While Uber is on Hold in Portland, Try Curb.

If you have not been following along with the details of Uber trying to break into the Portland market let me give you a recap.

  1. Portland said no to Uber
  2. Uber responded by expanding into the suburbs.
  3. Portland said no to Uber
  4. Uber responded by saying F-U and started operating in Portland
  5. Portland city officials freaked out and fined the company a bunch of money.
  6. Uber and Portland come to an agreement.  Portland will work on the regs to allow Uber to operate, Uber agreed to back off.

I’m not sure who the winner is in this situation.  Probably Uber because they will likely be able to operate in Portland.  I have a feeling though that consumers are going to be the loser.  The whole point of Uber is that it is supposed to be cheaper than a taxi.  I have this feeling they will be charging the same rates as the taxis once this is all figured out. Although, perhaps the greatest thing about Uber is the convenience of using the app, which allows you to order and pay for the cab through their app.

On that front, the cab companies have caught up.  Enter Curb.   Curb is an app that works just like Uber in that you can order a taxi via an app on your phone.  The app also stores your credit card so when your ride is over the app bills the card.  No need to give the cabbie cash or a debit/credit card.  It is all handled through the app.

My wife and I used Curb last night.  It really is a very smooth system.  Once we were ready to go, I launch the app and click the button to hail a taxi.  The app finds the nearest available taxi and the taxi is dispatched to your location.  Having used the app three times now I really like it.

Right now there are a couple of promo codes that you can use for $10 off your ride.

  • The first is my promo code, 84T48W, download the app and first time riders will get $10 off their ride.
  • The second is the promo code DINELA.  This code is good for both first time and existing customers.  It is also good for $10 off your ride.

I’m not sure if these codes are stackable, but the DINELA code is good on multiple accounts.  I created three accounts (three different emails and phone numbers) and used the code on each one.

I’m curious to see what happens with Portland and Uber.  In the mean time Curb is a very useful alternative.

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Visiting Portland? 5 Tips to Become a Temporary Local

There are certain travel philosophies that I try to follow.  The biggest one is when visiting a place I try to become a temporary local.  This doesn’t mean I try not to look like a tourist, but it does mean that I try to experience a place like a local.  I try to follow the old proverb “when in Rome. do as Romans do.”

On that note, here are 5 things you can do to experience Portland like a local.  You’ll notice that this list is entirely geared towards food.  That’s because Portland is a foodie town.  Within the city we do not have a lot of tourist attractions.  Instead we have a character and a way of life that in my opinion revolves around food and food culture.

1.  Learn to like beer

It is no secret that Portland likes it beer.  We have more breweries than any other city in the world.  Not only do new ones open every year, I can only think of one that has gone out of business in the last 7 or 8 years.  Just when you think Portland has reached its brewery capacity another one opens and it does well.  So if you are visiting Portland, learn to like beer.  There is a beer for everyone.

2.  Skip Breakfast, Eat Brunch

This epiphany struck me one day when I went to Pine State Biscuit late morning on a Thursday.  I was on a staycation so I felt like I had an excuse to be out and assumed it would not be crowded.  Boy was I wrong.  Portlandia was not far off the mark when they said Portland is where 30 year olds go to retire.  What do retired people do?  Eat brunch of course.

3.  Eat Trendy

Portland is not without it’s chain restaurants, but I swear restaurant openings by well known chefs are treated like a red carpet event.  Well known chefs?  Yep, cooks get famous in this town.  Restaurants come and go in Portland.  Find the next wave and check it out.  Where to find these restaurants?  That leads me to number 4.

4.  Get out of Downtown!

Seriously, locals only go downtown to work and shop.  There is nothing downtown. Everything that is “happening” in Portland exists outside of downtown.  If you want to find the trendy places look east across the river.  If you want to be cutting edge the the central east side neighborhood is getting a lot of attention these days.  North Williams is also booming.

5.  Go Artisanal

Of all things Portland this might be the most parodied, but it’s true.  To fully appreciate this aspect of Portland, I thought I would make a list, off the top of my head, all things artisan, not named beer, in Portland.

