When travelling on a budget I often find myself restricted by the cheapest travel days and times. On my recent American West Coast Tour I found myself restricted to two nights and just one full day in Portland, OR. “You can’t see a whole city in a day!” I here you say, and okay I may not have seen the WHOLE city but I think I did a pretty good job of seeing as much as possible!
The Hawthorne District
I was lucky enough to accidentally book a hostel in a really interesting neighbourhood of the city and so I spent my first night exploring the Hawthorne District. It’s a great district of the city, worth the short bus journey out if you have a little extra time to take in all that Portland has to offer.
Portland is a weird city. This is not an insult, it’s actually the city’s motto! Anything goes in Portland, particularly when fashion is involved! There are vintage shops everywhere in Portland and I found a great (and huge) one right down the street from my hostel. I’d highly recommend treating yourself to some outrageous vintage to wear on the rest of your trip!
An absolute Portland staple, I had dinner on my first night from a Mexican food cart. There are hundreds of these carts dotted all throughout the city and they cater for every meal of the day and every food taste imaginable! Food carts are only growing in popularity so be sure to join in this Portland tradition for every meal you can.
Go for drinks
I was lucky enough to make a friend in my hostel on my first night and we went out for a drink together. Continuing with its “weird” theme, there are tons of unique bars and pubs around Portland, visit a few!
The first thing I did is obviously to get up early! When you only have one day in a city every minute counts.
“Secrets of Portlandia- Free Walking Tour”
I am a massive fan of free walking tours, I try to go on them in every city I visit. The general model is you meet a central location, are led around the city by a tour guide for anything from 45 minutes to three hours and at the end you are free to tip as much as you feel the tour was worth, or to take it as a genuine free tour (in my experience the tour guides are always, always worth the tip). This tour of Portland is one my particular favourites that I’ve done, it was recommended to me by a friend I met in San Francisco and I would recommend it to anyone in return. The tour starts in Pioneer Square and takes you through Portland’s history and important sights such as the Portlandia Statue, the Portland Courthouse, Art Muesum, multiple farmer’s markets, notable statues, the most instagrammed image in Portland and of course the infamous VoodooDonuts:
VooDoo Donuts (and coffee)
For any Food Network fans (and who isn’t a food network fan?) the city of Portland will make you think only one thing: Donuts (Doughnuts?). VooDoo donuts is a Portland classic, it goes hand in hand with food carts. There is always a queue but it is always worth it! I went for the VooDoo signature because it included both raspberry jam and chocolate, two of my favourite donut additions but the flavour options are endless!
Portland is also often famed for its coffee and right across the street from Voodoo is Stumptown Coffee. “Stumptown” is one of Portland’s many nicknames stemming from when great forests were felled to make space for the buildings and the tree stumps weren’t immediately removed. But now it mostly refers to a realllllly good cafe. Caffeine is essential to such a busy day!
Also a recommendation from a friend, Powells is the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world and is quite an experience! The only thing that prevented me from buying half the books I saw was the weight limit on my onwards journey…
International Rose Test Garden
The International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park is a full 4 acres just of roses. It it absolutely gorgeous and worth the walk from the city center just for the peace and quiet it offers away from the hustle and bustle of a packed day! Washington Park also offers several other gardens including the famous Japanese Garden, although at $10 for entry I passed this particular garden up this time, almost all the other gardens are free! I walked up to the park and then caught the bus back down. Tickets for public transport are $2.50 for a 2.5 hour pass, so I used mine to travel on to my hostel that night as well.
Back to Hawthorne
I spent the second night yet again out with friends from my hostel in the Hawthorne District but you could also spend a night exploring the bars of the city centre.
So there you have it, more or less, Portland, Oregon in just one full day. It just goes to show, a tight schedule is no excuse for skipping a destination! Portland has a really great vibe to it and the walking tour guide gives such a great feel for the city that although I saw as much as I could in one day, I’ll probably still be back sometime in the future!
Stay weird, Portland ✌🏼️