Close your eyes and pretend as though you’re not living in the midst of a once-in-a-century pandemic.

Instead of holing up in your apartment with six months’ worth of toilet paper and an unseemly collection of boxed wine, imagine you’ve been gifted 24 hours in Portland, OR, and have a full day to complete as many activities as possible.

Because you’re fairly short on time, it’s essential that you make the most of every meal, hike and off-the-wall dive bar.

In this alternate universe — a reality, it’s worth noting, we once knew as “real life” — you’d need a visitor’s guide much like the one you’re currently reading. So, without further ado, let’s get weird.

Downtown Portland OR

Photo courtesy of Travis Roberts

Congratulations! You’ve made it through Portland International Airport (where you were sure to snap a photo of its unapologetically ’90s carpet for your followers on Instagram) and have just boarded a MAX train bound for downtown.

When you disembark at Pioneer Square, walk a few blocks west until you hit Cheryl’s on 12th, one of Portland’s best breakfast spots.

Activities to try while in Downtown Portland…

  1. Make sure you visit the Portland Art Museum, otherwise known as the PAM
  2. Check out Powell’s Books, possibly the most famous landmark in Portland
  3. Visit Tom McCall Waterfront Park for a breathtaking view of the Willamette River
  4. Grab a bloody Mary at one of the Rose City’s oldest and most venerable dives, the Virginia Cafe
  5. Bum around Chinatown, and consider picking up a doughnut (or 12) from Voodoo

Northwest Portland OR

Photo courtesy of Travis Roberts

After you’ve experienced Downtown PDX, hop on the Portland Streetcar and head west toward NW 21st Avenue, where you’ll run into countless boutique shops, indie bookstores, pizza parlors and McMenamins locations.

If you feel like catching a matinee, consider Cinema 21. If you’re craving an afternoon coffee, check out Coffee Time. And if wooded seclusion is calling your name, walk west on Thurman until you hit the Lower Macleay entrance to Forest Park.

Activities to try in NW Portland…

  1. Walk the perimeter of Providence Park, home of the Portland Timbers
  2. Grab lunch at Thai Bloom!, one of Portland’s most delectable Thai restaurants
  3. Pad your step count with an urban hike through Portland’s bougie West Hills
  4. Pick up a(nother) book from Daedalus Books, an offensively cute hole-in-the-wall
  5. If the weather isn’t too unpleasant (we’re using our imaginations, after all), consider waiting in line for a scoop from Salt & Straw

Northeast Portland OR

Photo courtesy of Travis Roberts

With your food, movie and forest cravings satisfied, hop on the 77 Halsey/Broadway bus and make your way to Northeast Portland.

Whether you’re interested in bumming around Hollywood, Alberta or Mississippi (or all of the above), Northeast Portland is the perfect district in which to kill an afternoon. It’s simply too big an area to provide a comprehensive list of possibilities, but the following five provide a decent primer on how and where to begin.

Activities to try in Northeast Portland…

  1. Grab a delectable (and exceedingly messy) snack from Reo’s Ribs on Sandy Boulevard
  2. Check out the happy hour deals at Alberta Street’s Bye and Bye
  3. Get your camera ready at Peninsula Park, one of NE Portland’s most popular outdoor recreational areas
  4. Pick up a late afternoon taco from Mississippi’s ¿Por Qué No? (Trust us, you won’t regret it!)
  5. Head east on Fremont Avenue until you hit Rocky Butte, where you’ll encounter a stunning view of Mt. Hood, Mt. Saint Helens and the Columbia River

Southeast Portland OR

Photo courtesy of Travis Roberts

5:30-8:30 p.m. — Southeast Portland

Now that you’ve experienced most of the livelier areas in Portland, hop on the Orange Line MAX and make your way south toward Sellwood/Moreland. Here you’ll happen upon numerous family-friendly haunts, coffee shops and tea houses.

You’ll also be within walking distance of Sellwood Riverfront Park, one of the Rose City’s most sought-after destinations.

Activities to try in Southeast Portland…

  1. If you can manage to snag a seat, enjoy the cozy atmosphere (and stiff drinks) from Kay’s Bar
  2. If you’re feeling fancy (and sober enough to make the walk), hoof it a couple blocks west until you hit Bible Club, Portland’s one and only speakeasy
  3. Want to catch another movie? Try the Moreland Theater, a Sellwood institution.
  4. Grab dinner at Jade Teahouse, this writer’s favorite restaurant in Southeast Portland. Hot tip: order a bowl of Tom’s stir-fried glass noodles!
  5. Need to work off all those calories? Consider an evening stroll through Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge, one of Portland’s most tranquil recreational areas.

St. John Portland, OR

Photo courtesy of Travis Roberts

A whirlwind sojourn through Rip City wouldn’t be complete without a nightcap in North Portland’s St. John’s neighborhood. Call a Lyft (unless you’re comfortable with a couple of bus transfers) and head to Cathedral Park, one of Portland couples’ favorite places to get hitched. Known for its serenity and family-friendly atmosphere, St. John’s is the perfect place to wind down the night.

Activities to try in St. John’s…

  1. Grab one (last) drink at St. John’s Theater & Pub, yet another McMenamins location
  2. OK, maybe one more drink. After all, it wouldn’t be a trip to St. John’s without a visit to Slim’s PDX
  3. Craving a snack after all those brews? Wursthaus to the rescue!
  4. Collect your thoughts with a late-night stroll through North Lombard Street’s Pier Park
  5. OK, seriously. We mean it this time. One FINAL drink, this time courtesy of Occidental Brewing Co

Safe travels

Now that you’ve hiked, eaten and drunk your way through Portland, it’s probably best you call it a night. You have a flight in the morning, after all, and unless you’re one of the thousands of folks who have visited Portland in the last few years and decided to make it your permanent home, you’ll want to be well-rested for whatever lies ahead. Until next time!



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