  1. Charcuterie: Olympic Provisions
  2. Coffee: Stumptown
  3. Chai: Pip’s Original
  4. Bagel: Bowery
  5. Salt: The Meadow
  6. Donuts: Blue Star
  7. Butchery: Laurelhurst Market
  8. Bread:  Pearl Bakery
  9. Pasta: Pastaworks
  10. Ice Cream: Salt & Straw

Next time you visit Portland try to incorporate some of these things, if not all, into your visit. I think it will improve how you experience Portland and you’ll start to get all the inside jokes on Portlandia!

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Portland Geography: Navigating Downtown

For my ongoing Portland Geography series, a reader suggested a post about navigating downtown.  Seeing how that was a great idea, here you go.

I often times forget how confusing downtown can be for out of towners.  For us locals especially those of us who work downtown, driving around is second nature.  You can do it without thinking.  For others, downtown must feel like a maze, because it sort of is. Nearly every road is a one way street, which wouldn’t be too bad but some of them only allow left turns, other streets are two way streets but only allow right turns.  Make the wrong turn and suddenly you find yourself going over a bridge and you are on the other side of the river.

Technically, downtown is the area shaded below.  The boundaries are defined by the Willamette River to the east, I-405 to the west, Burnside St to the north, and Market St. to the south.

Downtown

Downtown Proper

However, for purposes of this post when I talk about downtown I am including the Pearl, and Old Town.  Basically, the three main areas between I-405 and the river.

Old Town

Old Town / Chinatown

The Pearl

The Pearl

One Way Streets

The most difficult/annoying/confusing thing about driving around downtown are all the damn one way streets.  The one way streets are actually relatively easy to deal with if you remember a few things.  First, generally speaking all odd numbered streets are one ways going south and all even numbered streets go north.  Second, you only need to remember a few main streets to get to where you want to go.

For north/south travel:

  1. Naito Parkway:  Naito Parkway is the road that runs parallel to Waterfront Park. Naito parkway is handy for accessing neighborhoods south of downtown.  Naito will also take you into the NW industrial area going north.
  2. 3rd and 4th Avenues:  I like to use 3rd and 4th avenues for getting around downtown proper and and Old Town.  3rd runs south and 4th runs north.
  3. Broadway:  Broadway runs north/south through the middle of downtown. Broadway is the equivalent of 7th avenue.  North of Burnside it is a two way street.  South of Burnside it is a one way street heading south.  It is another useful road for getting around downtown and Old Town.  Broadway is also useful for accessing the SW neighborhoods that are on the hill around OHSU.  Careful with Broadway when it is a two way street, if traveling north it eventually turns into the Broadway Bridge and will force you across the river.
  4. 10th and 11th:  I like to use 10th and 11th to access the Pearl.

For east/west travel:  Almost any road running east/west will do.  Some roads will put you on a bridge if you are not careful which I will discuss below.  I generally avoid Burnside because I don’t like the traffic and you can’t take a left turn.

Crossing the river

I’ve heard more than one person complain about driving around downtown, lost, and ending up on a bridge before they know it.  So here are the steets that turn into bridges:

  1. Madison Street: Hawthorne Bridge
  2. Alder Street: Morrison Street Bridge
  3. Burnside: Burnside Bridge
  4. Everett: Steel Bridge
  5. Broadway: Broadway Bridge

Getting to I-5

I-5 North:  If you are anywhere in the downtown core, the easiest way to access I-5 north is via the Morrison Bridge.  If you are in the Pearl or Old Town take Couch or Glisan west to I-405 north on ramp.  I-405 will cross the river and meet up with I-5.

I-5 South:  If you are in the downtown core get on Naito Parkway and head south.  Take a left at Market Street which becomes SW Harbor Drive.  Keep driving straight, it turns into an onramp for I-5 south.  If you are in the Pearl or Old Town take I-405 south which can be accessed by driving west on Glisan.

Getting to Highway 26 (to the beach)

If you are in the downtown core take SW Jefferson Street west and it will turn into an onramp for Hwy 26.  If you are in the Pearl or Old Town use I-405 south.

Getting to I-84 (to the Gorge)

If you are in the downtown core I-84 can be accessed via the Morrison Bridge.  If you are in the Pearl or Old Town I still prefer to drive to Alder street and take the Morrison Bridge (habit I guess) but it can also be accessed by either I-405 south or north, north being the quickest.

