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Portland for First Timers

Thanks in part to the offbeat sketch comedy show “Portlandia,” Oregon’s biggest city has climbed to the top of many travelers’ wish lists. With temperate weather, beautiful scenery, great people-watching, and wine and beer galore, Portland offers every visitor something to love.

For those who’ve never been, here are a few sights that shouldn’t be missed:

  • Pearl District: A trendy, former warehouse district just a short walk north of downtown, “The Pearl” is a mecca of hip restaurants and boutiques, breweries like Deschutes and the famous Powell’s City of Books, which occupies a full city block and claims to be the largest independent bookstore in the world. Good luck leaving empty-handed.
  • Washington Park: This park spans more than 400 acres and houses the fragrant International Rose Test Garden, featuring more than 600 varieties of roses in every color imaginable. Visitors can spend an entire day exploring all of the park’s attractions, including the Oregon Zoo, Japanese Garden and Hoyt Arboretum, as well as the nearby Pittock Mansion, perched on a hill for amazing vistas of the city below.
  • Portland Saturday Market: This weekly arts and crafts fair is the best place to pick up a truly unique souvenir. The largest of its kind in the world, it features vendors peddling everything from ironic T-shirts to duct tape art to purses made out of children’s books. Between the wares and people wandering through, you’re sure to encounter things you won’t find anywhere else.
  • Must-Try Foods: Thanks to numerous TV appearances, Portland’s most popular eatery for tourists is Voodoo Doughnut (get there before 10 a.m. to beat the rush). The city also boasts a plethora of food carts, parked in pods all over town and serving everything from gourmet Spam sandwiches (Brunch Box) to authentic doro watt (Emame’s Ethiopian). And no trip to the Northwest is complete without some local seafood; visit Jake’s Famous Crawfish for huge portions of Dungeness crab, Pacific salmon and oysters on the half shell.
  • Columbia River Gorge: While the city proper is best navigated on foot and public transportation, you’ll want to rent a car for at least a day to explore the surrounding landscape. The Gorge starts 16 miles east of Portland and extends 80 miles from end to end. Highlights along the way include waterfalls like the majestic Multnomah, adorable towns like Hood River for shopping and lunch, and dozens of vineyards and tasting rooms in between.

Where to stay: Downtown Portland makes the perfect home base for your trip. Rooms are available for $127-$149 per night at the Hilton Portland & Executive Tower, Embassy Suites and the Marriott Downtown Waterfront into early October.

How to get there: Find cheap tickets from your town on Fly.com.

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Tips by

Deal Expert, Chicago
Friday, August 10, 2012
See more Tips from
Erica Wacker