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Making the Most of a Day in Portland Oregon

a sign with a deer on it

For some reason, Portland, Oregon has always been on my list of places I’d like to visit, so when tickets came up for ~$250 in May, I jumped on them. The hard part was figuring out what to see in my limited time.

Based on all the reviews I read of Portland, Oregon attractions, I should spend all my time eating. Or drinking. Or exploring the outdoors. Or taking in the art scene. So I attempted to do a bit of everything with fairly good success!

Driving up from the Willamette Valley in the morning, my first stop was the International Rose Test Garden, which was in full bloom!

a group of people in a garden


After a blissful saunter through the brightly colored and highly perfumed grounds, I headed to the nearby Pittock Mansion. I love touring old homes, but I was skeptical if it would be worth the $10 admission fee. I mean, if you’ve seen alot of homes from the 1900s, how different could it be.

a house with trees and bushes

I was swayed by mention of modern innovations like central vacuum system, fancy showers, and even window flower boxes that prevented overwatering. It wound up being well worth it!

And if you don’t want to pay the fee, access to the grounds with their beautiful views of Portland are free. I was wishing I had brought a picnic.

picnic tables in a park with a city in the background

From there I headed straight to my number one destination — Powell’s Books. I spent an hour or so wandering the stacks and drooling over the special rare book room.

a red awning on a building

a window of a library

It was well past lunch when I left, so I walked to the famed Portland food truck scene on Alder St & 10th Ave to indulge. It was hard to pick but I eventually decided on the highly recommended Nong’s Khao Man Gai, which fortunately still had supplies at 2PM, though they were out of crispy skin.

a store front with a sign

The Khao Man Gai was good, fresh and flavorful, on par with food I’ve had in Asia, but not mind-blowing.

a plate of food with a container of sauce

The Dump Truck dumpling cart was nearby, something I can never resist so I indulged in a half order.

a yellow sign with black text

Mr Ma’s Special (pork, green onion, and ginger) was my favorite and the Down to Earth (portabella mushroom and cabbage) was good. The Potato Curry, despite its Malaysian influence and Bacon Cheeseburger didn’t impress.

a container of food

My blood sugar back to normal I continued my tour. It was out of the way across the river, but I couldn’t resist a chance to tour the Hunt for Red October submarine at the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry and I was glad I did. I wound up being the only person on my tour so got to check out areas normally out of bounds!

a submarine in the water

I had considered the Portland Aerial Tram which was visible from the OMSI, but it didn’t look like the views would be worth it despite being a clear day. So next it was a quick trip to Mill Ends Park, the smallest park in the world.

a woman taking a selfie

I ended the day a little early, meeting a friend for happy hour at Departure. Atop The Nines hotel, Departure features outdoor seating areas and tasty happy hour specials. I recommend the Shu Mai and Shaking Beef. And even if you’re not a calamari fan, the perfectly cooked and spiced Crispy Squid is worth a try!

Full Disclosure: I may receive affiliate credit from links in this post or on this site which will help fund my travels. Thank you for your support!

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  1. One more spot to add: Altabira, on the roof of the newly opened Hotel Eastlund. It’s a great rooftop bar/restaurant with a huge patio overlooking all of downtown Portland. It’s a few dozen feet from the Convention Center MAX stop.
    We stayed in the hotel for a week for a recent conference, and used the roof bar three different evenings. Check it out next time! (There is also a large glassed in dining room and huge indoor bar for when the gas firepits are not enough to stay warm/dry).

  2. Good old Portland, where the young go to retire. Almost as many trust fund kids per square mile as Seattle.

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