Take A Walk: Parking The Car To See Portland, Oregon

Portland Oregon
Pioneer Square Courthouse in downtown Portland, Oregon

Food, coffee, shopping (NO TAX!), and of course, wine, all just steps away (or at your doorstep).

Portland, Oregon might be America’s best urban city, a great place to get out from behind the wheel and take a walk. From early morning coffee to meetings, lunch, shopping, cocktails, dinner and late night drinks, Portland is filled with fun, unique and authentic experiences.

We recently checked into the Hotel Vintage, a newly renovated Kimpton property in Portland. While I had work to tend to, I still found time for some tax-free shopping and sightseeing (no truly good business trip is complete without a bit of diversion, right?). My colleague Meagan also stayed at the Hotel Vintage, and here’s what she thought about it

Portland Oregon

Pioneer Square Courthouse in downtown Portland, Oregon. Where to go first? Credit: Scotty Reiss for AGirlsGuidetoCars

Checking out the local retail, and discovering a Northwest gem

Portland Oregon

The main attraction: A guest room at Portland ‘s Hotel Vintage. Credit: Scotty Reiss for AGirlsGuidetoCars

Arriving at the Hotel Vintage early on the day I checked in, my room wasn’t ready yet (it was really early!), so I checked my bag with the bell desk and headed out: Shopping!

First on my list was to buy a lipstick, something I never have time to do at home. Just two blocks away was a Pacific Northwest gem: Nordstrom. But, I had to check out my options, so I headed first to Pioneer Place- an upscale mall with lots of shopping options (Louis Vuitton, anyone?). The walk took me past so many cute shops and boutiques, but eventually, I headed across Pioneer Square to Nordstrom where I knew I’d get good advice at the Bobby Brown counter. There I was greeted and treated to the department store’s famous service and, on the second floor, some nicely plump sale racks.

After shopping a bit I headed out Nordstrom’s north entrance and across the fabulously modern Director Park to Pastini—at the suggestion of the Nordstrom team—for lunch with Meagan. We settled into the quaint Italian restaurant’s pub-feeling dining room and had freshly prepared and very delicious salads and paninis.

Oregon’s Wine Trail, at your service

Portland Oregon

The wine theme is seen everywhere in the Hotel Vintage, including the elevator doors. Credit: Scotty Reiss for AGirlsGuidetoCars

After lunch I checked into my room and took in the Hotel Vintage’s wonderfully local Oregon Wine Trail meme: wine, wine everywhere.

The wine theme starts in the lobby, outfitted with a tasting table and a showcase of the wineries that hold daily tastings there: wine makers sign a bottle that is put on display in the lobby and the bottles are assembled into lots and auctioned off to benefit charity. A wine bar at the back of the lobby features local wines on its world class wine-by-the-glass menu. A chalkboard next to the bar covers a large portion of the lobby wall and details in a college-chemistry-class-like illustration the “Spectrum of Wine:” read all about wine, its types, terroirs and characteristics for a more insightful experience.

Portland Oregon

The Bacchus Bar at the Hotel Vintage, Portland, Oregon. Credit: Scotty Reiss for AGirlsGuidetoCars

The wine theme carries out though the rest of the hotel: each room is named for an Oregon winery and wine ‘imagery’ is used throughout the hotel, from corkscrews on the elevator doors to collages made from corks and wine bottle foils, to a wine cellar and tasting rooms in the hotel’s basement (perfect for weddings, meetings or just an extravagant dinner).

“Vintage” in heritage but not experience

Hearing that I’d be staying at the Hotel Vintage, I expected Victorian furniture and an homage the past; I was surprised that the 100-year-old hotel had just undergone a full gut renovation, keeping its original walls, windows and details but adding modern decor and technology. The renovation left a beautiful, light-filled open lobby with a central staircase leading to a balcony space with a lounge, pool table and games. The second floor also has meeting rooms and lobby rest rooms. The center of the lobby is a column of air and light: a glass atrium tops the center of the building and lets sunlight stream in from the roof nine floors above.

