Looking for something to do over Memorial Day? Although sometimes stereotyped for it’s rainy weather, Oregon provided a beautiful place that kept us wanting to spend all day outdoors. Rainstorms were frequent but they never lasted more than 20 minutes, nothing an anorak and comfortable shoes couldn’t handle.
Last Memorial Day, Neal and I spent 4 days and nights in Portland and the Oregon Coast. We originally planned to spend more time on the Oregon coast but kept it abbreviated in order to explore more of Portland. Looking back we did a lot in only three full-days but it didn’t feel like we were rushing from one thing to the next.
The itinerary from our trip:
Thursday: Leave NYC after work > Portland
Friday: Portland > Astoria > Cape Disappointment > Cannon Beach
Saturday: Cannon Beach > Tillamook > Dundee Wine Country > Portland
Monday: Portland > Back in NYC afternoon
New Yorkers can hop a 5:45pm Delta flight from JFK that gets you into PDX at 9pm. It’s a twenty-minute cab ride from the airport to a number of hotels in the heart of downtown . Being Starwood loyalists, we chose The Nines hotel.
Drop your bags, grab your rain jacket and head towards the neon donut sign.Voodoo Doughnuts has become a Portland landmark known for it’s pink doughnut boxes and decadent flavors. During daylight hours they attract a line for blocks so take advantage of their 24 hour hours and beat the crowd. We tried the famous Maple Bacon Bar, rectangle doughnut with maple glaze and two slices of bacon on top, and a Dirt one, yeast doughnut topped with vanilla icing piled with oreo cookies.
Ride out the sugar rush out at a local brew-pub. Portland is known for micro-brews with specialities in IPAs and dark beers. Try to find one where you can see the brewing tanks from the bar. We visited Tugboat Brewing Co. which offers a few of their own beers and a handful of other local brews. It’s a low key spot offering board games and an extensive collection of books lining the walls.
If you ask anyone about breakfast in Portland, Mother’s is always mentioned. We tried to leverage our EST jetlag to get in before the crowds. Peppery bacon, tableside french press coffee and local made jam on fresh biscuits are not to be missed. Food was excellent and more than enough to keep you full past lunch.
Grab a rental car and get out of town. (Pro-tip: You’ll want a low-set fun car, more on this later). Head about 35 minutes east towards Mt. Hood to reachMultnomah Falls. Enjoy the beautiful views along the highway and look out for the left-hand exit to the Falls parking lot. Views only improve as you make your way up the trail in front of the falls. Make sure to wear walking shoes and bring a rain jacket, the 1.2 mile hike to the top of the falls is paved and provides close encounters with the waterfall spray near the base.
After a nice warm-up, head Northwest towards the coast. It’s about two hours to Astoria, Oregon which sits at the mouth of the Columbia River into the Pacific. The city dates back to Lewis and Clark and feels a lot like a smaller San Francisco. Get some fresh seafood as you look north to Washington. Try a few microbrews in a beer flight at Wet Dog. Rent a bike to explore town or walk around to take in the local coffee culture.
If the weather is on your side, drive North towards Cape Disappointment, Washington. Confession: We saw it listed on foursquare and with a name like that, we were curious what it was all about. This area experiences about 106 days of fog a year. If it’s a clear day, hike the short trail up to the lighthouse. Look for the secret beach along the way.
Head south about 40 miles to Cannon Beach, OR to catch the sunset into the Pacific. We only wanted to spend one night here although most hotels required a minimum of two nights. We landed at the Wayside Inn which provided excellent access to the ocean and town.
Although not the sunshine and swimsuit weather assumed with East Coast beaches, Cannon Beach is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. The backdrop of green forests rolling into the sand paired with the massive Haystack Rock and Needles sticking out in the ocean is just breaktaking. As the lighting changed with the sunset and moving clouds, we kept mumbling “wow!” and “it’s so beautiful” over and over again. You may experience Goonies flashbacks as parts of the movie were filmed here. After sunset, dine at Newman’s 988 for local seafood in a historic house near the beach.
