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Loving: Portland

We first met Portlanders Julie and Brian last summer when we stayed at le Hotel Chuckleberry (their rescued Pittie) during our Northwest adventure. Yes, that’s right – we didn’t meet them until we slept in their spare room (and recently, they stayed with us!). Fortunately, the stars aligned, we became a fearsome foursome, and we lovingly refer to them as our Portland doppelgangers.

Portland (Oregon) natives are becoming an increasingly rare breed–when I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to turn 18 and go to college in say, New York or San Francisco or even Chicago–anywhere, but here.  It felt so small and boring to me.  Fast forward another 35 years and wham, Portland has become the perfect small city that I always craved.

I didn’t end up going to college further than a couple hour’s drive from Portland after all and ended up being a mom to some pets before I ever graduated, which meant moving to a big new city was going to be a lot trickier and more expensive, so I plopped back down in Portland and spread my roots.

During the 90s there was a huge influx of California transplants to the area, which did wonders for sparking the renovation of some of the industrial areas into hip and happening shopping and lofts.  Restaurants were opening seemingly every week, everywhere and of course, the microbrew industry got rolling with a fury.  The downtown area spread out a bit with some cool new districts like the Pearl and Nob Hill just outside of downtown proper and the east side has been booming ever since–the Willamette River bisects the city making the west and east sides, with two very distinctive vibes.

In the early 2000s, Portland seem to become known by more of the country and not just our southern neighbors–and we’ve just kept growing.  Portland draws lots of people who love the outdoors–yes, it rains a lot (but mainly in the late fall/winter/early spring)–and if you come from an area that snows a lot and you’re a person who is not into snow, then this type of winter would appeal to you.  I’m talking about outdoorsy people who don’t care if it’s raining and continue doing all the things they normally would–we are a cycling mecca, a runner’s dream, a dog lover’s paradise and in such close proximity to fantastic rock climbing, a plethora of fabulous hiking in the Gorge and just an hour and a half from both the Oregon coast and Mt. Hood for year-round skiing and snowboarding.

I’ve loved meeting so many people from all over the country (and world) who’ve moved to Portland so here’s my pitch to you to come visit for yourself.

So let’s recap – perfect for foodies?  Check.  A place to sample hundreds of delicious beers made locally (IPA, NWPA, Porters, Stouts, Reds, and lagers (don’t even dream of ordering a Bud)?  Yes.  Willamette Valley Winery tours full of fabulous Pinot Noirs?  Please.  Hiking, biking, running, skiing/snowshoeing and boarding, kayaking (2 rivers run through us), climbing?  Sure.

Not convinced?  Here’s a little sampler of what a group of both natives and transplants had to say about Portland-living:

GARY: Moved to Portland in 2000 from Liverpool, England to enjoy the outdoors

Top three favorite  things about living in Portland and what keeps you happy living there:

  1. The outdoors!
  2. The climate here is really mild – summer’s are warm, but not scorching nor humid.  Winters are not too cold and don’t prevent you from running or riding your bike if you have some good rain gear.
  3. Good food is plentiful here!

Any advice for a visitor? Venture off the beaten track – skip the common things like seeing Multnomah Falls and go for a hike somewhere else in the Gorge. Wahclella Falls is really beautiful and not nearly as many people go there.

AMI: Native

Top three favorite things about living in Portland and what keeps you happy living there:

  1. I love all the food carts and restaurants here in general!
  2. I appreciate having so many fun things to do, relatively close to me–the proximity to the coast and to the mountains is just a short drive away and our dogs love it.
  3. The casualness of the city is very appealing–people really don’t dress up here for much and it’s nice to just be casual, comfortable and relaxed and not feel under-dressed.

Any advice for a visitor? Take a food cart tour – they’re really fun and delicious!

MICHAEL: Moved to Portland in 1992 from London, England and I came here for a girlfriend, but that didn’t work out – later I met my wife!

Top three favorite  things about living in Portland and what keeps you happy living there:

  1. There are some really good pubs in this town.  This keeps me very happy!
  2. I appreciate the the political bent of the northwest – it’s very liberal and that suits me.
  3. It’s an artsy city. There are cool exhibits all the time and there’s First Thursday downtown and Last Thursday on NE Alberta St. Both are just parties from gallery to gallery, and that’s a lot of fun!

Any advice for a visitor? Make sure you get out of Portland because there is so much to see nearby–hiking in the Gorge, Mt. Hood, the coast – so many options.

AMANDA: Native

Top three favorite things about living in Portland and what keeps you happy living there:

  1. Food carts!
  2. I really enjoy all the open spaces to walk – there are lots of great parks and green spaces all over the city.  It’s nice to have so many places to walk our dogs and enjoy the outdoors.
  3. I love having 4 different seasons – all the green lushness from the rain is worth it, but the leaves turn into so many pretty colors and fall off in the fall.  Winter feels like winter though it doesn’t snow much here–if it does, it’s usually just a few inches and the city shuts down for it.  Summer is perfect and pleasant; it’s not humid at all.

Any advice for a visitor? Be sure to check out the Waterfront Park and Saturday Market – there’s a stand that sells the tastiest, most toothsome “elephant ears” ever.  For those who don’t know what that is, they’re huge doughy vegan concoctions that are deep fried and then coated in cinnamon and sugar.  Delightful!

