Before my trip-
Sister: What’s there to see in Portland?
Me: I’m not really sure.
Sister: What are you going to do there then?
Me: Uh….I don’t know yet.
After my trip-
Sister: So, how was Portland?
Me: The weather was dreary, but it was fun! Portland is a really laid-back city filled with slightly eccentric people who are very conscious about the environment. It’s a city that loves lavender-flavored everything (ice cream, lattes, sodas…), strip clubs, microbrews and weed. According to an Uber driver, there’s more weed dispensers than 7/11s in Portland. It also has more strip clubs per capita than any other U.S. city! …Oh, and did I mention there’s no sales tax, and you can’t pump your own gas there? Weird…but cool, right?
Besides visiting my friend who had moved to Portland last fall, I literally had no clue what I was going to be doing in Portland. Since I was leaving to Portland only a few days after getting back from Boston, I ended up putting off trip planning until the very last minute. It wasn’t until I got to the airport that I pulled out my phone and started searching “Things to do in Portland.”
I finally made it to Portland after a four hour flight and a two hour backward shift to eastern time. When I arrived in Portland, it was chilly and gloomy…not the most welcoming weather I’d say.
From the PDX airport, I hopped on the MAX Light Rail Service to get to my friend’s place. As I looked out the window during the ride, I saw several tents set up in the woods alongside the road. Since there were shopping carts alongside some of the tents, I assumed they probably belonged to the homeless. I later learned that Portland has a relatively big homeless population.
Half an hour later, I made it to my friend’s place in Portland. We had a mini reunion and talked about all that has happened in our lives since we last hung out 9 months ago. After we had sufficiently caught up with each other’s lives, she casually asked, “You don’t smoke weed right?”
I explained that although I have nothing against weed, I don’t really smoke it. Because firstly, it’s illegal in Oklahoma. Secondly, it smells weird (to me). And lastly, I’m too broke for drugs.
She then told me that recreational weed was just legalized in Oregon not too long ago and explained that they have some pretty cool dispensaries in Portland where you can go in and smell different kinds of weeds. Her explanation of the dispensaries definitely perked my interest a bit.
Although I had no intent to buy any weed, I was curious to see what a dispensary looked like. So before heading off to grub, we decided to drop by one just to check it out. As someone who’s not very knowledgable in drugs, I had no idea that there was more than one strain or flavor of weed. I always thought weed was just weed. It was surprising to see all the variety of flavors sold such as wedding cake, black cherry soda, key lime pie and cotton candy. The different types of weed were kept in glass jars and set alongside each other on the shelves. It felt more like I was in a store browsing tea rather than weed. After our quick visit, we left empty-handed to find some food. Following dinner, we went back to my friend’s place and watched the first two episodes of Portlandia.
The following day, we decided to do the free “Secrets of Portlandia” tour. Albeit a bit long, I learned a lot about the history and culture of Portland. Eric, the only tour guide who does that tour, was very entertaining and had some great stories to share!
After the tour, we hit up a food truck (or as they call it up there, “food cart”). Like Austin, Portland’s food truck scene is thriving! There were so many food carts to choose from.
The rest of the day was spent wandering around the various beautiful gardens in Portland. We hopped from the Japanese Garden to the International Rose Test Garden and ended at the Lan Su Chinese Garden. My favorite of the three was probably the Chinese one. The architecture was beautiful, and the cafe inside was very charming.
The day after, my friend and I hopped on a bus and headed to Seattle. Since this post is already getting long, I’ll leave Seattle to a different post.
After coming back from Seattle, my friend took me to the hipster Hawthorne district to spend my last few hours in Portland. The main street of that district was filled with vintage clothing shops, restaurants (literally a Thai restaurant on every block) and cafes. While wandering around, we stumbled upon the best cupcake shop EVER. There was a sign on the sidewalk that pointed to a shop hidden away from the main street. The cupcakes were so good, I almost want to keep this place a secret. I’m scared the next time I come to Portland, I’ll have to wait in a ridiculously long line! But I can’t keep a good thing to myself (not to mention, I already shared it on my Instagram…). The cupcake shop is called Tiny Toadstools! Visit it. Just trust me. It’s so freaking good!
So that pretty much concludes my time in Portland. Aside from the slightly depressing weather my first evening there, I’d say I had a pretty great time! Portland isn’t a city I’d move to, but I would definitely recommend it as a place to visit.
Something I don’t like about Portland: It lacks diversity. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of minorities living there.
Something I love about Portland: It’s very eco-friendly! I was surprised at the airport to see that people have the option to empty out their water bottles before going through TSA and filling them again afterwards. There’s actually water bottle filling stations! That’s the first time I’ve seen them in airports. I was happy that I didn’t have to shell out $3-4 for a new bottle of water. The toilets at the PDX airport also have a water-saving flushing handle!
- Boxer Ramen– Very cute little place. The Spicy Red Miso ramen was decent. A bit too salty for my taste, but it’s not bad.
- Salt & Straw– If you scream for ice cream, this is the place for you. Be prepared for a line. I didn’t think there’d be a line when we went because it was already dark and chilly outside, but there was! I’d imagine the line gets very long when it’s sunny and warm out. For the month of May, they had special flower flavors. I had the Dandelion Sorbet with Spring Flowers and the Wildflower Honey with Ricotta Lace cookies. It was delicious!
- Coco Donuts– The lavender latte just tastes like lavender flavored milk. It was kind of strange, and I couldn’t finish it. However, the apple fritter I got was good. Their donuts sell out fast! We came around 10 a.m., and they only had 4 donuts left…They said they had sold out three times already.
- Kingsland Kitchen (food cart)- I got the Mumbai Spiced Chicken sandwich, and it was amazing.
- Pambiche– There will be a wait…but it will be worthwhile! We got to Pambiche around 9:30 p.m. and had to wait half hour to get a table. By the time we sat, it was happy hour! (Happy hour is 10 p.m.-midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.) The Arroz Con Pollo was flavorful.
- City State Diner– Great brunch place! I loved the bacon avocado Eggs Benedict.
- Tiny Toadstools– These tiny cupcakes are a little steep at $2.75 a piece…but it’s worth it. The Oregon Marionberry and Mango Lassi were delish.
- Voodoo Donuts– The ultimate tourist attraction in Portland. I originally thought Voodoo Donuts was from Austin because that was where I first tried it. But it’s actually from Portland! We decided to skip out on getting donuts there since neither of us were too crazy about them.
- Secrets of Portlandia Tour– free, but you’ll want to have some cash to tip
- Japanese Garden– $9.50 for adults/$7.75 with student ID
- International Rose Test Garden– free admission
- Lan Su Chinese Garden– $9.50 for adults/ $7 with student ID
- Wandering around Hawthorne District- free but potentially expensive if you go crazy in the vintage clothing shops…
- Checking out Powell’s City of Books (which I unfortunately didn’t have time to do)
- I haven’t experienced Portland nightlife yet. My friend says that nightlife is pretty chill there. Our server at Boxer Ramen recommended that we go to The Whiskey Bar or The Barrel Room for nightlife.
- Oh, and there’s always strip clubs everywhere if you’re into that scene.
- Since I couchsurfed with a friend, I can’t give any recommendations on where to stay.
- Portland actually has a pretty good public transportation system called the TriMet. To ride on the TriMet, you can get a day pass for only $5. Or, you can pay $2.50 for a 2.5 hr pass. With the pass, you can hop on the bus, streetcar and light rail.
- We also used Uber to get around.
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