John Khuu is a Chicago based photographer who loves food, travel, whiskey and discovering new places.
In this post he gives us his own guide on everything you have to see and do in Portland in 12 hours.
“One new domestic, one new international”
It’s a motto I’ve been telling myself constantly so I can explore what the world has to offer. Every year, one new domestic spot and then one new international. There’s one simple rule, I cannot go to a place I’ve already been to. I wanted to travel somewhere new where I’ve been wanting to go to for quite some time – Portland, OR.
Portland is very different to the hustle and bustle of Chicago, IL (where I’m from). Being located far in the upper northwest, Portland offers more than urban life. To the west, you have beaches such as the famous Cannon Beach. To the east, you have beautiful endless trails and waterfalls all around the gorge. Then within the city itself, exists an entire scene culture and social life at your disposal within the hidden pockets of residential neighborhoods. Over the past years plenty of restaurants, cafes, and bars have established a really good name for themselves. This is what drew me to Portland, I wanted to see what the city could show me.
There are so many high-end cafes and coffee shops all over the city. Every couple of blocks you can find a distinct high-end coffee shop using the pour over technique to brew the perfect cup for you. If you want a good brew but don’t have time, pre-made coffee is readily available if you want it to-go. Most of the coffee shops will have a couple of coffee blends on their menu, so feel free to pick and choose one that sounds good. If you’re unsure, don’t hesitate to ask them what they recommend. They’re experts in this stuff. You’re guaranteed to have a great cup of coffee.
- Stumptown Coffee Roasters
- Courier Coffee
- Heart Coffee
- Coava Coffee Brew Bar
- Barista Coffee
THE FOOD FIX
It’s an absolute necessity for any traveler to dive into the local restaurant scene in a new city. It is the thing we do that seamlessly unifies all of us together in many areas of different cultures. If you’re the brunch type, you’re more than likely to run into lines forming before the restaurant even opens or long queues which build up by the minute. Brunch is insanely popular here and it’s all worth the wait. Dinner won’t have the same lines as brunch time but be expected to have a little wait for some fine foods. You can grab a drink at the bar or roam to another bar to pass the time until your table is ready. Most places have happy hour so always be on the lookout for that which is generally between 3-6pm. Nong’s Khao Man Gai started as a Thai based food cart and turned itself into a food empire. Incredible chicken and rice but I recommend to substitute the chicken with pork. Olympia Provisions is a meat lover’s paradise and they have some amazing hash and eggs benedict. Clyde Commons has a mixture of all-around fantastic cocktails and eats. Every neighborhood has something interesting, so get out there and try some local places.
- Screen Door
- Olympia Provisions
- Tasty N’ Sons
- Clyde Common
- Nong’s Khao Man Gai
Beer, beer, cocktails, and more beer. Breweries are everywhere and almost unavoidable. Any beer fanatic would love these tours because each brewery spot has a set of distinct style of brews. From IPA’s, sour’s and wheat’s each one holds a unique charm. Deschutes, most famous for their “Fresh Squeezed” is great but I recommend trying a flight of their rotating draft list. Plenty of IPA’s are on draft. Another great brewery is Cascade. Their entire beer lineup are sours and it’s for sure quite fruity and tasty. Besides the beers, if you’re a cocktail fan, head to Pepe Le Moko. You’ll be lead downstairs to their bomb-shelter like bar where it is lit by one industrial hanging light. Everything else is low lit by candle or yellow lights against the walls. Drink their mint ice cream milkshake cocktail. It comes from the heavens, I swear.
- Cascade Brewing
- Pepe Le Moko
- Rum Club
THE OUTSIDE of PORTLAND
I didn’t get a chance to venture to the coast line to see the famous Cannon Beach but I did make my way to the east side to see the beautiful greenery of the gorge. The views are absolutely stunning. It’s no more than a 30min drive outside of the city along the Columbia River. Driving along the river, you’ll get a taste of nature of the pacific northwest at its finest. If you’re coming from out of town, it’s worth seeing Multnomah Falls. It’s gorgeous but can be a tourist trap. Venture to Elowah Falls where the hike is easy and basalt and moss is looking at its best. Looking for a trail that’s longer and just as beautiful? Head to Eagle Creek where the hike is moderate and the views are even more breathtaking.
- Multnomah Falls
- Elowah Falls
- Eagle Creek
- Cannon Beach
TriMet consists of three different types of transportation: WES Commuter Rail, MAX Light Rail, and bus lines. The main two you really need are the MAX and the bus lines to get around the city. Right when you get off the plane from PDX, the MAX is conveniently located at the end of baggage claim for a fare of $2.50 that drops you in the heart of downtown. That pass lasts 2.5 hours and it can be used on the bus lines as well. If you’re planning on getting around with public transportation, the extra $2.50 for the $5 pass gets you around the entire day. If you’re a walker type, this city is extremely walkable. Going either direction is just a mere 15-20 minute walk and then you’re in another residential neighborhood with so much culture and things to do. If you’re a Lyft/Uber user, they’re readily available but be expected to see prices elevated when looking at the distance and time traveled.
The Art Museum had an amazing fashion exhibition displaying contemporary Native American fashion from designers across North America ranging from 1950s to today. There’s plenty of other exhibitions displaying other great work from all kinds of designers and artists. If you’re aren’t so into the museum route, you can always do the sweet route which involves donuts. Head over to Vodoo Donuts or Blue Star Donuts to indulge yourself into some tasty treats. I recommend Blue Star over Vodoo. Once you’re done with your donut fix, head over to Powell’s Books. There are endless aisles with a variety of book selections of all sorts. Further west side of downtown and you’ll walk into an oasis of serenity of the Japanese Gardens. You will find peace and harmony soaking in the beautiful greenery.
- Art Museum
- Japanese Garden
- Voodoo Donuts / Blue Star Donuts
- Powell’s Books
I was quite surprised by the sheer amount of boutique shops in this city. Ranging from distinct men’s and women’s shops or a hybrid of both, each had it’s unique flair. For men, I highly recommend stepping foot into Tanner Goods – it’s filled with fresh leather goods, apparel, and accessories for the modern man. Another men’s store I recommend is Machus – a very eclectic selection of modern apparel and accessories. For women, walk into Wildfang – where the apparel and accessories are very industrial-chic and inspired by menswear. If you end up buying an item, they’ll allow you to mark your name on their wooden walls. Right across the street, you can stumble into Frances May – which is a boutique that has a wide diverse collection independent designers from both men and women’s apparel and accessories.
- Tanner Goods
- Frances May