Common Pitfalls

  1. 5th and 6th avenues:  Avoid these two roads like the plague.  5th and 6th compromise the downtown bus mall.  Both the bus and the Max use 5th and 6th for north/south travel.  Cars can only use the left lane and can only take left turns. Nearly every day waiting for the bus I see some Trimet employee yelling at a car to get in the left lane.  Take 4th or Broadway instead.
  2. Burnside:  Burnside is fine but traffic sort of sucks and beware that you can only take right turns.
  3. Not knowing how Portland is laid out.  For details read my first post in this series.
  4. Know which streets turn into the bridges, this way you don’t end up on the east side, see above.

Related Posts

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Uber Comes to Portland and How Uber Works

On Friday Uber began operating in Portland, without the blessing of city officials.  Needless to say some of the powers that be in city government had some choice words.  My favorite quote comes from Steve Novick the City Commissioner who oversees the Bureau of Transportation, the bureau in charge of regulating taxis.

“They think they can just come in here and flagrantly violate the law? This is really amazing.  Apparently, they believe they’re gods.”

I suppose you can always count on a politician for asinine rhetoric like that.  To counter and for a helpful video about Uber you should see this video from the Oregonian.

I have yet to use Uber, but I plan on giving it a try on Thursday when the family and I head to the airport.

How Uber works is pretty simple.  After downloading the app and entering your details and method of payment (use my referral link for $20 off first ride) ordering a ride only takes a click of a button.

When you launch the app it will zero in your location.  To order a car press the black arrow.

Uber Pickup

Then to confirm press the black UberX button.

Uber Confirm

Prior to confirming your order you can also use the fare estimator (on the left above the Request button) to get an idea how much your ride will cost.

Uber Fare Estimate

If you want to check the rates you can press the little blue car prior to pressing the black arrow button.

Uber Rates

One major complaint about Uber is that they have surge pricing, meaning they jack up the rates during high demand.  I have no experience with Uber so take this for what it’s worth, my assumption is that when they increase prices the current rate will show up in the blue button.  If they don’t then I’m not sure how much I will use Uber.  I’m excited to try Uber and we’ll see how it plays out here in Portland.

Update:   Uber has suspended operations in Portland after getting into an ugly fight with the City.  Plan for now is Uber will stop operating in Portland and the city has agreed to update taxi regulations in the next three months.  The saga continues…

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I’m Doing Something New Here and a Little Crazy

When it comes to travel, there are 3 things I know well.

  1. Portland
  2. Priceline
  3. Traveling for pennies with frequent flyer miles.

As for numbers 1 and 2, they are covered here on the blog.  My series of Priceline posts have been the most popular articles on this blog since I published them.  The articles drive the majority of the traffic to this site.

As for number 3, it is not the main focus of this blog but something I cover occasionally, usually when it comes to me bragging about a trip I scored for next to nothing.  The next post on that subject is due in December when my wife and kids and I will fly to Hawaii and stay 7 nights at the Hilton Waikoloa for $20 (don’t ask me how many Hilton Points that took, ugh).

While the blog is pretty quiet on the points front, I’m fairly active on twitter and on one my favorite mile and points blogs travelbloggerbuzz.com.  So the other night I tweeted this,

and I’ll be damned if someone actually took me up on it.

While I may have been kidding on the square, I had to do it.  6 hours later, I found an award that routes through London to Hong Kong from Los Angeles.  The award was a combination of coach, business class, and first class.  All international flights were in business class or first class.  West Coast to Hong Kong would have been much easier and I could have done it in less than 6 hours.  However, routing via Europe was a fun challenge so I enjoyed it.  US Airways is a strange beast and I am still waiting to hear if it was successfully booked.

Back at my favorite mile and points blog, Travel Blogger Buzz (TBB), there has been a lot of talk about monetizing blogs and his in particular.  TBB has struggled to find a way to get something out of all the work he has put in on his blog.  He has turned to credit card affiliate links, which is ironic because they main focus of his blog is how much travel bloggers who push credit cards suck.  I have given him a fair amount of grief over it.

The experience with the award booking and discussion at TBB has me thinking about more ways in which I can monetize this blog.  I do surprisingly well with Google Adsense. This is due in large part to the fact that most of the traffic on this site is organic (i.e. “bidding on Priceline” searches).   Looking for ways to add extra revenue is always good. I’m thinking about offering a miles consulting and award booking assistance service to the blog.  I doubt it will get much interest but it will be fun to see and experiment with.

