Why Does Portland Have to be so Great?

Date July 15, 2008

South Waterfront
Portland’s South Waterfront

Just spent a few days in Portland, Oregon, and had a great time, but “coveting” is not a pleasant experience, I have to say. Anyway, Portland in July is so beautiful it’s kinda sick. The sun is bright, the air is clean, the breeze is perfect and everything is in full bloom. It’s like walking through a very convincing sales brochure designed to keep you there forever (with no hint of the less than perfect weather of fall/winter/spring).

CITY OF NEIGHBORHOODS: Portland is fairly condensed with it’s famous and smart urban planning. Outside of the downtown area is a whole host of connected neighborhoods, and each of these has a specific feeling and it’s own little commercial district. It’s actually easier to walk or bike than to drive, which makes the streets very active on a human level.

Portlander’s love their gardens in the summer!

LOCAL FRESH FOOD (and coffee!!) CULTURE: You wanna see some people freak out over food? Talk to a Portlander about coffee, or watch them all glaze over when talking about berries in the summer. Chef-owned unique restaurants are everywhere throughout downtown and mixed through the neighborhoods. Almost all of them pride themselves on using local fresh ingredients and tailoring the menu to what’s in season. And the Saturday Farmer’s Market is packed with people! You can even get authentic southern Chicken and Biscuits from fellow Raleighite, Walter Alexander at his Pine State Biscuits stand.
Portland Farmer\'s Market
Saturday Farmer’s Market in Portland

TRANSPORTATION OPTIONS: Wow. I’m not a big city girl and figuring out a bus system or mass transit can be a little intimidating to me. Not so in Portland. The city grid itself is very easy to understand and on top of that, there is a great (and free) streetcar system downtown, a light rail system, and a bus system which are all used by the whole population. Cycling is hugely encouraged and supported through bike lanes and paths. There is even a skateboarding/skate route noted throughout downtown. AND they have Zipcar, cars that sit around in convenient places for you to reserve for an hour or longer and then just walk the block or two to where it is, hop in, and get where you wanna go.
Portland Skate Route
Portland Skate Route

Portland Cyclists
Portland Bike Crew watching an anti-Foie Gras protest

PARKS and RECREATION: There are big and small parks all over the city, some celebrate nature and big scenic views, some are restful, or for dogs, or fun for children, or for roses. Whether in the heart of downtown or in larger natural areas within cycling distance of the core, they are all well used. There are also street festivals and markets everywhere all summer long.
Jameson Park Fountain
Enjoying the rock fountain at Jameson Park

Tanner Springs Park in Portland
Tanner Springs: quiet urban park with natural grasses and sustainable water features

EMPHASIS ON QUALITY OF LIFE: It’s a different vibe that as an east-coaster, I just find shocking. At least through my rose-colored glasses of a visitor, it seems like in Portland, yer not about “what you do” as much as yer about “what you did last weekend.” The emphasis is different. The competitive feeling is more about what kind of outdoor “gear” you own than your work status.

Portland Green Roof
Green roof in Alberta Arts district

I’ll have a “things to do on your visit” post tomorrow, and then I’ll leave it alone :-)

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One Response to “Why Does Portland Have to be so Great?”

  1. steve said:

    no “things to do on your visit” post.
    I’m going there in a couple of weeks……

    Nice blog. Got there via the gmail route

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