I have to confess, I haven’t seen the popular US TV show Portlandia – though I believe many of the shows are online. It’s a show that highlights the hipster/Instagram-esque lifestyle of the residents of Portland, Oregon. The hysterical irony is that much of the shows content seems to be true, or  at least bearing a striking resemblance of the truth.

I’ve just recently put down roots in Portland, and have to say I’m surprised it doesn’t top the list of travellers looking fora fun place to spend a vacation. Here’s a rundown of some highlights, which may or may not have you feeling like an extra on the set of Portlandia.

portland oregon

The Eastbank Esplanade

Portland is Weird

Portland’s slogan is that it is weird, and I think it certainly can compete with other “weird” destinations like Amsterdam or Austin, Texas. Just walking around Portland and you’ll see that people march to their own beat, whether that’s how they dress, or how they get around (unicycles, anyone?).  Some weirdness you’ll no doubt want to enjoy yourself:

  • Walking along the Willamette:  Portlands riverfront is very relaxing, even on cloudy days. I love how each bridge is different, and the people-watching is superb.
  • Saturday Market:  A must-experience Portland event, held downtown each Saturday and Sunday during most of the year. Food, shopping, souvenirs.
  • Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI): Hosts lots of interesting events, as well as some great permanent and rotating galleries. Nice location on the east side of the waterfront as well.
And it wouldn’t be Portlandia without a visit to Portlandia, which is real. It’s the name of a statue you’ll find at 1120 SW 5th Ave. She’s a classic sculpture – the 2nd largest hammered-copper statue, second only to the statue of liberty. Although huge, for some reason it took me several visits to actually like it – which is kind of weird in itself.

Food Carts

Food cart culture is everywhere these days, but Portland takes it to a new level. There are food carts that have wood-fired oven pizzas and there are food carts with a bar license. Many carts are centred together in what are called “pods,” complete with tables, sinks, toilets, etc.

It’s hard to call a favourite since everyone has a cart they like. Potato Champion in Southeast Portland has some of the best poutine you’ll find in town. There’s also Koi Fusion (Korean-Oregon fusion) which actually has a rotating schedule of locations. And I haven’t tried it, but hear good things about the Grilled Cheese Grill, where you can enjoy your choice of grilled cheese (yes, there really is a whole menu of grilled cheese) in a double-decker bus.

Cafe Culture

Last but not least is my personal favourite way to stay abreast of Portland’s ever-changing trendy buzz, and that’s in the coffee bars and cafes found on almost every corner of town. I’m not really exaggerating when I say that – there really are a lot of coffee shops. Coava was named as one of the best in the world by Travel + Leisure, and having enjoyed both their quirky ambiance – their shop shares space with a bamboo interiors design firm – and the option to choose an espresso from their menu of espressos, it certainly is top notch. A name you’ll become very familiar with here in Portland is Stumptown, who have their own venues and distribute coffee all over town.

And if the going gets a bit rough, switch to beer. Lots of cafes have beer and wine, and you’ll even find breweries that have coffee. Portland has plenty of microbrews in town; in fact, you might even find a distillery or speakeasy in the lobby of your hotel or apartment – you just never know what you’ll find in Portland.

Weird?  Yes.  That’s what make this town so great.

PS – If you get the time, be sure to hop in the car and head over to the Oregon coast. I really think it’s one of the nicest places on the entire west coast of the United States.

Photos by Stuart Seeger & Andy Hayes

Andy Hayes

Andy Hayes is a travel journalist currently based in Seattle, Washington. When not soaking up the Pacific Northwest lifestyle or enjoying life on the road, he is spending time hanging out on his own travel lifestyle magazine, Sharing Travel Experiences.

Posted : Friday, June 22nd, 2012 at 10:00
Category : Spotlight
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One Response to “Spotlight: Finding Portlandia in Portland, Oregon”

  1. […] have favourable laws for distillers, in addition to a populace that supports the local movement.  Portland has quite a few distilleries within the city limits – Eastside Distilling and New Deal being […]

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