Portland’s origins are as quirky as its celebrated hipster lifestyle. The city’s name was chosen by coin toss, when, in 1845, Francis Pettygrove won the right to dub the settlement after his Maine hometown. The Willamette and Columbia Rivers made the location advantageous for trade, and the small burg grew so quickly that it earned the nickname “Stumptown” due to the number of trees cut down to make room for development. Located in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, a region defined by its lush greenery and numerous vineyards, Portland has a relatively moderate climate compared to other Pacific Northwest cities, with warm, almost rain-free summers and cool but rather wet winters.
The City’s Culture
More laidback than the bustling, tech-enclave of Seattle to the north, but still oozing Pacific Northwest charm, Portland has become somewhat notorious in recent years for its lifestyle, including eco-conscious living, a love for the outdoors, and an all-around sense of quirkiness. That eccentricity is showcased in such city staples as Voodoo Donuts, which also performs wedding ceremonies, and by native son Matt Groening, who named many of his Simpsons characters after local streets and locations. The city has been included on several superlative lists, including best city for biking and most vegan-/vegetarian-friendly city. The World Naked Bike Ride sees 13,000 participants annually.
Portland’s take on cuisine is almost as notorious as its counterculture. The city boasts more food carts and trucks than days of the year and is renowned as a craft-brew paradise, with more than 70 breweries in the metro area. The nearby Cascades offer plentiful hiking and skiing, and the area’s rivers and lakes attract those looking for both respite and recreation. With more than 500 varieties of the bloom, the International Rose Test Garden gave rise to one of Portland’s other nicknames, the City of Roses. For a panoramic, non-touristy view of the city, take the Aerial Tram, also used by Portlandians for commuting.
Where to Explore
Thanks to the influx of big brands such as Nike and Intel, the Pearl District has undergone a renaissance that has turned it into one of Portland’s trendiest neighborhoods, with former warehouses now transformed into cafes, boutiques, and art galleries—not to mention the bookworm heaven of Powell’s. Funky, diverse Concordia is the city’s art hub, with numerous galleries dotting Alberta Street. Hawthorne’s indie vibe is reflected in its many small shops and in the Bagdad Theater, which has a “hidden” bar behind its big screen. Recent years have seen Southeast Division Street rise in popularity as a dining hot spot, and nearby Willamette wineries make for great day trips.