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Downtown Portland offers a whole lot more than most visitors imagine. Compact and walkable, it boasts an ideal blend of fantastic food and drink, cultural offerings, endless green spaces. recreational activities and tax-free shopping. Full of flavor and laid-back people, it’s a destination that’s truly not to be missed. While you’re there, be sure to put at least some of these things to do on your must-experience list.
Voodoo Doughnuts has become a household name over the last decade or so. World famous, it’s a Portland icon that serves a rotating and regular menu of unique doughnuts with names like the Voodoo Doll, an indulgent raised yeast doughnut filled with raspberry jelly topped with chocolate frosting and a pretzel stake. The Grape Ape, another favorite, features vanilla frosting with a dusting of grape and lavender sprinkles. Those who like their caffeine might want to sample a caffeinated doughnut, and vegans will find plenty to choose from too. and vegan delights too.
Portland is home to more vintage stores per capita than anywhere else in the entire country, so if you like bargains, you’re in for a real treat when you shop downtown Portland. There are at least four dozen of them throughout the city offering constantly updated and meticulously curated collections of all sorts of fashions from Red Carpet dresses that span decades to costume jewelry, Hawaiian shirts and “Mad Men” style furniture. Xtabay, which has even outfitted celebrities like “True Blood” actress Kristin Bauer and Grammy-winner Adele Bauer, is the place to go when you want to look your finest.
The Shanghai Tunnels hold the seedy underground secrets of Portland’s criminal past. For more than 90 years, from the mid-1800s to 1941, the city was considered one of the world’s most dangerous ports, often referred to as the “Forbidden City of the West.” The series of tunnels under the streets linked hotel basements and bars to each other, and the Willamette River docks. While they were used legitimately by many, such as keeping ship supplies out of the rain and away from street traffic, there were far more illicit acts carried out here as well. If you want to learn more about Portland’s sordid history while checking out the remains of the physical underground, don’t miss a tour of the Shanghai Tunnels.
The television series “Portlandia” definitely got something right about this city: Portlanders love their brunch. The passion for this breakfast/lunch meal seems to have all started, at least in part, because of the Screen Door restaurant. It’s almost a religious experience, with a line often stretching around the block well before opening time to enjoy dishes like chicken and waffles or hush puppies with bacon and smoked cheddar, along with specials such as the heavenly Red Velvet Cake Pancakes. While it’s all worth standing in line for, you can always book a reservation and avoid the wait.
The Portland metro area is home to 130 local breweries, with about 60 right in the city itself. The Portland Craft Beer Festival is hosted in July, bringing exclusive brewers from the city to lots of passionate beer tasters. There are multiple brew ‘n’ view theaters and enough breweries for sampling you’d have to move here to try them all. Some of the favorites include Lucky Labrador where you can bring your furry best friend, along with plenty of well-known spots like BridgePort and Widmer Brothers Brewing Co.
Known as one of the world’s greatest bookstores, Powell’s is the largest independent bookstore in the world. Its flagship store is Powell’s City of Books on Burnside Street, with nine rooms, three floors and 3,500 sections sprawled across 8,000 square feet. It’s so big, if you’re new here you’ll need to pick up a map before starting your explorations. It’s a lot more than just a great bookstore, but a true microcosm of the city, with its smart and eclectic offerings, onsite coffee shop and plenty of passionate people.
OMSI, as the locals refer to this interactive museum, lies on the east bank of the Willamette River across from Waterfront Park. Fascinating for kids and adults alike, the younger ones will especially enjoy the multiple hands-on exhibits devoted to physics, chemistry, weather patterns and geothermic activity. There’s a motion simulator and a science playground designed for those who are six and younger, and movie buffs are sure to appreciate the USS Blueback submarine that was used to shoot “The Hunt for Red October. It also hosts an IMAX Theater and a planetarium.
The city’s major league soccer team, the Portland Timbers, has a huge, loyal following. So much so that it’s earned Portland another nickname: “Soccer City USA.” Going to a game is one of the hottest tickets in town with an atmosphere that many other MLS soccer teams have tried to create, but it’s something that can only truly be fan-generated. Winning is everything to Timbers’ fans, who you’ll see wearing scarves that read “No Pity” and hear them shout chants through the entire match. Come to the game and cheer on the home team for a fun way to mingle with the locals.
This city is famous for its incredible street food, boasting an impressive array of cheap and delicious options. There’s no other spot in the country with as many clusters of unique food carts. Here they’re cooking up dishes like reindeer sausage at Beez Neez, Porklandia Pulled Pork on a Jalapeno Cornbread Waffle at Gaufre Gourmet and that comfort food favorite at Potato Champion, a Poutine delight with gravy and curds over a cone of fries. The carts are clustered in pods throughout town that makes it easy to sample many different options.