At any time of year, though, Portland is an interesting and vibrant city. Green in both appearance and politics, Portland boasts more than 10,000 acres of parks and a liberal, environmentally conscious vibe. Throw in interesting neighborhoods, unique shops, independent bookstores, appealing museums, and a cornucopia of local and organic foods. We always find plenty to keep ourselves occupied when we’re visiting “The City of Roses.”
Our most recent stop in Portland was in late June on our way up to Lopez Island for the summer. We spent a delightful three days with Eric’s sister Peggy, and enjoyed a few of our favorite Portland attractions during our stay.
Portland Rose Garden
Established in 1917 as a safe haven for hybrid European roses during World War I (rose fanciers feared that bombings might wipe out their favorite plants) the Portland International Rose Garden has since expanded to showcase more than 500 different varieties spread over 4.5 acres. The gardens serve as a testing ground for new rose varieties—Portland offers the ideal climate for roses, with warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters.
It’s a heady experience to stroll through the gardens at the height of bloom. As an avid gardener with only a dozen rose bushes, it’s overwhelming to think of the amount of deadheading required to keep up with 10,000 rose bushes. The rhythmic ‘clip-clip-clip’ of volunteers pruning accompanied our morning walk in the gardens. The Rose Garden is open daily and admission is free.
The Japanese Garden
Hike straight uphill from the Rose Garden and you’ll find yourself at the gates of what is considered to be the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan. Founded in 1963 as a symbol of healing after World War II, the Portland Japanese Garden offers a peaceful respite in the city.
A stone path meanders through a landscape carefully planned for contemplation, with gorgeous Japanese maples, moss covered rocks, waterfalls, burbling streams, a koi pond, lovely tea house, and Zen influenced sand and stone gardens raked into intricate patterns. Much of the beauty is found in the small details. If you go, don’t miss the guided tour—it’s helpful for understanding the underlying meanings of the garden elements (for example, stone implies strength, water suggests life force, and plants represent the tapestry of seasons and life).
We like to get out on foot to explore neighborhoods, and Portland has plenty of interesting neighborhoods to wander. This time we found ourselves in the Northwest district, a neighborhood of restored Craftsman and Victorian homes and narrow streets lined with a variety of unique independent shops. We enjoyed a delicious lunch at Ken’s Artisan Bakery, browsed the shops (including a bookstore that featured titles like “A Brief History of Underwear” and “A Complete Guide to Things That Can Kill You”), mingled with the locals, and treated ourselves to gourmet ice cream at award winning Salt & Straw, which offers unusual flavors like pear and blue cheese ice cream.
If you find yourself in Portland, don’t miss the Saturday farmers’ market at Portland State University campus. It’s one of the best that we’ve found anywhere. The market is a lively event with hundreds of purveyors displaying the finest of Pacific Northwest homegrown and handcrafted foods—we filled our shopping bags with pastured eggs, an assortment of berries, smoked salmon, artisan goat cheese, artichokes, and more. It’s a shaded, lovely venue and a fun place to shop while enjoying the musical offerings of talented locals.
Findlay says “that’s all mine!” and tries to grab the berries from the farmer’s market photo. I say “what a crazy teapot!” from the Japanese folk pottery photo. I wonder if it drips when poured….?
So cute!! Tell Fin we’ll be sure to get plenty of berries for him when we see him in a couple of weeks. The teapot was interesting looking, but not sure how functional! oxox
I can almost smell that basket of fresh lavender along with all those roses = delightful. I hear that Japanese Garden is pretty amazing. Sounds like Portland is worthy of a visit.
Portland is definitely worthy of a visit, Ingrid. I’d love to return to the Japanese Garden sometime in the fall — the colors would be spectacular.
I too enjoyed my time at the International Rose Garden. It smelled heavenly out there and the hundreds of varieties is just astounding. You are right how do they manage to deadhead them !
I enjoyed my revisit with you.
Glad you enjoyed the revisit, ML. Wandering among the roses in the early morning was delightful — it took us a long time because we stopped to smell so many along the way!
This post is a delight for the senses. Your pictures are magnificent. Your lunch made me salivate and that lavender, I can just smell it and taste the delicious cherries! An entire garden of so many roses is just amazing. I am reading All The Light We Cannot See and it brings home powerfully how desperate times in Europe were during WWII as museums of all kinds frantically tried to safe guard their treasures. As you know, I’m not a city person but I will definitely make an exception for Portland. What park did you stay in to enjoy the city? You had me at “Green in both appearance and politics….and a liberal, environmentally conscious vibe”. These must be my people.
