Seattle is a spectacular city to live in, but let’s face it: it’s lovely to take a little break every once in a while to recharge and rejuvenate too. While Portland is a great place to visit year round, it is beyond beautiful in spring, with flowering roses, tulips, and cherry blossoms bursting into bloom.
The Rose City is definitely one of our top weekend getaways from Seattle. We recently had a fabulous trip here over an extended weekend. While we’re still suffering from vacation withdrawal symptoms, here’s the lowdown of everything we did so you can plan a fun-filled getaway.
We’re suckers for a good, gorgeous road trip, especially if it involves stunning views of Mount Rainier. We drove to Portland from Seattle on I-5 for about three hours (it’s about 175 miles). We’d highly recommend not traveling on Friday late afternoon/early evening as that’s when the traffic is the worst. The road trip is especially beautiful in spring when everything around is green and blooming!
WHERE TO STAY
The Porter Hotel
This trendy new hotel in Portland’s vibrant downtown area is a great choice for both business and leisure travelers. The Porter is a Hilton hotel and has a great location adjacent to the Willamette River. As a bonus, it is pretty close to the airport too. The biggest USP of this boutique hotel is its buzzing location. It is right where all the action is—The Waterfront Park, Keller Auditorium, and Pioneer Courthouse Square are all within walking distance. Portland’s stunning cherry blossoms at the Waterfront park are at peak bloom around this time of the year, just steps away from The Porter.
With its gorgeous river views, The Porter is ideal for a restful getaway. The hotel has many amenities for a relaxing stay like a well-stocked library, an inviting indoor pool with a hot tub, a sauna, steam room, meditation spa, and a fitness center. The hotel has everything you’d expect from a luxury stay, plus genuine warmth and superlative service. The hospitality is extraordinary, where the staff went out of the way to make sure we were comfortable.
The hotel has over 300 super comfortable rooms to choose from. With four unique dining options, you’re spoilt for choice here; Terrane Italian Kitchen + Bar for decadent Italian meals, Xport Bar & Lounge for happy hour cocktails, Chiosco for to-go Neapolitan pizzas and Portland Exchange Grocer & Goods, for all day snacking. Executive Chef AJ Voytko is at the helm of all the culinary operations here. Xport, the rooftop bar also boasts of a bird’s eye view of downtown Portland. The bar recently started brunch service and they specialize in raw seafood and rosé kicks! On a clear day, you can see Mount Hood.
The Vintages Trailer Resort
The Vintages Trailer Resort is a unique lodging option in the heart of Willamette Valley. The trailers are housed in a 15-acre RV park, which offers lovely views of the neighboring vineyards. 19 different vintage trailers have been restored and renovated to provide an out-of-the-ordinary vacation experience. As the name suggests, the trailers are outfitted with vintage-style furniture, upholstery, and decor. It’s a great place to stay for a romantic weekend or a girls trip. The trailers are thoughtfully outfitted with stylish amenities like luxurious terrycloth robes, L’occitane toiletries, and gourmet pour-over coffee. There is a cute little gift shop on the premises, where you can buy fun games, wine, and ice-cream.
The resort features 33 both fully restored and new custom fabricated trailers, some dating back to as early as 1947. The trailers also come with outdoor propane grills, perfect for springtime grilling, where you can whip up a nice grilled dinner! There is a swimming pool and hot tub in the clubhouse as well, which could be really fun in warmer weather. The best way to explore wine country is to go winery-hopping on a bike and take in the gorgeous sights as you bike around. They offer bike rentals are a part of their different packages too. The RV park comes alive with twinkling fairy lights at night, and it is really nice to stroll around with a glass of wine in hand. You can even upgrade your stay with a pizza and pints package, and more such options.
We stayed in the Vagabond trailer, which is cozy and comfortable. We found fun boardgames in our trailer and spent a nice evening playing them and sipping wine. We woke up to an incredible sunrise and to the sounds of birds chirping. While walking around, we found the park strewn with beautiful flowers and wild blackberries. The toilets can get a bit cramped but you can access bigger bathrooms in the clubhouse. The best part about staying at The Vintages? Furry friends are welcome too! In fact, the resort is right next to a dog park where the dogs can play and run about freely.
