A Former Local's Advice: Portland, Oregon

Culled from my personal art journals of the time I lived in the city, this is an overview of places you can't miss while in Portland, Oregon.

A Former Local's Advice: Portland, Oregon

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Elli Metz on February 19, 2001

There are hundreds of things to do in Portland. It's one of the finest cities to visit -- though the rain can be rough to deal with day after day if you're a resident.

You simply can not miss:
* Powell's City of Books
* Forest Park and the Arboretum
* The Hawthorne District
* Pioneer Square
* Saturday Market
* Mt. Hood and surrounding areas

(items in bold will be elaborated upon)${QuickSuggestions} Take a jacket, even in the summer. Even though the termperatures can get quite warm, at night, if it's raining, you can easily catch cold. Take extra spending money if you're a booklover -- you'll be leaving most of it at Powell's. Try to go between the first weekend in March and the 25th of December, over a weekend, so you can experience Saturday Market.${BestWay} Luckily, the mass transit system in Portland is one of the few in the country that really -works-. You can easily get from one place to another by bus or trolley. It's cheap, too.

If you're the car-toting type, know that parking is at a premium downtown. You'd be better served by parking just outside of fareless square (in downtown Portland) and taking the bus in. It's free within the square, and you'll easily save $5 - $10 USD in parking.

1201 Club

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Elli Metz on February 19, 2001

1201, ingeniously named for its address, is a dark, moody club behind an inconspicuous (though bright red) door. Unmarked except for a small hanging sign, it's an easy place to overlook -- but not easy to forget.

Though dark, 1201 makes up for in attitude what it lacks in light. The art on the walls is done by local Art Institute students, and is for sale at relatively reasonable prices. It's not uncommon to see assemblages made of Mexican loteria cards and burning candles right next to a relatively classic oil painting. It's just part of the charm.

The wait staff is sometimes hard to pin down during the lunch hours -- this is because 1201's primary function is as a bar and nightclub, which is sad considering the quality and variety of the lunch menu. Brie sandwiches with shrimp on focaccia bread made at the culinary institute next door will set you back roughly $8, while a grilled vegetable sandwich is considerably less (around $5-$6).

Once you've had the sandwiches or main courses, it's hard to forget this inconspicuous little bar and grill. Located just inside fareless square, it's easy to get to, as well. It's not well publicized, so it's not too hard to get in, either.

There's no excuse not to visit repeatedly during your visit. You'll need several trips to try everything on the menu that looks good.

1201 Club
1201 SW 12th Ave
Portland, Oregon, 97207
(503) 225-1201

Rocco's Pizza

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Elli Metz on February 19, 2001

Rocco's is a tiny pizza joint with a fabulous location. It's always busy in the evenings, bustling with the trade coming in from Powell's browsers and take-out orders. Though small (probably less than ten tables), it is easily the best pizza I've found in the city.

You can get traditional pizza fare here, at relatively low prices for a hand-made pie. Where Rocco's really shines, however, is the specialty pizzas that knock the socks off the mass-produced chain restaurant styles. With a true east coast crust, Rocco's can add in just about anything -- including an amazing crab and artichoke pizza that makes my heart long for a plane tickets back to me city.

Prices are reasonable (under $20 for a very large pie), and service is average, though slow at times due to the tremendous volume they produce. If you've worked up an appetite overspending at Powell's, take the short jaunt across the street and try one of Rocco's offerings. It'll take the edge off your tired , hungry body with style.

Rocco's Pizza & Pasta
949 SW Oak St
Portland, Oregon, 97205
(503) 223-9835


Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Elli Metz on February 19, 2001

For the bibliophiles among us, and even those who aren't yet addicted to books, but have that proclivity, you have to see Powell's while you're here. It's the largest independent bookseller in the United States -- and for good reason.

It's not called a "city of books" for nothing. The main store (there are five or more at present, most of them satellite stores) is located on Burnside, housed in an old warehouse. Three solid floors, taking up a -full- city block, with nothing but shelf after shelf of new and used books positioned side-by-side. Prices are great, and they do take trade-ins for cash, if you're looking to unload.

The literature for the store says, only partly tongue in cheek, that if you're stopping in for the first time, it's advisable to pack a lunch. It's easy to get lost in the stacks and not realize that you've missed the meals for the day -- and it's true. Hours pass like minutes while your arms start to ache with the loads of books you didn't really intend to buy, for much less money than you thought you'd have to spend.

There is an online version of the store at http://www.powells.com, though it has none of the charm of the actual location.

Powell's is definitely one not to miss. Your inner bibliophile will thank you.

Powell's City of Books
1005 West Burnside Street
Portland, Oregon, 97209
(503) 228-4651

Portland Art Museum

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Elli Metz on February 19, 2001

The Portland Art Museum isn't one of the largest I've come across, but it is one of the museums focusing on quality exhibits. Housed in a large building with a modern facade in the Park Blocks (a part of the city where in between the sides of the street are long, narrow stretches of park and greenery), the outside of the building is misleading. Inside is a classical masterpiece of architectural design.

