Last week, Dad and I took advantage of a terrific mileage run deal which inspired a mini-vacation to Portland. Neither of us have been to the city before, so we were excited to visit, especially after reading through all of the reader suggestions from the “planning in progress” post.
After arriving in Portland in the late evening on Wednesday, we took the TriMet MAX light rail directly from the airport (PDX) to center city. Commenter Bonnie (frugaltravellawyer) was right on when she said the transportation system in Portland is fabulous! For only $2.40 each, we were in downtown Portland at the door of our hotel in about 30 minutes – what a breeze!
Initially, I planned to book hotels for 2 nights on a whim using the awesome iPhone App HotelTonight (related post, including free $25 credit), but since the NCAA March Madness was in town during the same time we were there, availability was sparse (related post about some NCAA hotel irony). With that in mind, we decided to “play it safe” for the first night by booking The Marriott Courtyard Portland Center City with Dad’s free night certificate, which was conveniently-located directly off of the 5th/Oak St stop on the green line of the TriMet MAX.
Once checked in and settled in the hotel, we decided to call it a night since we were tired from full day’s worth of traveling (although I can’t complain too much, reader J.R. generously upgraded our flights using United regional upgrades, so we were quite comfortable flying. J.R., thanks again so much).
We woke up early the next morning and decided to start exploring the town. Readers David (Travel and Credit) and Dave suggested that we absolutely try the legendary VooDoo Doughnut, a local doughnut hot spot with an eccentric flair. As you can see from some of the photos below, there were quite a few festive choices. I decided to keep it simple and order a mini vanilla-frosted doughnut loaded with rainbow sprinkles for 95 cents (the best part!); Dad opted for their house specialty, the Portland cream doughnut. I’m guessing he liked it because it was gone before I could even ask for a piece!
After enjoying our ever-so-healthy “breakfast” at VooDoo Doughnut, we started walking towards Powell’s City of Books, the largest independently-owned book store in America. Readers Adam S., Doug, Bonnie, and Sally all told me it was a must-see in town, so I knew I had to check it out. Along the way to Powell’s from VooDoo Doughnut (a short walk), we passed Chinatown, but it did not look like much was going on because it was so early. I thought Powell’s was cool, but I’m [sadly] not much of a book-worm, so I can’t say I gave it my full appreciation. However, if Kevin had come along, I’m sure I’d be
stuck in there for hours because of his very-obvious obsession with books.
One thing I especially loved about Portland was the abundance of food trucks scattered throughout the city (thanks to reader Kevy for recommending!). This was paradise for me because I am a huge foodie and love trying new cuisines everywhere I go. It was very hard for me to pick a food truck to order from because each food truck had it’s own cultural-flair and personality. I ended up going to a very busy Thai food truck and kept it simple by ordering Pad Thai (for only $5 and portions were huge!), which was delicious. I didn’t want to fill up too much because we’d soon be headed to the Goose Hollow Inn for lunch.
As I mentioned earlier, the public transportation system in Portland is outstanding, easy to use, and efficient. However, Dad and I found that the city is extremely walkable as well (yes, even in the rain). We decided to ditch public transportation for the rest of the trip and just explore the town by foot. The walk from our hotel to the Goose Hollow Inn, which advertises the “Best Reuben on the Planet”, and a favorite restaurant of reader Doug, was less than 2 miles. By then, the heavy rain had died down, and there were only occasional trickles of rain here and there which made it a pleasant walk.
Doug was right! This truly was the best Reuben we had, and the entire lunch (including beer) came to $25 including tax and tip. After lunch, we decided to walk to Portland’s famous International Rose Test Garden, which was a little over a mile and a half away (keep in mind, it’s a very steep mile and a half uphill, which makes a fabulous post-lunch calorie torch). For those who prefer not to tread uphill, the 63 bus runs regularly to the gardens as well. After the 25 minute brisk walk uphill, we came to find it that there weren’t any roses in bloom this time of year! I like to joke by saying that they’re all gone because of all of the FTD and 1-800-Flowers promotions going on last month for Valentine’s Day…
After the 2 mile walk back, we decided that it was about time to figure out the hotel situation for the evening. I whipped out my iPhone and saw that HotelTonight had a room at The Nines available for $195 + taxes and fees. Since I had $205 in referral credits, I didn’t feel too bad shelling out the additional $15 difference. The Nine’s is a Starwood property and probably one of the nicest luxury hotels in downtown Portland (it’s located directly in Pioneer Square, across the street from the courthouse and shopping mall). I don’t know if my stay qualifies for SPG points (probably not since it was booked through a third party), but I’ll keep you updated if I see any points post.
For dinner that evening, reader Sally suggested we try Dan & Louis Oyster Bar, which has been around for over 100 years and is located in the same vicinity of VooDoo Doughnut. The oysters were deliciously-fresh, and the seafood portions were plentiful. We really enjoyed our dinner, and it was a great way to spend our final night in Portland.
The next morning, before saying our farewells to Portland, we had brunch at a local hot-spot, Mother’s Bistro & Bar, which is known for its delicious, home-cooked, comfort food. Dad and I are always one to try dishes approved by the locals, so you can bet that we asked other nearby diners what to order. Almost everyone we spoke to recommended that we order the Wild Salmon Hash, which was a great choice!
In summary, we really enjoyed visiting Portland, and we certainly surprised ourselves with how much we saw in such a limited amount of time. Thanks again to all of the readers and commenters who shared such great suggestions! Until next time, Portland!