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3-day plan to explore Portland's downtown, outdoors

Posted October 27

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland, Oregon, offers a wealth of options for people looking to explore somewhere new.

One of the best things about the Pacific Northwest-city is its close proximity to the Columbia River Gorge and Oregon Coast, so we created a three-day plan that provides a small taste of each. Share your favorite spots in the comment section.

Day 1: Downtown Portland

If you’re lucky enough to be in Portland on the weekend, start your day by visiting one of the city’s two large, year-round markets. For fresh produce and other delicious food, visit the farmer’s market at Portland State University on Saturday morning. For unique arts and crafts, visit the Portland Saturday Market down by the waterfront. Despite its name, the Saturday Market is actually open on both Saturdays and Sundays, in addition to the entire week before Christmas.

Next, stop by Pioneer Courthouse Square in the heart of the downtown area to pay your respects to the umbrella man statue, a local landmark, and get a feel for city life. The square is lovingly called Portland’s living room. Depending on the time of year, it plays host to lunchtime concerts, outdoor movies and various other events. On Nov. 10, it will welcome the arrival of a 75-foot tall Douglas Fir tree for the Christmas season.

Portland is widely regarded as having one of the best food truck scenes in the country, with hundreds of semi-permanent food trucks operating throughout the city. One of the largest food truck hubs is located on 10th Avenue and Alder Street, just a couple of blocks away from Pioneer Square and on the way to Powell’s City of Books for those who walk. Stop at the food cart of your choice for lunch.

Once you’re full, continue on to the legendary Powell’s bookstore in the Pearl District. It’s a new-and-used bookstore so big that visitors are provided with maps to navigate the enormous space. Book lovers have been known to spend entire days in Powell’s, so budget your time accordingly. The store offers something for people of all interests. Tucked away on the top floor there is even a room of rare books that visitors can admire or purchase.

Those who are feeling adventurous should grab dinner at Old Town Pizza, which is set in the Merchant Hotel built in 1880. You’ll order a delicious pizza from the old hotel’s reception desk in the lobby and proceed to enjoy your meal in a space that is said to be haunted. Portland’s Shanghai Tunnels, which were used to force men to become sailors in the mid-to-late 1800s, is located underneath the restaurant and various companies offer underground tours that start nearby.

Day 2: The Oregon Coast

Do yourself a favor and stop at Camp 18 for a tasty breakfast and hot chocolate on the drive out to the Oregon Coast from Portland. Located at milepost 18 on Highway 26, which is also called Sunset Highway, the restaurant has the feel of a large log cabin and includes a logging museum with hefty equipment that is sure to impress. There is even a nice little creek out back for kids to enjoy.

When choosing which beach to visit on the Oregon Coast, there are a lot of options. Two of the most popular spots are Seaside and Canon Beach. Seaside has a large beach and the feel of a small resort town, with bike rentals, restaurants and small shops located near the oceanside. It is a great choice for days with cooler weather because there are fun activities to engage in both outside and inside.

Canon Beach also has a small town, but its main attraction is the iconic Haystack Rock. The huge sea stack is even more impressive in person than it is in photographs. Visitors can explore tide pools filled with ocean life at its base during low tide. Canon Beach is also a wonderful spot to watch birds, since Haystack Rock is a protected seabird nesting refuge.

A scenic drive south will bring you to the award-winning Tillamook Cheese factory. The farmer-owned co-op in Tillamook County has drawn visitors for decades and offers free samples of fresh cheese, plus an inside look at the cheese-making process. If you’d like to see the historic cheese factory you should make the trip soon, since the building is slated to be torn down in the spring of 2017.

There is no need to worry if you can’t make it in time though, because a new visitor’s center will open in 2018 and there will be a temporary visitor’s center available for those who stop by during the period in between.

Day 3: The Columbia River Gorge

The Columbia River Gorge is a magical wonderland for lovers of the outdoors that should not be missed. It is located only about 30 minutes outside of Portland and much of the drive is stunning.

Head straight to the historic Vista House at Crown Point for a dramatic view of the whole Gorge that is sure to take your breath away. The Vista House has stood since 1918, when early motorists wanted a rest stop where they could enjoy the Gorge’s stunning landscape. Now, it continues to serve as a visitor center and lookout point.

Remaining on the Historic Columbia River Highway, a scenic route that celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2016, will bring you to Multnomah Falls. The gorgeous waterfall is about 630-feet tall and visitors can feel its spray as they walk along the Multnomah Falls Trail and cross the Benson Bridge in the middle. The trail is about 1.2-miles long one-way for those who want to reach the top of the falls, but the view can also be enjoyed from the bottom where there is a lodge.

While Multnomah Falls is the most famous waterfall in the Gorge, it is far from the only one. The Columbia River Gorge is home to weeks worth of wonderful hikes, the most popular of which include Punch Bowl Falls, Oneonta Falls and Horsetail Falls. There are hikes available for visitors of every skill level. Some additional falls can be seen from the road for those who are pressed for time.

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