TUG 2014 annual conference, Portland, OR, sightseeing notes

February 28 update

The 2014 TUG annual conference will be July 28 to 30 at the Mark Spencer hotel located in the wonderful city of Portland, OR.

These notes are to tell you a little about Portland — to help you while you are at the TUG conference, or to show you that Portland is a great place to visit to help you to decide to attend the conference.

Note: I do not live in Portland, but I have visited it briefly many times since I was a child growing up in California (I had a grandmother in Portland and another in Seattle, and my mother lived on the Oregon coast for 30 years), and over the past 5 years (since my grandchildren and their parents moved to Portland) I have spent over a year visiting Portland on short and multi-month visits.

Feel free to ask me questions: dave@walden-family.com
Please also tell me about errors, typos, etc., you see in the following.

Table of contents

Portland topography    Getting to the hotel (+ public transportation)    Powell's Books (and guidebooks)    Eating and drinking    Events, sightseeing, etc., in Portland    Walking and hiking, biking, parks, and Parks and Recreation    "Weird" Portland    Sights not in Portland but relatively close    Places to visit away from Portland

Portland topography

The Columbia River runs east to west across the top of Portland, dividing Oregon from Washington and Portland from its suburb of Vancouver Washington. The Willamette River runs south to north through Portland dividing East Portland from West Portland. The Willamette runs into the Columbia which then runs north 50 miles to Longview, WA, where the river turns west to go to the Pacific Ocean. The western edge of Portland goes up and a little ways over Portland's western hills. Burnside Street runs from the western hills east across the Willamette River and to the way east of Portland, dividing NW Portland from SW Portland and NE Portland from SE Portland. North of the Willamette River and west of NE Portland is North Portland. The central part of the city basically touches on NW, SW, NE, and SE Portland.

An aside: the Columbia River mentioned above comes downriver via the Columbia River Gorge from southeastern Washington and northeastern Oregon (from before that from north into British Columbia). Anyone interested in the geology of the Portland area might want to google for the "Missoula floods."

Portland is sometimes known as Bridgetown. The following bridges cross the Willamette River:

The Mark Spencer hotel is at the corner of SW Stark St. and 11th Ave. This is a short block from the boundary between NW and SW; in other words, it is particularly well located in downtown Portland.

The blocks in NW and SW Portland are close to square (not as much difference in length and width as in some big American cities).

The north-south avenues are numbered counting up as they go west from the Willamette River (the NW and SW avenues). The north-south avenues also are numbered counting up as they go east from the Willamette River (the NE and SE avenues). To find a street address on the streets going east or west and crossing the numbered avenues, discard the last two digits and the remaining number, N (of however many digits), will tell you that the address is between Avenue N and Avenue N+1, e.g., SW 1030 Jefferson St. is on Jefferson between 10th and 11th Avenues. I think the street addresses also go up in groups of 100 as you move north or south away from Burnside (I'll check this and do an update if necessary). Even numbers are on the east or north side of the street, and odd numbers are on the west or south side of the street. The east-west streets in NW are named alphabetically: Burnside, Couch (pronounced Cooch), Davis, ... A perhaps more clear explanation of all this is available on the web.

In addition to the NW, SW, NE, SE, and N regions of Portland, the city also has an explicit neighborhood system, many dozens of them as shown in an on-line map. Take a look at the map, and zoom in to the kind of vertical oval'ish area (bounded by highways and slightly spanning the river) at the middle of the map. Within the oval-ish area, you will see where the Pearl District, Downtown, Goose Hollow, and Northwest District come together. The conference hotel is very near this "four corners" area just inside the Downtown neighborhood. In other words, those four neighborhoods are the closest places to walk from the conference hotel (plus Old Chinatown, which is not the place any longer to go for Chinese food in Portland). The Northwest District also likes to be known as the Alphabet Disrtrict (because of the order of street names) and the western part of it is also known as Nob Hill. Also notice to the west of the Northwest District and extending way to the northwest along Highway 30 the gigantic Forest Park. There are also some nice places to walk up into the western hills in the Hillside and Arlington Heights neighborhoods. More about these later.

