What do you do when you have just 24 hours in a location? Ditch the car and head out to explore on foot! It’s one of our favorite ways to tour a city because you can really get a complete feel for the area. There is nothing like walking the streets, window-shopping, dining on what looks good to you (versus what the most “popular” location is) and simply talking to the locals about their city. Here’s what my husband and I did on our first time in the Pearl District of Portland, Oregon.
What should you do when you only have a short stay in a brand-new-to-you location? That’s the dilemma my husband and I faced recently. We’d flown in first to Seattle for a day of walking, then spent the night in Gig Harbor, Washington. After driving down to Portland, we had about 24 hours to explore the Pearl District. It’s a hip area that’s teeming with things to see, eat and do. Our first trip to the Pacific-Northwest was mercifully raindrop free though we were prepared with rain jackets and an umbrella, just in case!
Choose a Hotel in a Central Location
Fortunately the Pearl District is very walk-able so any hotel in this area is going to provide easy access to shops and restaurants. We stayed at the Marriott Residence Inn which is modern and chic but also very warm and welcoming. The lobby boasts a fireplace & sitting area, a truly beautiful wood-accented wall and a dining space (that also serves a complimentary breakfast in the morning). The rooms were large, with a full sized desk to spread out and work, a kitchenette and one of the most comfortable beds I’ve ever slept on at a hotel! The only downside to this location was the lack of parking, as we had to park on the street and pay a meter. This meant running down on occasion to feed the meter during the daylight hours.
Feed the Meter and Set Off on Foot
At check-in at the Marriott Residence Inn, we were given a walking map of the area. The Pearl District is compact, with short and flat, with easy-to-navigate blocks. As with any self-guided walking tour, make sure you are wearing sturdy walking shoes, bring a water bottle and make sure the meter for the car is well fed! We had limited time on our tour of the Pearl District, preferring to just walk and look around to get a feel of the area but there is quite a bit to do here if you have more time. There are several art galleries to explore, food carts for unique dining, boutique shopping and book stores (like Powell’s City of Books).
Work Up an Appetite
On the first day, we had a late lunch at the BridgePort Brewing Company. The valet at the hotel had recommended we’d walk down Marshall as there were a few good dining options in that direction. As we neared the patio dining for this restaurant my husband spotted another diner eating a huge bowl of chile verde. He just had to have one for himself and we walked in.
The BridgePort Brewing Company was the perfect spot for us. We were able to sit on the patio and watch the locals pass while enjoying absolutely satisfying foods. My husband ordered the aforementioned chile verde, which he deemed delicious. I had the refreshing Brewpub salad with apples, goat cheese and hazelnuts. We also shared The Saint Johns pizza with simple garlic, tomato and mozzarella and the meld of flavors really hit the spot. My husband is a craft beer aficionado so Portland was definitely his scene. He was pleased with the large selection of unique beers on tap here. We were both really glad to have stumbled across the BridgePort Brewing Company.
Along our tour, we did happen upon Blue Star Doughnuts and wandered in, just to smell the sweet aroma. We also passed Cool Moon Ice Cream Company, but given that we had full bellies we skipped the sweets and kept walking!
The following day, my husband was able to explore more of the area while I was at a conference. After he picked me up, he told me he wanted to take me to a surprise location for lunch.
When we rolled up to the Whole Foods Market, I was expecting that we’d grab something pre-packaged and head back to the hotel. What a surprise to see that the Whole Foods Market in Portland houses its own dining space. Inside the bustling market you can make your own box of food, picking and choosing from prepared hot and cold dishes. There were dozens of choices and we wandered around a bit, trying to decide. I settled on curry chicken with rice and a salad with mandarin orange soda, which was the perfect choice after walking outside on a warm day. Single beers are also available inside and prices for this light lunch were reasonable.
Sit and Soak up the Ambiance
After all that walking it’s simply lovely to just pull up a park bench and watch the world go by. We sat in Tanner Springs Park, a preserved wetland with public art and lots of open grassy areas to rest. Our visit to Portland was in early summer and the sun didn’t set until nearly 10 pm, so there was plenty of day light to stay out late and explore.
Now that we’ve experienced Portland‘s Pearl District on foot I’m sure that our first visit to the Pacific-Northwest won’t be our last! What is your favorite thing to do in Portland? Please share below in the comments.