As someone who grew up in the New York tristate area, the Pacific Northwest always seemed far and foreign. When I started college in Boston, I met people from Washington and Oregon for the first time. Seeing their pictures and hearing their stories about the landscapes, the trees and the cities made me want to visit so badly. Two years ago, my boyfriend’s family moved from Connecticut to Portland, Oregon. Considering it was eight degrees when I left New York, and nearly 40 in Oregon, I was ready to go.
This trip was special because I didn’t feel like a tourist stumbling around.
I got to spend time with locals and people who knew the area well, who showed me all their favorite places. I even got to see a few of my friends from Boston who moved back to Oregon after college, which felt extra special.
On the first day, shaking off some slight east to west coast jet lag, we walked across the esplanade next to the Willamette river. I never realized Portland had so many bridges! That sounds silly, but I found out that Portland is sometimes known for its bridges (the Fremont bridge is featured on one of Portland’s Snapchat filters).
We walked to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (better known as OMSI), which was interactive and fun, even as an adult. They have a great exhibit currently about optical illusions and the brain.
The next day, we went to the Portland Japanese Garden, which was so lush and beautiful even in the winter. The trees around us felt taller than any I’ve ever seen before. From the edge of the garden we could see a beautiful view of Portland, layered with trees, city buildings and a perfect view of Mount Hood. From most parts of the city you can see even just a peak of Mount Hood. No east coast city I’ve been to feels that close to nature.
I’ve been looking forward to going to Powell’s City of Books for years – and it was even better than my expectations.
The rooms are divided by colors coordinating to specific genres. The building is massive, with towering bookcases winding in and out of author names and titles. Of course, I bought a book, but I also bought a couple chapbooks and ‘zines made by local Portland authors and artists. These tiny, unique collections of work felt like a perfect souvenir.
Of course, we had to do the major Portland tourist activity of going to VooDoo Doughnuts. But, we went to a smaller location (called VooDoo Doughnuts Too) and there was no line! I got two doughnuts; one cream and vanilla flavored topped with Froot Loops, and one topped with chocolate, Rice Krispies and peanut butter. I hate to say it, but it was definitely worth the hype.
I wanted to see as much nature as possible, so we did a hike through Forest Park.
The path was lined by a small creek, which looks clear and has a strange, beautiful aura to it. Maybe it was because of algae, or something easily explained, but it felt almost magical.
The trees there are covered in moss, and I joked that they looked like The Grinch. It was great to be out in the fresh air. Plus, the hike was really easy to get to from the city.
On my last day in town, my boyfriend and I went to brunch as a belated holiday outing.
We went to a well-known Portland restaurant called Screen Door, and it was unreal. I got a mimosa for $5 (unheard of in New York), and a delicious dish with eggs, chiles and tortillas. My boyfriend got chicken and waffles, which Screen Door is known for.
After eating, we walked around the main street of a section of the city called Alberta. The street is full of local shops with artwork, coffee, ice cream – anything you could want really. There is also a lot of cool street art. Everyone that I talked to at the shops was super friendly. It was a really pleasant way to spend my last day in such a welcoming city.
Spending my first week of the year in Portland was exceptional.
When my boyfriend and I first met at the start of freshman year of college, we bonded over our love of the TV show Portlandia. We would watch episodes together in our dorms multiple times a week. Although the show is satire, poking fun at the city, it always made me want to come visit more.
Now, my boyfriend and I are college seniors, just months away from graduating. It means the world to me that we finally got to spend time together in a place that inadvertently brought us together.