While there are many family friendly attractions like the Japanese Garden, the Zoo, the Rose Garden and the OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) my clan decided to skip these as we have attended them prior to this visit. Add a trip to the City Library, the University Campus, Otto’s, and the Multnomah Falls for a broader experience. Visit Portland’s tourism info website and kiosks for more spots and hours of operation.
My family is a “sporting” clan. We love to drive down to Portland and watch our favorite NBA teams play the Trailblazers. Although most of my peeps take the train, we love the road trip opportunities and the savings of having all 3 family members ride together. Our preferred hotel, the Portland Double Tree, has warm chocolate cookies and infused water waiting for us; the electronic check in saves us the trouble of missing out on arriving on time. Peace of mind and food, can’t ask for more!
The Double Tree is right next to the Lloyd Center’s MAX station. From our room to the Moda Center it takes about 5 minutes! The area doesn’t have many bars withing walking distance so we usually have a beer at the arena and party later on at the Pearl District. After checking in we stop at the mall because the state has no sales tax! Portland is an ideal place to go shopping and stretch the budget. Big ticket items under $1,000 can be purchased without having to provide ID. We also shop at Pioneer Square stores and the x mall right next to the state line. Between these three places you can find almost everything you may need, including an IKEA.
TIP: Tri-Met trains run until 1:00 am on Fridays and Saturdays so a day pass can help you drink and be merry without having to worry about driving while intoxicated. No need for a designated driver. If you are staying at the DoubleTree, their bar opens until 2 am. Grab a beer at the hotel to close the night. Their selection is very impressive and full of local selections.
The Moda Center is a very nice arena with many food choices and beer selections. Because it tends to be on the expensive side, we decided to eat and drink after the Blazers vs Warriors game at Al’s Den at McMenamins Crystal Hotel (Pearl District). Mosaic walls, wood bar, and live entertainment are some of the amenities this basement joint offers. Good spot to sit, chat and have gourmet food at a reasonable price. Try the falafel burger or the scallop and octopus appetizer. Excellent locally farmed fare. If you are looking for something more low key, the Crystal Ballroom is nearby (we couldn’t make it because we were tired). The establishment has pool tables and some other bar games which makes it ideal for a group night. Upstairs, they have an actual ballroom with dances planned throughout the year.
TIP: The variety of beers in this town is top notch; you can’t go wrong selecting local craft beers and touring their facilities. Out favorite local brew is Widmer Bros which features the Hefeweisen and Upheaval IPA. For those interested in trying other brands, Rogue is another Portlandia original. Check the breweries’ schedules for tours and tastings. If you don’t have too much time, Henry’s Tavern has 100 beers on tap for you to enjoy!
For our second day, we decided to hunt down the food trucks the City of Roses is known for worldwide. Located at 9th and Adler, the Food Truck park has options from around the globe. Thai, Japanese, American, Cuban, Middle Eastern and Latin American, you will find whatever your heart desires. On this occasion, we chose The Frying Scotsman for lunch. (Operating hours are M-F 11am to 4pm and SAT 11:30pm to 3pm.) We tried the cod, halibut and red snapper with chips. For more info visit their site: http://the-frying-scotsman-portland.sites.beta.tablehero.com/.
TIP: Most food trucks don’t have seating areas. Take the order to go and dine at a near café or bar that allows food. If you don’t have the opportunity to do so, check which carts are closed and use their counter. Before grabbing napkins, condiments or flatware from a truck, ask for permission (unless it is the one you sponsored). Just because their supplies are outside of the cart it does not mean they are available for free.
After our meal, we went to Powell Books, one of Portland’s most visited and acclaimed attractions. Covering two blocks of the Pearl District, this store has everything from graphic novels to textbooks. If you can’t find it they will order it for you. New books, used books, first editions and rare collections from every subject imaginable can be perused while you have a coffee or drink at World Cup Coffee, located inside the premises. They also sell souvenirs, board games, tumblers, shirts and journals. Because of its popularity the store can get crowded during the weekends. Take advantage of the late night hours to wander at leisure in a calmer environment.
More shopping, followed by a stop at Public Domain Coffee rounded up our afternoon in the city center. Pioneer Place and the surrounding stores have cool hipster spots to have coffee, tea and snacks. Stick to the local brands for a more authentic experience. Avoid Starbucks and give your palate a chance to explore the many different roasts of beans available. If you are into chocolate, try Cocoa, for cupcakes lovers there’s Saint Cupcake and for donuts try Voodoo Donuts. There’s so many good choices you will not go wrong.
