One of the perks of living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest is the proximity to mountains, beaches, and several bustling metropolises. For instance, in a less than 4 hour drive south of Seattle, you can find yourself in Portland, Oregon. Aptly named “The Rose City,” Portland is known for a chicken named Colin (Portlandia reference here)…but in all seriousness, an excellent food scene, hipster styling, tax-free shopping, strong coffee, and 12 bridges that straddle the Willamette river, which divides the city.
Recently, a couple of girlfriends and I headed to Portland for weekend getaway to enjoy good food and taking advantage of tax-free shopping; escaping the weekend soccer mom drill to reconnect with each other and let our hair down. Leaving early on a Saturday morning with plans to return mid-afternoon on Sunday, we refined our itinerary to make the most of our quick trip. I’m sharing our top picks below:
Up first…Brunch at Olympia Provisions
An absolute MUST…this stop was a crowd favorite. After our trip south, we were famished and luckily had the foresight to have made a reservation for this popular charcuterie spot in NW Portland. Even with our table reserved, we had to wait probably 15 minutes to be seated (sadly, such is the food scene here in Portland). But the food was well worth the wait! We shared the Spanish charcuterie board filled with Spanish salami, ham, and chorizo. While the others enjoyed an eggs benedict (which they continue to dream about), I had a delicious hash of sausage and delicata squash topped with the most perfect poached egg. The wait staff definitely knows their stuff, as our waitress helped us navigate a menu with many delicious options. This is probably one of the best brunches I’ve enjoyed in recent memory!
Then meander thru Northwest Portland & the Pearl District
In addition to saving 10% in sales tax, Portland has some fantastic shopping. The Pearl District and Northwest neighborhoods are host to a number of great options; both small and large retailers alike. Right off of Burnside (the main east/west thoroughfare), you could spend hours browsing the shelves of Powell’s Books, Portland’s famously huge independent bookstore. I would suggest first grabbing a coffee across the street at Stumptown Coffee. You may see their nitro coffee on the shelves of your local Trader Joe’s or grab their beans at your favorite grocer, but this is an opportunity to have a barista craft your coffee in the Motherland.
From there, we headed into the Pearl District. You can find local fashion and houseware boutiques such as House of Lolo (premium denim, luxe cashmere, and refined basics), local designer Bridge & Burn (a quintessential NW fashion house filled with plaid, beanies, reusable designer coffee mugs, and perfect flat-brimmed hats) and Porch Light (air plants, unique handmade jewelry, cards, glass and tableware). I would also recommend a trip through Anthropologie here. I know, you likely have an Anthropologie store in your backyard, or at least are familiar with their offerings via their website. However, Portland is home to one of only two “Anthropologie & Co.” stores in the nation, which are more like a department store; offering a wide selection of home furnishings, a BLDN bridal boutique, a shoe section as well as their assortment of unique fashion finds. In addition to two floors of beautiful home displays, the downstairs also features a boutique with apparel and jewelry unique to the Portland store.
Then dine at Mediterranean Exploration Company
Or try one of the other restaurants within the Toro Bravo restaurant group (these include the famous Tasty n Alder and Toro Bravo, among others). Renowned for their fusion flavors combined with seasonal PNW flare, you cannot go wrong with any of these unique culinary experiences. At MEC, we were recommended the yellow tail carpacacio (pictured) and I was skeptical when I was told that the octopus is a staff favorite. Ordinarily I find octopus to be chewy, but this was smoky dish melted in your mouth. Quite honestly, the best octopus I’ve ever tasted! I would order it again. House made labneh (a cauliflower-based dip) with two orders of pita…also a must. The table next to us highly recommended sharing a Turkish coffee after our meal, we’re just old ladies that can’t drink caffeine that late!
Although we didn’t make it this time, I would highly recommend making a reservation at the Voicebox, which are private karaoke suites complete with bottle and food service. While I would never be brave enough to belt out tunes in front of a bar full of people, I have a running list of my favorite songs (mostly 90’s favorites like “4 Non-Blondes”) in preparation for a private concert among friends. In addition to a full bar for courage, they also serve delicious late-night snacks like tater-tots and buffalo cauliflower. Reservations are recommended and there is are minimum requirements for weekend nights.
Rest at the Radisson Red
With a central location and unique, pop decor, The Radisson Red is a fantastic stay in downtown Portland. Central to most everything (located in the downtown core), the hotel offers both hip vibes and the comforts of home. We loved all of the fun photos ops with pops of color everywhere and interesting murals around every corner, the devil is in the artistic details at this hotel. Yet, at the end of a long day spent exploring all of Portland’s offerings, we snuggled into plush down comforter laden beds and slept in peacefully. For comfort paired with a cool, downtown vibe (and an insta-worthy venue), look no further than the Radisson Red.
Also, we got around Portland really easily using Uber. Rather than spending time navigating an unfamiliar city and parking at various locales, we choose to rely on Uber to transport us. This was probably the best idea we had; we shopped, dined and explored without a care as to where to leave the car, who was driving and how to get there. And I experienced my first Uber Tesla ride in Portland!
Another genius idea? I ordered Uber Eats when returning home Sunday evening. With my family at home awaiting my arrival, the last thing I wanted to do was prepare a last minute meal. Instead, I found our favorite local Indian restaurant on Uber Eats and had it delivered to our doorstep shortly after I walked through the door.
Reflexology Massage at Foot Bar
You cannot visit Portland without a trip to Foot Bar. My close friend lives in Portland; she turned me on to this gem years ago and I seriously visit every time I find myself in the Rose City. I even have an account there! This natural spa focuses on reflexology massage that will change your life. Relaxing vibes start with armotherapy and tea service (although you can order wine as well). I would suggest at least a 75 minute massage and, yes, it may “just” be your feet, but you will feel the benefits throughout your body. In particular, when planning a girlfriends’ trip, this spa is the ultimate in relaxation because you can both unwind yet sit side-by-side and chat. In addition to foot baths complete with scrubs, masks and the massage, they also offer non-toxic polishes for a true pedicure.
Travel and time with loved ones are two priorities for me; both are accomplished with a quick girlfriend weekend getaway. Even with hectic schedules due to work and family commitments, it’s possible to make even a short amount of time to explore and reconnect.
Portland is a gem of a city to visit. With more time the city offers plenty of additional activities for outdoor and cultural enthusiasts alike with Forest Park and the Portland Historical Society located close to downtown. There are also many delicious restaurants to try and a fantastic vintage shopping scene still left for me to explore. Luckily, with Portland’s proximity to Seattle and with close friends living in the Rose City, I’m already planning my return!
Thank you for reading. Please leave me any Portland recommendations or, if you’re planning a trip to Portland soon, request any additional recs in the comments. Happy travels! ~Jenn
A special ‘thank you’ to Radisson Red Hotel Portland and to Uber for partnering with me on this post. While this post was sponsored in part by both the hotel and the ride delivery service, you can always expect all opinions expressed on this blog to be entirely my own.