The Northwest is well known for microbrews. Find out if there is a beer festival going on while you are here (assuming you are a beer fan). I talk about some of my favorites in this post.
If you are not so lucky, then I would suggest checking out some pubs. A lot of them have beer samplers -- ask!.
- Laurelwood (there are a couple locations) has good beer and food.
- McMenamins has good beer but the food is not great. You can also catch movies, play frisbee golf, get some good wine, and more at various locations.
- Bailey's Taproom is a good place to try a bunch of local beers.
- Deschutes - Another Oregon favorite. Pretty decent food too.
Some other places I like: Lucky Lab, Hopworks, Tug Boat (if you really like hops), and Lompoc.
Japanese Garden and Rose Garden
This is located (really) close to downtown Portland. I am a big fan of the Japanese Gardens (especially when the Cherry Blossoms are out). The Rose Garden is really close and worth a walk through. You can do both in 1-2 hours.
Powell Books (downtown)
If you like bookstores, check out Powell Books (the one on Burnside downtown). This is a popular tourist destination (and also popular among locals). I personally don't see bookstores as being particularly exciting -- but if you are in to this sort of thing then check it out. Not a bad place to drop by and get some coffee and do some people watching.
Brunch is very popular in Portland. If you are here during the week, I would suggest grabbing something (when it is not as crowded). Some popular places: Tin Shed, Screen Door, and Mothers. Your best bet is to check out Yelp.
The Timbers are our soccer team (MLS). PGE park is pretty cool. Thursday is a popular game day ($2.50 cheap beer).
Portland is known for its food carts. Check them out!
I have not been there yet :), but I know that some of my friends have enjoyed it. It is not particularly large, so don't plan on spending a lot of time there.
This place is a Portland landmark. They have all sorts of crazy donuts. Expect to wait in line (especially if you go at a popular time like in the AM or late at night). Janel and I have actually never been there -- it is one of those things that lots of people only do with visitors. Some locals really love it though.
Walking along the waterfront can be fun ... especially if you like bridges. I personally prefer to walk on the East side, as you can look across the river to downtown.
The Gorge is East of Portland. It is one of my favorite places. Lots of good hiking along with stuff to see if you are not interested in walking too far from the car. If you are going to hike, be ready to get your footwear muddy. It is pretty wet year round. Things also can be icy in the winter, so be careful.
I would definitely suggest doing a little driving tour on the Historic Columbia River Highway (the part between Corbett and Cascade Locks). Start at Vista House. Get out and see Latourell Falls (about a 2 minute walk). Consider walking up to Wahkeena Falls. Definitely get out and see Multnomah Falls. Before starting the drive, you should also consider driving up to the top of Larch Mountain if it is a clear day. This is a bit of a drive, and is only worth it if you have blue skies. Also be aware that the road to the top is closed during the winter months.
There are lots of great hikes in the Gorge. Three of my favorites:
- Multnomah Falls to Wahkeena Falls Loop -- ~5.5 miles -- a good number of waterfalls
- Eagle Creek -- lot's of options here (all "in and out") -- 3 miles to Punchbowl; 6 miles to the bridge; 13 miles to Tunnel Falls (but if you get this far, make sure you walk ~.25 miles past it to some awesome cliffs)
- Wahclella Falls -- A nice short (~2 miles?) hike with some nice falls at the end
- Dog Mountain (WA side) -- ~7 miles -- this is a great hike when the wild flowers are out (~May). It has a good amount of elevation gain, so don't be tricked. Probably not worth it other times of the year.
Oregon is known for Pinot Noir, but you can also get other varietals. There are a ton of options (see here. Your best bet is to go on a tour (so nobody needs to be DD). I have used this place twice. They are relatively cheap.
I like Elk Cove and Carlton Winemakers Studio. I am not a huge Pinot fan, so keep that in mind.
This is a nice hike ~1 hour West of Portland on the way to the Coast. ~5.5 miles with moderate elevation gain. Great hike on a nice day. You can see the coast, the gorge, and most of the Cascade peaks.
Mt St Helens
Climbing this peak requires a permit which you need to get well in advance. It is not as hard to get permits on week days. You can definitely do this in one day (including driving up from Portland), but you can also camp at the trailhead. This is 10 mi + ~5K elevation. Other than the start, this is not really a "trail". Most of it is either scramble up bolders or a trudge up volcanic ash (at the top). This is a LOT harder than your typical 10mi hike. I have done this hike on both a perfect day and a terrible day. If the weather is looking ugly on the day you got your permits, you should consider just not going (unless you enjoy suffering).
The Visitors Center on the North Side of the mountain (the part that blew out) is also supposed to be cool. I have not been there, and it is a lot farther away than the South Side (where the summit trail is).
This is a state park ~1.25 hours south of Portland. There is a 7 mile hike with a ton of great waterfalls. I suggest doing the loop starting at the main parking area at South Falls. Do the loop "counter-clockwise" (follow the rim to start out rather than dropping down near South Falls). This trail is well maintained and suitable for children.
The best time of year to go is when you are getting some snow melt (Spring and early Summer). It is good at other times -- just not as good.
You can make a day trip out to the Coast. I would suggest Ecola State Park and Cannon Beach. Seaside is a "tourist town" (mini golf, cotton candy, etc). There are lots of other options farther south, but they are too far to be a day trip. Crabbing can also be fun in months that end in "ER".
Skiing/Snowboarding is pretty good from Dec - April. Snow shoeing can also be fun (White Mountain is a good one). Dinner at Timberline Lodge is solid (any time of the year). Ramona Falls is a good hike (just make sure that the road is open).
Outside Portland -- Farther Away
This is my favorite hike in the area. It is a good distance from Portland, but something to consider. It is ~10 miles w/ ~5K of elevation gain. The trail is good until the end (which is a bit trickier on some scree). It is a great hike on a nice day. Definitely not worth the drive if the weather is not so nice. No permits required. I suggest getting an early start so that you can make it to the top before it gets warm. Note that you can do this as a day trip; just be ready for a LONG day.
This is an amazing National Park. Paradise is ~3 hours north. Probably too far for a day trip, but good for a couple days. Comet Falls and Skyline Loop hikes are good ones (near Paradise). Reflection Lake is a great place for sunrise/sunset photos.
This is long way south. You definitely can't do it as a day trip, but you also don't need to spend a long time there (1 day there is probably plenty). You probably need 1 day for travel both ways. Definitely go on the boat tour.