Portland Travel Guide

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Stephen Hamilton

Portland is the third of the three large cities in the Pacific Northwest (the others are Seattle and Vancouver, B.C.). Although it goes by unnoticed in many travel books, the City of Roses is one of the most beautiful cities in Western America.

Portland lies to the far northwest of Oregon, straddling the Willamette River just south of its confluence with the Columbia River at Vancouver, Washington. About 50 miles to the east lies majestic Mount Hood, which forms the perfect backdrop for Portland's skyline. The Pacific Ocean lies about 90 miles to the west over the Coast Range.

As the largest city between San Francisco and Seattle, vies with those cities as the spiritual capital of the laid-back northern Pacific coast. However, it does so in a way that mixes big-city dynamics with small-town friendliness. In contrast to rapid-growing Seattle, until recently Portland avoided the problems that come with fast growth. Although now Portland is experiencing the same rapid growth, it has been able to keep its unique character.

Progressive city planning practices such as an urban growth boundary have made Portland a very compact and user-friendly city. Unlike other metropolitan areas, you can drive 20 miles from downtown Portland and be out in the country. Environmentally friendly practices such as recycling are part of the culture here. It is also known for taking creative and unconventional ideas to solve its problems. For instance, it tore up a downtown freeway and transformed it into Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Its light rail system, originally built in the late 1980s and subsequently expanded, has won nationwide acclaim.

In recent years, the city has become known as much for its microbreweries as Seattle is for its coffee houses. There are more breweries per capita in Portland than any other city in the world, and many of them have won nationwide and international acclaim.

Weather in Portland can be dry and hot in the middle of Summer, but once Autumn begins to roll around, it may change very suddenly into the kind of wet, rainy weather that the Pacific Northwest is known for.  However, be wary of carrying or using an umbrella in Portland, as the locals may look upon it with disdain.

Places of Interest
Portland is roughly divided into 5 sections, labeled Northwest, North, Northeast, Southeast, and Southwest.  While North and South are conveniently separated by Burnside Street, East and West are separated by the Willamette River, which takes a turn north of Burnside and forces the somewhat clumsy split between Portland's Northwest, North, and Northeast sections.

Downtown proper is located in the Southwest section, which houses a handful of business high-rises as well as hotels, brewpubs, classy restaurants, and coffee shops.  The MAX light rail and Tri-Met bus system are free within the boundaries of the Southwest section; taking the bus across the Willamette, for example, will cost money.

Powell's Books on Burnside and SW 10th is the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world, spanning an entire city block and rising 4 stories high.  There are a total of 5 other branches throughout Portland, specializing in different categories such as Travel and Technical books, but none of them is as big as the main branch.  With over a million books across more than 3500 categories in stock and a rare books viewing room on the top floor, Powell's books is a must-see for anyone who loves literature.

The Hawthorne District in Portland's Southeast section is located along Hawthorne Boulevard.  It is the center of the counter-culture/hippie/bohemian community, with thrift stores and vintage clothing shops, vegan restaurants, independent open-mic coffee shops, craft stores, dive bars and microbreweries, as well as a branch of Powell's Books.

The Pearl District, which lies in Portland Northeast between I-405, Burnside and the Park blocks, is the trendy hub of the city.  Formerly a half abandoned warehouse district, the area is now home to several art galleries, eateries, popular shopping destinations, and posh high-rises and condos.  All art galleries participate in First Thursday, which, as the name suggests, takes place on the first Thursday of every month.  Gallery admission is free during First Thursday, and many of them also serve wine and cheese.

Another trendy shopping area is located on NW 21st and NW 23rd streets, sometimes also referred to as Nob Hill.  Several popular stores and restaurants, both corporate and independent, line these two avenues, and it is one of the most populated shopping/eating districts in the city, particularly on the weekends.

The Portland Classical Chinese Garden is a beautiful urban retreat in the heart of the  Northwest section's Chinatown district.  A guided tour will show you the pond, the teahouse, the pavilions, several gardens.

The International Rose Test Garden in Portland Northwest is the largest in the United States, and its history is one of the reasons why Portland is known as "The City of Roses."  The gardens are primarily used as a testing ground for new varieties of the flower, and they are comprised of several sections displaying exotic roses and providing spots for rest and respite.

Part or or all of this text stems from the original article at: http://wikitravel.org/en/Portland_%28Oregon%29

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January 25, 2007 change by rfujitani (2 points)

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