In PDX // How To Spend One Day In Portland

Last month, we some had friends come visit from Michigan; however, they were only in town for the weekend, which meant that they really only had Saturday to explore. Cam and I tried to pack as many “Portland” activities as possible into that one day to give them a sense of the city in a short amount of time. Their visit got me thinking, now that I’ve lived here for over a year, I figured it’s high time I do a post about how to spend a day in my city! Plus, it seems like more and more frequently I get requests from readers on what to do when visiting Portland, so here are my top recommendations!
First off, when you land at the Portland airport, don’t be afraid to take a photo of the carpet! People here are weirdly obsessed with it, so much so that it even has it’s own hashtag (#pdxcarpet) and Instagram account (@pdxcarpet)! (Clearly I’ve done it a few times myself!)
Have Brunch:
Here in Portland, people go nuts for brunch and there are lots of great options! Be warned that wait times can be quite long, so typically your best bet is either to get to the restaurant as early as possible…or just be OK with the fact that you’re going to have to wait. Ideally if you want to get in the first seating at a popular restaurant, you’ll want to get there getting there 15-30 minutes before it opens. (But sometimes you can get lucky and get in quickly!)

Some of my favorite brunch options:
 Cafe Broder/Broder Nord
Pine State Biscuits
Screen Door
Mother’s Bistro

If you’re not into doing a big sit-down brunch, getting donuts is also a great option!
I’d highly recommend Blue Star Donuts, and they now have a location on each side of the river.

Check out the Farmer’s Market:
If you’re here in Portland in the summer, checking out one of our many farmer’s markets can be a fun way to spend the morning, especially if you’re here on a Saturday because that’s when the largest one takes place at Portland State University. It’s a great way to see (and sample!) the amazing food from this region and, if you go early, sometimes you can even catch some of Portland’s notable chefs out shopping! It’s a great place to people watch, and there are a lot of great breakfast options as well if you don’t want to do a sit-down brunch.

Stop by Pioneer Square:
This is pretty much the center of downtown, and it seems like there are random events happening there all the time that can be fun to check out. For example, when we stopped by with our out-of-town visitors, there was a big sandcastle building event going on!

I’ve seen everything from beer festivals to Christmas carolers to giant organized pillow fights (seriously) in Pioneer Square, so you never know what you’re going to get depending on the time of year!
Have Lunch at a Food Cart:
This is another quintessential Portland activity, and you can find food carts all over the city. Usually they’re in “pods” where there are a few of them together, and the largest pod is downtown between  the streets SW 9th and 10th and SW Washington and Alder – the food carts take up that entire city block! There are so many great choices, and it’s a fun place to try something new! My recommendation would be to visit the food carts during the week at lunch if possible as that’s when you’ll find the majority of them open. (Some are open nights and weekends, but it can be more hit or miss)

Ride the Aerial Tram:
So I technically haven’t done this myself, but I think it would be a really fun thing to do if you’re visiting from out of town! The aerial tram that takes you from the South Waterfront area up to OHSU Hospital, which sits up on a hill and offers amazing views of Mt. Hood! (And I have been up to where the tram lets out at OHSU Hospital and can attest to how fantastic the view is from up there!) You can find out more details about riding the tram here.

Get Coffee: 
When people think of coffee and Portland, Stumptown is usually the first thing that comes to mind…and they do have good coffee! They’ve got a few locations in around the city, however, there are lots of other awesome coffee shops here in Portland as well – a few of my favorites are Heart, Water Avenue, Barista, and Ristretto Roasters

Explore the Pearl District/Spend Time at Powell’s Books:
This is a really charming part of town and a great area to walk around as there are nice shops (including Oblation, my favorite stationary store!) and restaurants, plus lots of interesting buildings. Stopping at Powell’s  City of Books is a must if you’re visiting – there are always tons of tourists in this giant book store, but since it takes up a whole city block, there’s always plenty of space for everyone!
Have a Beer at a Brewery:
This is another must since Portland has more breweries than any other city in the world – there are 76 in the metro area here! And no matter what style of beer or vibe of brewery you’re looking for, I guarantee you’ll be able to find it here!

A few of my personal favorite Portland breweries:
Cascade Barrel House (they are known for their sour beers and you can do tasters of different kinds!)
Base Camp Brewing (they serve a s’more stout w/ a toasted marshmallow on the rim!)
The Commons (this is more of a low-key tasting room but they do interesting farmhouse beers)
Deschutes (their Public House in the Pearl District is always super crowded for good reason)

Walk By The Willamette:
Portland is divided into two by the Willamette River and is known as the City of Bridges. One of the best ways to really see this is by taking a walk by the river! Tom McCall Waterfront Park spans from south of the Hawthorne Bridge all the way up to the Steel Bridge on the west side of the river, and then the Eastbank Esplanade offers a place to walk on the east side. One of my favorite things I used to do when we lived in our old apartment was to walk along the river to the Steel Bridge, walk across the bridge, walk along the east side of the river, and then walk back across the Hawthorne Bridge. This loops is about 3 miles and it’s a great way to get a sense of the city!
Get Ice Cream at Salt & Straw:
We always take everyone from out of town here because it’s something I think is very unique to Portland. This is definitely a foodie town and the folks at Salt & Straw take that passion and create that most crazy flavors of ice cream you’ve ever seen! They have some standard flavors that are always on the menu, and then they also have seasonal flavors that change every month. There are three locations, and it seems like there is always a long wait no matter which one you go to, especially in the summer…but it’s worth it! Plus, they are very generous with their samples, so be sure to try as many crazy flavors as you want! (The Olive Oil flavored ice cream is one of my personal favorites!)

Get a View of the Mt. Hood at Pittock Mansion: 
This is just a short drive from downtown and offers awesome views of the city and Mt. Hood. I wouldn’t recommend paying to go in the house, but the grounds are a great place to have a picnic!

Visit The International Rose Test Garden:
Out near Pittock Mansion is another sight that’s worth seeing if you’re in Portland – the Rose Garden! Roses grow really well here in Oregon, and they grow hundreds of different varieties of all colors and sizes at this experimental garden. If you’re here in the summer, this can be fun to see and it’s also free! (The Japanese Garden and the zoo are also in this same area as well)

Get Dinner:
You need to have a great meal while you’re here, but I can’t even make any recommendations because there are so many good choices! Whether you want casual or fancy, traditional or super creative, you can find it all here in Portland. Just be aware that many Portland restaurants don’t take reservations so either go early or be prepared to wait!

Basically, I’m still in the honeymoon phase with Portland and think it’s the pretty much greatest place ever. I love living here and I want everyone who visits to enjoy it just as much as I do, so hopefully these tips are helpful if you’re ever in town! You can find a lot of the information from this post on my Portland page, but for the most up to date look into what I’m doing (and eating) around town, be sure to follow me on Instagram! (@inthepinkandgreen)