Art, Gardens and Books: 24 Hours in Portland

It’s no secret 2018 was the year I fell in-love with the Pacific Northwest. With trips to both Washington and Oregon, I at last experienced beloved cities like Seattle and Portland. With just about 24 hours to enjoy in Portland, time was of the essence, but that didn’t stop me from taking in quite a bit of this impeccable city.

If you’re traveling solo, listen up: I felt extremely safe while walking the streets of Downtown Portland. While you should never let your guard down, the city was clean and those I encountered were very friendly. I definitely felt more on “alert” while visiting Seattle.

The Portland Art Museum

Arriving late afternoon to Portland, I wasn’t entirely certain where to head first. This meant one thing: find the museums. Lucky for me, the Portland Art Museum is centrally located downtown. I found some street metered parking and enjoyed a 10 minute walk while catching a glimpse of the locals getting off work.

The art museum is the oldest on the West Coast, and 7th oldest in the USA. Currently undergoing renovation, the ample building houses an eclectic mix of fine art pieces in addition to contemporary and modern works of art. An exhibit highlight for me was Picturing Oregon, which celebrates the museums’ 125th anniversary and showcases the state’s wide climate and geographical range.

On their main floor, don’t miss their impressive collection of Asian art, with nearly 4,000 pieces to observe and enjoy. The Portland Art Museum boasts some of the best quality and large scale Chinese pieces not just in the country, but the world.

The Portland Art Museum. (c) Mary Farah
The stunning Japanese Garden. (c) Mary Farah
Walk among the garden’s 12 acres. (c) Mary Farah
My matcha tea set. (c) Mary Farah
Portland Japanese Garden

As a lover of botanical gardens, you can imagine that the Portland Japanese Garden has long been on my must-see list. It did not disappoint. In operation since 1962, the gardens host 12 acres of a tranquil oasis that will make you feel like you’re in Japan. The authenticity is top-notch, as is their cafe and cultural events.

During your visit, walk through the gardens and catch glimpses of koi in their fish pond. If you’re a photographer, you’ll be in a haven for capturing gorgeous photos of your afternoon. Their Cultural Village is where you’ll want to go for seasonal activities and celebrations, as well as pay a visit to the Umami Café. As someone who grabs a matcha latte from the local coffeehouse, the Umami Café was an eye-opening experience. Keeping with the sophistication that Portland has, guests enjoy a laid-back, stately atmosphere to the cafe, which is a replica of Kyoto’s Kiyomizu-dera temple.

With teas imported from Tokyo, I enjoyed a tea set with a shade-grown matcha and assorted small bites. Since matcha can be bitter, candied jellies are given to add sweetness to your drink. This afternoon tea break was the perfect ending to a gorgeous morning before heading to….

The Oregon Zoo

Located in Washington Park just a few miles from the Japanese Gardens, 62 acres await you at Portland’s prized Oregon Zoo. I was excited to see this zoo as they were the very first venue to host a “Summer Concert Series” dating back to the 1970’s. To this day, guests can enjoy a day seeing lions, tigers and bears before taking in a live concert at their outdoor amphitheater from such notable musicians like Tori Amos. How unique is that?

Much like the Japanese Gardens, the zoo grounds are stunning. Thanks to the climate of Oregon, you’re surrounded by lush, green trees and gorgeous views of the mountains. The Africa Savanna gets you up close and personal with giraffes and gazelles, while their Family Farm is an excellent chance to get your petting zoo and goat time in. If you want to take a break while still visiting with the animals, the zoo has a fun train ride to tour you though the grounds as well.

The zoo’s concert amphitheater. (c) Mary Farah
The Africa Savanna. I love giraffes! (c) Mary Farah
Those Fall colors, though. (c) Mary Farah
My delicious meal at Sungari Pearl. (c) Mary Farah
Powell’s Books

Didn’t I say I had a lot on my bucket list for Portland? Well, Powell’s Books is another must-see during your visit to the city. Powell’s is the world’s largest (yes, the world’s) independent book shop and they’re not kidding. Occupying a full city block in the Pearl District, Powell’s has 3500 different sections and buys nearly 3,000 used books per day. If you have time, block out an afternoon to truly immerse yourself in the magic of this store.

Eating in Portland

If you follow any kind of special diet, you’re in luck. Portland views ‘restrictions’ like gluten-free and vegan as the norm. While I didn’t get to dive into the foodie scene as much as I would’ve liked, 2 notable restaurants I tried were Sungari Pearl and Verde Cocina. At Sungari Pearl, enjoy health-oriented Chinese food with several gluten-free options. While at Verde Cocina, they were speaking my language as NO gluten is used in house. Even quesadillas are safe. I enjoyed their Gringas Con Mole (similar to enchiladas) and the cozy atmosphere.

Where to Stay

Located just on the outskirts of the city (15 miles from Washington Park) in Hillsboro, The Residence Inn by Marriott felt like home during my stay. Their suites feature a kitchenette, living room, and office space in addition to my spacious bedroom and bathroom. Added perk was the Netflix option on the televisions.If that’s becoming a trend, count me in.

I adored my day in Portland and hope to return this year. Learn more and plan your visit HERE.

(*Disclosure: Some of this visit was hosted on behalf of this review. All opinions are my own.)

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: