My family and I love to travel and explore new places. We have been blessed to travel across the United States.
For our family vacation in 2018, my wife and I loaded up the kids and drove out to the Pacific Northwest on a 14-day road trip. After spending a day exploring Glacier National Park and four days exploring the Seattle area, we drove down to the Portland area. Here is a look at our 2 days in Portland, Oregon.
Explore the International Rose Test Garden
The International Rose Test Garden in Portland is an amazing sea of roses. It celebrated 100 years in continuous operation in 2017, which makes it the oldest public rose test garden in the United States. The garden boasts over 10,000 rose bushes and around 650 different varieties. The best part is that it is free.
We made this our first stop as we drove into Portland. It was beautiful and relaxing. We have been to the test rose garden at the Chicago Botanic Garden, but it was nothing compared to the International Test Garden in Portland. We spent an hour or two enjoying the views and taking pictures of the many beautiful roses.
Ride the Metropolitan Area Express (MAX)
The Metropolitan Area Express (MAX) makes getting around Portland much easier. It is a light rail train service consisting of five separate lines (Red, Blue, Orange, Green, and Yellow) that allow you to get across the city with minimal effort. Being from the Chicago area, anytime we can avoid sitting in traffic without moving is worth it to us. Plus, I love trains, so it was not only helpful but fun.
We stayed out by the airport and were able to catch the Red line about a block from our hotel and were able to get downtown without any trouble. I highly recommend downloading their app, TriMet Live. Punch in where you want to go, and the app will guide you on how to get there. The Metropolitan Area Express made it fun and easy to travel all around Portland and to get to everywhere that we wanted to go.
Try a Voodoo Doughnut
Voodoo Doughnuts is a fun place and well worth a visit. They are famous for their unique and creative doughnuts that taste amazing. Voodoo Doughnuts is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The line can wrap around the building outside. They offer doughnuts topped with bacon, Fruit Loops, Oreo, M&Ms, and more. They even sell one in the shape of a voodoo doll with a pretzel sticking out of it. It is common to see people buying dozens of doughnuts and walking out with a stack of pink boxes. They have great customer service as well.
We had to wait in line for about 25 minutes, but the wait was worth every minute. We tried several different ones including the Voodoo Doll, The Loop (vanilla frosting with Fruit Loops), Bacon Maple Bar (maple frosting with two strips of bacon on top), Plain Cake with Oreo Cookies (cake doughnut with vanilla frosting and crushed Oreo cookies), and a coconut doughnut with an umbrella sticking out of the top. Voodoo Doughnuts is a must when visiting Portland.
Visit Powell’s City of Books
Powell’s City of Books is not just another bookstore. It boasts over a million books in stock, spread across three levels, and 3,500 different sections, making it one of the best bookstores in the world. Powell's regularly hosts a variety of author events. We enjoyed wandering around the store and managed to find a handful of books that we ended up purchasing. We had a great experience visiting Powell’s City of Books.
Ride the Portland Aerial Tram
The Portland Aerial Tram offers amazing views of Portland as it climbs the 500 feet to the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) campus. On a clear day, you can see Mount Hood and Mount St Helens. The ride itself is about four minutes long. We enjoyed the great views from the tram on our trip to the top. It was a perfect end to our first day in Portland.
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Day 2 Itinerary
Explore the Columbia River Gorge
The Columbia River Gorge is beautiful. It is a must-see when visiting the Portland area. There are a lot of hiking trails and waterfalls on either side of the Columbia River. Unfortunately, the Eagle Creek Fire in September 2017 closed many of the hiking trails and waterfalls on the Oregon side of the river. Thankfully, some of the best places reopened.
View the Columbia River Gorge From the Vista House
Vista House is a unique rest stop that was built in 1918 and is 700 feet above I-84 in the Columbia River Gorge that offers travelers and photographers amazing views of the Columbia River Gorge. Its uniqueness comes from its octagon shape which is noticeable inside and out. The architecture alone makes Vista House worth a stop. It is also a beautiful place to watch sunrises and sunsets. We spent time taking pictures and enjoying the beauty of God's creation.
Visit Multnomah Falls
Multnomah Falls is an amazing waterfall that is 620 feet high. It is the highest waterfall in Oregon and the second highest continually running falls in the United States. Multnomah Falls is the top tourist destination in Oregon. The falls are breathtaking. We hiked up to Multnomah Falls Bridge and enjoyed the spectacular view.
Unfortunately, we were not able to hike to the top of the falls because the trail has not reopened due to the fire. Multnomah Falls is a must-see when you are visiting the Portland area. My advice is to get there as early in the day as possible as the parking area fills up quickly.
Visit Latourell Falls
Latourell Falls is a 250 feet high waterfall that is beautiful. There is a colorful lichen growth on the rocks near the top of the falls. Latourell Falls is the closest of the major waterfalls to Portland. It is a short and easy hike to the base of the falls. It is well worth a quick stop to check out this impressive waterfall.
Visit Rowena Crest Viewpoint
The Rowena Crest Viewpoint looks down on a horseshoe curve that is unique. It is one of the most photographed roads in Oregon. It also has a magnificent view of the Columbia River Gorge. The Rowena Crest Viewpoint is about 75 miles east of downtown Portland off I-84. I highly recommend it because it is so different than anything that I have ever seen before.
Drive the Mount Hood Scenic Byway
Heading back to Portland, we decided to take the Mount Hood Scenic Byway which offers stunning views of Mount Hood, the highest mountain peak in Oregon at 11,245 feet. It was a beautiful and relaxing drive. We pulled over several times to take pictures and to enjoy the view. The best place that we stopped was Trillium Lake, which is south of the Mount Hood Scenic Byway. The view is amazing. Mount Hood lines up perfectly behind the lake.
Another great place that we stopped at was Jonsrud View Point in Sandy, Oregon. It offers a splendid view of Mount Hood and the forest below. The Mount Hood Scenic Byway is a terrific way to spend a few hours and take in God’s creation.
22 Below Ice Cream
22 Below is a Thai ice cream place that makes ice cream right in front of the customer. The freezing pan that is used to create the ice cream is 22 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, hence the name 22 Below. Customers pick can pick a wide variety of ingredients to include in their ice cream.
The process starts by pouring a liquid-based cream into the freezing pan. The ingredients are chopped and mixed into the base. The ice cream amazingly forms right before your eyes. The ice cream artist spreads it out onto a thin sheet that is rolled up into rolls of ice cream. It was an incredibly unique experience and better yet, tasted great! I highly recommend trying 22 Below.
Watch the Sunset at Pittock Mansion
The Pittock Mansion, built in 1909, offers beautiful views of downtown Portland from over 1,000 feet above it. On a clear day, it is possible to see Mount Hood, Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens, Mount Rainier, and Mount Jefferson. The Pittock Mansion is a museum that tells how Portland changed from a pioneer town into a modern city. It is a great place to watch the sunset.
On the day we were there, it was hazy, so we were only able to see Mount Hood towering in the background, but it was a beautiful view. I highly recommend checking out the mansion and the view of Portland.
Don’t Miss a Visit to Portland
The Portland area is beautiful and offers many remarkable things to see and do. My family and I enjoyed our fun-packed, 2-day visit to Portland, Oregon. We cannot wait to go back and explore more of Portland.
© 2019 Eric Cramer