Otherwise known as The City of Roses, Portland, Oregon, is among the nation's fastest growing cities, and after their first few glimpses, visitors to the understand its appeal. With majestic Mt. Hood rising over the city's eastern skyline and situated on the banks of the Columbia and Willamette rivers, Portland provides visitors and residents alike with a seamless combination of edgy urban ambiance and mysterious, pristine wilderness. The nation's largest urban forests lies well within its city limits, Forest Park, which is so deep that it provides habitat for a multitude of wild animals and has more than 70 miles of wooded trails. Following are several other parts of the city that provide it with its unique character.
Powell's City of Books
No visitor to The City of Roses can pass up a visit to Powell's City of Books. This iconic landmark takes up an entire city block and continues to thrive even in these days of electronic retailers, and is, in fact, the largest independent bookstore in the world. Be sure to set aside plenty of time, as in at least half a day, for a visit to Powell's. Even if you aren't a book lover, you won't be able to resist getting caught up ambiance and history it contains.
Although it isn't located in Portland proper, Multnomah Falls is another must-see destination in this part of the Pacific Northwest. Just a short drive up 1-84 and easily accessible by charter bus, this area features gigantic waterfalls in a lush, temperate rain forest setting. Hiking trails are available for those with skill levels ranging from beginner to advanced. Dress in layers if you're going to hike -- the weather can vary wildly throughout the course of just several hours, and you may experience everything from warm sun to chilly rain showers.
The International Rose Test Garden
The nickname The City of Roses comes from the fact that the region offers an idyllic environment for rose cultivation, and nowhere is this more apparent than in this century-old rose garden and horticultural laboratory. If your visit falls between the months of April through October, you'll be able to walk among more than 7,000 blooming rose bushes. Like many of the best things in The Rose City, admission to the gardens is free.
The Food Carts
Forget making reservations at whatever next big restaurant du jour you read about several weeks ago -- the culinary scene here has taken to the streets and shows no sign of leaving. Food cart pods are everywhere, and you'll find them by simply following your nose. The street food movement has attracted talented culinary artists from all over the world who would rather sell their masterpieces from humble carts on the street than work for someone else at a corporate-owned restaurant. Almost all types of world cuisine are represented here.
Southeast Portland's Distillery Row is where you'll find old-school distillers crafting creative spirits using a combination of ancient ways and cutting-edge technology. Even if you don't drink liquor, you'll drink in the eclectic ambiance of this area. it's fresh and edgy here. The city has long been known for its vibrant beer scene, earning itself yet another nickname, Beervana, but the microbrew scene feels almost vintage next to Distillery Row. Savor cocktails made with vodkas flavored with wild berries, forest greens, and even local salmon, trout, and oysters. Garnishes of freshly picked herbs are common here, but so are cocktails served with no garnish at all so that you can best taste the results of the distillers' artistry.
Old Town Chinatown
Boutique shopping, galleries, historical architecture, nightlife, and gardens. Portland's renowed Saturday market is located here, complete with street performers, arts and crafts, and culinary wonders. If you're a dance club aficionado, you;'ll love Old Town Chinatown on weekend nights. Several blocks at the core of the area are closed off to vehicle traffic, making it easy and fun for club goers to drift from one venue to another. Free form exploration is one of the best ways to experience this part of the city -- simply begin walking and follow your ears, ears, and nose to whatever adventures they may lead you to.
If you're like most people, you won't want to leave when the time comes, and you'll already begin missing The City of Roses before you even take a seat on your bus rental. But Portland is just the beginning. The rest of Oregon awaits, so relax and enjoy the ride.
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