Things to do

A First Timer's Guide to Portland

Seattle is incredibly lucky to be sandwiched between so much. Whoever looked at our spot on the map way back when and decided, "Ya, this looks like a nice spot", had no idea what they had tapped into. We have water to the west, mountains to the east. Vancouver to the north and Portland to the south. 

Today we focus on our city to the south. The City of Roses. Hipster Paradise. Portlandia. Portland. PDX. Here are all the things you should hit up on your first trip to Portland, Oregon. 

Where to Stay

The Ace Hotel

The ace hotel portland

When you visit Portland this is really the only place you should stay. The Ace Hotel embodies Portland perfectly. It's trendy, but low-key. It's chill and artistic. It's comfortable and approachable. The Ace is located in the wonderful Pearl District, only one block away from Powell's Books and a few more from Blue Star Donuts. Yes and yes. Book as far out as you can to ensure a spot in this amazing hotel!

The Ace Hotel Lobby
Well thank you, Maurice! Your cookie was delicious.

Well thank you, Maurice! Your cookie was delicious.


If they are booked up a great second option is McMenamins Crystal Hotel. McMenamins is also located in the Pearl District, well situated for sightseeing. Bonus adds: It has a subterranean saltwater soaking pool and a cool underground bar where you can grab a drink and see live music or comedians. 


This category is where Portland shines. You can visit year round because there is nothing seasonal about the wonderful breweries and restaurants. They are amazing any time of the year, but when the patios open in the spring and summer the beer does taste just a litttttle bit better. We could never cover all the great places, but here are some to round out your trip nicely.

Blue Star Donuts

breakfast, $, Website

One of everything por favor. 

One of everything por favor. 

Blue Star Donuts are hands down the best donuts on the west coast. You can try to argue, but it won't get you anywhere. We love donuts. We have tried more donuts than is socially acceptable (even in America) and these win, every time. Do not go to Portland without getting Blue Star. 

Passionfruit and Cacao Nibs donut. Yum.

Passionfruit and Cacao Nibs donut. Yum.

Try the Passionfruit & Cacao Nibs and the Original Glaze to get a taste of both the funky and classic! 

Stumptown Coffee

coffee/snack, $, Website

stumptown coffee cups

Stumptown is one of the PNW's most well known coffee shops and rightfully so. Their coffee is complex and smooth and they know how to make their drinks right. We love their cold brew best, but on cold days a steaming hot americano will warm up your soul. If you have any questions about home brewing they are experts and can help with that too!  

Tasty n Sons

brunch, $$, Website

This place is a hot spot for brunch. They have small and big plates, so you can share or devour something all on your own. Don't miss the Tasty Mary and the Potatoes Brava. Basically everything else on the menu tastes like heaven too, so go all out. 

Screen Door 

dinner, $$$, Website

This place will make you wait for it, but it's worth it. This southern inspired restaurant has been featured in countless magazines for their amazing menu, and we are totally on the bandwagon. Start with the hushpuppies and fried okra, then move onto their famous buttermilk fried chicken and get one of their many crazy scrumptious side dishes. And then (yes there is more, you can do it) finish the whole experience with the warm apple bread pudding. Then go for a're going to be more full than you've ever been before. 

Piazza Italia 

dinner, $$$, Website

Piazza Italia takes us right back to Italy. This quaint, friendly, and authentic spot has some of the best Italian we've had in all of the Pacific Northwest. Started by an Italian immigrant, this spot has everything you could need in an Italian restaurant: the menu, the wine, and the ambience (soccer jerseys and all). They take reservations, which we absolutely recommend making if you want to get a table (especially on a weekend). 

¿por que no? 

lunch/dinner, $, Website

Are you a taco fanatic? We are and this place is no joke. They have an awesome vibe, crazy delicious street-style tacos, and all the hot sauce you could ever need. Their guacamole is the perfect starter and make sure to try multiple tacos (chorizo, carnitas, carne asada, and the pescado are a few to get you started). Also, make sure to check out the specials board for their daily creations. 

Salt and Straw 

dessert, $, Website

Seasonal passionfruit scoop on top of a scoop of salted caramel. So. Good. 

Seasonal passionfruit scoop on top of a scoop of salted caramel. So. Good. 

Portland's famous ice cream shop gets 5 stars in our book. The only bad part of visiting this place is trying to decide which flavor to go with. We recommend leaving some time between your meal and your trip here to make sure you have room in your stomach for at least two scoops in a waffle cone. Our favorites? Snickerdoodle and honey lavender. 

