Friday, July 6, 2012

Travelling - Portland

A while ago, I said I was going to start writing a bit about my travels. sooo..... I really haven't done that at all. I thought I would try and give it a start with a summary of what I saw in Portland this past May. Depending on how I feel about this post, I'll write more about the other cities I visited this past April/May (or just cancel this idea, either one haha). I did go back and edit my first travel post because I don't plan on writing about old trips any more. Just the most recent ones... because that is what I enjoy writing about! Okay onto Portland.

In May I went on a 4 week west coast trip, which included 4 days in Portland. Portland didn't have a touristy feel to it, there were definitely things to do, but it didn't feel like visiting Vancouver or San Francisco. It was smaller, and was far more about experiencing the culture than about going to see that famous 'insert something here'. There are enough visitors to the city however that there is a visitors centre, a few museums, tours, and enough to keep you busy. Inspite of the few tourist things that were avaliable, I would say the majority of my time was spent just wandering different sections of the city! (To give you an idea Portland has a population of 600,000 and SF has a population of 7.5 million, its just smaller)

With 4 full days to explore the city, I had tons of time to see everything I wanted to and more. I was able to do tons of exploring including going on a walking tour, finding the neatest craft store, exploring 11th street (including Powell's Books), going to a Craft Museum, exploring 23rd and 21st street, taking the aerial tram, and exploring Mississippi Ave! 

The walking tour I went on was called the Best of Portland Walking Tour, and cost $20. It was quite fun, but the group was really small, so it was a bit too personal for me. It was full of really great information though, and I learned tons of history and info about the city. The tour also give a good overview of the down-town area so I had some idea how to get around. Check out the link to get a better idea of what the tour all shows you. but if you generally enjoy walking tours this one wont let you down. 

While wandering the city I happened to find potentially the best store I have ever been into. The name of the store is Crafty Wonderland, and it really was a wonderland! I think I ended up going into the store 3 different times during my time in the city. As a DIYer and someone who just generally enjoys hand-made items, it was tons of fun. I ended up buying quite a few things but the sweater I bought was my favourite!

Exploring 11th street (both NW 11th and SW11th) I found tons of unexpected little shops that were great! The street had lots of crafty goodness including a fabric store, yarn store and embroidery store. There were a few cool clothing stores as well for those of you less interested in buying yarn. Powell's Books was on 11th street too and was well worth exploring. Aside from millions of amazing books and helpful staff, there are tons of cute note books, cards, gift items and even a coffee shop. I only bought one book, but I wander the store in awe for almost an hour!

Side note: a street car (which is free in the central zone) runs along 11th street so if you're curious you can take a ride down the street to see what it has to offer before you committing to walking through it. 

The Museum of Contemporary Craft had really friendly staff, was beautiful and was only $4 to enter ($3 if you're a student). This museum only had one artist on display however, which was a bit of a let down for me. Her work was lovely, but I always enjoy seeing a variety. The museum was installing another exhibit while I was there though, so normally I think there are at least two different artists on display. If you enjoy seeing crafty work, I would recommend stopping by, the neighbourhood around it was quite cute too. (Just don't expect it to be a day activity because it only took about 30 minutes or so to look at everything, as it was quite small).

NW 23rd Street was another fun street to explore. (I spent most of my time in the NW and SW quarters, but it is really not hard to get around the city, I just seemed to love these sections!) It had a lot of fancy shops that were out of my price range for sure, but it also had a great ice cream shop, and some funky independent shops. It was entertaining, and because it was close to my hostel worth exploring, but I wouldn't cross the town to go see it. If you are checking out 23rd, you may as well wonder to NW 21st as well. It has some good shops to check out, but it also has a fair number of restaurants. I highly recommend Dick's Kitchen, they had amazing burgers! On 21st they also a lot of cheap places for manicures and pedicures if you need a break from all the walking :)

The aerial tram is in the SW quarter of the city. If you get off at the last free street car stop in the SW it is only a short walk (less than 10 minutes), or you can pay to take the street car right to the base of the tram. The tram was built to carry commuters from the south area of the city to the Oregon Heath and Science University campus, but it also happens to give an amazing view of the city. It only takes about 12 minutes round trip, and costs $4. It was rainy when I went on it, and I was still impressed with the view, so if you're visiting on a clear day definitely check it out!

On my second last day in the city I went to the east side of the river and wandered through Mississippi Avenue (Alberta Street had also been highly recommended, but I didn't have time for both). It was a lot smaller than I had imagine, but was just down right adorable. Once again there were tons of cute shops, and also fun little restaurants along the street. I can't tell you exactly what it was that I even liked about the street, but it just had a quirky vibe that was neat (much like the rest of Portland!) If you have time its a cute spot to wander, but if you only have a day or two I would skip it because it is a bit out of the way and there isn't much else around it to see or do.

The hostel I stayed at during my time in the city was called the Northwest Portland International Hostel and it was awesome. Straight up. It had a nice communal area which made it easy to meet people, and it was probably the cleanest hostel I have ever stayed at! I know there aren't many to pick from when booking in Portland, but if there is space here, I would highly recommend it.

(you can kind of see the room and the bunk-beds in the back)

That's my two cents on Portland. It was an awesome city to explore, and had a lot of little fun things to do. It was very different than all my other stops on my trip because it was a lot smaller, but that is what I loved about it. 


  1. cool.....For a second there, I thought you meant Portland,Maine, which is an awesome city too (but much smaller). Co-incidence~I love Powells bookstore, I buy stuff (online) from them all the time, they have the greatest inventory and when i want that hard-to-find book, they usually have it. (and then they ship it to the east coast!)

  2. I love Powells too - we spent about 2 days of our 7 days in Portland in there! The museum of contemporary craft was great too - your post makes me want to make a return visit!

    1. that's awesome! I definitely want to go back already. Thanks for reading!