“Keep Portland Weird” is a common bumper sticker that locals love to slap onto their cars and water bottles. But along with being a little weird and funky, Portland is also green and hip. It has some of the best public transportation in the country, lots of buildings with LEED certification and a population committed to biking to work. With so many green options, it can be hard to choose exactly how to spend your time in the environmentally conscious Northwest city, so here is a quick guide to some of the highlights.
If you are flying into Portland International Airport, you can easily take the Portland MAX light rail into downtown. For those arriving by train or bus, both the Amtrak and Greyhound stations are conveniently located in Fareless Square, an area covering most of downtown where all public transportation is free of charge. If your travels keep you in Portland for a few days and you want to explore outside of the downtown area, you can consider investing in a day, or even a week pass.
With green foothills and two mountains as a natural part of the skyline, it is no surprise that getting outdoors is an integral part of a genuine Portland experience, and even downtown offers an assortment of green space. In Northwest Portland you will find Forest Park , complete with miles upon miles of hiking and biking trails covering over 5,000 acres. Friends of Forest Park is the place to go for maps of all of the trails, and they even offer a natural history hiking series.
Only an hour away from Portland you will find Mount Hood, which is a playground for all seasons. In the winter you can take advantage of the Meadows Park & Ride Shuttle to get up to the mountain to ski or snowboard; your ticket even includes a lift ticket. In the summer, hike a part of the Pacific Crest Trail , which passes through the Mount Hood National Forest area.
Portland is notorious for being a biker’s heaven, and to truly get an in-depth view of the green city and its neighborhoods, what better way than with a bike tour? Portland Bicycle Company offers 3 hour tours that focus on sustainability, smart urban development, and community building. If you want to explore on your own, rent one of their bikes and get a bike map from the City of Portland Office of Transportation. As the city avidly supports those on two wheels, there are many streets designated as bike-friendly.
Arts & Culture
In Portland there’s always a festival going on, and many of them are committed to showcasing the best in local arts and culture. The winter months feature Reel Music Film Festival, Oregon Truffle Festival, and Portland Jazz Festival. For those who want to check out the local wining and dining scene, be sure to visit during the Holiday Ale Fest, Oregon Brewers Festival, Oregon Bounty, or the Bite of Oregon, which always showcases local and organic samplings. Travel Portland has a great website always up-to-date with the latest festivals.
A big draw in Portland is the Saturday Market, which features an eclectic assortment of local artists and an international food court. Don’t let the name fool you: it’s open on Sundays too. After a morning of perusing the goods at the market, make your way over to Powell’s City of Books. With over 68,000 feet of retail space and one of the best selections of used, rare, and out of print titles in the country, Powell’s classifies as a world-class independent bookstore.
Between April and December you can get a taste of all that local Oregon farmers and artisans have to offer at the Portland Farmer’s Market, held both downtown and at various neighborhood locations around the city.
Stumptown Coffee Roasters. Café culture is a part of everyday Portland life, and there is no better place to experience it than at this local roasting company’s many cafes scattered around the city. Most of their blends are organic and fair trade.
Blossoming Lotus. Committed to providing 100% vegan, organic and local food whenever possible, this place specializes in World Fusion Cuisine. The restaurant is conveniently located in Portland’s popular Pearl District and right on the Portland Street Car line.
Hot Lips Pizza . A Portland family-owned institution, this place serves up delicious pies that feature local, seasonal, and organic ingredients. Complete your meal with an on tap Hot Lips Soda, brewed one flavor at a time.
Roots Organic Brewing Company. Locally brewed all-organic beer. Need I say more?
Portland has some great green options for any budget, here are the top three:
Ace Hotel. Hip urban minimalist is the only way to describe this boutique hotel which is budget friendly and has rooms uniquely designed to represent the local Portland culture. Add a LEED certification and bikes for rent and you have prime green accommodation.
Heathman Hotel. One of the classiest and most well-known of the Portland hotels, it was also the first one to be recognized by the Energy Trust of Oregon for their commitment to the environment. They even offer a “Go Green” package, which gets a tree planted in your name.
Portland Hawthorne Hostel. Located in the funky Hawthorne district, staying here will put you close to a plethora of cafes, pubs and quirky boutiques. Thanks to a grant from the City of Portland, the hostel has an eco-roof, and they give discounts to travelers arriving by way of bike.
Anna Brones is a freelance writer with a love for travel. She has a BA in International Relations and French Studies and has lived in Sweden, France, Guadeloupe and the Pacific Northwest. Her work has been featured in Transitions Abroad, Pology, Green Mama, Matador Travel, and Traveler’s Tales A Woman’s World Again.