Arriving in town and getting to the hotel (and public transportation generally)

Arriving by air

Of course you can take a taxi from PDX airport to the hotel, and it will cost you something like $40. Or you can take the MAX light rail system from the airport (the airport is one end of the MAX Red Line). The MAX costs a small number of dollars ($2.50?), and you can buy your ticket with a credit card at a machine at the airport station (no one collects the tickets but you had better have one in case your train car gets checked for having tickets and you get fined for not having one). Get off the MAX at the Galleria/SW 10th Ave MAX stop. From the corner of SW Morrison and 10th, walk one block west to 11th and then three blocks north on 11th (the hotel will be on your left at the corner of SW 11th and Stark).

Arriving by car

The hotel has parking at $18 a day. If you don't want to pay that, you can surely find (after you drop your luggage off at the hotel) free on-street parking not too far from the city center, i.e., a walk or bus ride away (I'll scout this out and add more specific information).

From the west via US Rt. 26: Take Rt. 26 into Portland, keep right at the fork and follow signs for I-405 S/US-26 E/The Dalles/Salem/Market St/City Center; keep left at the fork, follow signs for Market Street/City Center and merge onto SW Market St; go left (shortly) on SW 12th Ave to SW Stark St. The hotel will be around the corner to your right at the intersection of 11th and Stark, with 11th being one way in the direction that lets you pull up in front of the hotel.

From the north via I-5: Follow the signs for Rt. 405, cross the Fremont Bridge, stay left at the end of the bridge, move over to the next to right lane, [cross reference A] after passing the Glisan exit, move to the right lane and take the Burnside/Couch exit, turn left on Burnside (skipping past the left turn onto Couch), turn right on SW 1t1h, and the hotel is just across the next intersection at the corner of 11th and Stark (you could also have veered right a couple of blocks earlier onto Stark).

From the northwest via US Rt. 30: As you approach the Fremont Bridge, stay to the right and merge onto Rt. 405; jump to cross reference A in the previous instruction.

From the east via Rt. 84: As you approach downtown Portland, you will see signs for I-5 north and I-5 south; take the turn to I-5 north; jump to the instruction for arriving via I-5 from the north (even though you are coming from the south — you can cross the Fremont Bridge to Rt. 405 from either I-5 south or I-5 north).

From the south via I-5 is sort of tricky. If you have a GPS that gives you warnings as various turns are getting near, use it. From the south via I-5, as you aproach the city take exit 299B (left lane) for Rt 405. You will also see signs for City Center, but keep following the signs for 405. Once on 405, avoid directions to Rt. 26. Instead take the right lane exit for Salmon St. (exit 2A, I think ). You will see signs for 14th Ave. and Salmon, I believe. The off ramp from 405 soon jogs left over 405 and jogs right onto 14th. Stay on 14th going north passing Salmon. Move to the right lane and after again passing over 405 turn right at the Crystal Ballroom onto W Burnside. Then turn right onto 11th, and drive to in front of the hotel, just after Stark. (If your GPS had you turn off of Burnside onto Stark, that's OK too.)

Arriving by bus

I'm not sure where all the inter-city buses stop, but the Greyhound bus station is between NW 5th and 6th and between NW Glisan and Irving. If you don't have much luggage, you might walk to the hotel: walk west on Hoyt 6 blocks, and then walk south on 11th 7 blocks to the corner of SW 11th and Stark. Alternatively, you can take the MAX Green Line from the corner of SW Hoyt and 5th to the Pioneer Place/SW 5th Ave. MAX stop, get off and walk a block in the reverse direction on 5th, and catch the MAX Red or Blue line at the Mall/SW 5th MAX stop, and take the Red or Blue line to the Galleria/SW 10th Ave MAX stop, and jump to the instruction above as if you were arriving on the MAX from the airport.

