This Land Is Portland

After all that sun we got in Hawaii, we almost forgot that we still have some adventures to share from a notoriously less sunny place. We already told you about our day at the Portland Home & Garden Show (you can read more about that here – and if we met that evening, our pic together might be here). And yes, Sherry is holding someone else’s baby and I’m wearing an apron (meant for Clara!).

Between all of that presenting/meeting/greeting we actually had some time to take in the city a little bit too. So for anyone planning a visit (or just wondering what the heck we did) here ya go…

We got into town around 4pm PST on Tuesday the 21st and Clara was tired with a capital T. The poor girl had gotten up two hours early, was nearly at her normal bedtime (in East Coast time), and hadn’t napped or even slept a wink on the plane – scratch that, she slept one wink as we touched down at PDX (we’ll cover more on traveling with a toddler and how she adjusted to the time difference later on Young House Life).

So after giving Clara a much needed power nap we dashed out to grab dinner at ¿Por Que No?, one of the many restaurants that you guys had recommended to us. It was muy delicioso (forgive our iPhone pics for being no bueno). Our favorites were the carnitas and the shrimp & pineapple tacos if you’re wondering.

Since we were determined to soak in as much of Portland as possible (and force ourselves to get onto west coast time), we even stayed out long enough to get dessert. We hit up Salt & Straw, which was this ice cream lover’s dream. Although having to pick just one of their very distinct flavors was a bit of a nightmare (paralyzed…with…indecision). After sampling spoonfuls like Pear with Blue Cheese and Arbequina Olive Oil, I landed on their most popular flavor: Sea Salt with Caramel Ribbon. Meanwhile Sherry got something equally amazing (almond ganache something?) and I also bought one of their extra soft t-shirts (why yes, I am expanding my repertoire beyond soda shirts to food related tees as well).

Salt & Straw was a pretty cool shop too. First, it was a big reminder that Portland is crazy about being eco (in a good way). Compost everything? Don’t mind if we do!

Decor-wise they also had a flock of these awesome wire birds soaring across one wall along with exposed beam ceilings and industrial lights and stools.

And these cool rustic shelves stocked with retro looking products like soaps, stationery, and straws were speaking our language. We could’ve spent another hour or two there soaking it all up (and digesting our first scoop enough to order up another one), but we were starting to push our luck with our littlest ice cream connoisseur (who got the Double Fold Vanilla and loved every bite of it – so much that she screamed “buh bye ice cream!” when we left).

The next day – Wednesday the 22nd – was spent pretty much entirely at the Home & Garden Show (Clara was being entertained by my parents, who had thankfully flown out with us to visit some family in the area). Oh but after our early interviews with a couple of Portland’s morning news shows (you can check one of those out here) and before any presentation/meet & greet stuff started we did have a break to check out the single most recommended spot according to you guys: Voodoo Doughnut.

There were so many weird flavors that we wish we could’ve rented a secondary stomach for the day. In the end we ended up with a Bacon Maple Bar (yes, a doughnut with bacon on it), a Neapolitan (chocolate doughnut with vanilla frosting, strawberry dust, and marshmallows), and an Arnold Palmer (vanilla frosting with lemonade & ice tea dust… and a solitary green Froot Loop?). They were all good, but the Bacon Maple definitely rocked our world the most (crispy + salty + sweet + doughy = awesometown).

So by this point we were pretty convinced that Portland was (a) very green, (b) very yummy and (c) apparently very weird. Case in point: when Sherry spotted this sign in the background, she did her part to fit in. I’d say she looks mighty weird. Mission accomplished, Mrs. P.

Fast forward to Thursday, which was the extra day that we had built into our stay so that we could run around town a little more. We started the day at another highly recommended spot: Pine State Biscuits. Is it sounding like we just ate the whole time? If so, it’s pretty accurate.

Sherry got their signature sandwich: “The Reggie” and I got “The Chatfield” (basically the same thing, but with apple butter instead of gravy). We realize this picture is less than appetizing, which is doing this breakfast a great disservice. It was the best.

We also bought some local art while we were there, which was hanging on the walls of the restaurant (I love when they do that – because if you see something you love you’re actually allowed to buy it). There were so many letterpress prints attached to wood boards to choose from…

… but we went with this guy:

They’re made by a local company called Old School Stationers and sold for $25 a pop. We love getting things like this while on vacation to remember the trip by (full disclosure: Sherry has a childhood shot glass collection from every place she’s ever visited while growing up, which she only realizes now is an odd thing to collect at age 10). No idea where our new letterpress guy will end up, but we’ll share pics when he finds a spot in our house!

But now let’s focus on our non-culinary adventures. With full stomachs (and another t-shirt added to my wardrobe along with some sweet Portland art), next we hit up The ReBuilding Center, which was like our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore on steroids… and with cheekier signage.

I’m sure we could’ve spent hours hunting through the rows of lighting, tile, windows, and lumber – but without an easy way to get anything home we resisted (plus it was freezing in there!). Though we almost snagged one of these picture frames that they make from scrap wood:

The ReBuilding Center just seemed to underscore how much this town values reusing materials. I mean, just check out this cool wall made from random windows on one of The ReBuilding Center’s warehouses.

After we left there, we passed a block of shops that caught our eye – specifically this place (Sherry has trained her eyes to zero in on bee references).

Queen Bee Creations was cool, not just because they had really great textiles like this (Exhibit A):

And this (Exhibit B):

But also because the shop opens right into their studio (or “hive” as they call it). So you can actually watch their items being made (stitched, printed, and more!). It’s really fun to witness this little reminder that the things you can buy there are literally made right in front of you by Portland locals.

Another one of our favorite experiences in Portland was just driving around and checking out the neighborhoods. There seemed to be a really eclectic mix of houses and lots of bungalows and arts & crafts style homes (which we love).

People also seemed to have a lot of fun with their exteriors, so there were lots of fresh color choices to take in.

It’s too bad we weren’t there in a season where things were lusher and blooming. Although we’re mostly convinced that the rumors that it’s always overcast and misting in Portland except for in August are pretty spot on.

We also lined up a House Crashing visit while we were there, so we did manage to admire at least one house from the inside as well. We’ve still got to sort through those pictures, but here’s a preview to whet your appetite. It was beyond inspiring. We hope to edit the pics and write it all up by next week for ya.

It was actually this homeowner, Kirsten, who made the suggestion that we check out Schoolhouse Electric. We knew of them from this giveaway that we did ages ago with them, but we hadn’t heard they expanded their line beyond retro inspired lighting and hardware.

Sherry especially loved this big House 5 sign…

… these printed lamp shades…

… and these library-card-catalogs-turned-bench-seating. We only wish we could have squeezed in a trip to Rejuvenation too (they have amazing lighting) but Clara was getting antsy so it was time that we did something with her in mind.

Luckily the (otherwise sad-looking) mall near our hotel had a carousel that Clara adored (she had fun selecting which horse she wanted to ride). And pretty much the entire time she was on it, her face looked like this:

Portland has a pretty awesome Children’s Museum too – so we spent a few hours there as well. Why hello giant lite brite, fancy meeting you here.

Like any good toddler with hair so short she’s often mistaken for a boy, Clara spent most of her time playing with the trucks in the giant (rubber) gravel pit.

Our time in Portland actually wrapped up in nearby Beaverton, where my cousin lives with his wife and two children. My aunt and uncle had also driven out from Boise to pick up my parents (they were all heading back for a big family visit in Idaho when we ventured on to Hawaii) so they had all of us over for dinner. We somehow managed to leave without pictures – probably because we were just enjoying the chance to unwind with family that we don’t get to see that often.

