Portland, Oregon lies nestled along the Columbia and Willamette rivers in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. It is a relaxed and friendly city that is fast becoming where to go next. Visitors to the City of Roses (did you know it was called that?) know they can find the best in food and drink, a rich culture and art scene, an eclectic nightlife and wide range of outdoor activities. Here are some fast facts about Portland, Oregon that may leave you wanting more.
The Penny Toss
Portland was named by a toss of a coin. That’s right, we were almost Boston, Oregon. In 1843 two of the biggest landowners in the territory, Francis Pettygrove, a man from Portland, Maine, and Asa Lovejoy, who hailed from Boston, Massachusetts tossed a coin to see what the city would be called and Francis won. You can see that same copper penny, now known as the Portland Penny, at the Oregon Historical Society Museum. The museum contains four floors of information and memorabilia about the state of Oregon, its present day communities and its pioneer history.
Photo by Christopher Michel CC BY
You’ll often hear Portland nicknamed the Rose City, Rip City, PDX or even P-town. Dating back to the 1840’s, Stumptown was Portland’s first and oldest nickname. Locals began calling it that because of the many stumps left after trees were cut down to make room for the fast urban growth that was taking place.
Photo by Stumptown Coffee Roaster’s Facebook
Today, Stumptown is all about the coffee. Stumptown Coffee Roaster’s roots are in Portland. What can I say? Best. Espresso. Ever! If you are here for the weekend, don’t leave without trying one (or two). Check out the Stumptown café on Division (where it all started) or fortify yourself at the store in downtown Portland before getting in line at another of Portland’s iconic attractions, Voodoo Donuts.
Photo by Nathan Henderson CC BY
Big and Small Parks
Portland has one of the largest urban parks in the nation and one of the smallest parks in the world. According to the Guinness Book of Records, Mill Ends Park is the smallest park in the world, a record it has held since 1971.
Photo by Mike Krzeszak CC BY
The park is tiny, a mere two-feet in diameter, and is located in downtown Portland near the esplanade along the Willamette River waterfront. The park has been a Portland attraction for more than 65 years. In 1946, Dick Fagan, a columnist for the Oregon Journal, planted flowers to beautify the unsightly hole that appeared in the street outside his office window. The hole was meant for a street lamp that never arrived. Fagan whimsically called it a park for leprechauns and snail races and often wrote about it in his newspaper column.The park was dedicated to the city of Portland on St. Patrick’s Day in 1948 and officially named a city park in 1976. Today the holiday is still celebrated at the park complete with bagpipes and Irish music.
Photo By Stacey Kizer CC BY
With over 5,000 acres of urban forest, there are plenty of places to hike, run or walk your dog in Forest Park. The park offers over 80 miles of trails to explore including the Wildwood Trail which is more than 30 miles long and connects to Portland’s Washington Park in the west hills above the cityscape. Stop by the visitor’s center for a map and an update on the current park conditions.
Photo by Jon Roberts CC BY
Portland is fast becoming known as a culinary destination because of its epicurean restaurants, food cart scene and amazing breweries. Recently Portland is also making a name for itself in spirits. Across the Willamette River from downtown, you’ll find an area called Distillery Row. Six individual distilleries craft everything from vodka, rum, bourbon and whiskey to more specialized spirits such as flavored liquors.
Photo by Tom Ellefsen CC BY
Each distillery has a tasting room and offers a tour of the distillery (over 21 only). Need a designated driver? Hook up with PDX Pedicab and let them do your driving for you. The weekend afternoons are the best time to sample.
Alberta Street Eats
Alberta Street in northeast Portland is more than just a street on a map. It’s a destination. Starting at NE 14th and meandering east toward NE 33rd, you’ll find eclectic shopping, funky galleries, foodie restaurants, laid-back coffee shops and endless opportunities to people watch. Try Pine State Biscuits for a totally awesome breakfast. I recommend the goodness that is the gravy, fried chicken, bacon and cheese biscuit sandwich known as The Reggie. You won’t need lunch.
Photo by Pine State Biscuits Facebook
Anytime is dessert time at the Salt and Straw. The ice cream shop uses only local and organic ingredients and makes their ice cream by hand. New flavors are highlighted every month. Truly worth the wait in line. In the mood for some cool entertainment? Portlanders have been enjoying the lively shows at the Alberta Rose Theater for over 60 years. The theater is a small, intimate venue showcasing music, art films and live performances. Check out their calendar for current and upcoming performances.