Arriving by train

I presume out-of-town trains all come into Union Station at the north edge of Old Chinatown. From there you could again walk to the hotel; it is not so much farther than from the bus station. But you can also take the MAX Green or Yellow line in the direction of Portland State University (PSU) to where these lines intersect with the Red and Blue lines (the stops are probably a block apart as described in the by-bus instructions above. Get off at the Galleria/SW 10th Ave MAX stop, and jump to the instruction above as if you were arriving on the MAX from the airport.

Public transportation: TriMet

TriMet (trimet.org) runs the intra-city buses (which also go to the cities and towns around Portland), the MAX light rail, the Portland Streetcar, and the Western Express Service (WES) train. To a considerable extent you can transfer among these without paying again once you have paid the appropriate fare on the first. Children 6 and under are free, adults pay full fare ($2.50 as I write this in February), and the senior (called "honored citizen") fare is $1. When you pay, you get a ticket which allows transfers for two hours, including riding back to where you came from as long as it is within 2 hours. An all-day pass costs twice the regular fare.

The Red and Blue MAX lines run from the pretty far east side of the city (where the lines split apart) to the west side of the city over the western hills (where the lines split apart). In downtown the Green and Yellow lines run north-south between Union Station and PSU. All four lines use the Steel Bridge to cross the Willamette River from the east with the Green and Yellow turning north to Union Station so they can then run south, and the Red and Blue lines turning south after the bridge and going downriver until they turn west. You can see all this on the web.

The buses run all over the place.

The North/South (NS) streetcars run from the waterfront south of downtown (where they connect with the the cable car to the top of Marquam Hill and the Oregon Health and Sciences University and hospitals) northwest through the PSU campus and along 10th Ave. (north) and 11th Ave. (south) to Northrup St. for a left turn deep into the Northwest District (returning on Lovejoy St.). The Central Loop streetcars run from PSU to Lovejoy St. where they turn right to cross the river via the Broadway Bridge. You can see all this on the web.

The TriMet Trip Planner is a very useful tool for figuring how to get from one place in the city to another by one of the TriMet "rides." This also lets you figure out when you have to be at a bus, MAX, or streetcar stop in order to catch the next time a ride goes by. If you are at a stop, you can read its stop number, and use that and the given phone number to find out when the next ride is coming by. If you remember the phone number and stop number, you can phone to find out when the next ride is coming before you leave "home," thus allowing you to cut the timing as close as possible. Many of the stops have a TV (or audio button) that will give you a list of upcoming buses and the minutes until they arrive.

Powell's Books (a good place to visit early, e.g., for Portland guidebooks)

One block from the hotel is the main branch of Powell's Books, which claims to be the "largest independent used and new bookstore in the world." It's definitely a swell bookstore. It is also a great place to stock up on guidebooks for Portland specializing in the kind of sightseeing and other activities in which you are interested.

From the hotel, walk north on 11th Ave. to Burnside St. Look across the intersection to your right. That is the Powell's building. You traditionally can enter either at the corner of 10th and Burnside (the main entrance) or at the corner of NW 11th and Couch (one block farther north on 11th). However, the main entrance will be closed from January to August because of major renovations on the southeast quadrant of the building. Nonetheless, the store will continue to be open every day. Use the 11th and Couch entrance.

Once inside the entrance and down the little flight of stairs, the information desk is more or less staight ahead of you. At the information desk you can probably pick up free copies of the Portland Visitor's Map (a pretty good map of the parts of town around the hotel with annotations for some sites to see), of course the map of the Powell's bookstore (which books on different topics are within the building), and the Where to Eat Guide (this is a nice advertising brochure for the restaurants which I assume pay to be listed in the guide, but it still may be helpful to you — it tends not to include most of the places where I have eaten). You may also be able to get such free information at the hotel.