To that end, I created a page offering what I basically offered on twitter.  I figure if I get one or two people every couple of months that would be fun (and manageable if it takes me 6 hours per award!).

Without further ado:

Frequent Flyer Miles and Points Consulting:  Learn to Travel for Free.

SEO dictates TRAVEL and FREE be included in the title, even though it’s not.  Unless you’re this guy.  I am probably totally crazy for offering this for $45, but what the hell it’s cold and wet outside.

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Uber is Coming to Portland (Sort of) and How to Get a Free Ride

Uber is a ridesharing company that allows you to use your smartphone to order a ride, track the cars progress to you in real time, texts you when the car arrives, and all payment is handled through the app.  Uber is a competitor with traditional taxi services.  The taxi industry here in Portland is a highly regulated industry, except that it’s sort of not.

In Portland there are a limited number of taxi operating permits that the city issues to taxi companies. These permits are effectively controlled by the Private For Hire Transportation Review Board.  The board does not actually approve the permits but is heavily influential with respect to taxi industry policy within the city.  As you can imagine when the taxi industry has a heavy influence on policy it may affect whether Portland would permit Uber to operate within city limits.  As of today, Portland is the only major west coast city not to permit Uber to operate within its city limits.

Well there is good news, if you live in a suburb.  Uber is now operating in Tigard, Beaverton, Gresham, and Vancouver.  Uber can pick you up in these cities and drop you off in Portland, Uber just can’t pick you up in Portland.

When the taxi industry has a controlling hand in policy what do you expect? God forbid Portlanders be allowed to use a ride service that is convenient and cheap.  For comparison sake lets look at costs between traditional Portland taxi’s and Uber.  A ride from downtown Vancouver to PDX is $17- $22, Beaverton to PDX is $36 – $48, and Gresham to PDX is $27 to $36.  (Click here for Uber cost estimates).

Now, lets take a look at how much a traditional taxi from Beaverton to PDX will cost you. From downtown Beaverton to PDX is 20 miles.  You will be charged $2.50 for pickup plus $1.00 for each additional passenger.  You will then be charged $2.60 per mile plus $.50/minute waiting time.  At a minimum, assuming no waiting time charges (yea right) a taxi will cost you $55 for a couple to ride from Beaverton to PDX.

With Uber not only will you save money on the base rate but there is also a trick to earning an easy $60 – $90 in credits with Uber.

How to earn a free ride:

Here is an easy way to earn $60 – $90  $40 – $60 in free rides with Uber.  If you use my referral link to sign up for Uber you will receive a free ride worth $30 (now $20).  When you sign up you will also get a referral link/code.  If you refer a friend they will get $20 and when they take their first ride you get $20.  If you have a significant other this is effectively $60 for the two of you.

The one caveat to these credits is that they work for one ride at a time, and they operate more like vouchers.  It’s really one free ride worth up to $20.  So if your ride is $17, that uses up your entire $20 free ride.  If your ride is $40, then you owe the difference.

I imagine that eventually Uber will come to Portland.  Unfortunately, it will probably involve making Uber just as expensive as the traditional taxi companies so they are not put out of business.  All the more reason to sign up for the credits above.

Note:  When you use my referral link I also get a referral credit.  Thank you in advance.  

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More Direct Flights to Europe From PDX

In the last month there has been some positive news for PDX based travelers.  For those of us who use PDX as our home airport our options for direct flights for international travel are limited.  PDX has only one direct flight to Asia, on Delta to Tokyo, and one direct flight to Europe, on Delta to Amsterdam.  Next summer that is going to change.

Direct Flights to Iceland

Starting in May 2015 Icelandair is going to start direct flights from Portland to Reykjavik on Wednesdays and Fridays. This is great news for us locals, for two reasons.  One, Iceland is cool.  Second,  Icelandair is a great airline for connecting to the rest of Europe.  Check out their route map.

As you can see, Icelandair has a lot of destinations in Europe.  But, that is not what makes Icelandair good for connecting to Europe.  What is cool about Icelandair, is that they allow stopovers in Iceland for up to 7 days at no additional cost.  The flight from Portland is also short at about 7 hours.  From Portland you can take a relatively short flight to Iceland, stopover for a few days, then continue on to your destination.  It is two vacations on one ticket.