JUSTIN:  Native

Top three favorite things about living in Portland and what keeps you happy living there:

  1. I love the mild climate. It allows you do just about anything, any time of year.
  2. Also, the variety of food, you crave it, you got it.  Portland has so many restaurants (I think more per capita than San Francisco, last I heard) and food carts. It boggles the mind!
  3. The work. There are lots of job opportunities in my line of work as an electrician.  It’s important for me to always have those available to me.

Any advice for a visitor? Check out Powell’s Bookstore – my favorite spot in Portland and go hit some food carts to sample some great cooking!

BRIAN: Moved from Oakland, CA to Portland in 2007 for a girl

Top three favorite things about living in Portland and what keeps you happy living there:

  1. The incredibly robust bike infrastructure coupled with people being aware of cyclists on the road, making it very easy and safe to get around by bicycle.
  2. I have to admit I love the rain, besides making everything green, lush and beautiful–it also helps to keep our population and urban growth from getting out of control.
  3. It’s a dog-friendly city and one of my current favorite places is Velo Cult, which allows me to bring my dog into the bar/shop and have a local craft beer while looking at their collection of vintage bikes.

Any advice for a visitor? If you travel to Portland, I highly recommend finding a friend who knows how to navigate the city by bike.  You see so much of our wonderful city be it old Craftsman homes, to the small and varying neighborhoods with their distinct personalities. We also have a wonderful 40 mile long multi-use trail that happens to run along the river – giving a great view of the city and all our bridges, which are interesting pieces of industrial architecture. Get your maps right here.

JULIE: Native

Top three favorite things about living in Portland and what keeps you happy living there:

  1. The animal welfare community in Portland is unusually collaborative and works so well together for the most part. I’ve been volunteering and in rescue for the past 15 years with multiple organizations (like Born Again Pit Bull Rescue, Family Dogs New Life Shelter and the Oregon Humane Society, and we have a very high overall adoption rate for cats and dogs in comparison to the rest of the country.  Oregonians are fairly big on spaying and neutering, too!  Compared to other cities and states, this is truly a utopia for pets and helping animals is a big part of my life. Being in Portland keeps it a pretty positive experience.
  2. I love that the traffic is never too bad and that I can get just about anywhere I need to go by bike or by car in about 20 minutes from where I live on the east side.
  3. I garden in a “we grow most of our own food for the year in a massive food production scale” kind of way and Portland has  the perfect gardening climate for this type of undertaking!  We have fantastic crops and I love to supplement with all the amazing produce at our farmers markets!

Any advice for a visitor? Make sure you take a day or two to do all the “usual” things that visitors come and see, but then ask some locals for advice on must-dos/must-try to get a different twist.  Grab a Willamette Week and see what’s happening while you’re there and try some of it–it’s a paper for the fun and hip (but not necessarily hipster) crowd.  If it were me coming to Portland, I’d want to spend the majority of my time exploring the east side because I’m into the more local, mom and pop shop type restaurants and bars and boutiques–which the east side is essentially made of.  Be sure to leave yourself a couple of days to do things just outside of Portland, too – like wine tasting, or summer snow at the mountain, or some hiking in the Gorge.

Thank you, Julie and Brian – and thank you to each and every house guest over this last week! By now, we should be ready to re-enter the real world, right? (Or something close, right?)

PS: First ‘U RULE’ photo from here, or find it in our Print Shop, here.

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  • Um, wow! I always knew Portland was a place we’d love to visit, but this may have jumped it up on our ‘places to travel’ list. Thanks for the insight!ReplyCancel

  • Rachel7.26.13 - 2:38 PM

    Portland seems like such an awesome place to live! I love that everyone says how mild the weather is – living in NJ, it is humidity central all summer long (except for several days this week where it actually dropped down to the 60s). I would love to live in a place where it wasn’t so sticky and muggy.
    Thanks for the tour and your garden is just beautiful!! :-)ReplyCancel

  • Every time I hear someone talk about Portland I keep thinking I just need to hop on a plane and visit… I think I’d love it.ReplyCancel

  • Deanna7.29.13 - 11:46 AM

    Love this post! I am a Portland transplant who moved here from Montana almost 10 years ago. Yes, it rains a lot, but the summers are to die for. Close to the mountains for lots of hiking, close to the ocean for even more hiking, and the numerous pubs, restaurants, and food carts make Portland a great place to live, even when it’s raining. I second Julie’s comment about the animal welfare community – most of my friends and acquaintances have pets and I would say 99% of them chose to adopt pets from the humane society or other pet rescue organizations in the area. It is so lovely to see a community so supportive of adopting pets that would otherwise be unwanted.ReplyCancel

  • Helen7.30.13 - 1:06 AM

    I visited Portland last year and loved it. Not only is it dog-friendly, it is very pit bull friendly, a breed I adore so much. Thank you Portland.ReplyCancel

  • HMC10.3.13 - 11:11 PM

    This is too funny. I really enjoyed your post on Portland because it is soo true! We live in Portland and I’m a transplant and my husband is a rare native! Good luck on the house renovations! We have been restoring a 1912 Craftsman for the past five years! xoxo!ReplyCancel

  • Kim10.5.13 - 11:51 AM

    Thanks so much, HMC! Best of luck on your restoration, too :)ReplyCancel

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