travel guide: Portland, OR

You’ve probably heard this before, but let me be the first to say it bold-italic-underlined: Portland is cool. From handmade stationary to vintage clothes to overflowing bookstores, Portland officially lives up to the hype. It’s all cloudy mornings, long bike rides, and books with notes scribbled in the margins. I spent four days there in May and if you can ever make the trip, I promise you’ll want to get Big Foot tattooed on your chest immediately. Here are a few things to do once you get there!


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A rosemary and kalamata olive bagel (plus one of every other kind). I don’t know if I’ve been living under a carbohydrate-deficient rock my whole life, but bagels have never been a big deal to me. Until Portland. My dear friend Lillie took me to Bagel Land (as if the name alone isn’t proof of it’s quality) and we got back to her house with a paper bag full of different flavours of amazing. Spielman’s is just as good but more expensive and trendy.

Food carts. These compact food-trucks-turned-permanent-residents line a whole city block. You can find Polish food, Thai curries and cheese burgers – and if enjoying all that amazing food means sitting on the curb next to a parking inspector’s booth, that’s just fine. Check out this site for more info.

Homemade rhubarb crumble ice cream at Salt & Straw. Usually there’s a line up going around the building, but it’s worth the wait – and they’ll let you sample every single flavour it you ask nicely.


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Thrift stores – and Portland has a huge selection. They vary in price, though, so if you’re expecting Salvation Army prices you might be disappointed. The quality and variety more than makes up for the $15+ price though (USD am I right?). Crossroads Trading Co. is a bit more hipster while Buffalo Exchange feels a little rock and roll, but you should devote at least an hour to each.

Powell’s Books. Powell’s isn’t exactly a hidden gem but it is definitely a gem. Most people who’ve heard of Portland have also heard of this massive bookstore which takes up an entire city block (and that’s only one of their locations). Even if you don’t want to buy anything, grab a book and curl up on the floor for a couple hours (you won’t be the only one).

Friends of the Library store, located right next to Portland’s stunning Central Library. This was the first place my friend took my in Portland, and I couldn’t have been happier. You’ll find all kinds of book-themed products, like socks, bags, and t-shirts. You’ll also find a wall of postcards designed by local artists – send one to everyone you know, telling them how much you heart Portland.


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See a movie at Living Room Theatres and grab dinner at the same time. Yes, they serve full meals and bowls of buttery popcorn right to your seat (I hope I’m not the only one who finds this very, very cool)! And you can enjoy an independent or foreign film while you’re at it.

Visit Saturday Market (now available on Sundays, too!). This overflowing stretch of vendors includes everything from home decor made from bent cutlery to handbags made from old children’s books. It’s a very eclectic bunch and an easy way to spend a whole morning. I had my palm read by a woman named Maria who misspelled half the words in her bio. I couldn’t understand half of what she was saying, but that only adds to the mystique, right?

Grab a car (or a willing friend with a US driver’s license) and leave the city. Oregon is full of stunning nature, waterfalls, hiking trails, and Cape Kiwanda. We made it to the Cape on a gloomy morning and took dramatic ocean pictures, but by midday the sun came out and families and surfers crowded the shore. There’s also excellent milkshakes at a cafe nearby.

Enjoy every brick building, Mexican restaurant, colourful mural and public library you can. Portland will take you in with open arms.

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