ADVERTORIAL • March 2020
Sitting pretty between Seattle and San Francisco, the pocket-sized city of Portland, Oregon, is often overlooked by visitors to the USA’s West Coast. The welcome lack of tourist crush is just one thing this city has on its side, as it offers killer eats, easy-going locals and stunning outdoor spaces. Ahead of the new British Airways route launch, Pacific Northwest writer, Mark Harris, shows us around America’s coolest city
Some of Portland’s best restaurants don’t have roofs. A few don’t even offer seats. Portland’s street food culture is the best in America, with an ever-shifting cast of over 500 food carts serving an unimaginable variety of cuisines. Never had Scandinavian comfort food? Try Norwegian meatballs in caramelised goat cheese at Viking Soul Food. New to Ghanaian/Japanese fusion? Head to Blackstar Grill. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, ‘pods’ such as Portland Mercado (pictured) or Cartlandia let you browse dozens of carts with comfy seating, Wi-Fi and local microbrews – and occasionally, even a roof over your head.
Oregon is gloriously tax-free, meaning shopping should be high on the agenda. Once you’re done with the city’s small-scale boutiques, pop into the city block-sized labyrinth of Powell’s Books for a few minutes, and you’ll emerge hours later with an armful of reading material and your head buzzing. Not only does the world’s largest independent bookstore have enthusiastic assistants who seem to be able read your mind for recommendations, there are multiple literary events, meetings and author talks daily. Afterwards, tap into the city’s scintillating drinks scene at the nearby Multnomah Whiskey Library, home to an equally exhaustive collection of distilled spirits.
Portland is at its liveliest after dark, so mornings are best spent experiencing the latest coffee fad sweeping the city (espresso with tonic and bitters anyone?) and exploring the city’s many outside spaces. The tranquil Lan Su Chinese Garden was imported brick-by-brick from China, and has a charming tea house. Slightly further out, the International Rose Test Garden is a riot for the nostrils, and includes a Shakespeare Garden containing only herbs, trees and flowers mentioned in the Bard’s plays. Just a stone’s throw from the roses, you’ll find Portland Japanese Garden - the place to top up your zen. For longer walks and bike rides, Portland’s Forest Park (pictured above) is the largest urban forest in any USA city, with over 70 miles of trails to explore.
Portlandia isn’t a comedy show; it’s a documentary. In fact, Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s series understates just how bonkers this city can be. If you start by touring the filming locations, you’ll soon discover fortune-telling vending machines; a land-locked kayak museum, and Zoobombing - the riding of customised mini-bikes down the city’s hills every Sunday night. For a weird and wonderful afternoon, hike to the Witch’s Castle (old stone ruins with a fabled past) in Forest Park before heading to neighbouring Nob Hill for a bizarre ice-cream flavour at Salt & Straw.
Portland’s best rainy-day attraction is the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (everyone calls it OMSI), housed in an re-purposed power station. You can dip beneath the waves in a submarine (pictured) from The Hunt for Red October; watch sci-fi classics on its IMAX screen, and explore dozens of interactive exhibits. Beer-lovers can keep the science flowing at one of the 70-plus craft breweries (did you know the Portland has more microbreweries than any other city?) Learn how to brew your own beer at Portland U-Brew; uncover a world of experimental craft beers at LABrewatory; or take a tour at city favourite, Hopworks.
Portland makes for an ideal base from which to explore the rest of Oregon’s natural treasures. Mount Hood (an hour by car) has skiing, hiking, climbing and more, with the historic Timberline Lodge, made famous in The Shining, providing food, rooms and dramatic views at 6,000 feet. The Oregon Coast, around 90 minutes from Portland, has quaint villages and endless sandy beaches, perfect for surfing in the summer and stormy walks over the winter. Hit the roads to feast on waterfalls and cosy lodges at the Columbia River Gorge, or drink your fill in the Willamette Valley, where over 200 wineries offer tasting sessions.