How to Spend 12 Hours in Portland

How to Spend 12 Hours in Portland
Portland, Oregon

Tim LaBarge

Portland is a small city that is teeming with hip shops, stellar cuisine, craft beverages and gorgeous greenery.

One of the things I most adored about Portland, Oregon, is that the entire city feels like one long Main Street. What's more is that this charming town can be considered one of the true stars of the nation’s culinary scene. It’s an important part of the third wave coffee movement, its restaurant scene is thriving and its teeming with craft breweries. Though many would love a long weekend here to experience the culture of Portland, we don't always have that option. What makes Portland great is that even if you have only a day to spend here, you can still soak the best of the city's offerings. 

9 a.m. Sure, it’s cliché. And yes, you’ll spot a million (approximately) tourists carrying bright pink boxes of Vodoo Doughnut around town, but no trip to Portland would be complete with a visit to this legendary spot. Dig the sly marketing slogans (“the magic is in the hole”), and really enjoy the creatively named fried dough creations like the Old Dirty Bastard— my personal favorite that is a sinfully delicious combo of Oreo crumbles, peanut butter and chocolate frosting. No matter what doughnut you choose (all the ones I sampled were quite tasty), be sure to bring along cash as that’s all this spot takes. 

10 a.m. After downing all those doughnuts, you’ll no doubt want to combat that sugar slump with one of this city’s other favorite contributions: third wave coffee. Walk off some of those calories as you make your way over to key player in the movement (and Portland native) Stumptown Coffee. Its Stark Street location is connected to the impossibly cool Ace Hotel, where you can enjoy your java in the lobby. Order an impossibly smooth espresso drink or one of the shop’s signature brewed creations and sip slowly. You’ll want to savor every sip. 

10:30 a.m. This city lives up to its “Keep Portland Weird” slogan, so plan to peruse some of this town’s funky shops. Powell’s Books is a great place to get lost in. Browse the shelves for new and old titles alike, see the rare books collection upstairs and pause to checkout the made-in-Portland gear and food here. The Outdoor Store is chock full of Western wears like saddles, cowboy boots and other items that you can only find in the West. Check out the Dr. Martens store if you're looking to channel those 90s fashion trend, or go and visit one of the town’s many vinyl shops. 

Noon: After all that walking, you’ve probably worked up an appetite. Best to go for a slice at Sizzle Pie. This only-in-Portland restaurant serves pizzas in a truly rockin’ atmosphere: expect to hear heavy metal blaring through the speakers at all times. Go full Portland and order a tasty vegan slice, and always opt for a side of breadsticks. 

1 p.m. Since the Pacific Northwest is known for its greenery, either stay close to town and visit the Portland Japanese Garden or the Washington Park International Rose Test Garden. Both offer truly gorgeous views of natural splendor. Or take a hike at Mt. Tabor Park and take in sweeping views of the entire city when you get to the top. If you don’t mind getting a rental car, consider driving out to the Columbia River Gorge. Stop at Multnomah Falls to see a beautiful double-tiered waterfall. If you’ve got extra time, head to the Bridge of the Gods for more incredible sights.  

4 p.m. After your long afternoon jaunt, consider stopping by the Hopworks Urban Brewery. No trip to Portland would be complete without a visit to a craft brewery. Load up on some suds ranging from its organic lager to survival stout. If you’re hungry, sophisticated bar bites rule this menu. Opt for the hearty poutine, savory chicken tenders, or the spot’s signature pretzel. [pullquote]

5 p.m. Did all that exploring tire you out? Do as the Italians do and enjoy a cup of coffee. For a pre-dinner dessert, consider an affogato or another classic Italian cup of java from charming and cozy Spella Caffe

6 p.m. It’s dinnertime in Portland, and you’re in luck; the city is filled with terrific dining options. Head to hip Saucebox for its Asian-inspired small plates and innovative cocktails. I fell in love with the sweet and tangy Ocean Pacific—a house-infused ginger vodka made with passionfruit and citrus juice. For starters, try the restaurant’s very own take on chicken wings, which use lime, fish sauce, Sambal and cilantro. For your main course, consider dim sum, sushi or the succulent Korean baby back ribs served with peanuts, cilantro and cucumber salad. 

9 p.m. It’s somewhat of a walk, but it’s worth checking out Pépé le Moko, the latest from the Ace Hotel. This dark, underground bar that’s mere steps away from the hotel exudes mystery and hipness. Cozy up, spill secrets and sip on signature libations. Stick to the familiar with a Long Island Ice Tea or an Amaretto Sour. Alternatively, you can opt for The Grasshopper, the spot’s signature tastes-just-like-a-Thin-Mint-with-a-dash-of-booze cocktails that is a deadly good mix of crèmes de menthe et caco, vanilla ice cream, Fernet Branca and sea salt. 

There you have it. And don't forget, as you're walking back to your hotel after a long yet exciting day of exploring Portland, remember to take a few minutes to reflect on the hip shops, stellar cuisine, craft beverages and gorgeous greenery that make Portland a great city. 

Teresa Tobat is the Washington, D.C. travel city editor for The Daily Meal. View her website at Follow her tweets @ttobat88

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