Exploring Portland's Take On Music, Books, Beer & More

by By Veronica Zaretski
In an episode of Portlandia, Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen sit in a diner and quiz each other about recent article pieces, from The Boston Globe to Paste and everything in between. It quickly escalates into a fierce competition. “Did you read the latest cookie fortune?” Brownstein asks the table with a tone of urgency.
Soon, in typical Portlandia fashion, the conversation spirals into pure nonsense, and Browinstein and Armisen end up furiously ripping and feasting on newspaper. It’s a fun moment in hipster-mockery (which at this point is really North-American-culture-mockery), but like much of the show, it’s meant to represent what it’s supposed to be like to live in the hippest place possible: Portland. Where young people go to retire, and where there’s no such thing as too quirky or esoteric.
So is Portland really a hipster paradise? The answer is yes and no.
It’s a friendly place that benefits from its close proximity to nature’s wonders but that feels urban and vibrant. And while there are plenty of hipsteresque elements to the city, its real magic comes from the friendly locals, its reputation as a green city, and the abundance of all things beautiful and delicious.
In short, it’s surprisingly unpretentious for a place that has so much to offer. And whether you’re looking to get away for a couple of days or more, it is your next perfect destination spot.
How do you fully enjoy Rose City in just a couple of days?

To start, get your zen on by visiting the very lush Forest Park. Located just a brisk walk or bike ride away from the downtown, Forest Park is shielded from its urban surroundings.

All Photos Courtesy of Veronica Zaretski

Shortly after entering you’ll find yourself wondering if you’re really in a city at all – the winding hiking trails, aging and nursing trees, and wildlife might overwhelm your senses at first if you’re a city kid.
There’s a reason America’s largest wooded urban park is beloved by so many. Forest Park offers an escape from urban life, even if in reality that city buzz is only a ten minute drive away, and its woodland sounds and smells instil visitors with a sense of calm.


After you’ve broken a sweat hiking through some wooded terrains, treat yourself to a cold one in one of the city’s many microbreweries.

The city is in some friendly competition with neighbouring Seattle over who has the best beers and who has the best coffee. As suggested by its other nickname, Beertown, it seems safe to assume that Portland holds the reputation for best brews, while Seattle holds the title of top coffee. But you should really make sure to find out how you feel about the matter for yourself.
Try BridgePort BrewPub, the city’s oldest craft brewery, housed in an old industrial building. It offers over 25 different brews and lots of food options to pair with your drinks. Or better yet, embrace Portland’s particular brand of joie-de-vivre, and sign up for a BrewCycle pub crawl.
For a drink with a stronger bite, try House Spirits Distillery. You can take a cocktail, whiskey or distillery class here, enjoy the distillery’s tasting room, or just sit back with a glass of gin, whiskey, or vodka.  

For the literary-minded (but really for anyone), Powell’s City of Books on Burnside Street will be a secluded paradise.

Powell’s claims the title for the largest independent chain of bookstores, and this location is well-known as a top hanging spot for locals and travellers alike.
When you enter the store, pick up a little map that shows you how to get around this massive location. This store carries all the books you can imagine, and houses an espresso book machine, an extensive gift store, a rare book room, and a World Cup café tucked in the back, usually filled with Portlanders working away (probably on their latest novel).
Powell’s is really special, but it’s difficult to share just how special it is until you experience it for yourself.
You may find that you’ve been blissfully lost for hours in its construction, or that you’re suddenly filled with an ambition to join Portland’s community of self-publishers, championing inclusive dialogue on their own terms… Or you may meet a stranger who will tell you all about their recent move to Portland and after a long conversation you’ll share a long look of understanding before parting. You might just fall asleep in between the adventure aisle and science fiction aisle. All of it might be weird, spontaneous, or dreamy, but no one will judge you for it. You’ll leave with the distinct Portland stamp of approval.

Before you wrap up your bite-sized adventure, be sure to take a walk down by the Burnside Bridge. The Burnside Skate park is fun to check out, and on weekends visitors can grab an ice cream cone nearby while walking through the eclectic Portland Saturday Market. 

If you feel like something is slightly off at the end of your trip, you’re not alone. Portland is a hard city to leave after a couple of days, or even after a couple of years. Take solace in knowing that the city and its idiosyncrasies will be there when you choose to come back, and you could experience that whimsical charm all over again.
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