As your flight begins to descend into Portland, the view of evergreen-dotted hills, Mt. Hood and blue rivers are just a hint of what’s to come during your trip. While you could easily spend weeks in Portland and still not see and do it all, we’ve compiled some of our favorite activities, spots to dine and places to stay for the perfect two days in the City of Roses.
Hop on the wonderfully efficient MAX light rail public transportation and get off in downtown Portland’s Pioneer Square. Soak in the center of downtown and then roll your luggage the mere three blocks to Hotel Lucia. This Forbes Travel Guide Recommended hotel marries cutting-edge design with luxurious comfort. Known for pushing the boundaries of creativity and style, Hotel Lucia is home to the world’s biggest permanent collection of black-and-white photographs by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer David Hume Kennerly, who is a Portland native.
Once you’ve had a chance to settle in your room, walk over to The Nines hotel for a meal at the 15th-floor Departure Restaurant. Sit outside at its remarkable rooftop bar to sip locally brewed beer (such as Terminal Gravity IPA) or creative cocktails (try the Tasho Macho, made with Thai chili vodka, Thai basil, citrus and ginger beer) while savoring sweeping views of the area and the sun setting behind the West Hills. Eventually, make your way back inside for the delicious modern Asian cuisine (perhaps the wild salmon with sweet-and-sour rhubarb, ramps and ginger), then walk through the heart of downtown to the Arlene Schnitzer Hall for an evening of performing arts.
After a good night’s sleep in high-thread-count linens and a custom pillow-top mattress, you’ll naturally be eager to start day two in Portland. We recommend fueling up for the day with a great brunch at Kenny & Zuke’s, just a few blocks away from the doorstep of the hotel. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, try the excellent challah French toast. Otherwise, bite into one of the housemade bagels topped with pastrami and cheese.
To get oriented in the city, download Travel Portland’s great mobile app, which provides helpful visitor information and good maps. Maximize your morning by visiting the Portland Japanese Garden, which boasts 5.5 acres of stunning gardens nestled in the hills, or take the kids to the Oregon Zoo and the neighboring Portland Children’s Museum. After the morning’s adventures, head over to North Portland, the city’s hot dining neighborhood, and enjoy a well-deserved lunch break at the popular restaurant Las Primas. Specializing in the fresh and flavorful everyday cuisine of Peru, Las Primas has the best empanadas around. Also sample the pollo a la brasa, a hot slow-roasted chicken sandwich, and order a side of the yuquitas, yucca dough fritters with a creamy pepper sauce.
Spend the remainder of your afternoon riding rented bikes along the downtown waterfront and then into Chinatown. Make a stop at Lan Su Chinese Garden, a hidden downtown oasis, to cross shaded bridges, sip tea and wind down a full day. Once the sun goes down, return to North Portland for a memorable dinner at Lincoln Restaurant (fun fact: executive chef Jenn Louis, who’s also a Forbes Travel Guide Tastemaker, competed in the fifth season of Top Chef Masters). Dine on fennel with preserved apricot, oil-cured olives, arugula and fennel pollen, as well as rib-eye steak with blue cheese butter and braised lacinato kale while you enjoy fine Oregon wines. Save a little room for dessert because a trip to Portland isn’t complete without a visit to Salt & Straw. Renowned for its quirky but oh-so-delicious ice cream flavors — such as strawberry with cilantro-lime cheesecake, sea salt with caramel ribbon, and pear with blue cheese — this farm-to-cone handmade ice cream shop has perfected this creamy treat. After you’ve sufficiently satisfied your sweet tooth, it’s back to Hotel Lucia for another good night’s rest.
Before you hop back on the MAX light rail train to the airport, dine at Imperial restaurant, located right inside Hotel Lucia. Another hot Portland chef, Vitaly Paley — known for such popular spots as Paley’s Place and Portland Penny Diner — has once again struck the right chord at Imperial. Fresh-squeezed orange juice; a goat cheese, mushroom and leek omelet; and side of house-smoked bacon will put an exclamation point on your dining experience in this city. As you walk to your gate at the airport and board the plane, your state of bliss will have you thinking about a return visit.
Photo Courtesy of iStock-AndrewHaliburton