A Girls Weekend in Portland: The highlights (and lowlights) of our trip to PDX

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It wasn’t until recently that I discovered the many gems of Oregon. This beautiful, rainy state has always had a part of my heart. For many years of my childhood, I was raised in Oregon and many of my family members still call the Pacific Northwest home. And although I moved on, spending my teens and early twenties in California then finding myself east where I discovered the Rockies, the familiarity of grey skies, year-round drizzle and the fresh smell of large pine trees will always make me feel at home.

Unfortunately, my childhood lacked adventure and exploration through my beautiful state. I have memories of spending time on the coast, but in recent years I have discovered Oregon has so much to offer. Until last month, I had been away from Oregon since our year-long road trip in our teardrop trailer. For many months, I had been planning a girls getaway trip with my high school friends in California, but with personal events and different schedules, it was hard to find a time to go as well as a destination we could all agree on.

As shoulder season approached, I knew I had to get this trip in or it would never happen. I perused through Southwest.com, looked for deals from San Jose and Denver, and finally found decently priced flights for me and my friends to Portland. A weekend didn’t seem like enough time, but we would make it work.

Embassy Suites

We decided on a classic, historic hotel in the middle of downtown Portland. The lobby was beautiful and connected to a restaurant, Mother’s Bistro and Bar, that was perfect for brunch. I do enjoy staying at hotel brands that are familiar since I’m a fan of consistency, and the Embassy Suites in Portland met all of our expectations. In addition to the charm of the hotel, guests were provided with a nightly cocktail hour and a full free breakfast. A free drink at night and a free omelet in the morning really made our stay here enjoyable.

Multnomah Falls

Thanks to Instagram, Multnomah Falls has been on my travel list for years. The sight of the long cascading falls and the picturesque bridge always caught my attention while scrolling through my feed. We took an Uber to the transit center in Portland then rode the Columbia Gorge Express. I had read reviews that parking was a nightmare at the falls and when we arrived, we witnessed how chaotic it was. I definitely recommend taking this shuttle instead of attempting to drive yourself. And be sure to purchase your tickets online so you have priority when boarding.

When we arrived, it was exactly what I expected. There were hoards of tourists and an overcrowded parking lot, but surprisingly, that didn’t bother me. I made my way to the Visitors Center, chatted with the volunteers, grabbed a trail map and forced my friends to hike to the top of the falls with me. We made our way to the top, 2.2 miles RT with an elevation gain of 700 ft. If we had more time, I would have loved to continue to Wahkeena Falls, but our schedule was stretched thin and we had to get back. Overall, it was definitely worth the hype and I would love to go back and bring the family along.

Southpark Seafood

After our hike at Multnomah Falls, we had reservations at Southpark Seafood in the heart of downtown Portland. Since I live in a landlocked state, I dreamt about chowders and all the seafood I could eat during this trip. Southpark was a beautiful, modern restaurant that offered a fair variety of dishes. My friends and I opted for the 3 course meals which seemed like the best way to taste different items on the menu. For my meal, I chose the clam chowder, halibut and a bourbon infused peach cake for dessert.

Unfortunately, I felt Southpark fell short on my expectations. The clam chowder was watery and the halibut, placed on a tomato like soup, was incredibly bland. My expectations for halibut are typically high since my father was a commercial fisherman and I was raised on fresh halibut from the cold waters of Alaska, yet my friend who is a halibut novice wasn’t a fan of the fish either. I finished my plate and couldn’t help but feel incredibly disappointed. The highlights were the beet salad and brussel sprouts, but both dishes are so obviously simple that anyone could replicate the recipe at home. Overall, I was not impressed with Southpark.

Grassa

Grassa, a downtown casual Italian eatery with raving Yelp reviews was one of the highlights of our trip. We were initially greeted with a long line that circled out the door, but found that patrons are unable to take a seat until they order. An organized concept that allowed guests to take a seat once there was availability, we had our plates of pasta ready only minutes after finding ourselves a table. We ordered the Spaghetti ‘Aglio Olio”, Squid Ink Tonnarelli, and Pork Belly Mac and Cheese, and we fell in love with each and every bite we took. The awesome atmosphere and delicious food made this spot memorable for us. I highly recommend Grassa!

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Blue Star Donuts

Over the years, my sweet tooth has matured and I often find that hyped up establishments serving sweets rarely live up to the raving reviews. During this trip, I opted to skip Voodoo donuts. I’ve tried it before and it wasn’t anything worth writing home about. And after one of our dinners, we tried a cute ice cream place and I found my stomach rumbling from discomfort moments later. So when my friends grabbed a donut at Blue Star before getting on our flights, I scanned the menu and decided it wasn’t for me. Turns out, skipping the donuts was a big mistake. I had no idea Blue Star Donuts were made for mature tastes like mine.

I had a bite of each friend’s donut: Cointreau Creme Brulee, Lemon Poppy Buttermilk Old-Fashioned, and Orange Olive Oil. Each donut was incredible but the Orange Olive Oil was phenomenal! Blue Star Donuts are gourmet, made from scratch and never has artificial ingredients in the product. Their tagline is “Donuts for Grownups”, and that is the perfect way to describe this place. I still regret not buying a dozen and bringing it back to Colorado with me!

Stumptown Coffee

An example of hype not living up to expectations, Stumptown Coffee was another disappointment for me. The Chai Tea Latte I ordered was so milky that I felt like I was drinking a warm cup of milk. My friend, a non coffee or tea drinker, ordered a hot chocolate and also commented on how her drink tasted like a warm cup of milk. We went back to the barista who was gracious enough to add chai to mine and chocolate to my friend’s, but even with the adjustments, our drinks were still too milky. Based on reviews I read afterwards, I am definitely in the minority, but I’m not the only person with this complaint. Given the opportunity, I would try it again, but I’ll probably stick to black coffee.

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Overall, a short but great trip to Portland. I often say I’m not a city person, but Portland was a city I really enjoyed and wouldn’t hesitate to spend time here again. Next trip, I’ll definitely spend time at one of the many breweries that were suggested by locals in the area. If you have any suggestions, let me know!

16 comments on “A Girls Weekend in Portland: The highlights (and lowlights) of our trip to PDX”

  1. Was the shuttle easy to ride to the Multnomah Falls? And is pick up in downtown Portland? I’m looking at their website and I’m hesitant about leaving a car and taking public transportation. Thanks.

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    1. We went to the transit center in Portland, it was like a 10-15 minute drive from downtown. We took an Uber to and from since we didn’t rent a car, so I’m not sure about how safe it is to leave a car but there was a big Fred Meyer right across the street. The bus ride itself was very easy and had only one stop at a state park before the falls. Some people did park at the state park then took the bus to the falls since there was a lot more parking there.

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  2. Stunning photos and this travel story of yours makes me dreaming of visiting this beautiful city of Portland someday most especially the Multnomah Falls, so amazing!

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  3. Oh I love the outdoors of Oregon. Such a beautiful part of the country. Portland is one of my favorite cities in the U.S. but I’ve never made it to Multnomah Falls yet!

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  4. I’ve never been to Portland but have always wanted to visit. This looks like such a fun girls trip! Our family would like to visit to enjoy some of that gorgeous fall color change!

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