Now for the beer. There are a million and one breweries in Portland. You really have to decide what kind of vibe you want when picking which to check out. Do you want small and low-key with a few beers on the menu or big and established with things like food and extras like cider or kombucha offered on the menu? If you don't care, well just start walking, chances are you'll just run right into a great spot. 

10 Barrel Brewing

beer/lunch, $$, Website

Beer AND delicious food. Best of everything.

Beer AND delicious food. Best of everything.

10 Barrel is an established brewery that started in Bend, OR back in 2006. Three guys started brewing beer and now, over 10 years later we are all better for it. It's good beer and better yet, they have delicious food. Like shockingly good compared to most brew-pubs. Come on an empty stomach, bring friends, and have a chill couple hours. 

Other great brewery options: Hopworks, The Commons, and Bridgeport.


Portland is built on the beautiful Willamette River and is a community full of activities to do inside and out. From strolling along the river to playing video games in a dark arcade. You can find something for everyone! 

Powell's Books

powell's bookstore in portland

When we dream of Portland, we dream of Powell's. Powell's has been in business in Portland since 1971. Over the last 40+ years they have built up a book lovers paradise. They stock both new and used books and have basically every category under the sun. Clear off a shelf on your bookcase before you visit, and grab a basket on the way in for all your finds! Website

Tom McCall Waterfront Park 

This park along the river is a great little place to take a stroll on a nice day and check out the riverfront. It is close to many other sights and easy to get to on foot. You might even run into a festival or concert in the warmer months. 

man blowing bubbles
portland bridges

Insider tip: If you want to check out a super epic Portland bridge, wander north of the city to St. John's Bridge

Ground Kontrol

ground kontrol arcade portland

Ground Kontrol is a classic arcade with all the games you remember from your childhood (this statement spans multiple generations) including Centipede, PacMan, Area 51, Cruisin World, and even a few new ones to keep you guessing! Located in Chinatown, it's a great place to check out on a rainy day and after 5PM they even have a bar so you can enjoy a beer with your Terminator pinball. Website. 

Mill Ends Park - World's Smallest Park

Mill End's Park in Portland. Photo credit:  @lovedayy

Mill End's Park in Portland. Photo credit: @lovedayy

This teeny park located in Downtown Portland near the river was granted celebrity status in the 70s from Guinness Book of World Records as the "Smallest Park in the World." It is only 2 feet across and not much to take in, but it's a quirky part of Portland you shouldn't miss if you have time! 

Pittock Mansion

This mansion sits high on a hill looking down on the city of Portland and beyond. It is free to walk the grounds and completely worth the drive up if you have a car. The views are killer and on a clear day you can see all the way to Mount Hood. The house is pretty easy on the eyes too. The home was built in 1914 for the owner of The Oregonian, Henry Pittock, and his wife. The City of Portland maintains it now and you can tour the inside for $10. Website.

See a Show

Portland is a great city for live music. If you are interested in catching a show, check out this list of live venues and see if anything peeks your interest! 

Take a Brewery Tour

Full disclosure, we haven't booked a brewery tour in Portland, but if you are interested in having an expert show you around we hear Brewvana is a great option! Definitely consider this if A. you don't have a car and want to check out multiple breweries or B. you are new to drinking craft beer and want to learn all the facts and figures behind that glass of IPA you love. 

Alright, those are our "first-timer" recommendations for visiting Portland. We honestly barely skimmed the surface though, there are so many wonderful places in this growing city. Check back for more coverage of all things to eat, drink, and do in PDX.

 Let us know what you favorite spots are in the comments and we will make sure to check them out!

20 Things to Do Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day signals the beginning of summer (well not the REAL beginning, that is Kristina's birthday on June 21, don't forget to send donuts), but it is the symbolic beginning, okay? How you spend this weekend will set the stage for how your entire summer will go.

Get inspired. Bryan Adams should want to write a song about the Summer of 16. In order to help out we put together a little list of 20 things you can do over the weekend to make sure you kick off Summer 2016 the right way.

Let's do this. 

Boat views are the best views.

Boat views are the best views.

Get out on the water.

  • Rent an electric boat, grab some beers and a group of friends and spend the afternoon navigating Lake Union and Lake Washington. 
  • Get a workout in and enjoy the water by kayaking or paddleboarding Greenlake or Lake Union
  • Insider Tip: Rent a sauna and float around Lake Union! An architectural design company, goCstudio created a floating, motorized sauna that fits six people and you can rent it for 1-2 hours for $150. See photos here and email to book it! 

