Portland Travel Surprises: by bike and car

A Girls Guide To Cars | Portland Travel Surprises: By Bike And Car - Rose

As a Brooklynite of long standing, I barely need to travel to Portland, Oregon. I can get my fill of locally sourced honey, artisanal kombucha and craft cocktails using hand-made glass in my neighborhood.

But Portland, while dismissed as some as too self-referential and self-consciously hip, has so many charms that I am already planning my next trip. My husband and I just spent four fun days there – without kids. Of course, we could probably have fun in a prison cell without kids, but that’s another story.

Japan GardenStone garden at Portland Japanese GardenSurprisingly, in a city that may have invented the bike-riding, facial hair sporting tattooed hipster, bike sharing has yet to reach Portland. New York, behind such European cities as London, Paris and Copenhagen, only debuted its bike sharing program this spring, but you would think Portland would already have it.

No matter. We stayed at the Hotel Monaco, a luxury boutique hotel in the Pearl district that offers free bicycle usage. Hey, I can live with free!

The hotel also rewards you for driving a hybrid, offering 50% off parking. If you are really environmentally minded and drive an electric car, the hotel offers free charging.

VoodooVoodoo douhgnuts: Calories aren’t as big a concern when you bikeWe used the bikes to explore the city, going to the famed Thai restaurant, Pok Pok (there’s another branch in, naturally, Brooklyn) gin and bourbon tastings on Distillery Row, the gigantic Powell’s City of Books and the doughnut shop Voodoo Doughnuts.

We also used the one-speed cruisers to visit Washington Park, home to the International Rose Test Garden and Portland Japanese Garden. The park is perched above the city, offering great views, but difficult biking. A much better option is to drive or take the TriMet Max light rail.

The Rose Garden is free, and the day we were there, a harpist provided a musical accompaniment to the visual treat on display. All our senses were engaged; the rose perfumed the air, and we mimicked other visitors, stroking the velvety petals. No , we didn’t eat anything.

NordPublic plaza in front of tax-free shopping at Nordstrom The Japanese Garden is a 10 minute walk uphill from the Rose Garden, but there is a free shuttle bus. The garden uses three traditional Japanese garden elements: stone, water and plants in five different gardens. Note that parts of the garden are not stroller-accessible, and require sturdy walking shoes.

But if you’ve brought inappropriate footwear, you are in luck. Another Portland surprise was no sales tax, whether on shoes or food, laptop computers or hipster headgear.

Disclosure: the Hotel Monaco provided us with a media rate. Opinions are my own.


Judy Antell, who is TravelingMom.com's Free in 50 States editor, lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with her husband and... More about Judy Antell