05 November 2019

Things to do in Portland, Oregon

The HoneyNerds recently visited Portland and other sites in Oregon for a quick vacation getaway.  We pack in the sight-seeing on our trips, so for our blog, we are highlighting the places we visited.  This is by no means a comprehensive list of places to see and things to do in Oregon, but an overview of places relevant to our interests.  

Powell's Book Store

Visiting Powell's was a must for Charlene - as she loves books and is always at home in a bookstore.  Powell's is the largest independent bookstore in the world and has four floors to explore and discover new and used books.  Charlene spent about three hours here and just about managed to see everything she wanted.  This is an incredible place for book lovers, and also great for people looking for gifts.  The in-store cafe has an amazing cup of hot chocolate as well!

Rose Quarter

Located just across the Willamette River from downtown Portland, the historic Rose Quarter features not one but two multi-purpose venues: the newer Moda Center (which opened in 1995) and the nearly 60-year-old Veterans Memorial Coliseum.  Mike is a huge sports fan and is fascinated by the architecture of arenas and stadiums, so he had hoped to see both of the Portland arenas during this vacation.  The NBA's Portland Trail Blazers left the older Coliseum for the Moda Center once it opened, but the local junior hockey team - the WHL's Portland Winterhawks - splits their home games between the facilities.  As luck would have it, this HoneyNerds trip would allow a visit to both!

On the first night, the Trail Blazers were playing their home opener of the 2019-20 NBA season, and Mike had great tickets in the lower bowl.  It was the team's 50th anniversary season, and every fan in attendance received a free commemorative t-shirt!  The game featured an exciting rematch of a thrilling playoff series from the year before, as the Denver Nuggets were in town to play the home team.  A very close game would ensue, and Mike had a fun time both watching the game AND wandering around the arena (where he met the Trailblazers mascot!).

The Winterhawks were on a road trip, but there was an event at the Memorial Coliseum on the second night of the trip: a concert featuring one of Mike's favorite artists, singer/songwriter Sara Bareilles.  He's been a fan for several years and saw her live in Los Angeles during her previous tour in 2014.  In the meantime, Sara's star has grown as she's written a successful Broadway musical (Waitress, adapted from the film of the same name), and starred in the live TV presentation of Jesus Christ Superstar, opposite John Legend.  She was touring in support of her latest album Amidst the Chaos, and the HoneyNerds scored floor seats less than 20 rows from the stage!  It was a stirring performance from the ensemble of talented musicians, highlighted by Sara's wonderful voice.  The arena itself was an interesting relic of a bygone era, offering insight to the glory years when the Trail Blazers made three appearances in the NBA Finals, winning their lone championship in 1977.

Voodoo Doughnut

Of course, any visit to Portland would be incomplete without a visit to Voodoo Doughnuts!  While we were too beguiled by the choices of scrumptious sweets to take pictures inside of the store, we did take a picture of the famous pink box!  We saw so many people walking around with them in Portland!  The gimmicky, over-the-top flavors with tongue-in-cheek names adds to the fun of eating these delicious doughnuts.  Voodoo is one of the first to create unique combinations for doughnuts, and it is worth the visit to try some flavors out.  We got the Portland Cream, the Double Chocolate,  and the Pumpkin cannoli - all sinfully delectable.  

Oregon Historical Society Museum

While this museum has a great exhibit on the history of Oregon (beginning with the formation of the land!), the HoneyNerds were interested foremost in a traveling Beatles exhibit that was about to end its run.  It was sponsored by the Grammy Museum and featured a wonderful collection of memorabilia and history about one of our favorite bands.  They have some great interactive pieces as well.  We highly recommend it if you are in the area!  The exhibits about the state of Oregon were also interesting and informative.  It is clear a lot of thought went into the presentation and it is a very engaging exhibit.

Oregon Rail Heritage Center

The HoneyNerds are not railfans as a rule, but we decided to stop by this museum for historic locomotives and artifacts because it houses the Southern Pacific 4449 which was featured in a Touchstone Picture entitled Tough Guys.  This was important research for our just-released podcast Out of Touchstone!  The museum is staffed by very kind and enthusiastic docents who were informative and friendly as they took us around the heritage center.  While we were there, people were working on restoring the trains and we got a unique look at the inside of these amazing machines.  If you are interested in trains, you will love visiting this lovely homage to a bygone era.

Tillamook Creamery

The Tillamook Creamery is about seventy miles west of Portland, in the town of Tillamook and is well worth a visit if you can make it.  The Creamery is small though, so for visitors, you can probably see everything in a couple hours.  There is a self-guided tour of the factory - you can look down on the workers as they process curds and whey and package bars of aged cheese - ending with a sample station of four or five different kinds of Tillamook cheese.  And in the cafe area, you can sample that cheese again in sandwiches or poured over macaroni.  Yum!  The food highlight for us though was the ice cream.  There were so many flavors but we decided to get two scoops each - Oregon Dark Cherry, Marionberry Pie, Huckleberry, and Tillamook Mudslide.  They.  Were.  Amazing.  And way too filling.  Each scoop was gigantic.  

Oregon State Capitol

Mike has a long-running fascination with state capitols, so making the hour-long trip from Portland to nearby Salem was a must for this trip.  The city of Salem is quite charming, and the State Capitol building is a gorgeous beacon in the city center.  Prominent architecture and design are on display both inside and out: the exterior of the building features sculptures to honor both pioneers from the Oregon Trail, as well as the expedition of Lewis and Clark with Sacagawea; meanwhile, the interior highlights similar explorations involved with the settling of the Oregon territory.  One of the most unique aspects of this building is the rotunda - while virtually all of the state capitols have them, this particular rotunda was surrounded by a marble structure, with the dome only being visible from the inside.  We took a self-guided tour of the facility, and made a quick stop at the gift shop where Mike bought a pair of socks that matched the carpet from the Senate chamber!

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