Neither of us had ever been to Portland, or Oregon for that matter. We had a 24 hour layover there and were determined to make it count.
When we were planning our trip to Alaska, we learned there are no direct flights to Anchorage from SF; they all had connections in Portland or Seattle. At this point we decided, if we have a layover, then let’s pick one that gave us some time to explore a city we’ve never been to before.
Where to stay
We booked our hotel room a little late, but found a room at Kimpton Hotel Monoco Portland. I’ve stayed at a few Kimptons in the past and had good experiences; I was also attracted to the happy hour and the free PUBLIC bicycle rentals at this one. This hotel’s location was okay, everything is very walkable or ‘bike-able’ from the Kimpton. However, it’s location has more of a financial district/downtown feel. Parking can be expensive (you get a 50% parking discount with an electric car). Unless you are planning on going out of the city for a hike like we did, I’d ditch the car and just use Uber/Lyft/Taxi. If you’d like to stay near downtown, I’d recommend staying in the Pearl District. Next time we go, we will probably stay in the Alberta district because it has cute stores and restaurants (although, good food is EVERYWHERE in Portland).
Let’s start discovering Portland already!
Ok so now that housing logistics are out of the way, let’s get to the important stuff. With 24 hours, we had to be really choosy on what we wanted to do. We knew that we wanted to go on a hike, go to a brewery and eat some highly touted Portland doughnuts and that’s pretty much the extent of our “plan”.
We arrived at 8:30PM, so needless to say, we were starving after checking into our hotel. A post could easily be devoted to the food scene in Portland, but I’ll limit this post to where we went versus listing the plethora of suggestions friends gave me. We didn’t make any reservations because things were pretty hectic in the week leading up to our Portland/Alaska trip. Luckily, we were able to score two seats at Tasty n’ Alder for a wait that was equivalent to less than one drink. The food was AMAZING. It has a very rustic and farm to table feel and all of the ingredients were incredibly fresh.
After that, we were weren’t quite quite ready to call it a night. Portland is obviously known for their breweries, but after a big dinner we were pretty full and just wanted a night cap. We walked by this bar called “The Green Room” on our way to dinner and decided to check it out. Just as we sat down, a waitress asked if we wanted to visit the Multnomah Whiskey Library because “it was an unusually slow night” and they had availability. This place is an upstairs addition to The Green Room. We were ushered upstairs through a door that opened up to a seating area bigger than the downstairs. On the walls were shelves of whiskey, scotch, bourbon and more – there must have been a couple thousand bottles on the walls.
The waiter asked us what we wanted to drink and we didn’t even know where to start as the menu looked more like a leather bound novel. I ordered a cocktail, Will had a whiskey recommended by the waiter, and we shared an order of bombolinis (Italian doughnuts) for dessert. This place was cool and hip while attempting to be subtley exclusive. I later talked to my friend who is from Portland – she said, “oh that bar is cool, but pretty hard to get a reservation” – I guess we were lucky that night. I’d like to say we will go again on a future visit, but Portland has so many places to check out, chances are we would try a new place. However, I’d definitely recommend friends to make a reservation at this place or visit The Green Room.
The next day, Will was on a quest to find Portland’s best coffee. We went to Barista but, there’s great coffee everywhere, so you can’t really go wrong.
Personally, as long as the place serves soy milk (instead of almond milk only), it’s a winner in my book. Will is really the one to speak to about coffee. However, he did buy a bag of beans from Barista so he could make coffee for the rest of our trip, so I’m guessing he was pretty pleased.
After that, we set off for our hike to Metlako and Punchbowl Falls. There are plenty of other hikes in Portland that are closer (this trail was about 45 min outside of Portland). However, a friend had warned me in advance that on a really nice day all local hikes will be packed and full of tourists. If you want waterfalls, you should try this hike. Its about 4 miles roundtrip (with the option to extend or shorten it), with a pretty small elevation gain so, it’s relatively easy.
There are a couple of parts in the hike that include a small walkway along a cliff, but those with a fear of heights shouldn’t be concerned, it’s pretty easy and over before you know it.
Along the path, you’ll see a split where you can keep going straight or go down, if you go down that’s the path to view the waterfall from the bottom and swim and/or have a snack. You can also stay the path and soon you’ll find the trail to see the falls into the punchbowl from the top.
Once we got back into Portland, we showered and rented a couple PUBLIC bikes from the hotel for the day. Our hotel rented bikes for free; however if your hotel doesn’t and/or they are all rented out, you can use the orange Niketown bikes for a very small fee (~$2), they are all over the city.
We rode to the Pine Street Market, which is like an indoor food court but, obviously with a hipster flare, because this is Portland! We had some bibimbap bowls from Kim Jong Smokehouse. They were okay, I’d try another place if I went back. Don’t forget to get ice cream from Salt & Straw if you still have room.
After that, we rode to the Portland Saturday Market nearby and walked around to see what vendors were selling. This is a good place to get some woodwork pieces, Portland photographs, or paintings that might catch your eye.
We continued our bike ride up the Waterfront Park Trail, then down the Vera Katz East Bank Esplanade where we could view the city from across the river, before crossing the river via the Tilikum Crossing Bridge. By then it was doughnut time! Everyone has their favorite spot and is entitled to their opinion but, I’ve had Voodoo doughnuts in Austin, so we had to try Blue Star. Personally, Voodoo is good but, it just has a little too much going on top of the doughnut. Blue Star’s doughnuts are more than your average glazed doughnut but, not as intense as Voodoo’s with all the icing, oreos, peanut butter and chocolate syrup on it.
As our time was winding down, we had one last item on our 24 hours Portland Checklist – beer. We heard that 10 Barrel had a rooftop seating area so, we biked over to the Pearl District to quench our thirst. The place was packed and while we wanted to go to the roof, it was also 98 degrees outside and we needed to cool down after being outside all day. We sat at the bar and I got a cucumber sour and Will had an IPA; we chatted with the bartenders while sipping our drinks and quickly felt rejuvenated.
By now, it was time to return the bikes and go to the airport. Portland, thanks for the quick glimpse, we will definitely be back. Next time I’ll make sure there’s room in my suitcase so I can go shopping! Did I forget to mention that Portland has no sales tax?
Here’s our map below of places we went to and things we did. There’s so much to do in Portland, let me know if you have any suggestions for where we should stay, hike, eat and drink next time!