Portland, Oregon may not seem like a vacation destination, and sure, there’s plenty of beautiful scenery to explore outside the city. But spend a day in this funky, eclectic city, and you will see why thousands of people give up the dream of blue sky and sun and choose to live with what feels like endless days of overcast skies and clouds. Portland’s weather is notoriously overcast, but the city has so much to offer, both indoors and out, that it’s easy to understand why so many people choose to call this city home.
A great introduction to the city is a stop at the Lan Su Chinese Garden, a small city block which has been enclosed and contains beautiful architecture and gardens in the traditional Chinese style. Volunteer docents lead tours through the gardens on a regular basis, and there are frequent performances in the outdoor courtyards. The gardens themselves are beautiful, but it’s the architecture and design which stand out in this urban oasis. Look down, and you will be mesmerized by the rock mosaics beneath your feet. The garden is broken down into “rooms” which symbolize parts of Chinese culture. There is also a pond in the center of the garden and a beautiful tea room. Be sure to try your hand at Chinese calligraphy in the Scholar’s Study.
From the Lan Su Garden, make your way to the Portland Saturday Market where dozens of vendors set up stalls on weekends (the market is open on Saturday and Sunday) under the Burnside Bridge. There are crafts, food, soaps, artwork, and much more to see on a stroll through the market. From there, head up Ankeny street and stop by Portland’s Voodoo Doughnuts for a snack. Voodoo Doughnuts is notorious for creative doughnuts, including it’s signature voodoo doughnut, complete with a pretzel stake. Continue walking up Burnside Street to Powell’s Books. You’ve never seen a bookstore like this! Maps are available to guide you through the maze of books (over one million in stock!).
After the busy morning, spend the afternoon in Washington Park, where you can stroll through gardens, hike to beautiful vistas, and visit with hundreds of animals from around the world. The Oregon zoo is situated on 64 acres and has over 2,000 animals, most of which are in their natural habitats within the zoo. A highlight is the four black bears which can be seen in the Pacific Northwest section. After the zoo, head to the Japanese Gardens where you can explore 5.5 acres of a traditional Japanese garden. Though the garden is often busy, there are many paths to be explored, and solitude is easy to come by. Your last stop in Washington Park should be the International Rose Test Gardens, home to over 8,000 roses from around the world. Spring and summer are the best seasons to visit the rose gardens, as the flowers are in full bloom, and you can easily spend an hour or more wandering around the terraced gardens.
After leaving Washington Park, it is a short car ride over to the Pittock Mansion. The mansion can be toured during the day, but the grounds are open until dusk. Aside from the beautiful grounds and mansion, the attraction here is the incredible view overlooking the city of Portland. On a clear day (not easy to come by in Portland), Mt. Hood can be seen from this vantage point, some 50 miles to the east.
Portland isn’t nicknamed “The Rose City” for nothing… there are beautiful flowers in bloom all over the city. Portland’s charm shines through despite the often dreary days in the city. It makes those rare sunny days even more beautiful!