The cost to get in varies by age and status (student, senior, etc.), though it hovers between $8 and $15, sometimes more or less with special exhibits. I went for the Wonders of Ancient Egypt exhibit in 1998, and it was around $10 per person for adults, minus $2 each for a special coupon from the Oregonian (the local newspaper).

The traveling exhibits do add a lot to the experience, though the standing collections are also impressive and representative of many different styles and periods. One of the parts I particularly enjoyed was the small Rodin gallery at the front of the museum itself, a separate room filled with sculptures and paintings of one artist.

As expected, the gift shop and the cafe are wildly overpriced, though the money spent goes to help maintain the museum itself, and is worth the cost knowing your dollars are going to ensure the museum's continued quality.

If you're an art lover, or just someone looking to kill an afternoon with some quiet culture, do take the time to visit the PAM. It's worth every penny of your admission.

Portland Art Museum
1219 SW Park Avenue
Portland, Oregon, 97205
(503) 226-2811

Saturday Market

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Elli Metz on February 19, 2001

If you are lucky enough to have a weekend in Portland, or if you have time for only one local event during your stay, make that stop the Portland Saturday Market.

Located just inside of Fareless Square on the MAX line (get off at the McCaulay Fountain stop, I believe), this small local festival grew from just a few vendors in the '80's to a huge, two-lot affair that includes local artisans selling wares to local cuisine of various styles, to performing local musicians. Clowns and fairies wander freely through the milling crowds, entertaining and sprinkling fairie dust. It's another world.

Offerings include bizarre items, like glasses made from old silverware, to clothing, soaps, and hot sauce. Tarot readers will divine your fortune, while in the next tent, a young man peddles his handcrafted silver jewelry. You can eat an elephant ear, get a funnel cake, or indulge in middle eastern cooking while watching a guitar-playing duo on stage. If it's made in Portland, you can find it here.

There is no cost of admission, other than the parking costs if you drive yourself, which are around $8 USD, depending on where you park. Parking -is- at a premium, thanks to the culture that has sprung up around the Market, drawing large numbers of repeat visitors weekly. It takes place on Saturdays and Sundays from the morning hours to the late afternoon/early evening, from the first weekend in March to Christmas Eve.

Only several blocks from Powell's, don't plan on walking to both unless you have boundless energy. It makes for a long day. A satisfying one, but much longer than you'd expect.

Don't miss Saturday Market. It's a Portland tradition -- for good reason.

Portland Saturday Market
108 W Burnside St.
Portland, Oregon, 97209
(503) 222-6072

The Hawthorne District: SoHo in Portland

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Elli Metz on March 6, 2001

When I moved from Philadelphia to the other coast, I thought I'd never find anything as cool as South Street---an artsy little district where people of all types mingled and coexisted peacefully in the midst of funky, little shops.

Portland's Hawthorne district cured me.

It's a fabulous place -- narrow streets lined with tiny, independent shops (you won't find a Blockbuster here, though I believe there's a Starbucks if you crave a little bit of mass-marketed coffee while shopping). It is mainly geared for those with a disposable income -- however, the people milling about don't seem to know that, or care. It's a very accepting place.

Some of the things along Hawthorne that you can't miss:

The Hawthorne is a must-see while you're here.

The Hawthorne District
lies across the Willamette River from downtown
Portland, Oregon

A Portland Driving Guide

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Elli Metz on February 19, 2001

Portland drivers are actually not too bad (as compared with places like New Jersey, where driving a car is taking your life into your own hands). They've driven in the rain so often that it's barely even a concern, but for the unwary traveller with a rental car, the experience can be harrowing. Wet conditions require some getting used to -- pay attention to your fellow drivers.

Coming into Portland from the East is usually along the 76 freeway. This is also called the "Bandfield", and I will warn you now: it is almost always congested during rush hours both a.m. and p.m.. If you do drive in this way, though, further past Gresham is the most stunning view of the Columbia Gorge that you're ever likely to find.

From the North, you'll probably want to take the 405 instead of the 5, simply for traffic reasons. The pictures below are from the car window of the city -- a view that shows why the city has the monniker "Bridgetown", given the amazing vista views across the Columbia and Willamette rivers.

If you do take the 26 out of Portland itself, there is something I've nicknamed the Magic Tunnel (see pictures below). One minute, you're in the city. You enter a tunnel, and on the other side, you are mystically transported to a northwest vista -- nothing but curves, hills, and trees.

It is advisable (as if you haven't gathered as much from the other entries), to take public transportation when going into Portland from the suburbs. It's cheap, under $2 in most cases, and free if you're within Fareless Square. The bus system is extensive and runs from early morning hours until just after midnight -- very convenient for just about any purpose.

Portland is a wonderful city. Its focus on preserving its natural beauty is evident around every turn. Stay safe while travelling by car -- pull over if you'd like to admire the views of Mt. Hood rising over the city. I've seen way too many accidents involving tourists, cameras, and a 65 mile-an-hour car.


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