The largest city in Oregon, Portland is also one of the most laid-back metropolises in the U.S. Citizens are very environmentally conscious and the streets and sidewalks are usually filled with bicycles and pedestrians enjoying the journey as much as the destination. With all the green space scattered around the city, visiting a park is an easy way to enjoy the day with shelling out some green, but there are many other things that are just as much fun.
Saturday Market, which is also open on Sunday, is the largest arts and crafts market in the city. It opens in early March and continues through December 24th giving you a lot of time to do some Christmas shopping. While wandering through the 250 stalls you’ll find plenty to eat and a few vendors that are geared towards kids or pets. Take a break from visiting the stalls to listen to the musicians that are almost certainly playing on any one of the stages that surround the area.
Farmers Markets are set up in seven different locations, each open on a different day of the week. The Saturday market at Portland State University is open year round, but the others are summer events only, with varying opening and closing dates. Come here to shop for groceries from local farmers that range from fresh hazelnuts to sheep cheese. Most farms are family affairs and there’s no better way to know what’s in your food than to talk to the person that produced it.
Pioneer Courthouse Square
One full city block in the middle of downtown is designated as public space and affectionately known as the city’s living room. A hotel once stood here but after it was torn down, the city commission voted to create a city plaza on the spot. The architectures chosen to design the square were a self-styled “group of rabble-raising” architects and artists who promoted their design by painting it on the old parking structure that still stood. There’s a waterfall on the west side that outlines the entrance to an information centre and a small amphitheater used for concerts. The 50,000 bricks that pave the square were each purchased by an individual and it’s not unusual to see several people walking along bent over trying to find a single person’s name inscribed on a brick. The most recognized piece of art is Allow Me, also known as Umbrella Man, a life-size, bronze statue of a businessman holding an umbrella.
Old Town Historic District
Back in the 19th century this was the heart of the city, but the relocation of the harbor shifted the focus of downtown. Today it’s like walking through a living history museum with cast iron facades and buildings of red brick. Skidmore Fountain in the center was originally a source of water for residents and weekly art walks are frequently scheduled throughout the year. There are trendy nightlife spots just off the main core of the Old District and the nearby Tom McCall Waterfront Park has views of the Willamette River and plenty of green space to relax in. Come on a Saturday to visit the Saturday Market or just meander through the streets enjoying the atmosphere.
International Rose Test Garden
How can you not visit a rose garden while in the City of Roses? The gardens here are maintained by the American Rose Society and are used as a testing space for growing hybrid roses. Each garden has a different type of rose – over 550 varieties in all – with the award winners gathered in the Gold Medal Garden. The Shakespeare Garden is filled with botanicals mentioned in his writings, and the roses growing here are named after characters in his plays. An amphitheater hosts classical music concerts and also has space for tossing a Frisbee when no groups are playing. The entire garden is tended to by one or two gardeners with help from hundreds of volunteers throughout the year.
Cruise Powell’s Books
There are over a million books in stock making this the largest independent book store in the world. Both new and used books fill the shelves and as you walk down aisles, look for the signatures of writers scrawled on the pillars around the store. Get a map when you walk in and keep an ear out for readings, signings or meet-the-author events. When you find yourself growing weary of the weight of paper surrounding you, take a break in the coffee shop and, well, read a book.