You likely have a list of places in mind to visit while you’re visiting Portland, Oregon for the first time. Some things you’ve been told through various sources are quintessentially Portland… and some may be. Except these are the same six places that everyone who visits Portland ends up at anyway. The problem is there are so many amazing restaurants, shops, breweries, wineries, parks, hikes, walks, and so on, that you’re missing out on some really key Portland experiences by sticking the to tired and true. In the spirit of trying to spread some of Portland’s amazing experiences, here are six alternatives to popular Portland tourist traps, that will create a more authentic Portland experience.
Avoid: Voodoo Doughnut
Every day, hundreds of people line up outside of Voodoo Doughnut in downtown Portland. The line winds outside and around the building, full of visitors who are dying for a chance to try a Maple Bacon Bar or a Grape Ape. Some will even buy a Voodoo Dozen and proudly tote the Pepto Pink box onto the airplane to the stares of jealous passengers. Once people actually try the doughnuts, they wonder “what on earth was all the fuss about?”.
Voodoo Doughnut is Portland’s single most overrated tourist stop. It doesn’t seem to matter how many people you warn that stale cereal on a doughnut is actually kind of gross, the line never dwindles. As a marketing experience, nobody has leveraged the Travel Channel and Food Network in the past 10 years quite like Voodoo Doughnut, but if you’re actually looking for a delicious desert experience, we have a much better alternative.
Go Here Instead: Blue Star Donuts
The delicate brioche dough makes a richer, fluffier pastry than your run-of-the-mill donut, and the flavors are inventive and delicious: Cointreau creme brulee; key lime and meyer lemon curd; Mexican hot chocolate; blueberry bourbon basil. This isn’t all of the donuts that they have either.
Be forewarned, the donuts here are quite expensive as far as donuts go. But if you’re looking for something that will give you an actual taste of Portland, Blue Star Donuts is superior to Voodoo Doughnut in every way. Plus, there’s almost never a line. At the end of the day, on your vacation, do you want quality or quantity?
Avoid: The Downtown Brewpubs
If you’re a beer drinker, there’s no better place to be than Portland. We have so many breweries in town, you could spend a month in Stumptown and never try all of them. Beer is the life-blood of Portland. If you’re visiting our fine city and staying downtown, then three of Oregon’s most popular breweries are just a short walk to the Pearl District: Bridgeport, Rogue, and Deschutes. There’s nothing particularly wrong with any of them, but you’re severely limiting yourself if you think this is what Portland has to offer.
Go Here Instead: Loyal Legion
Just across the Morrison Bridge on the east side of the Willamette River is where you’ll find Loyal Legion, a taproom that will blow any beer lover away. Loyal Legion features 99 taps, every one of them with a beer from Oregon. Here, you’ll get the full breadth and depth of the styles of beer that we have to offer. From hoppy IPAs to tart sour ales, there’s something for everyone here. So forgo the brewpubs downtown and head across the river for all your Oregon beer needs.
Avoid: Breakfast in your hotel
Brunch is the official sport of Portland. It can become a blood-bath at some of the various hotspots around town, so hunkering down for an easy breakfast in your hotel sounds preferable, but trust me, you don’t want to miss out on some of Portland’s best early day culinary offerings.
Go Here Instead: Tasty N Alder
Tasty N Alder takes Brunch and elevates it beyond what you thought possible. The steak and eggs is life changing, the bim bop bacon and eggs is mind-blowing, the potatoes bravas are to die for… it’s hard to oversell this place, frankly. If you’re in North Portland, you can also check out their sister restaurant Tasty N Sons, which offers a different, but equally delicious spread.
Pro-tip: These places open a 9:00am. Get there about 15 minutes early so you can make the first seating. if you arrive after opening (especially on a weekend), you could be looking at a jaw-dropping wait time. You’ve been warned.
Avoid: Powell’s City of Books
It’s the size of a city block, multiple stories, and you can find just about anything that’s ever been published. Powell’s is… um… well…
Go Here Instead: Just Kidding, Go to Powell’s
Ha! Got you! Everyone should go to Powell’s at least once. Go there and get lost in the stacks of books. If you’re a book lover, this place will live up to the hype. Powell’s is the best.
My point is, there are several tourist traps that you will find if you search the best things to do in Portland. There are so many hidden gems in this beautiful city of central Oregon, and I would honestly hate for you to miss them. After all, if you’ve never been here, you need to have a great first impression.