I love being back in the PNW for mannyyy reasons that's for sure, but one of my favs is being able to hop in my car and drive whereverrrr the road may take me. Now don't get me, weekend getaways are totally possible in NYC and something I did take advantage of quite a bit, but being able to hop in your own car and just drive?! That feels dang near magical to me after so many years without a car -- 7 to be exact. So now that I'm back on the west coast I'm basically a born-again 16-year-old who just got her license and I'm still loving every second of it even a year later.
One of my favorite places to adventure to over the years has always been Portland, and now that it's a mere 2.5 hours away (traffic cooperating) you will certainly find me roaming my old hood quite a bit more. And can I please tell you... I swear every time I visit, the city gets a little cooler. Now I know some of the lifers might disagree with all of the growth Portland has had in the last decade, but personally, I love it. So much so, that if I didn't promise my Mom that I'd never move out of state again that I def wouldn't rule out moving south again. 😜#realtalk
So what is it about Portland that is so great? To me, it's a great sized city that has the amenities of big-city living, while still not feeling overwhelming and not being totally terrifying to drive in if you don't know where you're going. Plus it has an amazing food scene (you know me!), arts, culture, and it's still very walkable and accessible. I also happen to know some super awesome people down there so it always gets some extra bonus points for that too! The vibe in Portland is just really great and I only think it has gotten better with time. So that being said, what the heck are my fav places to visit when I'm there? Well today I'm sharing some of my must-visit spots no matter how short of a trip I'm on, which this weekend was less than 36 hours.
Pine State Biscuits
If there is one place I pretty much always visit when I'm in town (and take everyone I'm visiting with to) it's Pine State Biscuits. Truly this place is heaven on a biscuit and the onlyyyy place around that I would wait an hour in the rain for. And trust me, when I lived in NYC we didn't wait on places and I've liked to stick to that mentality, but Pine State.. Oh I'll wait. Kathy originally introduced me to Pine State at least 10 years ago after seeing it featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives when they just had a little hole in the wall spot off of SE Belmont and I've been ordering everything off the menu ever since at their now 3 larger locations + their spot at the Farmers Market. At this point I have a few go-tos, although occasionally I'll branch out, or let's be real, someone I'm with will order something else and I'll sneak a bite or two. It's hard to venture from my favs though because they're just THAT good. So what are my go-to's? I'm talking about the McIsley, the Pine State Fried Club and the Reggie Deluxe when I'm feeling real indulgent.
Is it even a Portland trip if you don't stop by Powell's? Not in my books. Get it?! I'm a funny one... I, along with a million other people, have such a soft spot for this bookstore. It hails that it is the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world and even if it wasn't I'd still love it. The bookshelves in here just go on and on and on and I love everything about it. One of my favorite things to do when I lived in Portland (and now when I visit) is to wander the halls and find a little corner in the astrology section and check out alllll of the books. Seriously.. I used to spend hours here. It doesn't matter what kind of book you're looking for either, they're going to have it and the best selection at that. Plus they have some really awesome events take place there and all and all it's just a rad place to spend an afternoon.
Now back to food, because, well you know who's writing this right!? Another one of my favorite places to stop when I'm in Portland (or Eugene if I'm catching a Ducks game) is VooDoo Doughnuts. You can find a lot of good donuts on the west coast, sorry east coast but we win at this... and VooDoo sits at the top of my list. If you're interested in some of the other great options locally as well, Little Duck did an awesome Portland Donut Crawl blog post that's worth a read too! Personally though, if I had to only pick one, VooDoo it is. I just love the novelty and the just delicious, fun and not overly fancy flavored donuts. Solid deliciousness. Insider tip too, if you want to stand in line foreves hit up the location downtown, but if you want to get in and out with a box full of your favs and a cute Instagrammable wall then you need to hit up their NE Davis VooDoo Doughnut Too location.
NW 23rd Ave in the Alphabet District
Awww my old neighborhood! I mean I don't want to brag, actually yes I will brag for a sec, I've been pretty darn lucky to live in some of the best neighborhoods in the cities I've lived in. NW Portland, The Upper East Side in NYC, and the Stadium District in Tacoma. Heck yes! And this neighborhood, well it's truly one of my favs because it is just so stinking cute! I lived off of NW 23rd Avenue in the Alphabet District and it's one of my favorite places to spend an afternoon. When I moved there my mom called it her "happy place" and it's def still makes my list as well. Adorable shops, delicious food, and bars galore.. like what more do you need?
NW 21st Ave is a close second too being just a few avenues over too. A greattt option for nightlife too. So many fun memories and truly something for everyone! Some places I definitely always love to stop at are Saint Cupcake -- their mini cupcakes are to die for! One of the McMenamins locations for some cajun tots and Ruby beer and maybe even an extra stop at their bottle shop that's now open at the end of the ave to grab some Ruby to go too! Pssttt, we're actually getting our own McMenamins in Tacoma in 2019 and this girl is PUMPED to have one of my favorite Oregon spots so close! Wherever you go over here you really can't go wrong!
Last but not least, another one of my favorite neighborhoods to wander is the Pearl District. After a trip to Powell's of course! (It's nearby) I'm such a sucker for repurposed factories and industrial vibes mixed with new construction and the Pearl combines all of that. Pair that with great options for Happy Hour, art galleries and some seriously amazing food and it has me feeling a little fancy! I worked at the neighborhood Safeway while finishing up college and just fell in love with the neighborhood from day 1 and it has only expanded and grown since. So many fun places to visit and it's just a cool pocket of the city.
Now of course, there are SO many more incredible things to do, see and eat in Portland that I could write for dayssss about but these are just a few of my favs that I always try to make it to. If you have some other recs or places you think I'd like definitely drop a comment below!