Does one really need an excuse to travel? Well, if so, a birthday is as good of excuse as any!
We managed to snag a great deal on airfare to Portland, so we jumped at the chance to spend Paul’s birthday last month in someplace new.
I also get a lot of questions about how we are able to travel so much, so as I do my trip reports, I’m going to try to start incorporating how much things costs and how we finagled certain deals or logistics.
First up: Hotel. We both have the Marriott Rewards Chase credit card. Just opening and meeting the minimum spend gives you a free night certificate for a category 1-4 hotel (and another one each year after that*). Mine was going to expire at the end of February, so we either need to use it or lose it. Paul had a certificate too, so two nights = on the house*.
*Annual fee is waived the first year of the card. No links = I’m not endorsing this card in any way or getting any referral bonues, etc.
Since we were now committed to staying in a Marriott for the free night, we just had to decide which one. Portland is SUPER walkable city and has a TON of public transportation (and what seems like very little parking), so ditching a rental car was almost a no-brainer. This means we needed a hotel that was on public transit or had airport transportation: We ended up booking the Residence Inn Portland North Harbour because it had free airport transportation, free continental breakfast, and was walking distance to the light rail that would take us straight downtown. Win. Win. Win.
We arrived super late into Portland (well 11pm, but 1am our time), so we took the free hotel shuttle straight from the airport to the hotel and crashed hard. It might have also helped that we got upgraded on both legs of our flight and some
vodka Vitamin C made us extra sleepy.
Saturday morning we were up bright and early. We ate the free continental breakfast and then headed on the Max light rail (day pass = $5/each) for the 30 minute ride into the city. Our first stop: Powell Books.
I had promised Paul that this stop would be “15 minutes, 20 tops!!”, but I vastly underestimated how awesome Powell Books is. As the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world, they literally have maps to help you get around. Even more awesome is that they also sell used books.. And not just in a tiny used book room, they are shelved WITH the new books so that you can pick or choose and don’t have to hunt around. I was in love. I can look at a bookstore for hours.. Which I almost did.
We then headed over to Voodoo Doughnut where we were prepared to have a long wait in line.
Ah, nope. Apparently Voodoo Donut is mostly cool for drunk people because there were only a handful of people inside. When we walked past later (around 9pm), the line was out the door!
We tried to pick what we thought the most popular ones were (Voodoo Donut, Portland Cream, Maple Bacon Bar) and then, of course, the peanut butter oreo.
My favorite was the Maple Bacon Bar. However, I’ll be honest. I thought the doughnuts were ‘just’ good. I liked them. We scarfed them down.. But they really weren’t anything special. I’ll never say “Man, I could really go for some VOODOO doughnuts right now”, because honestly they tasted just as good as any doughnut. They weren’t a fail, they just didn’t have anything super special about them. (I’ve since learned that we missed out on Blue Star Donuts, so that will be our stop next time! Thanks, Chelsea!)
We then proceeded to look like the mega tourists that we were and carried this pink bad boy around with us the whole rest of the day.
We walked down by the river and were astounded with how many people were out biking or running. Such an active city! I felt pretty guilty walking along eating donuts while so many people were getting their sweat on around me, so we did what anyone would naturally do in that situation… headed to the bar.
Our first stop of the day was probably pretty typical of any beer lover in Portland: Rogue Ale House.
It didn’t take us long to realize that Portland’s regional taste in beer is heavily on the IPA side. We are usually prefer more on the lighter side like wheat beers and hefeweizens, but we still had a great time sampling what Portland had to offer.. When in Rome, right?
We also stopped at BridgePort Brewing, Lucky Laborador, and Deschuetes. Touring breweries is a fun way to walk all over the city, and get to people watch. It might seem like we were cooped up inside all day, but nope! We walked a ton and enjoyed sitting outside with our drinks!
My favorite beer of the day hands down was Bridgeport’s Smoked Lager. I’ve never had a smoked beer before and the flavor was awesome. Would pair beyond perfectly with salmon, but we were okay settling for pretzels!
Favorite stop of the day though was Lucky Laborador.
I love places like this: Open garage, big tables, bike-friendly, good beer, and pizza. Just all the necessary requirements of a Saturday afternoon.
We ended up wandering around and stopping at the Pinata Takos truck for some killer cheap Mexican food. Paul got some good tacos, but the winner was my quesadilla dinner. Yum
We then used our day passes to take the light rail back to the Residence Inn. It was a fairly early night for us, but we had big plans for the morning! Bike Tour!
We did hit a SNAFU with our plans when we realized the next morning that the light rail wouldn’t arrive into the city until after our tour was scheduled to start. We ended up paying $30 for a taxi to get us into the city, but overall still cheaper than a rental car.
For Paul’s birthday we decided to splurge on a bike tour from Pedal Bike Tours of the Colombia River Gorge. I was a little hesitant on the price at first ($90/person), but the tour was over 5 hours and ended up being ABOVE AND BEYOND the highlight of our trip. The company also offers other tours of downtown Portland, a brew tour, etc, but we chose this one because it was the perfect way to see the area outside of the city without needing a rental car.
It ended up being only the two of us on the tour (Winter is a slower time), but we had unseasonably awesome weather. Our guide, Sarah, was fantastic. By the time we drove up to the Gorge, the fog had burned off and we had some absolutely stunning views of Oregon and Washington. We made a couple of stops at some lookouts first while Sarah briefed us on the history of the area and then we started biking.
Interestingly enough, the hills were too bad. Supposedly the roads in the area were paved at no more than a 20% grade because that is all that a Model T back in the day could handle. This made for a really enjoyable ride. All told we went about 10 miles and stopped at 6 different waterfalls along the way.
At each stop, we got off our bikes and got the chance to hike up to explore the falls closer.
To say the scenery was GORGEous (<- See what I did there) is understatement of 2015. And since it was unseasonably awesome weather, the entire state was out here too enjoying the falls. Hiring Pedal Bikes to drive around was worth its weight in gold for not having to fight for our own parking spot. Pro tip: Go early! We had the falls to ourselves until like 11am when the crowds showed up!
When the tour was over, they even dropped us off straight at the airport (it was on the way). Sweet. No need for a light rail ticket back to the hotel!
We passed the time waiting for our flight enjoying the infamous PDX carpet and sipping our last beers at the PDX Rogue taproom.
A pretty solid weekend! I’m in love with the beauty of Oregon! And I wouldn’t pass up the chance to come back to visit the city. My can’t miss stops?: Powell Books and the Colombia River Gorge!
Have you been to Portland?
What did I miss that is must-see in Portland? Next time I already have the Portland Japanese Garden on my list.
How do you decide what you want to see when you are on vacation? I’m a die-hard Yelper! And I looove travel guides like Fodor’s. I buy them and then highlight what we’ve done and make notes in the margins. I’ll also staple in tickets or maps, so each guidebook turns into a little scrapbook.