We went back to the hotel and dropped off our bags of books and housewares from T.J. Maxx to decide where to go to dinner. While we waited to depart, my sister broke out her Cards Against Humanity expansion packs, which she got at Powell’s. My husband didn’t want to open his Exploding Kittens game but I am hopeful we will do it soon. We always bring some entertainment for the downtime and snacks. A family that plays together, laughs together. 😀
Our original plan was to go to Fogo de Chao in downtown but they didn’t have space for walk ins until 8pm. To skip the wait, we walked to Mama Mia Trattoria and faced the same wait time of an hour. Luckily, my crew was 21+ so we’re redirected to the full service bar. The service was originally slow because it was packed but once the bartender got our order in the plates arrived quickly. We were done in less than an hour! Try the fettuccine bolognese or the lobster mac and cheese with an order of the garlic bread. Pair it with beer or wine for effect.
TIP: Use Open Table or any other reservation app to separate a table for your party ahead of schedule. The apps list the available times and capacity for the restaurant. It will save you the trouble of having excessive wait times during your Portland adventure. If you are willing to wait, sneak into a nearby café or store and browse. Most places will text you when your table is ready.
Usually we go back to the Pearl District for a second round of beers but we decided to meet up with some locals and experience the nightlife from their perspective. Our first stop was at Bailey’s Taproom where they serve beers at different service sizes: 4 oz, 10 oz, 12 oz or 16 oz. This makes it very convenient to taste many libations and not get completely wasted too quickly. Their food service comes from Santería across the street which is a really cool Mexican food spot. This place fills up fast after 9pm. Get their early if you’ll need a table.
Once we were done trying beers, my favorite was Ex Novo’s Psycho Ex, we walked a few blocks over to the Barrel Room, a dueling piano joint with a full bar and an outside disco area. The guys take requests and accept tips; they will play anything including Spice Girl songs and Bon Jovi. The place gets packed around 11am with a very varied crowd. Cover charge is $5 to $10 for guys and free for the gals. Singing with your friends in public doesn’t get any more fun than this! Check in on Yelp to get a free gift, usually a shot or alcoholic beverage. Good space for groups, especially Bachelorette parties. Afterwards we called it a night and headed back to the hotel. With last calls for alcohol at 1:30am, we got back to the room and straight to bed.
TIP: Bring water, beer/spirits and snacks to the hotel especially if you are planning to drink until the wee hours of the morning. It not only saves you money but saves you midnight walks to 7 Eleven or convenience stores. Also make sure you have pain medication and acid reduction chews to help with the hangover and stomach issues.
With 8 hrs to kill before our second NBA game, we decided to stay in our room to watch the Seahawks battle the Vikings for a Playoff Wildcard win. Once the game was over, we walked to Lloyd Center for lunch and -you guessed it- more shopping. This time we hit Game Stop and Macy’s. (Lloyd Center will close certain areas during the remodel. Be aware some stores are moving to other locations while this happens.) We had lunch at the food court at Medi World. The gyros and salads were very good and the service was excellent. Highly recommend giving it a try.
From the mall, we dropped off our loot and headed straight to Moda Center. We circled around the arena until we found Po’Shines, a creole/cajun restaurant with a few locations inside the Main and 300 level concourse. Their gumbo was delicious! My husband grabbed a few Upheaval IPAs and an Amber, which paired nicely with the meal. Our seats this time were on he top row of Section 303 and the view was a lot better than expected. The OKC game brings a lot of fans from Seattle who are still collectively mourning the loss of our beloved Sonics. The game was close and the Blazers ended up winning the game 115 to 110. Free McDonald’s fries for everyone! (Download the app to get the coupon.)
Throughout the arena we noticed a pizza joint called Sizzle Pie had taken over some spaces and we decided to check out their East Burnside location. It turns out that they have vegetarian and vegan options as well as meat pies. With catchy and original names for their concoctions, ordering a slice becomes and adventure. You can have a cut of a slice or half a slice for $1.50 to $1.75 and a whole slice for under $5 dollars. Pair it with a pint of one of their 35 beer selections served from the Quality Bar next door. (Apparently the franchise will open a new location in Seattle, at Union Street. Must check that one out too.) My husband was impressed with the quality and flavor of the pizzas which reminded him of Brooklyn style pies; crispy and thin, yet tasty and filling. Definitely a healthy option for those in need of better food choices although it is still greasy, like any good pizza should be.
TIP: Sizzle Pie is open until 3 or 4 am depending on the weekday. They offer delivery service, for a $3 fee, which includes alcoholic beverages. Finally, there’s a way to get rid of the munchies and ask for more drinks to be delivered to your front door!
We took the Green Line back to the hotel (the Blue Line was out due to a collision) and went to bed. I binged on Making of a Murderer while I prepared our bags for departure. Although we were sad to leave, the tax free shopping and dining had already eaten up the budget which meant that we had to go back to work and make some cash to replenish the bank accounts. Overall, we were satisfied with our low key adventures and are already planning our next visit for the summer when the roses are in full bloom. 😀
REMINDER: Oregon and New Jersey are the only two states where gasoline is dispatched full service only. When pulling up at a gas station, the attendant will take care of the transaction. No need to get out of the car.