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Portland in a Day

Emily is considering relocating to Portland.  What are some of your suggestions to get the best taste of Portland in a short visit?  She asks:

My family (me, husband, two boys aged 2 and 1) are visiting Portland next week to decide if we will relocate, and where we might like to live.  If you had one week in town, where would you visit?  We want to see some touristy stuff, but mostly get a feeling for the different areas/neighborhoods and what it would be like to live there with kids.  We will be staying in the Hawthorne area near Laurelhurst Park, but want to travel all over (even suburbs) within the confines of naps and 8pm bedtimes. :)  Parks for toddlers, strong coffee, sushi and brewpubs are of special interest.  I am hoping to really get a taste of the local Portland flavor.

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Okay, while you're in the neighborhood, you should get an espresso drink at the Stumptown Coffee on 36th and Belmont. Or maybe it's on 34th? Right at the corner by the traffic light. I think it's the best coffee in town. Something about it is just right!

Our favorite toddler parks are Normandale Park (NE 55th & Hassalo), Piccolo (SE 27 & Division) and Wilshire Park (NE Skidmore & 35th)

Agree with Wilshire Park. I'd also add the Laurelwood Public House in Hollywood (40th north of Sandy) which has a kids play area, great beer & a good menu
(http://www.laurelwoodbrewpub.com/restaurants.php

Washington Park also has a great play area for kids near the Rose Garden.

Being partial to the NE, I'm a fan of Hama Sushi on Sandy & NE 43rd.

Also check out Jamison Park in NW/Pearl District & Sip & Kranz for coffee, play area, right along the northern side of Jamison Park.

I remember when we visited Portland for a 2-1/2 day visit before moving here. My husband, my then-2-year old, and I must have gone to New Seasons (we went to the Sellwood one, since we were staying with a friend in SE/Brooklyn) four times during our short stay. It was a great place to get food (hot food, snack food for our toddler, drinks, and a gift item for our hostess). It was also great for a nice place to use a restroom amidst all the house-shopping and a community place to sit, chill, and review the homes we had seen. Spending time in the New Seasons community space gave me a great flavor of what Portland is all about!

Portland is a great place to live or visit. Some great suggestions have already been made, but here are a few more "in-town" ideas in the key areas you identified:

Parks:

*In NW take a hike in Hoyt Arboretum or in Forest Park
*In SE check out Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden in SE - it's free on Tuesdays and Wednesdays- and go to Sellwood Water Front Park to take in the river and take hike to the Oaks Bottom Wetlands Preserve
*In N Portland, check out Pennisula Park - it has a rose garden, fountain, playground, community center, and pool
*In SW check out Tryon Creek State Park for hiking and the nature center
* In NE Wilshire and Grant Park have nice play areas, Grant also has an outdoor pool. We go to Alberta Park a lot because it is near the house and has a pretty good play area.

Brewpubs:

*Any McMenamins but especially the Kennedy School (NE 33rd and Jarrett)

Coffee:

*Extracto on NE Killingsworth
*NE Portland location of Urban Grind (super kid friendly)
*Random Order and Concordia Coffee House - both on NE Alberta
*Muddy's, Fresh Pot, and Blue Gardenia on N Mississippi
*Anna Banana's in NW
*Sip and Kranz in NW remains a family favorite

Sushi:

*Marinepolis Sushi Land on NE Weidler or the Pearl District for fest, cheap, kid-friendly sushi
*Yakuza on NE 30th for high quality and an elegant setting (we have taken both kids there but it is not set-up as a kid-friendly place)
*Yoko's on SE Gladstone St - small place, high quality, but expect a wait

To get a "feel" of Portland, spend a day in a neighborhood that interests you. Visit the businesses, take in the sights, talk with people, relax at the neighborhood park/library/community center, etc.

