I was originally going to make this all one post, but, since I am too impatient to wait until Z (in my defense, going through the entire alphabet takes a while), and the end result would end up being some ungodly length anyways, I am just going to break this down into parts. The final post will have the entire alphabet so no one has to jump around for the complete list. But until then, here is A-H.
Alphabet District – How perfectly appropriate that we start the ABCs of Portland with the Alphabet District, which is, I must admit, one of my favorite areas in the city. First, there are dozens of smaller shops, boutiques, and restaurants that provide a lovely departure from the main stream mall feel and bustle that surrounds Pioneer Place everyday. Second, there are more than enough unique and charming older style houses to give you that warm fuzzy feeling of nostalgia… even if you, like me, are only 23 years old. And if nostalgia isn’t for you, maybe recognizing a few Simpson’s characters in street names might brighten your day. (Matt Groening is from Portland, after all.) Finally, as the name would suggest, the streets within the Alphabet District are, indeed, in alphabetical order, beginning with Burnside and heading North. Add to that the numbered avenues running perpendicular and finding any address suddenly became 10x easier.
Burnside – Aside from being a Bridge and a great place to meet Bums (I am on a roll with this letter) Burnside St. is also unique in that it is a very handy navigational landmark for finding your way around Portland. In the greater downtown area, if you see any address or street labeled “NW” or “NE” you will know that you are North of Burnside. Likewise, “SW” and “SE” refer to any location South of the street. Just remember not to try this same trick if you end up too far out in the ‘burbs’ or Beaverton. Then again, why would you go there in the first place?
Costumes – Portlanders absolutely love to dress up (or down in the case of the annual Naked Bike Ride). From body and face paint, to drag, to some of the most outrageous/unique/creative outfits you can think of, there are hundreds of costumes and literally dozens of opportunities to wear them throughout the year. One is very likely to see attire fall short of the norm at the The Starlight Run, SantaCon, PDX Hunt, Urban Iditarod, One Mile Drag Race, Zombie Walk, Tour de Lab… just to name a few.
Donuts – For those who live in Portland, or who just watch the Travel Channel or Food Network a lot, it should be no surprise that Voodoo Donuts made this list. These lovely deep-fried creations are delicious, no doubt, but that isn’t the only reason that Voodoo has become such a staple and tourist attraction in the Rose City. The shop itself is an experience, a far departure from the boring task of grabbing your sugar fix from Dunkin’ Donuts or Krispy Kreme. Voodoo boasts innuendos in its slogan and menu items, some truly unique looking and tasting fare, legally binding wedding ceremonies, and, most recently, a world record for the largest box of donuts. Did I also mention they make a special Blood Filled Voodoo doughnuts depicting the Portland Timber’s opponent before each match? Well, they do that too. Just make sure you are willing to stand in line for the donutty experience. So far this year, I have yet to see it any shorter than around the corner from the original shop downtown. The Magic is in the Hole.
East Bank Esplanade – Much to the dismay of my boyfriend, this esplanade is how I am able to torture him every sunny day as I take my lunch hour. By connecting this pathway to the Tom McCall Waterfront via the Hawthorne and Steel bridge, I have a lovely, nearly 3 mile loop to stroll along, admire the Portland cityscape, and catch a little bit of my daily dose of Vitamin D. Any time the weather warms, you can expect to see numerous people walking, running, or cycling along this loop, or connecting it to the Springwater Corridor that runs further South. Warning: while most of the walk is enjoyable, there are a few smelly areas (hey, it is on the Willamette), but not to worry, the worst parts are on the west side so you may not even notice them.
Farmer’s Market – When it comes to food, Portland, in general, has a wonderful selection of restaurants, bars, and even some amazing food carts. But if you are looking to add the warm fuzzy feeling of helping a local grower out (while still noshing on something delectable) then the Farmer’s Market is definitely the place to go. I usually frequent the one up near PSU (Portland State University) where I can find anything from homemade tamales, to just-picked berries, to sweet baked goods, and even some fresh fish or amazing smoked salmon. It really is a great place to wander around, listen to a little music, and enjoy a market focused on food without all the crazy that is the larger Saturday Market down near Skidmore Fountain (although that can be fun as well). Just remember to watch your waistline and wallet in these parts. With all the good grub at Farmer’s Market, it becomes almost too easy to over-indulge.
Green – When thinking of a typical city most people will picture paved roads, skyscrapers, congestions, noise and traffic, among other things. But something that Portland adds to this black and gray concrete jungle is green, a lot of it. Portland is home to the largest inner city park in the United States. Sorry New York, but Central Park couldn’t beat this one. Forest Park, located in the West Hills of Portland, is filled tall trees, lush flora, and an escape that will make you forget how close to the city you really are. There are miles upon miles of trails suitable for a simple stroll, a nice run, or a walk with man’s best friend. And these trails don’t just take you in circles either. Local and historical attractions can be found throughout Forest Park and its interconnecting trails such as Council Crest, the Oregon Zoo, Washington Park, the International Rose Test Gardens, Pittock Mansion, the Vietnam Memorial… or you can just lose yourself somewhere on the 30 miles of the Wildwood Trail, all while forgetting you are still in the city.
Hollywood – Yes, there is a Hollywood in Oregon… well a Hollywood District. But don’t be fooled by the name. It is definitely not as glamorous as its California counterpart. Portland’s Hollywood has a little more of an indie/bohemian feel and it is not necessarily the place I would want to be after dark… then again, most places out in SE or deep SE Portland are probably areas best avoided at night. One of the neatest things about this District, however, is the Hollywood Theater. A historic Portland Landmark, this not-for-profit theater is often showing movies you are not likely to find anywhere near a mainstream cinema. Older movies, film festivals indie flicks, and student shorts are the main sources of entertainment in this building, making the Hollywood Theater a great alternative to some over-sold blockbusters.