Portland Oregon

Everything you need to know about wine, all nicely detailed on the chalkboard in the Bacchus Bar at the Hotel Vintage. Credit: Scotty Reiss for AGirlsGuidetoCars

In redesigning the hotel, Kimpton’s planners took a holistic view of wine: not only the wonderful wines of Oregon’s Willamette Valley (pronounced Will-AM-it) but also, the lifestyle that unfolds around good wines: Games, food and conversation. The entire lobby space is designed for sitting, sipping, chatting and eating; then, there are game nooks everywhere, including on several of the upper floor lobbies. Even though there is much to see and do beyond the Hotel Vintage’s doors, you’ll be hard pressed to get up the muster to go see it; there’s so much to do between your room and the the lobby door.

Portland Oregon

The Wall of Fame: wines donated by wineries that have conducted tastings at the Hotel Vintage. Credit: Scotty Reiss for AGirlsGuidetoCars

The first night as we were heading out to dinner, we stopped by the wine tasting and sipped some local pinot noir, so we decided to nestle into the Bacchus Bar for our first glass of wine and half-price happy hour appetizers.

Don’t forget to eat: Portland’s fabulous food offerings

Portland Oregon

Meagan, Nasreen and me having dinner at Red Star Tavern. Credit: Scotty Reiss for AGirlsGuidetoCars

But once you do venture outside— you can easily take a two-wheeled spin around town on one of the hotel’s complimentary bikes, available in the lobby— Portland’s great coffee, food and culture are within a few blocks of pretty much anywhere you might be. Too many restaurants to try; everywhere we went we asked for advice on the best nearby restaurant. Here’s where we ate:

Red Star Tavern, where I had delicious Tavern burger and Meagan had the Bourbon glazed pork loin (she wanted to go to Red Star just for this dish). The restaurant has a modern bistro feel with lots of high-top tables near the bar. We arrived late and the restaurant wasn’t all that busy but still had a warm, robust feeling.

Little Bird Bistro, probably Portland’s highest-rated restaurant and maybe the best burger I’ve ever had (two thin patties, spicy ketchup, melted brie, and YUM), was surprisingly open late (they served until midnight) and happily accommodated our group of 8 when we rolled in at 10pm.

Mother’s Bistro, which is more of what I expected when I booked a hotel called “Vintage:” turn of the century details like tin ceilings, transom windows, and cast iron pillars and steam pipes. Mother’s exudes culinary quaintness, then delivers on the promise with great food. And as good as the menu was, the coffee was even better.

Pazzo Restaurant at the Hotel Vintage, where we had a very nice breakfast.

During the event that we came to Portland for, Chevy Shop Social: Portland, we were able to sample local favorite food trucks including Grilled Cheese Grill, Scoop handmade ice cream and Ramy’s Lamb Shack.

Worth the trip just for the coffee

If you love coffee, make it a twice or thrice daily event. One thing to love about Kimpton hotels is there’s aways free coffee set up in the lobby in the morning. So even sleepy eyed, you can just pop downstairs, pour a freshly brewed cup, then plan a day coffee hunting. Portland has wonderful coffee shops, including hometown hero Stumptown Coffee (more great coffee shops can be found here). But restaurants are competitive in the coffee game, too. Mother’s had a whole menu of coffees with descriptions that for once, truly described the experience; I could taste the toasty-berry-multi-layered flavors, and there was even a very pleasant aftertaste. We tried two different types of French press coffee and the flavors were bright, distinct and delicious. This is not your Grandma’s Chock Full ‘o Nuts.

Portland Oregon

Bikes for guests to use at Portland Oregon’s Hotel Vintage. Credit: Scotty Reiss for AGirlsGuidetoCars

What I’ll do Next time I visit Portland

Portland Oregon

Pioneer Square, getting set for Chevy Shop Social: Portland, Credit: Scotty Reiss for AGirlsGuidetoCars

Shopping: I didn’t get to spend much time in the Pearl District and next time, I will: Just driving through this chic, quaint and engaging neighborhood, I wanted to stop at nearly every storefront and explore; restaurants, wine shops, coffee shops and more; it all makes me want to move into one of the cute  rose-covered bungalows nearby and stay forever.

Hiking: Forest Park, 5,000 acres of parkland in the city

Oregon Wine Trails: As much as I love walking around and sampling the urban culture, I long to get into the car and hit the highways to Oregon’s many wine trails. Willamette Valley produces world class wines (go for the Pinot Noir, the region’s most famous varietal). Finding the hidden gems in a wine region is a journey worth taking.

The whole time walking around Portland, I had this song in my head, so I thought I’d share it with you:

Disclosure: I was a guest of Travel Portland, which covered my hotel and one meal. Transportation and the adventures were all my own.

Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss