Portland, Portlandia, PDX. A city of many monikers, friendly people and no shortage of greenery. This trip first started out as a destination for Carolyn and I to run a marathon together. Plus, it has always been a spot Phil and I wanted to visit so it was a win-win in our book. Our trip also coincided with the Fourth of July and the holiday weekend allowed some additional family members (and friends) to join us for the trip. Bill, Elaine, Laura and Gabe all joined us from the Midwest [coast] for the weekend.

Our first day in Portland (the day before the race) was pretty low key. We arrived mid-day and grabbed a quick lunch with Carolyn, Bill and Elaine before checking into our hotel just in time for the kids to nap. We stayed in the Pearl District which was a perfect location for exploring the city. Tons of great shopping and restaurants within walking distance and a quick drive (or bike ride) to anything else you may want to see. The neighborhood abuts the Willamette River and the many bridges that cross it. There are eight bridges that cross the Willamette River within downtown Portland, hence the city’s other moniker – Bridgetown. Our first night we stayed in the Pearl District and ate at a quiet Italian restaurant called Piattino. We were surprised by the number of Italian restaurants in Portland. We assumed the city would be filled with gastro pub or hipster type establishments (which it has as well)…but the number of Italian restaurants definitely came as a surprise and we couldn’t seem to find a particular reason for the trend. But I digress…Piattino was delicious and we finished off our evening strolling through the First Thursday festival checking out some art work and watching the entertainment.

Friday, the Fourth of July, was race day! Unfortunately, a lingering foot injury from earlier in the year prevented me from running the full marathon with Carolyn so I ran the half marathon instead. The race went better than I thought it would on my less than 8 weeks of training and Carolyn ran an awesome race beating her previous marathon time by nearly 17 minutes. The race was on Sauvie Island, just north of Portland. The island is known for its agriculture, primarily its berries. In addition to the usual race medal, all the runners got strawberry shortcake after the race as well. I happily obliged!

Back in the city we had a post-race toast and lunch at Bridgeport Brew Pub before heading back to the hotel for a nap. Mom even needed one after her 4am wake up for the race. The rest of our day was pretty quiet but perfect. The whole gang spent the evening at Bill and Elaine’s condo relaxing and enjoying some yummy snacks and homemade cherry pie. We strolled down to the river to watch the fireworks which were underwhelming for a city who bills its fireworks show as the best west of the Mississippi. We were hoping to grab some donoughts along the way from Portland’s iconic 24 hour donought shop, Voodoo Doughnuts, but even at 9pm there was a line out the door.

While we had already spent two nights in Portland it didn’t feel like our exploring really kicked off until Saturday. We started our day at Kenny and Zuke’s, a traditional Jewish deli in downtown Portland. The restaurant came recommended from some friends and it did not disappointment. I had a pastrami breakfast sandwich while Phil stuck with his favorite bagel and lox. Both were delicious! Sophia was pretty happy they had one of her favorite items, “seed bagels,” on the menu. Not only was Kenny and Zuke’s a hit but they are conveniently located next to Portland’s famous Stumptown Coffee Roasters. Unfortunately, it wasn’t their flagship location but we still couldn’t pass up an opportunity to check them out. Verdict, Blue Bottle in San Francisco is still on top according to Phil.

After filling ourselves to the brim we headed east to explore the Columbia River Gorge. I could easily go back and spend a whole visit dedicated to the Gorge itself. The Gorge is packed full of great hiking destinations, waterfalls, windsurfing on the river and quaint towns to stroll through. We did more of a scenic drive stopping at a few lookouts before heading to our main destination, Multnomah Falls. Multnomah Falls is the 2nd tallest year round waterfall in the United States at 620 feet. It was pretty crowded and hard to get a shot of the falls to do it justice. The Benson bridge runs between the upper and lower falls and offered a great view of the falls and surrounding area. After the falls we headed to the town of Hood River with the hopes of checking out a local brewery but the place was packed so we settled on a different lunch spot. After lunch we returned to Portland for…you guessed it naps and then…you guessed it, more food. We ate at another Italian spot, Piazza Italia, to celebrate Laura’s birthday a few days early. Sophia thoroughly enjoyed Laura’s birthday tiramisu! Side note, my great friend Nicole drove down from Seattle to spend the day with us. It was great catching up with her and even better that Phil was actually around to see her this time too. Sophia loved talking “Cole’s” ear off and introducing her to all things Frozen.

Sunday we were up bright and early and with our appetites again. This time we ventured across the river for brunch at Tasty n Sons. If you Google “Portland brunch” this place is sure to pop up on just about every search result. They take very limited reservations and when we weren’t lucky enough to get a reservation the hostess I spoke with recommended we get there for their first seating at 9am or earlier as they usually have a line before the doors open. Really?!?! Being the dedicated restaurant goer that I am, we showed up at 8:45am and as advertised, there was already someone waiting for the doors to open. The restaurant has an unusual menu – everything from Moroccan flavored hashes to traditional mixed berry maple french toast – and they serve it family style. The portions aren’t so much family style but their serving style. They bring the food out as it comes out instead of everything at one time, with the thought that the table will share each plate. Once we got over the surprise in how the meal was staged everyone dug in and thoroughly enjoyed their food. What’s not to like about a chocolate donought with creme anglaise? If you’re ever in Portland I highly recommend Tasty n Sons!

After brunch we headed back across the river to do some shopping at the famous Powell’s Books (the largest independent bookstore in the world). The kids loved digging through the children section and Grandma Lainey made sure they didn’t walk away empty handed. I even managed to sneak away for some shopping of my own while Phil shopped with the kids. Couldn’t pass up an opportunity for tax free shopping!

Knowing I had another big food stop on my list, we skipped lunch and after naps headed to Salt & Straw, a farm to cone ice cream shop in Portland’s Alphabet District. Just like a lot of other places we visited, there was a line out the door but I was happy to wait. The flavors were very unique and the servers were happy to let you sample whatever you liked once you made it up to the counter. I was pretty quick to make up my mind and settled on the Sea Salt Ice Cream with Caramel Ribbons and Coconut with Petunia’s Salted Caramel Bars. Sophia got Birthday Cake with Blackberries (her favorite part were the sprinkles in the ice cream) and Will had Chocolate with Gooey Brownies as recommended by the gal serving us. Phil saw they served Stumptown Coffee and settled on a coffee float.

We worked off our ice cream and spent the rest of our afternoon exploring Washington Park. Once again, a place where we easily could have spent more time. Think Central Park but larger and more lush…and Pacific Northwest. It’s filled with 230 acres of hiking trails (referred to as the Arboretum…why, weren’t not exactly sure), the International Rose Test Garden, Japanese Gardens, the Oregon Zoo and more. We strolled through the Arboretum on a kid friendly nature walk and then made our way to the rose gardens. The views of the city from the rose gardens were amazing and once again, our pictures didn’t do it justice. Views of downtown and snow covered Mount Hood – simply beautiful. We spent our last night in Portland on the patio of Huckleberry Pub enjoying some drinks and a light dinner. We said goodbye to Portland early the next morning over a bowl of fruit loops (hey, it’s vacation). Hopefully we’ll be back to the beautiful Pacific Northwest soon!