The Pioneer Spirit of Exploration is Still Alive in Oregon’s Largest City

There are more sides to Portland than seen in popular culture

Green hills surround the city of Portland.

From trendy tea, cider, and spirit tastings to neighborhoods transformed into urban culinary hotspots to a unique natural outdoor beauty, the Greater Portland Region continues to reawaken the pioneer spirit. Though Oregon City once marked the end of the 2,170-mile-long Oregon Trail, this should be just the beginning of your own exploration.

Encompassing Portland’s urban vibe, Tualatin Valley’s spiritual side, and Mount Hood Territory’s food and brew scene, Greater Portland offers travelers an amazing array of taste-tempting diversions.

Transforming previously industrialized neighborhoods into hip and happening food and shopping districts seems to be the latest inner-city trend. The area known as the Artisan Quarter, for instance, covers 25 blocks in the Central Southeast area of the city. For breakfast, the Cup & Bar offers two passions of many: coffee and chocolate. One side of the shop offers fresh coffee from Trailhead Coffee Roasters and the other organic chocolate (including the rich, sipping kind) courtesy of Ranger Chocolate Company.

Around the corner is a little bit of history in the form of vacuum cleaners. The Stark Vacuum Museum, one of only a few of these types of museums nationwide, has models your parents and grandparents may remember, covering the years from 1900 to 1970.

Top quality tea flights are available at Smith Teamaker, located in the Central Eastside district. The family-run operation imports the finest teas from all over the world and still produces its products by hand. You can learn how tea is made and see the packaging process through the large viewing windows. Tip: If you like herbal teas, try their Big Hibiscus — smooth, floral, and delicious.

Ron Stern

Portland has the distinction of having the most breweries of any city in the world, with 75 and counting. At Wayfinder Beer, one of the newest, you can chow down on house-made sausages or chicken schnitzel with an ice-cold brew from their 10-barrel brewhouse.

At Bee Thinking’s Mead Market, you can sample a flight of meads, one of the hottest beverage trends nationwide. This is so popular, in fact, that a new mead shop is opening somewhere in the U.S. every six days. While sampling the meads, which are made from various beekeepers’ fermented honeys, you’ll also learn all about beekeeping. Just be careful you don’t get a buzz.

After all this, you might be ready for a little water diversion courtesy of the Portland Electric Boat Company. Located at the Riverplace Marina, the company rents small, electric Duffy boats (at $125 per hour) that are as easy to operate as a golf cart. Cruise along the Willamette River past bridges, floating houses, and even the submarine used in the movie The Hunt for Red October.


For dinner, Kachka offers a taste of the former Soviet Union as well as a selection of more than 50 vodkas. Start your meal with traditional zakuski (hors d’oeuvres) and then move into rich and flavorful meats, dumplings, and fish.