Having visited Portland one other time, this trip was to enjoy the city a tad bit more and possibly in a leisurely manner. For my stay I chose the Jupiter NEXT Hotel, a modern boutique hotel close to the Pearl District. The minimalist décor and large wall murals are a plus. The large lobby area and upstairs coworking space were also great. The sleek design of the furniture was welcome. I liked the location also for it being somewhat central to a few different things I’d be doing during my days here and walkability to restaurants and shops.
Technically, this was a week-long trip but really the only sightseeing I was able to fit in was all in one day so I did the logical thing and did all the touristy local stuff I could, given this was my first visit and I had already done some intense stuff during the week. I set out in the morning and purchased a Big Pink Sightseeing Grayline Hop-on Hop-off Portland Trolley Tour day pass. You can buy this from the driver if you happen to see the trolley anywhere or from their ticket location right in the middle of Pioneer Square. Helps that this is located near the travel info center where you can get other tourist info as well as restroom facilities. Also helps that it is right next to Starbucks if you wanted to pick up coffee. And it never hurts to be located close to some retail stores and restaurants in case you happened to be there too early and needed to waste time window shopping. This was my chosen mode of transport the rest of the day - they cover 12 attractions and provide narration along the way. They tell you exactly where they will pick you up and at what time so you never have to worry about being stranded anywhere. It costs $32 only! My chosen stops were the International Rose Test Gardens, Japanese Gardens, Oregon Zoo, Chinese Garden and Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.
1. The Rose Test Gardens are free to enter and offers I have no idea how many varieties and colors of roses in that one space. It is beautiful especially when the flowers are in full bloom. It offers a few nice picture postcard scenes and is a great place for family portraits I think. I barely walked around 15 minutes and I was done. If you are a nature enthusiast then you would spend an hour here easily. Me? Not really green thumbed!
2. Japanese Gardens - This is a 5 minute walk from the Rose gardens and they do have a shuttle to take you to the entrance if the climb up the slope to enter the venue is too steep. Entry is under $10 and you could spend about an hour here covering their different highlights - 10 in all. Claim to fame? Said to be the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan. So if you think you will never head to that country, this is your best bet. The different gardens are a dream for photogs. If lucky, you might find a bench or two where you can take a minute to enjoy the calm and quiet. Or read a book if that's your thing. They have some fantastic views of the city near the gift shop.
3. Oregon Zoo - There is usually a zoo train from the Rose Test gardens directly to the zoo but construction had that option removed. I was able to take the trolley up to the zoo. Lucky for me, it was Tuesday and they had entry for $4 so I took that as a sign and checked it out. I somehow feel that if there is a zoo in a city it should be visited - for no other rhyme or reason than to see animals rather than people, who, by the way, I see every day! I also ate at the restaurant at the entrance - I forget the name. Stay away from their carrot soup but their sandwiches are good. Pretty large area but I covered it in an hour considering I didn't stop anywhere for shows or other programs. The World Forestry Center, Portland Children's Museum and Hoyt Arboretum can also be accessed at this stop on the trolley tour - I just did not have time to include that in my day.
4. The Lan Su Chinese Garden - You get here via the Shopping District and Pearl District if you do the trolley. They have some nice stores there so if you have retail therapy on your mind, those would be your stops. The Chinese Garden was beautiful. Again, less than $10 to enter and an hour is enough but depends on your schedule. They have 12 different vistas here and give you a booklet to explain everything. They also have a little tea house if you need a pit stop but have a few seats at each vista if you want to take a break and enjoy the scenery. Again, claim to fame? The most authentic Suzhou-style Chinese garden outside of China. Most of the building materials and plant species came here from China. Also it took 65 artisans from China 10 months to get this completed.
5. Oregon Museum of Science and Industry - Fondly referred to as OMSI, was my last stop. Almost did not make it given evening rush hour traffic but was able to have an hour to spare and saw just the main exhibition areas. They did have an entire Ripley's believe it or not section that had my attention for the better part of that time. Entrance was under $14.
I Ubered a ride over to Bollywood Theater for dinner. Crowded as ever for a week day and quite the favorite among locals. You have to queue up and pay to order and then they bring the food over. My standard measure of any place depends on the biriyani they serve there and lucky for me that was the day's special as was the dahi vada so that is what this girl ordered. The dahi vada was fair price and portion-wise. The biryani though was a different story. While it was made well, I definitely felt the portion for the price was a lot lesser than what we would ideally get in Atlanta. Also the plate had a lot going on - some salad, some yogurt, some curry in addition to the biryani but if you ask this desi, I'd prefer a whole pate of the biryani sans accessorizing please! I ended up having to order something to go - their shrimp curry - which totally missed the spot for me anyways! Also - what kinda desi establishment got no dessert?! I will just have to visit this place again and give it another shot - I hate to make a call on their offerings based on one trip. The staff though were really nice people and even kept me company checking on me since I was dining alone. Ubered it back to the AirBnB property I had rented with a few friends and called it a night. (PTL for Uber).
If you've visited any of these spots, or think I should have checked out any other attractions instead, leave me a comment below :)