Where to eat:
Have a leisurely brunch at The Portland Exchange Grocer + Goods
This is a cute, sunlit bistro at the Porter Hotel where you can sit down for a leisurely brunch, or have a yummy smoothie, fresh juice or kombucha to go. The pastries at the PDX exchange Grocer +Goods deserve a special mention, especially the red velvet cheesecake. Choose from freshly baked croissants, danish pastries, scones, cookies, cheesecakes and so much more. For a substantial brunch, you can order the Italian-inspired breakfast sandwiches, polenta bowl or breakfast burrito, that keep you full for hours.
You can also choose from cured meats, paninis and calzones for that evening pick-me-up. We’d suggest getting a table by the window here, ordering some sweet treats and gourmet coffee, and spend an afternoon reading or people-watching, as seasoned Portlandians continue their day outside. Looking for something a bit stronger? You can also enjoy a glass of wine or some seasonal punch here during happy hour.
The Portland exchange has a rustic charm to it, and it also caters to huge appetites throughout the day- as early as 6 am, so when the tea-time pangs hit you at 5 pm. So for all those of you who need to fuel up early in the morning, this is the place for you. The market-style cafe has more than just fresh food. They have a retail section that sells fresh produce and local Portland favorite grocery goods from brands like Tails and Trotters, Olympic Provisions, Jacobsen Salt, and Oregon Olive Mill Olive Oil.
Relish authentic Indian food at Tiffin Asha
Tiffin Asha has made the journey from a small food cart to a beautiful brick-and-mortar restaurant while dishing out the best dosas (an Indian crepe) in town. Indian food in the US is largely homogenized, as lots of ethnic cuisines tend to be. You’d probably expect butter chicken and saag paneer to be standard Indian fare, but there is so much more diversity to the subcontinent’s ancient cuisines and food practices. There is a plethora of rich regional cuisines in India. Tiffin Asha serves up traditional south Indian food and does a pretty phenomenal job at that. Here, you can lose yourself in mounds of soft, freshly-steamed idlis and huge crispy masala dosas.
“She fell for the South Indian, then the South Indian food.” Sheila Bommakanti fondly talks about her partner, Chef Elizabeth Golay when she narrates their story. Bommakanti and Golay are a married couple, who are also business partners. Bommakanti is the business whiz, while Golay is the magician whipping up delicacies in the kitchen. Together they are on a mission—to put South Indian food on the global food map, and to create a safe space for the community. And by the looks of it, they’re succeeding on both counts.
Being born and raised in India, I have fairly rigorous standards in Indian food. Tiffin Asha did not just make the cut but surpassed my expectations at every point. Every mouthful here was a nostalgic one. The food is robustly flavored and delicately spiced without being heavy. The flavors felt reminiscent of the motherland, and the presentation was elegantly modern. In a nutshell, this is as authentic as it gets, in this part of the world. Make sure to order the papadum with an assortment of homemade chutney, that lets you sample a variety of different condiments. Try the cheese dosa, which takes dosa to the next level with creamy, white cheddar and wash it down with a chai (spiced Indian tea). And do leave some space for the ginger-honey kulfi, which is a love affair between spicy ginger flakes and almond caramel nuttiness.
Tiffin Asha is a great restaurant to go to when you love Indian food, as you’ll be comforted by familiar, loved flavors and textures. The hospitality here is as great as the food. It is also a great place to go to if you’re new to Indian cuisine or are experimenting with it, as everything is beautifully presented, with lots of vegan and gluten-free options, and most importantly, the hosts will make you feel right at home.
Savor an Italian-inspired meal at Terrane
Terrane at The Porter Hotel is a recent welcome addition to Portland’s vibrant culinary scene. You can let the worries of the day dissipate here with a bracingly sharp Bloody Mary. The focus here is on fresh, seasonal Northwest produce. What’s truly spectacular about Terrane is that the freshness of the ingredients really shines through, as it should with great Italian food. The meat is tender to the bone, and the flavors are fresh and simple, resulting in dishes that are sublime. Think fresh ricotta with housemade sourdough bread, mussels poached in white wine and roasted tomato, and pappardelle with mama’s ragu and pecorino romano. Also, they make their pasta in-house, daily.