Direct Flights to Germany

Starting in July of 2015 Condor will operate direct flights from PDX to Frankfurt on Tuesdays and Fridays. Lufthansa used to operate direct flights on this route until is was discontinued in 2009.  I’m happy that Portland will have another flight directly to continental Europe.

For those of us that also geek out about frequent flyer miles, this flight is also an award flight gem. Condor is a member the Miles & More frequent flyer program.  A one way ticket from Portland to Frankfurt is only 25,000 miles in economy.  How can you get Miles & More miles? Currently the Lufthansa credit card has a 50,000 mile sign up bonus. Lufthansa is also a member of the Miles & More program, meaning the miles from that credit card can be redeemed on Condor.

The bottom line here is that more direct flights to any destination is a plus for those of us who fly out of PDX.  I’m doubly excited that PDX is increasing the number of direct flights to Europe.  I hope these are a commercial success for the airport so more airlines may be encouraged to add routes.

Update:  Looks like flights on Condor will start June 19th.  

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What Are The Best Hotels In Portland?

Wondering what hotel to stay at in Portland?  The best hotel depends on your needs.  Are you on a business trip and need to be downtown? Do you prefer luxury properties? Do you need to be by the airport? Or are you looking for good family options?  Portland does not have huge hotel inventory but there is enough variety to meet most needs.  Plus in this list, I may cheat a little bit and add in a B&B or two.

Best Budget Hotels

When it comes to budget options you are going to trade price for something, be it convenience, a private bathroom, or no amenities.  When I think budget I think clean bed. Give me that, I’m happy.  For budget lodgings, I’m a big fan of avoiding hotels and if I have to do a hotel I’m usually going to Priceline it.

Priceline your hotel

Everett Street Guesthouse

Portland International Guesthouse

Crystal Hotel

Best Family Hotels

When I think family friendly hotel I usually think free breakfast, a pool, some sort of extra entertainment space.  Bonus points if the room has a kitchen and place for mom and dad to hide if kids are still young enough to be napping (like mine).

Residence Inn Pearl

Embassy Suites Downtown

Staybridge Suites Portland Airport

Embassy Suites Portland Airport

Residence Inn Portland Airport

Best Luxury Hotels

Portland only has one 5 star hotel and it is one of the best hotels in Portland.  So if you define luxury as a 5 star hotel then The Nines is it.  However, here are some other 4 star options as well.

The Nines

Hotel  Monaco

Riverplace

The Heathman

Best Non-Downtown Hotels

Most of Portland’s better hotels are downtown.  Which is unfortunate, I think the best of Portland is outside of downtown.  Staying in a residential neighborhood is a great way to get a feel for living in Portland.

Inn at Northrup Station

Kennedy School

Caravan – Tiny House Hotel

The Portland Mayor’s Mansion

Silver Cloud Inn

Best Downtown Hotels

Aside from the luxury hotels mentioned above these are going to be the hotels that are within most peoples price ranges and are good options for business travelers.  The hotels downtown are by no means cheap, most will run around $200+ per night.

Hotel Modera

The Paramount

Courtyard Downtown

Hotel DeLuxe

Best Airport Hotels

If you are looking for good budget options there are some very good hotels out by the airport.  If you are staying at a hotel by PDX I recommend renting a car.  It will make life easier and the MAX at night to PDX is a bit sketchy.  I especially like the hotels by Cascade Station which are within walking distance to stores and restaurants.

Hyatt Place

aloft

Residence Inn Cascade Station

Staybridge Suites Portland Airport

What are your favorite Portland hotels?

 

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Fleet Week 2014 Starts Wednesday

To be honest, I am not a huge fan of the Rose Festival which started over memorial weekend.  That is why there wasn’t a post announcing the start of the festival last weekend.  The Rose Festival is essentially a carnival on the waterfront and a series of parades.  I have a hard time getting excited about that stuff.

Fleet Week is also a part of the Rose Festival but my attitude about Fleet Week is different. I like Fleet Week.  I like seeing all those ships docked along the river and touring them can be fun and informative.

