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Metro Portland

This earthy city blends perfectly with nature on the banks of the Willamette River

Few cities can lay claim to such an incredible array of soul-stirring landscapes right on their doorstep as Portland. When skies are clear, the snow-covered Mount Hood dominates the eastern horizon, while the wild Pacific Ocean lies about 70 miles west. The Willamette River snakes through town, and in the south, bucolic Willamette Valley’s wine country draws wine lovers to its boutique wineries, fine restaurants and fantastic RV parks.

A cultural phenomenon, the city of Portland itself is more than the sum of its tourist mottos and hipster must-dos. With heavenly green spaces, picturesque streetscapes and an earthy, authentic vibe, this northwest Oregon town draws an eclectic and creative populace.

For all its cultural clout, Portland remains an unpretentious city that dresses for the weather and likes to philosophize rather than glamorize. It’s a place where you eat eggs from your own chickens for breakfast. There’s always a coffee roaster and a craft brewery within a five-minute walk, and downtown, office workers grab lunch at a food cart rather than frequent chain eateries.

What makes Portland so alluring is the greenery, literally everywhere, with more than 200 parks and gardens, and incredible wilderness areas at the heart of the metropolitan area. A recent study ranked Portland third in the number of parks when compared with other cities. The presence of so much nature inspires both locals and visitors to hit the local trails or waterways for great recreation.

Cultural Cachet

With a charming, compact downtown dotted with architectural gems and a refreshing scarceness of chain stores, Portland is one of the nation’s most walkable and likable cities. The town’s prevailing independent spirit and embrace of the outsider find expression on practically every street corner. There’s the iconic Powell’s City of Books, one of the world’s largest bookstores; Caffe Umbria Artisan Coffee Roster, purveyor of the city’s finest latte; and the unmissable Portland Art Museum, the city’s cultural highlight. Walk this beautiful space to soak in a world-class collection of Northwest, Native American and contemporary art.

From its hilltop vantage point, the monumental French Renaissance Revival Pittock Mansion, built in 1914, delivers sweeping views of the city. Henry Pittock rose from the ranks as a humble typesetter to become owner of The Oregonian newspaper and amass an empire that spanned real estate, banking, railroads, steamboats, sheep ranching and silver mining.

Tours of the restored chateau provide compelling insight into the lifestyle of the elite at the turn of the century, with exquisite rooms paneled with exotic woods and dripping with marble.

East Side Neighborhoods

Until the late ’90s, the city’s gritty, industrial Central Eastside neighborhood was largely ignored. Nowadays, it’s the crucible for Portland’s creative zeal and free-thinking spirit. It’s home to some of the region’s most innovative restaurants, cutting-edge boutiques, contemporary galleries and offbeat cafés. One of the best ways to take it all in is to ride the streetcar or take a stroll down the Eastbank Esplanade.

In a monumental 100-year-old laundry warehouse, the Yale Union is a modern exhibition space founded by local artists. Here, visitors will find a robust lineup of cultural events, exhibits and seminars that showcase homegrown and international contemporary artists.

The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry is one of the West’s leading science museums, with a permanent collection that explores themes surrounding space, the ocean, video game technology, renewable energy and regional agriculture, as well as hosting some of the nation’s most popular traveling exhibits, including Body Worlds and Mythbusters.

Epicure’s Delight

Punctuated with designer condos and apartments, the city’s Southeast Division is Portland’s hottest restaurant corridor, while in the Lower East Side Industrial District, Distillery Row features eight independent distilleries that produce more than 30 spirits, including vodka, gin, whiskey and aquavit. Throughout the area, local musicians perform song ranging from folk to rock to jazz and blues. If the waterside location proves too alluring to outdoor enthusiasts, you can rent kayaks and paddle from the dock near the Hawthorne Bridge.

Parks and Recreation

With its picture-postcard views of Mount Hood, a hike through Washington Park is a ritual for locals and a rite of passage for travelers to Portland. While the family-friendly zoo and Children’s Museum allow kids to blow off steam, the park’s major showpieces — the Portland Japanese Garden and the International Rose Test Garden — leave visitors breathless. Washington Park also is home to the Portland Zoo, with to 2,000 animals.

The City of Roses goes wild for its flowers, and there are few better homages to the rose than the International Rose Test Garden, where thousands of roses bloom in glorious technicolor from late May through September. The Japanese Garden has been hailed as the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan, with five serene gardens meticulously designed according to Buddhist, Shinto, Taoist and Zen principles.

Chinatown Greenery

The latest edition to Portland’s exquisite gardens, the Lan Su Chinese Garden takes up a whole block in Chinatown. The authentic Ming Dynasty-style garden was designed by landscape architects from Portland’s sister city, Suzhou, China, and includes covered walkways with intricate stonework, open colonnades, pavilions, the man-made Zither Lake and more than 400 species of plants including orchids, water plants, perennials and bamboos. During the summer, Lan Su is transformed into one of the most intimate and harmonious music venues in the region when it hosts the acclaimed Jazz in the Garden music series.

Portland is also home to one of the world’s largest urban forests. Forest Park stretches for seven miles along the eastern slope of the Tualatin Mountains overlooking the Willamette River, forming an important wildlife corridor. There are more than 70 miles of hiking trails. Forest Park also includes a stretch of Portland’s 40-Mile Loop. This extensive and interconnected trail system loops around Portland and includes the Springwater Corridor, a bicycle and pedestrian rail trail.

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