Take an early morning walk or run on the beach and look for wildlife in the low-tide pools. Giant orange and purple starfish hold tight to the bottom of the rocks and sand dollars scatter over the beach.
Pack the car and head to the popular Lazy Susan Cafe for breakfast. Put your name on the list then pick up some Salt Water Taffy at Bruce’s Candy Kitchenwhile you wait. It’s some of the best so feel free snacking on a few pieces before breakfast.
Head towards Tillamook but be prepared to stop to take in the stunning views of the Oregon Coast at the numerous lookout points. Grab some ice-cream at the Ikea-sized Tillamook Cheese Factory or pick up some road-side raw oysters. Continue south to pick up Highway-22 that takes you into Portland wine-country. You’ll be thankful for a low-centered car on these windy roads. We had a VW Golf that proved a lot of fun for driving an empty, curvy highway carved into Oregon’s forests.
Sokol Blossmer Winery sits in a region known for their Pinot Noir. A tasting event was setup for Memorial Day weekend which had local artists, BBQ and chocolate vendors alongside a sampling of their wines. The ‘09 Pinor Noir was my favorite that I’m keep an eye out for in NYC. The lamb burger from Ribslayer (ribslayer.com) was one of the best I’ve tried. If they aren’t paired with an event at the winery, you can pick one up down the road at their store in McMinnville.
It’s about an hour back to Portland from the Dundee winery area so could be done as a day-trip from the city if you don’t have a night to spend on the coast. Enterprise offers a few locations downtown to easily rent a car without a trip out to the airport. We returned to The Nines and set out to explore one of the other Portland neighborhoods. A twitter recommendation from Raphael and Rick tempted us with a promise of a great burger from a Sushi place.
It was about a 10 minute cab ride but well worth the trek. Yakuza has great food and gives exposure to some of the active neighborhoods outside of downtown. We didn’t make it to the Mississippi neighborhood but got a quick tour in a our taxi after dinner. It’s known for it’s art studios, local eateries and, according to our taxi driver, one of the best barber’s in the world. We grabbed drinks in the Pearl district which has tons of different options from gastropubs to nightclubs.
Have you ever had an oyster omelet? Try one at Bijou cafe. Located next to the original Stumptown coffee house, there is normally a wait on weekends but counter space is first-come-first-served so keep an eye out if you don’t need a table.
Oogle all of the stylish outdoor gear at Tanner’s as you walk towards the Arlington Heights parks. It’s about a mile walk or bike ride to the foot of the park. Rain or shine, stop by the award winning rose gardens and try to spot the top of Mt. Hood from the city-overlook. Pay a small fee to enter the Japanese Gardens to be transported to another world.
Head back into town to the Rogue Distillery. Ask for their beer bible to custom build your own sampler. I highly recommend the Rogue Dead Guy Ale.
For a light snack, head to The Parish for their oyster happy hour. With their access to the Northwest coast, you can’t go wrong with their raw or parmesan baked oysters. If you’re in the shopping mood, continue to explore the Pearl District shops and don’t forget to check out the massive Nike store in downtown. Realize that 80% of people on the streets of Portland are wearing something Nike as the company’s corporate headquarters are just next door in Beaverton, OR.
Make a reservation at Wildwood for dinner. It helped start the movement of locally sourced food in the Portland food scene. From game to seafood, there is something on the menu for everyone. Head to Departures to enjoy panoramic views of portland from their outdoor roofdeck.
Take the 7:00am flight back to NYC for a 3:15pm arrival.
Apps that made the trip:
Being a Starwood loyalist was great but there are plenty of nice downtown hotels worth exploring. I’m a big fan of Kayak (web or mobile) and of course Foursquare and Twitter for getting recommendations from the real locals.
On the ground, in order of importance: Google maps, Foursquare, Instagram, Twitter and Yelp.