Last year Fleet Week was a bit of a let down because the Navy cancelled their participation thanks to sequestration.  This year, however, the Navy returns which is good news.

One of my favorite activities, and if I didn’t have to work I would be doing this with the kids, is going to Cathedral Park and watching the ships sail in.

USS Ingraham

The Navy and the other ships generally do not announce their arrival schedule so timing this can be tricky.  However, there is a great website that makes this possible, Marine Traffic.  Ships will arrive between June 4th and 5th.  With this website you can search for ships by name and it will show you the ship’s last location.  I will also use Marine Traffic to watch ships on the Columbia river in real time as they sail into Portland.  Another helpful website is the Ship Report.  The Ship Report lists ships that are inbound and outbound from Astoria, which is the point of entry on the Columbia River.

Between these two website you can get a general idea of when the ships will be sailing past Cathedral Park.  Cathedral Park is in North Portland under the St. Johns Bridge.  The easiest way to get there is to take I-5 north, take the Rosa Parks exit west and stay on Rosa Parks.  Rosa Parks eventually turns into N. Willamette and N. Willamette will take you right under the bridge.  Pretty simple.  The park is one of my favorite’s in Portland.

Here is a list of ships that will be docked along the waterfront during Fleet Week.

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Five Amazing Alternatives To Portland’s Top Five Tourist Attractions

Ok, I don’t actually know if these are Portland’s top 5 tourist attractions but they sure do get talked about a lot.

5.  Voodoo Doughnuts

If there is one business in Portland that has come to exemplify the “Portlandia” image of Portland, it’s Voodoo.  I’m going to let you in on a little secret.  This place is the biggest tourist trap in Portland.  The donuts are good, but certainly not worth waiting in a line like this:

Alternative:  Blue Star Donuts

If you want the actual best donuts in town and not wait in line forever, only to find out they are cash only…try Blue Star.  You will not be disappointed.

4. Portland Saturday Market

I like the Saturday Market, however, is it really any different than any other saturday market in any other city?  A bunch of hippies get together to sell some arts and crafts.  It’s fun, but not that special.

Alternative:  Saturday Farmer’s Market at PSU

The Farmers Market is definitely overshadowed by the Saturday Market, but for me this has come to embody Portland more than the Saturday Market.  Portland has developed such a foodie culture and the Farmers Market reflects that.  The number of vendors there is nearly endless and they are all local.  Local meats, cheeses, breads, fruits, and vegetables.  You name it, if you can cook with it, you will probably find it.  If you wanted to have picnic at the zoo or any one of our great parks, this would be the place to shop.

3.  The Pearl

Yes, there are lots of great places to eat.  Yes, there are lots of great bars.  Yes, this place is overhyped.   The Pearl has a lot of great qualities but the artsy soulfulness of the Pearl that once exemplified Portland is gone.  It has been replaced by million dollar condos and overpriced restaurants and shops.

Alternative:  North Mississippi / North Williams

There are probably more great restaurants and bars packed between these two streets than anywhere else in Portland.  In the last 5 years this neighborhood has exploded.  I swear everytime I look around there is something new going in and it is not going to stop anytime soon.  The next big thing in this area will be when the City reduces the two lane road that is N. Williams down to one lane so bicyclists can have their own lane.  How very Portland.

2. International Rose Test Garden

Rose Garden

The Rose Garden is awesome, but it is small and during the summer it can get pretty overcrowded.  It can be nearly impossible to find parking and good luck getting a picture without some strangers in it.

Alternative: Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden 

Crystal Springs Rhododendron

Crystal Springs, is definitely a local’s spot.  You will not see that many tourists here.  The garden is big, is built around a man made lake, and is just as pretty, maybe more so, than the Rose Garden.

1. Powells City of Books

IMG_0442

Powell’s City of Books is awesome, it is so big you need a map. If you read, this place is a must.  As far books go, there is no alternative.  But what about those folks who are not big readers?  Well, if you are a movie fan then let me suggest a different experience.

Alternative:  Cinetopia

Unfortunately, you will have to make a trek out to the suburbs, but for the movie fan this is an unrivaled viewing experience.  You can even drink one of Portland’s delicious craft beers while watching the film.  You know this place is over the top (but in a good way) when they are going to be putting in a movie theater on the Las Vegas Strip.

 

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