So even though our Portland trip was quick, we felt like we squeezed in a lot of P-Town in two and a half days. Actually, in some ways it felt like the perfect taste to make us want to come back again. Perhaps for our book tour in the fall? Here’s hoping! Can you Portlandians schedule a few sunny days for us? And we’d love more tips about what shouldn’t be missed next time we’re in Oregon (selfishly for ourselves, but also for anyone reading this who is looking for more Portland fun).

Psst- The Portland Home & Garden Show Meet and Greet photo at the top of this post is by NV Holden Photography.

Pssst- Check out all of the other traveling posts we’ve shared over the last 4.5 years here.


  1. Rebecca says

    sounds like a fun trip! since you have family in Boise, maybe you should make a stop here next time! :) not quite as weird as portland but… we can show a good time!

  2. says

    wow, you guys were busy! Looks like a fun time, and I love that art you picked up and anxious to see what you guys do with it- that picture of Clara’s face on the carousel is so precious- she has an infectious smile!

    Looking forward to the house crashing post!

  3. Stephanie Phillips says

    What an amazing town! I hate the cold and the wet, but it does look like a good place to visit!

    Am I the only one who read this line: “We’ve still got to sort through those pictures, but here’s a preview to whet your appetite.” And said whet aloud a la Stewie? Hwet? Hwet! Hweeties!

    I’ll fit right in Portland… weird…

  4. kaycee parker says

    Looks like you all had a great time! I love that print that you guys picked. My bf is in San Francisco for a work trip & that’s what I’ve begged him to bring me back! Hopefully he can pick a stylish one ;)
    I’ve been to Portland a handful of times while I was growing up (from NJ too!). Now that i’m older and have left my parent’s nest, the thought of going back is more tempting now then ever. I would have a different view of the city and would love to go explore things that interest me nowadays.
    Anyways, welcome back to the East coast! You guys are great!

  5. Courtney says

    I really had to restrain myself from yelling, “PUT A BIRD ON IT!” when I saw those wire birds. Also, Clara’s face on the carousel is priceless.

  6. Rebekka says

    i love every single thing in that teaser photo of your house crashing! can’t wait!! also that art you snagged is awesome!

  7. says

    Yay!! You hit all the best spots. NE Portland is tops! I live two blocks from Salt & Straw… dangerous. Glad you enjoyed Portland!

  8. Brittany says

    Where can I find the habitat for humanity store in my area, Ft Worth, Tx? Or a store with a similar concept?

  9. says

    You guys totally just made me want to take my family there! I was there…oh….15 years ago? For like a week and I totally wasn’t old enough to appreciate it. My husband’s never been further west than Vegas and that has to change pronto! I’m glad you had a blast!

  10. says

    I love Portland, and everything it stands for. My sister lives there, and my last visit included taking my 11 year old twin nieces to get their ears pierced at a tribal body piercing museum by a man with one of those 3 inch holes in his ear. Never a dull day. Glad you guys had a great time!

    PS – My favorite donut at Voodoo is the one with the Cap’n Crunch Berries on top. It’s genius!

  11. Julia R says

    Yay! I’m glad you enjoyed your visit to my neck of the woods. And I do assure you, it is not grey and misty all of the time except August.

    We get some pretty spectacular weather here, but we also need the rain to keep everything beautiful.

    Come back anytime – there is SO much more to see in this wonderful part of the world :)

    • Marcy says

      I second that it is not always grey. We actually get sun breaks most days and have some beautiful weather almost every single month. This last week it has been up to 60 during the day.

      The best part about having a little less sun than average (besides the beautiful, happy plants) is that when the sun comes out, so do all the people. The whole city comes to life at once.

  12. says

    Wow! You guys made it to so many awesome Portland locations! I love you that were hanging out in NE PDX (my hood!) … it’s so charming and quirky :). And, I love the letterpress you picked up from Old School Stationers. I bought one of their prints a few years ago and it’s still one of my favorites!

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