In early October, we spent 10 days in Portland, Oregon. We love visiting Portland in the fall. The leaves are turning, the temperatures are perfect, and the rainy season doesn’t begin until November. Except for this year. In October 2016, Portland set all-time records for rainfall, and the deluge continued throughout the winter.
We didn’t expect day-after-day of gray skies and showers, but we still found plenty to enjoy, even in the rain. It’s a good thing, because 10 days cooped up in our 27’ trailer would have been about 9 ½ days too much.
Fortunately, rain in Portland isn’t like rain in the East or the South. Most of the time, there’s just a constant light drizzle, not enough to warrant unfurling an umbrella. Throw on a fleece, a rain jacket, and waterproof shoes, and you’re good to go.
Our main reason for visiting Portland every year is to spend time with Eric’s sister Peggy. While there, we also carve out time for hiking, cultural, and culinary adventures. There is no lack of interesting things to do in Portland—the biggest challenge for us is narrowing down our choices!
Some of our favorites from this visit:
Urban Hike: The 2.6-mile Waterfront Loop meanders along the waterfront, including the Eastbank esplanade’s floating walkways, and crosses the Willamette on a couple of Portland’s famous bridges. The views of the downtown skyline are terrific.
The loop passes right by the Saturday Market—an excellent place for a taste of “Keeping Portland Weird.” (Honestly, Portland doesn’t seem weird to us at all—our hometown of Ashland is equally, delightfully weird.)
Neighborhood Wanderings: The Alphabet District/Northwest Portland is one of our favorite neighborhoods to explore on foot. It’s a charming mix of appealing shops, cafes, and beautiful renovated historic homes. On a rainy afternoon, we wandered in and out of interesting shops, lunched at award winning Ken’s Artisan Bakery (the soup and salad specials are excellent), and spent a couple of hours reading and relaxing at the cozy Dragonfly Coffee House.
Nature Fixes: Given that we stay 15 miles outside of Portland (it’s the closest RV park for our visits to Eric’s sister) we’re always in search of nearby places to hike/walk. This time, we discovered Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge and Graham Oaks Nature Park, both with several miles of beautiful trails. We also spent an afternoon at Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve in search of birds—all of which had more sense than we did, and were snuggled up somewhere out of the rain.
The Japanese Garden: Always a delight, the Portland Japanese Garden offers a tranquil respite in the city. We were a week or two early for the full-on display of autumn colors, but appreciated the peaceful beauty of the gardens, as well as a temporary show of fantastic sculptural bamboo pieces scattered throughout. Not only is this place gorgeous, it’s considered to be the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan. If you want insights into the deeper meaning of the natural elements of the garden, take one of the excellent free guided tours.
The Food: The food—oh my, the food! Portland is renowned for creative, local, handcrafted, organic, delicious fare. This visit, the standout for us was Dove Vivi, a friendly little neighborhood bistro in Northeast Portland that “celebrates the loot of their locale” by making everything from scratch. We were smitten by the crispy cornmeal crust pizza baked in an iron skillet, layered with balsamic roasted red onions, fresh corn, and smoked mozzarella, accompanied by a kale salad and local beer. Really, really, tasty.
Another day we enjoyed a late lunch at Pine Street Market, a trendy showcase of nine local restaurants in a very cool renovated 1886 historic livery. Lots of choices here—we opted for the excellent roast chicken and radicchio salad from Pollo Bravo. We happened to arrive mid-afternoon after a long ramble through downtown Portland in search of the famed “Portlandia” statue, and were glad we missed what appears to be a crazed lunch rush. (Bonus: Happy hour is from 3-6, with good deals on food and brews.)
McMenamins Kennedy School: On our dreariest day in Portland we headed to Northeast Portland for a matinee at the Kennedy School, a historic 1915 elementary school recycled into a boutique hotel replete with movie theatre, brewery, multiple small bars, soaking pool, and restaurant. We enjoyed a showing of Star Trek while relaxing on comfy sofas in the former auditorium, followed by a brew in the honors bar. It’s a colorful venue with a quirky Portland ambiance. Loved it.
Famers’ Market: Rain or shine, we never miss a visit to the Portland Farmers’ Market at Portland State University. On a drizzly day we perused the lush offerings and loaded up on organic vegetables, excellent locally crafted chocolate, pastured eggs, local goat cheese, and wild caught salmon. It’s a great place to catch some local music, grab a tasty meal from local purveyors, and soak in more of the vibe that makes Portland so welcoming, even in the rain.
About the RV Park:
Pheasant Ridge RV Park is about 15 miles from downtown Portland, and it’s an easy drive into the city on I-5 as long as you avoid the morning and afternoon rush hours. The park is immaculate and tightly run; sites have concrete pads, grassy lawns, and attractive landscaping. Full hookups, nice laundry and bathhouse, good Verizon coverage.