We love our neighborhood (Concordia/Alberta Arts/Fox Chase) and spend most of our time very close to home. But we also make "day-trips" to areas in-town. For instance, a couple of weeks ago we spent the day browsing and walking in the Multnomah Village area and finished the day with a hike at Tryon Creek. A few days later we spent the day in the Pearl District.

We had lunch at Sip and Kranz, lounged at Jamison Park, took a trip to the 3D Museum on NW Lovejoy, walked and browsed in the area including a prolonged stop at Powell's, and finished with a quick bite and beer at Henry's.

I hope that helps. Enjoy your stay!

If you are also planning to visit the suburbs, a trip out to the Troutdale/Gresham area would be worth your time. I live in Troutdale, though work in Downtown Portland. The trade offs for the long commute are wonderfully quiet neighborhoods, affordable housing (compared to close in neighborhoods), and being very close to the Gorge and Mt. Hood. There are three farmer's markets in the area each week and Edgefield has wonderful outdoor concerts all summer. Though Multnomah Falls is very touristy, it's worth making your way out to the gorge, especially on the old historic highway if you have the time. Best of luck with your decision!

And don't miss Mt Tabor (the dormant volcano at the east end of Hawthorne) if the weather is clear. From the top you can see the city to the west and Mt Hood to the east. The children's park there is fun too and our kids like to pretend the buildings by the reservoirs are castles (they do look castle-y!)

If you're here on a saturday morning, Hollywood has a great farmer's market (just off Sandy Blvd, on NE 44th)--we like it lots better with our 2 yr old than the huge crowds at the downtown market. Also in NE I second the Laurelwood Brewpub (get there early!) and Wilshire Park. The Hollywood library is very nice for kids too.

Although I'm a hardcore NE-er, if you want to get a feel for the more suburban SW area, Gabriel Park and adjoining SW Community Center are great and right across from PB & Ellie's: one of the most kid-friendly restaurantin Portland. It's also very close to cute shops/cafes of Multnomah Village.

Only a week? Sheesh, so many places, so many excellent suggestions above, so many more I could add but won't.

I WILL say however that if the weather is nice/hot then you MUST hit up some of the fountains and/or parks with fountains. Someone mentioned Jaimison, which is in the Pearl District. I also just discovered Irving Park which is on Fremont and 8th in NE. It has lovely shady grassy areas, a fun playground, and a great water play area near the playground for running around and getting wet.

Note that all City fountains are public, meaning the kiddies can get in them and splash around. They are located all over the City but I really like Jaimison for the wee ones - very small kid friendly and I see lots of babies there too.

Welcome to Portland! We hope you love it here!

Sorry but I have to add Albina Press on NE Albina to the coffee list...

I second the Rhody Gardens across from the Reed College campus! They are SOOOO great especially if your little ones love water fowl - lots of variety of ducks and other birds. Also, if you like hiking, the gorge has some beautiful waterfall hikes. Most are not nearly as touristy and crowded at Mult. Falls. Some aren't even much of a hike.

If you are looking at neighborhoods, this site is partial to the eastside and I am also a resident of NE Portland. However, the westside has some great areas too. Hillsdale, Bethany, Multnomah village are just a few close in neighborhoods.

The rose festival will be on during your visit, so check out the waterfront. There are festivals all summer.

Brewpubs....my favorite topic! Lucky Lab on Hawthorne is dog friendly and kid friendly, Old Lompac in NW or N. Portland has great beer, it's not Portland if you don't go to a McMinnimens (I never spell that right), Amnesia brewing on Mississippi is great (and such a cute area for shopping), Laurelwood has been mentioned already, the Blue Monk on Belmont is not a brewpub but they have a HUGE selection of beer. Hmmm that should keep you busy beer tasting.

Yeah, we did the same thing. It is so funny to walk around in the same neighborhoods now that we have known and loved them for years! Visit Sellwood! Parks, coffee shops, an old-fashioned amusement park, New Seasons. It really is Portland in a nutshell. Near there is the Clinton neighborhood with Piccolo Park- a toddler favorite and coffee and shops. Ladd's Addition is a residential area across the way from clinton. It's got gorgeous old houses with huge trees lining the street and little roundabouts with rose gardens at every turn. Also, check out www.movingtoportland.net

Enjoy!

