We’ve long discussed visiting Portland. Tim lived there for some time when he was single and worked at Wieden + Kennedy. Over our years together he often remembers biking through Forest Park, or grabbing a coffee and something sweet on those (many) rainy mornings. This summer was the right time to go for a family vacation, and I think we all pretty much fell in love with it from the start. It’s such a friendly laid-back town — no one honks their car horns and dogs go everywhere with their owners. And it’s an amazingly beautiful city with easy access to both mountains and ocean. (Links listed at the end.)
Downtown Portland is very walkable with lots of options for public transportation. Staying somewhat central in the Pearl District made it possible for us to cover several neighborhoods in a short time. Historic buildings and docks along the Willamette River hint at the gritty industrial hub the area once was, but a lot of those buildings have been turned into offices and lofts, breweries, boutiques, coffee shops and restaurants.
The food scene is truly insane, and so culturally rich! We met one friend for ramen dinner two blocks from our hotel; took carry-out Thai barbecue to another friend’s home for dinner the following evening; and would go to the local shaved-ice counter often enough that the girls each grabbed a punch card. Planning restaurants was a great way to get to all of the different neighborhoods since finding good food on a particular street also meant good everything else: beer, shopping, vintage stores.
Summer mornings in Portland are cool and temps peak in the 80s, but not until late afternoon. We were always comfortable (no humidity) and loved having sunlight into the evening. We hiked a little bit into Forest Park. Spent a day at the zoo. And zipped up and down the Japanese and Rose Gardens in Washington Park. Another thing about Portland that’s good to know is that it’s really hard to get lost downtown; the east-west street names are alphabetical — Everett, Flanders, Glisan — so you can always seem to find your way.
We spent the next couple of days on the Oregon coast. An-hour-and-a-half drive put us in Manzanita, a small northern beach town. The keeper at the inn where we stayed suggested we check out Short Sands Beach. After a short drive and hike, you end up in a soft sand Pacific cove with massive pine trees and loads of surfers and happy beach people. If there’s one image I’ll never forget it’s this: a line of breathless dogs tired from play, crouched along the shore waiting for their surfers to return from the waves. It’s a really special place and a natural playground with fallen old-growth tree trunks to climb and tide pools to inspect, which our girls loved to do. We hadn’t planned on it, but the low-key beach vibes pulled us back the next day, too.
After Manzanita, we took a day’s drive into the high desert to meet up with friends and to see Crater Lake. I’m not usually into taking guided tours, I get too impatient. But for this we booked a boat trip around the lake. It is truly one of the most amazing things and I’m so happy we did it. Famous for being formed by the inward collapse of a volcano, Crater Lake is fed solely by snowmelt and rainfall so it’s pure and insanely blue, and you can fill your water bottle and drink straight from its waters. Bring your bathing suits. One area is known for cliff-diving.
We brought paperback novels from Powell’s Books home with us and have been listening non-stop to this Portland-based band, who we love and got to see while in town. We’re all really missing that slow time away together and all of Oregon’s beautiful open spaces.
STAY | Hampton Inn (Portland) | Great location in the Pearl District and across the street from a food market. Sunriver Resort (Sunriver) | Outdoor family adventure in the high desert. Inn at Manzanita (Manzanita) | Local lodging with beach access.
EAT | Wailua Shave Ice | Hawaiian-style ice dessert. Boxer Ramen | Family-friendly ramen. World Foods Market | Culturally-diverse grocer & prepared foods. Bollywood Theater | Indian street-food. Eb & Bean | Organic dairy, gluten- & dairy-free frozen yogurt. Pok Pok | Thai BBQ wings and southeast Asian dining, expect long lines. Mee Gin Soul Kitchen | Home-style northern & southern Thai. Blue Star Donuts | Guero | Casual Mexican. Fifty Licks | Organic ice cream. Jackson’s Corner (Bend) | Fresh breads, salads, pizza, pastas locally-grown.
SEE & DO | Japanese & Rose Test Garden (Portland) | Asymmetrical garden stroll within Washington Park. Crater Lake | Naturally-formed deep blue lake within a dormant volcano. Short Sands Beach (Nehalem) | Surfer haven, tide pools. Oregon Zoo (Portland) | Forest Park (Portland) | Trails, hiking & biking. Lava Tubes (Bend) | Underground exploring, dress warmly.