Glad you enjoyed the post, Sherry — I think you would really like Portland, even though it is a city! We usually stay about 15 miles outside the city at Pheasant Ridge RV Park because it’s the closest park to where Eric’s sister lives. It’s a very nice and very quiet park. The other choices closer in to the city seem to suffer from cramped spaces and lots of traffic noise (including air traffic). There’s also a beautiful state park (Champoeg State Park) about 25 miles outside of the city, and we’ve stayed there and enjoyed it.
So interesting that you’re reading All The Light We Cannot See. I just picked up a copy.
At this point, we’re missing the Portland Farmers Market…. Haven’t found anything as big, yet… Safe travels, R & K
It is an amazing market! It’s definitely one of our all-time favorites.
We’ve only been to Portland a few times during our stay in Salem. We used Salem as a central location to visit in each direction. The rose garden was wonderful! And they have very nice benches for those not thrilled with roses:) The varieties were beautiful and the smell heavenly:) Sorry we missed the Japanese Garden, next time for sure! Oregon has the most wonderful farmers markets everywhere. I’ve never seen so many beautiful greens and the berries were just too good. In PA the different berries come in at different times, so to see them all ripe at the same was a real treat. As we drove around we discovered the unique neighborhoods. This is an area we are looking forward to spending some time on our next visit. Your lunch looked sooo good:) Blue Cheese Ice Cream sounds very interesting. I think I would like that!
I noticed your sandals (only a Keen fan would). I just saw this style on the website. I assume you like them since you have them on, but I am wondering what your thoughts are on them. I am thinking I need them:)
It is so nice to see you and Eric in several photos:) Looking forward to seeing you this winter. How much longer are you on the island?
Haha, I’m wondering who might find the benches more interesting than the roses?? See how he does in the Japanese Garden (take the tour to keep him engaged.) ;-) The Chinese Garden is excellent, too, and you would enjoy some in-town hiking in Forest Park and Washington Park.
So funny that you could ID my sandals. I love them! Even though they don’t have a back strap they’re comfortable for several hours of walking.
We’re on the island for about 10 more days — I’m trying to get a post done before we leave! We’re having too much fun, I guess. :-) Looking forward to seeing you two this winter!
I have an older model Keen that is slip on without backs, but I like the looks of the ones you have. Oh, what’s another pair! I just ordered three new pairs!! I needed different colors. Now I have every color I need:)
Enjoy your last few days on the island:)
Ooooh, I’ve been reading about Salt & Straw, gotta put it on my list for our next visit! Beautiful shots!
Lisa, it’s worth a visit — I’m regretting that I didn’t try a more exotic flavor. Next time!
We really need to spend more time in Portland. Other than a couple of quick trips to see friends, we have not explored this city. I too would love to be there when the roses are blooming. Thanks for the great tips Laurel.
LuAnn, there are so many interesting things to do in Portland that it would be easy to occupy at least a couple of weeks! I focused only on the few things we did on this visit — if you go, don’t miss the Museum of Art (excellent Native American exhibit), the Chinese Garden, Powell’s Bookstore, Saturday Market, Forest Park…the list goes on…
I think we could easily spend a year in Oregon and not see all we want to in that beautiful state. Portland is high on the list, and one of only a few cities we’re anxious to get to know. The Japanese Garden is lovely and serene and definitely a place I will love! I’m afraid I would have to try something interesting at the ice cream store :-)
Jodee, we’ve lived in Oregon for decades, and still haven’t managed to do it all! Plus we never tire of returning to our favorite places. I think I should have tried a more unusual ice cream flavor. Next time.
Yes, Portland is the best, so many wonderful and
diverse places to visit. I love living here and glad
you could come. Next time we have to go to the
Arboretum, Jackson Bottom’s Preserve and more
delicious restaurants and perhaps a new museum.
Just a note: Portland Japanese Garden will be
closed from Sept. 15-Mar.16 for renovation and
the building of a new Tea House.
Love and Happy Trails,
Peggy, we had such a wonderful time with you! All of your suggestions for future visits sound great. I have to say, the most delicious meals of all are the ones we have at your house. And those G & T’s on your patio are memorable! You’re the best hostess. oxoxo
I’m surprised we didn’t bump into you at the farmers market! We live very near there, by PSU! Hope you’ll call us next time you’re here! xoxoxo
That would have been fun to see you at the market (just like seeing you in Santa Fe at the market!). Next time, we’ll be sure to call you when we’re in Portland so that we can get together. We’d love to see you guys. oxox