Terrane is about a delicious, languorous meal. There is no rushing things here. You can start with delicious appetizers of salumi and cheese, move on to a lush green salad, dig into a delicious plate of handmade pasta, help yourself to yet another course of grilled meat or seafood, and finish off with a decadent dessert. They have a full-service bar as well and serve delectable cocktails to wash down all that food with. This is the place for a special dinner date or a night out with family or friends, filled with laughter and fun conversation.
The wood-fired grill takes center stage here—with meat and vegetable dishes, vying for equal attention. The orange fire hearth also adds a cozy touch to the ambiance. Jamed Beard winning chef AJ Voytko is at the helm of Terrane, and the other restaurants at The Porter. The restaurant serves all three meals a day, including a hearty breakfast with items like polenta pancakes and porchetta hash. While everything is delicious here, we’d especially recommend it for dinner because the place becomes almost enchanting with mood lighting and candlelit tables in the evening. We fell in love with the arancini, which is crispy-golden on the outside and melty, cheesy goodness inside. We also loved their grilled swordfish with garlic and capers, with perfectly flaky fish and a delicious buttery sauce. This fish was so fresh tasting that it seemed like it was caught that very day. You can check out their dinner menu here.
Enjoy delicious smoothies and plant-based bowls at Kure
Juice is always a good idea! With six locations in Portland, founders Nate Higgins and Nick Armour are on a quest since 2011 to change how people think about juice. Kure is the place to go if you want to stay on your fitness track while on vacation, and also if want to reset your system after all the overindulgences. We tried their Lush Life smoothie (Pineapple, banana, kale, spinach, ginger, O.J., agave, ice), and it was filling and incredibly delicious too.
They have perfect pre-and-post-workout drinks and snacks to enjoy before power yoga or after a grueling boot camp class. But besides the fitness conscious crowd, busy corporates
who swear by Kure too. If you have a meeting or run to or a very busy day, their meal shakes are a godsend. They’re nutritious, rich in antioxidants, delicious, and easy to drink on the go. They also offer protein-rich bars, in flavors like almond butter and sea salt, which can shop online here.
Besides getting your organic juice fix, you can also enjoy a healthy, tasty lunch here. They serve hot bowls, cold bowls, acai bowls, and soups. They have pretty exciting options like the Vietnum, which is a Vietnamese-inspired bowl with Ginger-sesame marinated tempeh, steamed spinach, brown rice, sriracha cashew mayo, and many more fixings. This is a perfect lunch spot with scrummy offerings, we’d say, whether you’re on a cleansing kick or not!
WHAT TO DO
Portland Japanese garden
“The garden is a good companion.” — Sadafumi Uchiyama, Garden Curator
The Portland Japanese garden is the perfect respite from the hustle-bustle and stresses of city life. It is also a great opportunity to connect with family and friends on a deeper level or spend a lovely afternoon of solitude and tranquility communing with nature. The vast gardens, spanning 12.4 acres are beautiful through the different seasons, Spring is a great time to visit because that’s when cherry blossoms are at peak bloom. Japanese irises, wisteria, maples, and azaleas are some of the other traditional Japanese flowers that bloom here.
For more than 50 years, the Portland Japanese Garden has been a haven of serenity and tranquility. Every day of the week, the Portland Japanese Garden invites guests to stroll its eight unique garden spaces without interruption, unplug and recharge. While you basking in the gorgeous sunshine and taking in the greenery, you can soak in some Japanese culture too. There are different cultural events like koto harp performances, bonsai planting and tea ceremonies that you can find here.
The garden is divided into 5 smaller gardens – the Flat Garden, Strolling Pond Garden, Tea Garden, Natural Garden, and Sand & Stone Garden. You can also take a break from all the walking, and sit down to a calming tea ceremony at the Umami cafe, an authentic Japanese teahouse, located in the garden premises. Sip on some authentic matcha tea or treat yourself to a Japanese tea-cake. If you’re in the mood for something more substantial, there have some delicious yakitori fried rice too. Want to buy a little souvenir for back home? They have a cute little gift shop where you can buy some Sensu (Folding fans) or Omamori (Japanese charms) and commemorate the afternoon forever.
