Portland is WEIRD and I love it. It feels like a “pacific northwest funkytown meets trendy REI catalogue” with lots of bridges. Everyone loves coffee just as much as I do, and despite the looming gloom weather, local people are generally more happy than anywhere else I have visited. Unless you mess with the carpet in their airport, then it gets heated.
I’ve gone up to Portland in both in the Summer and in the Winter. Both seasons are special in their own way, and there’s always something new and fun to do no matter what time of year it is.
These are my recommendations of where to check out if you’re visiting Portland for a weekend, and want to hit some touristy sights while also diving deeper into the special culture of the unique area.
Voodoo DOUGHNUTS vs Blue Star DONUTS (the spelling of the word does matter, trust me…)
Ahhh, the Blue Star vs Voodoo Doughnuts rivalry. As much of a rivalry as Portland can get, anyway. Portlanders are friendly. Plus, either place you go you get to eat donuts which in my opinion is a win so there’s really no way to lose in this situation.
I personally prefer Voodoo Doughnuts more, because I am self admitted outward wierdo and I like the weirdo vibe inside voodoo with its bubblegum pink everything, covered in oddball stickers and decorations. They are on a quest to return the world toward the correct spelling of the word “doughnut,” and now you can ever get legally married in some of their shops.
The classic signature voodoo doll is fully stabbed with a pretzel stick and oozing jelly blood. Each voodoo doll features a uniquely frosted terrified expression.
Their doughnuts have great names too, such as the “gay bar” which is a creme filled bar adorned with all of the colors of the rainbow. Even the classic strawberry frosted doughnut at Voodoo dons a fun name: “The Homer.” Because it’s the kind of doughnut always seen with Homer Simpson in his cartoon. Seriously you need to check out the funky names of their donuts.
In my opinion, Voodoo is authentically unique and has more outward character than Blue Star does.
Blue Star is amazing too, don’t get me wrong. It has an atmosphere of clean simplicity you feel when you walk in. The mood is clearly set toward a straight cut vibe of ease and neatness.
Their donuts are made with the finest ingredients as listed here on the proclamation pictured above, and I’m not sure Voodoo can necessarily declare the same in terms of free range frying oil, but hey it’s about eating a donut (doughnut?) so I’m not sure how hard I’m thinking about my health if I’m going for an indulgence.
Of course there is always room for argument about which is better depending on what kind of donut you get in each shop and what kind of atmosphere you prefer.
Coffee at Stumptown
Of course I went to a coffee shop, I have a codependent relationship with coffee. Well, maybe I’m just dependent on it. Anyway, PORTLAND. KNOWS. HOW. TO. DO. GOOD. COFFEE. This excites me as you can probably sense. Conner and I visited the original Stumptown on Division Street, across the bridge from downtown and the drive there was 150% worth it.
The baristas were SO friendly helping me by answering all of my questions about the different roasts and even letting me try a sample of their “Slay Ride” holiday blend. You can feel how much these people take pride in the flavor of their coffee at Stumptown. I can sense how much care goes into each roast.
“Everything that came before—the shrubs, the farmer, the journey across the sea, the hybrids and the mutations—is for this moment. Because the only thing required for the smallest, quietest and most personal of coffee ceremonies are some good beans and a way to brew. You’ll hold that mug possessively. You’ll inhale deeply. And then you drink.” –Stumptown Coffee
The century old Crystal Hotel is on the National Register of Historic Places, and is located in Portland’s west end on the edge of the Pearl District. Each room’s decor is inspired by a song or performance in the Crystal Ballroom from the last 100 years. We were put in the “Long Haired Child” room with walls painted with lyrics of a song we had never heard of but seemed to have a message about having long hair to keep your head warm… I guess Portland does get pretty cold?
The Crystal Hotel is part of McMenamin’s, a legendary Pacific Northwest family owned chain of breweries, restaurants, music venues and historic hotels started by two brothers Brian and Mike McMenamin in 1974. They save old old buildings and rennovate them into new fun places such as pubs like Al’s Den and hotels like the Crystal Hotel.
Al’s Den and Soaking Hot Tub
McMenamin’s also owns the speakeasy style bar underneath the hotel. It’s called Al’s Den, which features live music every night and a thorough menu of Portland-esque choices for craft brews on tap and as well as great character. I had a “latte nitro stout” craft brew. Mmmm, creamy.
I could live a happy and fulfilled life just in this bookstore. It has a coffee room for adequate sustenance and enough books that I could never be able to get bored. It claims to be the largest independent new and used book store in the world with 68,000 square feet and nine “color coded” rooms, including every book that my book nerd mind could dream of while taking up an entire block in the Pearl District.
Powell’s is a must see for anyone who is interested in the pursuit of knowledge or just wants to know 18,000 ways to make a cocktail (really, any book you can imagine!). It’s like the internet in a building with words on pieces of real paper.
Day Trip Out of Town to the Mt. Hood Tamanawas Falls Hike
We got out of town for a day trip and some fresh air, near Mount Hood. The hike to Tamanawas Falls is a moderate 3.4 mile walk with 528 feet of elevation gain. Ice and snow cover many parts of the trail during the Winter months which can make it challengingly slippery to maneuver if you don’t have the right kind of shoes (like me with my sneakers! I didn’t think to pack hiking shoes for this weekend trip) but it’s overall not too difficult of a hike and the views of the falls at the end are amazing.
It’s a little less than a 2 hour drive to the trailhead from Portland with scenic sights of the Columbia River Gorge and river on the way there as well as gorgeous views of Mt. Hood as you’re approaching the trailhead.
I would recommend the hike to anyone who likes an adventure!
So there you have it, a weekend in Portland with adventures in and out of the city. Now you know to eat some funky themed doughnuts at Voodoo and some free range donuts at Blue Star, amp yourself up with some coffee at Stumptown, and if you can still see straight after all that sugar and caffeine visit Powell’s to gain some knowledge!
If you can’t see straight because of all the caffeine and sugar (no rAgrets), go for a hike to Tamanawas Falls near Mt. Hood. When you’re done exploring, visit the Crystal Hotel to relax in the soaking tub or grab a craft brew on tap and see some live music at Al’s Den.
But most importantly, remember to KEEP IT WEIRD! 😉
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