Some advice on (kid-friendly) PDX vices:
Powell's for book-buying frenzy
VooDoo Doughnuts
Ground Kontrol for retro video games and pinball
Missing Link and Moshi Moshi for expensive Japanese toys
Todai for seafood buffet
Saint Cupcake for transcendence

If you're going to live here, you should definitely check out one of the storytimes at any Multnomah County Library branch (check their web page for a complete listing of times - book babies, tiny tots, etc.) And you could also drop in on one of the Portland Public Park community centers, which have indoor gyms. If it's hot while you're here, check the parks web page to see which parks have pools and even just the wading pools, which they fill and chlorinate on hot afternoons.

Here is what comes to mind for kid friendly pdx and some of my current faves:

Crema - coffee and bakey on SE 28th and Ankeny, close to Burnside
Staccato Gelato - NE 28th and Davis
Mio Sushi - Hollywood location is most kid friendly
Chez Jose - NE Broadway, Mexican
Laughing Planet Cafe - SE Belmont or SE Woodstock
Old Wives Tale - great kids playroom Burnside and 12th
Grand Central Bakery - SE Hawthorne or Sellwood

For parks I like Laurelhurst, Piccolo, Sellwood and Jamison.

for a view beyond the city, you might take a morning trip to sauvie island and a hike in forest park (off germantown to leif erickson - kid friendly).

stop into st. johns for a lovely neighborhood feel - annabannanas for coffee, outdoor seating in the garden at mcmenamins st. johns pub, or delicious fare at proper eats-

a drive down the willamette bluff provides a great view of the city and you end up at the max line, near the arbor lodge new seasons, or near peninsula park.


Wow! Thanks for posting your question Emily! We just moved here (after spending a day and half to visit and check it out) and this list is incredible. I've seen some of the things listed in the short time I've been here but all you mamas have just given me a great resource for the next year I think! And I'll have a new (1st) baby in August so this is perfect. Vive Le Mamas!!

PS: By the way Emily, my husband and I are really getting to like Portland in the few weeks we've been here from San Francisco. I hope you like it to and decide to make the move. Welcome! :-)

I had to think long and hard to find some places that haven't already been mentioned (you *must* go to Piccolo Park if you can only go to ONE park... and you'll be nearby Laurelhurst so definitely check that out). But if I were to think of the places I go where you'll get a real flavor for Portland (and that you wouldn't find anywhere else), I'd pick the following:

-- Mabel's Cafe & Knittery on 31st and Division for yarn, babies, tea and beer;
-- Pokpok on 33rd and Division for world-altering Thai food;
-- Pix on 37th and Hawthorne, 34th and Division, or N. Williams for a taste-of-France-in-Portland;
-- The Busy Corner Grocery on 41st and SE Raymond (between Holgate and Steele) for an eclectic mix of old-time grocery, Spanish tapas, and the best lattes in Portland (not to mention being outrageously child-friendly)
-- If you go to Yoko's for sushi (recommended!), you should also stop by Gladstone Coffee on 38th and Gladstone. there are always babies there, including mine :)
-- Tour de Crepes on 30th (?) and NE Alberta for yummy crepes and open-air fun, and Vita Cafe across the street for carnivore-friendly vegan food.

Hope you have a great visit!

All great suggestions.

Curious a lot of new transplants - every day seems like I see more out of state plates than ones from Oregon. I'm just curious with our high unemployment rate & overinflated housing prices how is everyone getting by? I've had friends move out here from the east coast in 2003 and they struggled to find work, they eventually had to take employment - with a huge pay cut. Here in Portland - a coveted job is at Starbucks since they offer benefits. I'm just curious if others have experienced or pondered the negative aspects to Portland?

Sorry to be a "Debbie Downer"...

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