Oftentimes we travel to escape our day-to-day lives by exploring something new. Other days, we prefer to venture to places that feel familiar so we can truly relax. For Denverites, a weekend trip to Portland is the latter. It’s similar to home, with focuses on familiar pasttimes — eating, drinking and the outdoors — but it has some nuances that leave you wanting to come back for more.
After spending a week in one of the Pacific Northwest’s most in-demand cities, we’ve found the perfect itinerary for food and travel-loving Denverites.
Where to Stay
Located in the center of downtown Portland, Hotel Lucia embodies much of what the city stands for — great food from a James Beard Award-winning chef, Pulizer prize-winning art from photographer David Kennerly and a complimentary craft beer hour every day from 5:30-6:30 p.m. in the lobby. Any hotel where you can orderJames Beard award-winning room service and eat it in bed is a win in our book.
In an age where hotels are a distant memory and AirBnB is second-nature, you’ll love the selection in Portland. From your typical downtown lofts to homes further out in the “country,” there’s something for everyone at any budget on AirBnB. They even have more creative housing options like a giant treehouse overlooking the city, a cozy mud-hut with a water view and a tugboat.
What to Do
“The beauty of tea is that it’s a very personal beverage,” Smith head teamaker Tony Tellin explained. “And our take is that you should consume it however you like it.”
The Smith Teamaker tasting room is the perfect place to find the answers if you’re looking to explore the world of tea. Inside its shop, you can watch the team packaging product, all while sampling their many flavors in a tea flight. Smith Teamaker comes from tea legend Steve Smith, who was the mastermind behind big tea brands like Stash and Tazo before selling them and starting his namesake company in 2009. Although Smith passed away from liver cancer in 2015, the company has remained close-knit and lead by family and friends-who-feel-like-family, like Tellin.
Explore the world of mead and urban beekeeping at Mead Market. Mead, a honey-wine, is growing in popularity in the beverage industry. There were about 70 meaderies in 2012 — there’s now more than 500. Mead Market is a one-stop shop for all things bees and honey. From edible products and cosmetic treats to actual bee hives and beekeeping suits, this shop is a must-stop for anyone remotely interested in honey production.
Did you know that Portland has more breweries per capita than any other city in the United States? Basically, while in Portland, you have a lot of drinking to do. There are currently 84 breweries in Portland’s metro area, with 58 of them concentrated closer to downtown. Some of our favorites are The Commons, Cascade, Great Notion, Breakside, Fatheads, Deschutes, Hair of the Dog, Ex Novo and Old Town. Like we said, you better get started.
Explore Downtown by Boat
While Denverites may find many city similarities in Portland, there are also a few noticeable differences — the Willamette River, for one. Take advantage of the water access (outside of the impressive amounts of rain), and rent an electric Duffy boat from Portland Electric Boat Co. The 21-foot boats can hold up to 10 passengers and are as easy to drive as a golf cart. Also, you can bring wine.
If you find yourself spending more time in the mountains than in metro Denver, you’ll want to rent a car and get out of the city of Portland for a couple of days. The Tualatin Valley is a beautiful beverage oasis, filled with wineries, breweries, cider companies and distilleries. Because the weather is similar to distilling greats like Scotland, the area has been producing some serious malts lately. After a scenic drive, we suggest visiting The Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve and a quick lunch in Hillsboro at the Cruise In Country Diner. The beef is 100 percent grass-fed, and you can taste the difference. Terry and his wife Nancy have the diner scene down to a science — they’ve served more than 380,000 burgers since 2009.
Mt. Hood Territory
Even if you don’t want to summit Mount Hood, there’s plenty to do in its territory. It’s full of the kind of beautiful, rolling hills that make you want to drive forever, or at least until you get to Oregon City Brewing. The family-operated brewery serves Olympia Provisions hotdogs, with creative flavors from the Frito Pie dog to the pastrami-piled Reuben dog. Stay awhile in Oregon City to explore exciting nature monuments like the end of the Oregon trail.
Where to Eat – Downtown Portland
Cup & Bar
When you wake up in Portland, open your eyes and head straight to Cup & Bar. The cafe is a collaboration between the small-batch coffee company Trailhead Coffee Roasters and the craft chocolate makers from Ranger Chocolate Company. Tours of the facility are available upon request, and we highly suggest you check out the “bean to bar” process before digging into the Ranger Hazelnut toast. (Nutella lovers, you won’t be sorry).
Wayfinder is the brain-child of three major Portland food and beverage players. Charlie Devereux (of Double Mountain Brewery), Matthew Jacobson (of Sizzle Pie and Quality Bar) and Rodney Muirhead (of Podnah’s Pit and La Taq) converted an 8,900-square-foot warehouse into a 110- seat tap hall destination for beer and food lovers.
While the beer was good, the real star of the show was their food — any meal that starts with “Dirty Fries” with bacon and beer cheese is a great meal indeed. The lunch menu delights with elevated pub food like a smoked prime rib sandwich, steak frites and baby back ribs. If you love thick-cut fries, it’s worth ordering a sandwich or burger to get another round of them.
Just opened two years ago, Renata has quickly become one of Portland’s top dining destinations. With a focus on Italian, wood-fired ingredients, this restaurant was crowned Oregonian restaurant of the year shortly after opening. Expect pastas, pizzas, a wide-open dining room and friendly service staff.
I knew I was going to love Kachka when we walked in and were told the Russian drinking rules: never drink alone, every drink starts with a toast and you must eat after. Clink, drink, eat, repeat. Clink, drink, eat, repeat.
In fact, the restaurant has a category of food called zakuski that are dedicated drinking snacks you can pair with its more than 50 types of vodka. While sipping and eating an array of zakuski — we suggest the Baltic Sprat Buterbrodi with tiny smoked fish, parsley mayo and pumpernickel toast and the Herring Under a Fur Coat, a seven-layer dip, but Russian– be sure to save room for entrees like the dumplings. Order all three flavors, including the sour cherry.