Overall – A
Portland is a dynamic city. Not only do you have the usual art, culture, fine dining, and business that most big cities have, but you also have beautiful Mt. Hood, waterfalls, forests, and the remarkable Columbia River Gorge.
I was only able to spend 24 hours in Portland last June, but I think I got a good representation of the city. After flying in to PDX, we began our afternoon along the Columbia River Gorge, driving along Route 30. Since we only had a few hours to sightsee, we chose to drive to Multnomah Falls, the biggest attraction along the gorge. This double-decker waterfall was absolutely stunning.
Being that it was afternoon, there were a lot of tourists there. The falls is literally right off the highway, so finding it isn’t a problem. The real problem is parking. If you plan on seeing it, go early in the day or prepare to drive around waiting for a parking spot to open. There is a visitor’s center, small museum, and public restrooms, along with a small stand to get snacks, drinks, and ice cream. The falls itself has two hikes – one to the bridge that spans the falls, and the other hike is to the top of the falls. We did not climb to the top, but we climbed to the bridge, which was an easy, short hike. To climb to the top, it’s a 2.2-mile hike with 700 feet of elevation gain. There are numerous other hikes around Multomah Falls, as well as other falls along the Historic Columbia River Highway, but we simply did not have the time to visit them.
We spent the evening walking around Portland’s Pearl District, admiring the many restaurants, shops and boutiques, public art, parks, and renovated buildings. Portland is a very pedestrian friendly city. While I was walking the city’s streets, it did not feel like other big cities I’ve been in. It felt like a large, more suburban type area. Beautiful plants and flowers adorned the walkways and buildings. Bicycles were everywhere and public transportation was abundant. There seemed to be much fewer cars on the roads than in other cities as well.
Since it’s been a few months since I was there, I’m not going to review Henry’s 12th St. Tavern and Elephants Delicatessen. This is only because I don’t remember all the details. However, I can mention that the dining was great and the service was friendly at both places. Vegan and vegetarian food is much more plentiful in Portland. Obviously, there are more veggie friendly places in big cities, but it seemed more accepted and more mainstream here. That made me happy.
We spent our only morning in Portland visiting the International Rose Test Garden, which is located in Washington Park. The rose garden offers a testing area for thousands of new varieties of roses. The roses are grown here to test for color, disease, and fragrance. Now, I would consider myself a gardener, (I love all plants!) and I absolutely loved the test garden. Even my husband, who’s not into gardening, thought it was interesting. Here you can see so many different colors of roses, roses that are multi-colored, roses with different types of blooms, and roses of all different sizes and fragrances. It’s easy to spend an hour here, walking around and admiring many rose varieties and even the landscape features of the test garden. The rose garden is free of charge, leashed dogs are welcome, and tours are given in the summer, but check the website beforehand for tour day and times available. I recommend a stop here!
Our last stop was Portland’s Japanese Garden, which is right across the street from the International Rose Test Garden. You can either walk up the steep street to get to the entrance or take the shuttle from the parking area. Admission for adults is $9.50 each ($6.75 for kids aged 6-17). We saw everything here and stayed less than 90 minutes. This garden is a magnificent Japanese garden. It’s composed of five smaller gardens, each with its own theme. There is the strolling pond garden, the natural garden, the sand and stone garden, the flat garden, and the tea garden. Just like the International Rose Test Garden, there is not much to do here but walk around and look at the scenery. The difference is that people here are trying to experience nature, to relax, and find quiet harmony. Rowdy groups and irritable children may not do well here. Photographic opportunities abound here, as each place is more beautiful than the next.
I noticed that Portland’s theme is “Keep Portland Weird.” I’m guessing this has to do with the residents’ creativity, individuality, eccentricity, and artistry. Overall, I found the city refreshing. I love that people there seemed free to express themselves as they wanted to, despite what anyone would think. Portland definitely has the best of both worlds – city life and natural surroundings. I just wish I had more time to visit!