Maybe you’re like me, the type of person who’s always restless; you try to take every chance to travel that comes your way and feel most happy when you’re planning a trip (and know the one thing you can do really well is plan trips!). Maybe most of the apps on your phone are travel related, almost everything you post on instagram is tagged #wanderlust, and you’re that person who always seems to bring up their travel experiences. Maybe you have a list of places you want to go that’s about seven pages long, like I do, but you’re still working to get through it all.
Portland has been on my travel bucket list since it started writing a list. I read blogs of people who lived there, watched Portland travel vlogs, and I kept seeing people posting about it in Facebook travel groups. It seemed like a sign I had to go. I started feeling really restless in November, but looking at my bank account, I knew I would have to go somewhere close by, so Portland was the first thing that came to mind, luckily, I was able to find two friends to go, and some time before exams that we could set aside, so we started planning how we’d do Portland for cheap.
How to get there and get around:
Driving: This is by far the easiest and most fun way to go. I was lucky enough that one of my friends had a car at her house in Bellingham, so we ferried over and picked it up. The only real cost with that is gas, but buying some road trip snacks doesn’t hurt.
Train: for this, you’ll have to get to either Vancouver or Seattle by ferry, but once you get there it’s pretty easy. Amtrak has Vancouver to Portland round trip tickets for about $49, or Seattle to Portland roundtrip for about $26, but you’ll have to factor in the ferry cost, and transport costs between stations and in the city.
Bus: once again, you’ll need to get to Vancouver or Seattle for this, but you can get Vancouver to Portland tickets for about $96 round trip, or Seattle to Portland for $55 roundtrip.
When you’re there, walking or taking transit will be your best options for getting around, as long as you’re relatively close to the city. I’d discourage driving in the city as it can be crazy hard to find parking.
Where to Stay:
The cheapest option by far will be hostels, your best bet is to look on hostelworld.com to find legit, non-sketchy places to stay. It should be around $30-40/night.
We stayed at the HI Northwest Portland, which was great, had free breakfasts, fridges, comfortable beds, secure lockers, washrooms in your dorm (If you’ve ever stayed in a hostel before with the washroom not close to your room you’ll know how great this is!), and dorm rooms that weren’t too big. The only things that may not be good for everyone are that it can be very hard to find parking around the hostel, and it’s a bit far of a walk from the main downtown area (probably about 15 minutes), but if you’ve got some good shoes, you’ll do fine. But there are definitely lots of options of good, affordable hostels in the area.
What to eat:
Portland is known for it’s food scene. We had a few different dietary restrictions in our group, so all of these places are vegan and vegetarian friendly, but also have good options for omnivores!
Food trucks are definitely a big thing there; unfortunately we didn’t go to any because it was really cold out most of the time we were there, but they’re highly recommended by the locals.
For Sweets: There’s a bit of a donut fad going on in Portland right now, so we headed to the two most popular places, Voodoo Donuts, and Blue Star Donuts. Voodoo is cheaper, and better if you like sweet doughnuts with a wide selection. Blue Star was a bit more expensive, but we went right before they were closing and they were kind enough to give us three for free; they are definitely more simple and refined types of doughnuts, but just as delicious.
Breakfast/Brunch: I’m a firm believer that brunch is the most important meal of the day, so we looked for some of the best brunch places in town. We went to The Daily Feast, which was an adorable, diner-style restaurant, with good sweet and savoury brunch options. We also went to Petunia’s pies and Pastries, which is probably the most adorable cafe/bakery I have ever or will ever go to. It’s all vegan, but that didn’t make it any less delicious. It’s definitely best for a brunch more on the sweet side, and has great pastries and hot drinks as well.
Dinner: The one place we all love for dinner was Sizzle Pie. It’s a pizza place with creative and yummy pizzas. There are vegan and vegetarian options as well as regular, all of which are amazing. I’ve had pizza in Italy, but I think I still have to give the “best pizza of my life” title to Sizzle Pie, and it’s super affordable too!
Cafes: I’m sure Portland has lots of amazing cafes, but we unfortunately weren’t able to go to many. One that we really liked was Barista.It definitely has a local feel to it, and has really great quality coffees, though may be a bit expensive (that said, I’m used to my $5 Starbucks, so it wasn’t too bad).
What to see/do:
For those of you who love the outdoors and want to have some #PNWonderland worthy photos, along the Columbia River Highway, there’s a ton of beautiful waterfalls to see.We went to Latourell Falls, which was less touristy but great to be able to get really close to, and Multnomah Falls, which was much busier but just as gorgeous (it kind of looks like something out of a fairytale). These are all about a 30 minute drive from Portland, though, so you’d have to have a car. Other options for nature lovers are the Japanese Gardens and the Rose Test gardens.
If you’re into fashion, Portland is great first and foremost for people-watching and getting inspiration. There’s tons of vintage stores, as well as the more mainstream shops downtown. Farther from downtown, Northwest 21st and 23rd streets are known for good shopping too (and Oregon has tax-free shopping!)
If you like books, you’ll love Powell’s books. It’s the largest independent bookstore in North America, and it’s literally so big you can get maps of it to find your way around. They have both new and used books, and are right in the city, close to lots of shops and restaurants.
For art lovers, there’ are lots of museums and galleries to see, and street art all over. There’s an incredibly beautiful painting on the side of a building where SW 11th Ave. and SW Washington St. cross.
For those of you who want to keep your Instagram feed looking good, Voodoo Donuts Too has a mural on the back of their building that is great for pictures!
If you’re a movie nerd, musical lover, or theatre kid, The Clinton Street Theatre shows The Rocky Horror Picture Show every Saturday night at midnight (doors are at 11:30), tickets are $8 and you’re encouraged to dress up and bring props.
P.S. If you’re staying at the HI Northwest Portland hostel, you may walk by a building across the street with a sign in the window telling you to follow @garythetat; I can promise you that it’s a good idea, as it’s all pictures of the cutest cat I’ve ever seen.
Photo credits: 1/Astra Lund-Phillips/Sophie Grambo/Shaelin Bishop