Experience the great outdoors and hike.

  • Lake TwentyTwo is a great, moderate hike to see a beautiful part of the PNW. It is full of interesting vegetation, waterfalls, and the lake at the top is stunning. Something for everyone!
  • Poo Poo Point is a great, easy hike that won't take you too long. Plus, the top of the mountain is a big open field, perfect for a picnic and you can watch (or take our recommendation and actually take the jump!!) the Paragliding that takes off from this point. 
  • Wallace Falls is for all of you hikers who love the awesome water feature! There are also a few different options for how to complete this hike. We recommend making a loop from Wallace Falls to Lake Wallace.

Insider tip: At the half-mile marker, you will encounter a split in the trail. The path on the right, distinguished by a wooden gate, leads to the Woody Trail, which will take you to Wallace Falls. The left fork diverts to the old Railroad Grade that leads north to Lake Wallace. If you head to Wallace Lake look for the smiley face carved into a fallen down tree.

The tree face at Wallace Falls.

The tree face at Wallace Falls.

  • Mailbox Peak is for people who like a challenge with a reward at the end. You will want to turn around or possibly lay down and just die. But once you reach that summit you will forget all the pain and just stare at all the beauty before you (hey, that's kind of like they describe childbirth)! Then you get to sign the bad-ass guest book in the mailbox! 

Insider tip: The mailbox is filled with small tokens and items. If you want to take something from the mailbox make sure you bring something to leave in exchange!

See a show.

  • Teatro Zinzanni is this amazing dinner theater by Seattle Center that for a price (which is worth it!) you can see an amazing show served with a delicious Italian meal. Right now they are showing Be Italian, which we haven't seen, but looks like a winner!
  • The Naked Magic Show at the Moore Theater. We don't think we need to explain why you should want to go to this one. 
  • Ballard Locks has a summer concert series! Head over for the start at 2PM and enjoy a beautiful area of Seattle while listening to some classic music.

Spend some time at a festival.

  • Northwest Folklife Festival at Seattle Center is an amazing, vibrant event held at Seattle Center. Come jam to fantastic indie bands, take in beautiful artwork, and SO MUCH MORE! It's awesome and if you live in Seattle you have to love learning about new things. Go fulfill your destiny! 
Memorial Day and bikes go together like white on rice.

Memorial Day and bikes go together like white on rice.

Day Trip.

  • Start driving south and make your way to Mount Rainier National Park. It is a 14,000 + foot active volcano covered in wildflowers. This is basically the coolest place in the state. If you haven't been, go for the day and if you have been, well.. still go for the day! 
  • Memorial Day is the perfect weekend to take a trip with your friends to Woodinville Wine Country and drink your hearts out! No work Monday. Woo. Also, drink responsibly and make someone be DD. (Prep for the day with our post on How to Wine in Woodinville.)
  • Leavenworth is just a little over two hours away and this little German town is always up for a good time! Hot ticket items: wine hikes at Icicle Ridge Winery, yoga retreats at the Sleeping Lady, and river rafting with Osprey Tours

Kid-Friendly Awesomeness.

  • Seattle Aquarium Family Science Weekend is supposed to be geared for families, but not going to lie, that line-up makes us want to go too. Meet the octopus and diver shows? Yes, please!
  • Magnuson Memorial Day Run is set up so the whole family can enjoy! Mom and Dad can run the 5K and the kiddos can participate in the 400 meter kids run! Plus Magnuson is a beautiful park to spend time at after the run as well. Pack and picnic and make a day of it!
Photo of art classes from Brooke Westlund's  website .

Photo of art classes from Brooke Westlund's website.

Learn something new. 

  • Hipcooks (don't let the awful website turn you off) offers the best cooking classes! You can't go wrong with any of the options and you get a great experience for the cost. Also, Bonny is the best! 
  • Take a painting class at Brooke Westlund's gallery at Pike Place Market! Not going to lie, a lot of those paint and wine night classes seem to produce sub-par art no one would ever actually want to display. Not the case here- her classes help you produce classy, beautiful art! 

Get some R & R.

  • Banya 5 will quite literally evaporate the stress off of you. Go alone, leave your phone at home, and leave feeling lighter than a feather! 
  • Go for a float! Float Seattle is the best spot for sensory deprivation, a way to relieve stress and pain! Plus, first timers get a discount!