Wine tasting at Adelsheim vineyard
A perfect way to spend a gorgeous spring afternoon would be to sip delicious wines and local craft cheese at Adelsheim Vineyard, overlooking the grapevines stretching out till the horizon. Tucked away in Oregon’s serene wine country, Adelsheim is about an hour’s drive from Portland. The drive itself is quite scenic and we knew we had reached the countryside when we spotted wise old fir trees, horses, goats, donkeys, and even alpacas.
Adelsheim Vineyard, located in Newberg, Ore., is one of the Willamette Valley’s founding wineries and the Chehalem Mountains’ first winery. The tasting room has majestic views of the Chehalem Mountains, and also a nice play area at the back, so your kids can have some fun while you sip on delicious vino. David Adelsheim is a pioneering winemaker who founded Adelsheim vineyard in 1972. Willamette Valley provides the ideal climate for cool-climate grapes, and this reflects in the quality of the wines here. The vineyard is well-known for its pinot noir, riesling, pinot gris, and chardonnay – however, it is the pinot noir here that is truly world class. It is not known as the Paradise of pinot noir for nothing. The sommeliers here are really knowledgeable and we recommend that you do a guided tasting. While drinking some exceptional wines, you can also learn about soil diversity and elevation in the Chehalem region affects the taste of the different vintages. Indulgence with a side of education, we’d say!
The flights of wine came paired with local artisanal cheeses and delightful accompaniments, like local hazelnuts, wildflower honey and edible flowers grown in the vineyard itself. We learned about the history of the Vineyard, the unique vintages, and also the dynamics of wine and cheese pairings. Our favorite wine was the 2017 Bryan Creek Pinot blanc, although we loved the 2015 Elizabeth’s Reserve Pinot noir too, named after Adelsheim’s daughter. Besides wine and cheese tasting, they host plenty of other events too, like exciting brunches, wine pairing seminars, and vineyard treks. You can check out their events here.
Gelato tasting at Pinolo Gelato
Can’t make it to Italy just yet? Well, Pinolo Gelato is the next best thing. In Portland’s charming SE division, Sandro Paolini makes this delicious frozen Italian dessert daily as authentic as it gets. The gelato flavors like Amaretto, Caffe, Cassata, and Pistachio are traditional Italian and conjure up visions of homey Italian grandmothers baking warm, gooey cakes and churning out fresh fruit sorbettos. The best part about this gelateria is they serve honest-to-goodness, homemade Italian flavors. There is no activated charcoal or matcha gelato here—and for good reason.
The flavors are a testament to Sandro’s Italian heritage and growing up days in Pisa, a gorgeous city nestled in Italy’s Tuscany region. Pinolo means pine-nut, which is one of Sandro’s favorite gelato flavors. This flavor shows up in the fall, and the pine nuts are imported specially from Tuscany to be churned into fresh, swirly mounds of gelato. It is a rather unconventional flavor but according to Sandro, people from Portland are quite experimental. With spring, you can expect delicious berry flavors—from ruby red raspberry to pale pink strawberry gelato.
The true test of a gelateria is in the color of the pistachio gelato—and the one at Pinolo is a gorgeous muted green-brown and not a Crayola green. Sinking my teeth into it proved this theory, and the gelato was bursting with a nutty, silky smooth mouthfeel. Sandro focusses on seasonal fruits and the real flavor of his ingredients shines through the gelato, which is loved by locals and visitors alike.
Honestly, we’d drive to Portland just for this. If there is just one thing you have to try here, make it their delicious affogato. What is an Affogato, you might ask? Well, if an espresso and gelato were to have a love child, this would be it. In fact, we loved this place so much that we made a pit-stop right before our drive back to Seattle. I have to say, a scoop of their Cassata, studded with candied citrus fruits and crunchy nuts, made the beautiful drive back home ten times sweeter.