What you’ll hear the most when you talk to Portlanders about their beautiful, tree-lined city, is that in Portland it’s always, “gotta be different, gotta be weird.” There’s weed in the beer, no fluoride in the tap water, and an attendant will pump your gas like it’s 1957. Keep Portland weird, indeed. For as much as everyone talks about the hippie haven of the North West as a bastion of counter-culture, I was expecting Portland to be a lot weirder. If New York were the eldest sibling, New Orleans the middle child, and Portland the youngest, it’s like Portland has to talk the loudest about how weird she is so people will pay attention. Meanwhile, New York is out there being the biggest and the best at everything she does and New Orleans came home for Christmas with a face tattoo but doesn’t mention it.
If “weirdness” is being counter to the mainstream culture, expectations, and established norms, I think Portland – thanks to whatever socio-economic influences – is more thoroughly culture, than counter. Some things Portland can keep (see: fluoride free water). In other areas though, the city is absolutely defining new trends in everything from beer and fashion to environmental sustainability.
Portland is a great place to explore on foot, with a coffee in hand. Considering their average annual rainfall, I’m almost surprised their best attractions are outside. The sprawling city parks containing mountains, zoos, and stunning feats of landscaping make The Rose City a great place to spend a few summer days. I was most delighted with the Japanese Garden in Washington Park and Lan Su Chinese Garden in the city. Both cost admission but we were able to do a free guided tour at the Japanese Garden and we left the park feeling refreshed, knowledgeable, and energized. Appreciating the incredible natural environment around Portland, the city has also developed a meandering riverfront with parkland, restaurants, and on a clear day, views of Mount Hood. You can easily spend a few hours popping into different coffee shops, moving from shady park to shady park.
Both Rogue Brewery (we tried the location in The Pearl District) and Von Ebert Brewing offered a wide range of beers with some unique, tasty options. Pair the beer with friendly, helpful staff and laid-back brewpub atmospheres and we found our two favorite Portland breweries. Mrs. Yang’s Fried Chicken at Revelry came the closest to changing our lives of all the meals we had in Portland. Q Restaurant & Bar definitely deserves an honorable mention for their Monday night fix-prix menu designed to feature one specific Oregonian ingredient. In my case: the Oregon strawberry. Those strawberries – of which we had many cartons in the coming days – were life changing.
It’s often the places from which you aren’t expecting much that end up being surprisingly wonderful. Portland is full of these opportunities of discovery. If you ever find yourself in Portland, go into museums you might not normally choose, try new food, and remember to brush your teeth.