian Riviera. The restaurant (Italian for “in the center”) is situated on the corner of the block, allowing light to filter into the airy atmosphere and provide patrons with people watching opportunities. I enjoyed a breakfast of eggs and applewood smoked bacon at Nel Centro, but the menu also offers house-made granola and several pastries.


City Tours for Best of Portland

Portland is a decidedly walking-friendly city. The city blocks are actually smaller than most large cities; back in the day, Portland’s founders reasoned that more blocks would mean more corners for retailers to sell their wares. Combined with wider-than-usual sidewalks, it’s easy to walk the city.

That said, one of the best ways to see the city is through a walking tour. I signed up the “Best of Portland” tour from Discover Portland Walking Tours to get a feel for the city’s neighborhoods and learn more about its history. For a little over two hours, our guide literally walked us through the city’s history, such as the more than 30 public art pieces (including Portlandia and the story behind the statue) and the reason why in 1912 bronze drinking fountains were installed on the city’s sidewalks (reportedly to keep loggers out of the city saloons at lunchtime).

Lunch on the Go in Downtown Portland
Downtown Portland offers tastes and flavors for any palate – from ethnic cuisine of the food pods (located in several clusters downtown) to bistros to farmers’ markets to even a handful of national chain restaurants including Macaroni Grill and Red Robin.

I grabbed a gyro at the Greek food pod and join many others lunching on the brick steps at Pioneer Courthouse Square. The 40,000-square-foot square is great for people watching (more than 26,000 people reportedly visit the square each day) and even provides entertainment on certain days, including free festivals, movies, and markets. It’s also home to Portland’s official visitor information center, Travel Portland, where visitors can get directions, recommendations, and local information, as well as purchase tickets for the TriMet bus and light rail line.

Portland-Oregon-downtown-city-sidewalkShopping in Downtown Portland
Just off Pioneer Courthouse Square is Pioneer Place, a shopping mall with the usual stores (H&M, Gap) and some only found locally (Made in Oregon, Katmandu Trading Co.). In addition, many small boutiques and coffee and tea shops can be found walking through Portland.

Powell’s City of Books takes up an entire city block in downtown Portland, and stocks more than a million new and used books. Color-coded rooms help visitors to choose among the more than 3,500 different sections, including out-of-print and hard-to-find titles.

Public Transportation to PDX Airport
After shopping, it was time to travel to the airport and go home. The city’s TriMet system has a light rail rail line that goes to the airport; from Pioneer Courthouse Square on the Red Line, the train took me about 30 minutes to get to PDX. The line goes through the northeastern section of the city I hadn’t seen, including Chinatown and Old Town sections, and past the bustling Portland Saturday Market.

Disclosure: My hotel and walking tour were hosted by Travel Portland; all opinions expressed are my own.

Teresa J. Shaw is editor of the Free in 50 States section and blogs about working and traveling at WorkingTravelingMom. Follow her on Twitter at @TeresaShaw.