To get guidebooks, etc., for Portland, continue from the information desk to the stairway diagonally across that first big room from the entrance, and go up to the second floor. At the top of the stairs, the Purple Room is to your right through wide through an arch. If from the arch you walk straight between the high book shelves to your left and the lower book shelves to your right (the men's and women's rooms are also on your right between those rows of book shelves), you will soon come to the books on the Northwest including Portland in that lower set of shelves. If you return back through the arch to the top of the stairs, on your right is a lower shelf of maps and around the end of that shelf is a shelf of more books on Portland.

[Better maps than the Portland Visitor's Map might be the free Bike/Walk maps produced by the city's Department of Transportation. They exist for the central city, NW, SW, NE, SE, and N. I'm not sure where you can pick them up for free. You might try the Central Library branch or West End Bikes (across the street from the hotel).]

Powell's keeps its technical book section in its own much smaller building across 10th Ave. from the main Powell's building. The entrance is at the corner of 10th and Couch.

Powell's has several other branches: two or three at the Portland airport (both outside and inside the security zone); two branches (almost next door to each other, separated by an excellent small grocery store for deli-like foods (cheeses, pasta, meats, wines, etc.), with one of the Powell's stores focusing on "home and garden") in SE Portland on Hawthorne St.; one in Beaverton; and a big warehouse somewhere in the city.

When you are leaving Powell's, you might pick up from the boxes outside Powell's entrance free copies of Willamette Week, the Mercury, or other free tabloid-size newspapers that tell you what's happening in Portland. While you are still in Powell's you might but a copy of Portland magazine (the actual title seems to be Monthly Portland, but the "Monthly" part of the name is much smaller on the cover than the "Portland" part); in different months over a year this features various aspects of fine living in Portland (e.g., best restaurants).

Eating and drinking

Grocery stores in Oregon sell beer and wine as well as everything else you would expect a grocery store to sell. The closest big grocery store to the hotel is Whole Foods at the corner of NW 12th Ave. and Couch St. (Whole Foods is well known for having high prices and high quality food, but they don't sell things they think are not good for you, like Diet Coke.) I can get Diet Coke at the branches of the big Safeway chain of food stores. The closest Safeway stores to the hotel are at the corner of SW 10th and Jefferson (10 short blocks from the hotel) and at the corner of NW 13th and Lovejoy (a dozen short blocks from the hotel). If you don't want to walk, the 10th Ave. streetcar (catch it in front of Powell's) will take you close to the second of the above mentioned Safeway stores, and the 11th Ave. streetcar (catch it a block or two to the south on 11th) will take you to the back corner of the first of the above mentioned Safeway stores. There are also plenty of little "convenience stores" which sell groceries, etc., in the vicinity of the hotel.

The closest place to the hotel I know to buy liquor other than beer and wine is on SW 10th between Taylor and Salmon Streets (about two-thirds of the way to the Safeway store). There may be (probably are) other liquor stores closer, but I don't know them (ask at the hotel). Regarding beer, there is a tendency by Portlanders to like a strong flavor of hops in their beer; also lots of different beers are available (for example, the big Fred Meyer store on Broadway in NE Portland has a large section with lots of types of beer from the national companies, another large section with lots of types of relatively widely distributed beers from the northwest, and a gigantic section with lots of craft beers). The places that serve or sell beer also in many cases appear to have selections of alcoholic cider. Regarding wines, of course good ones are available from California, France, Italy, and other places in the world, but those from the northwest are also often very good (including those from the Willamette Valley). By the way, even though you may only be in Portland for a few days, it couldn't hurt to sign up for a Safeway "frequent flyer" card (I can't remember what it is really called; this gets one non-trivial discounts on some foods but I have been particularly impressed with the discount the cards can bring on wines).

The big grocery stores probably all have deli counters where you can get prepared food to go. I know the Safeway at SW 10th and Jefferson does; I've eaten a lot of sandwiches, Chinese food, etc., from there.

Places to eat

Portland is a big deal place in the foodie sense — lots of good restaurants and food carts. However, I will only mention places at which I personally have eaten (or that an Oregonian has recommended in a few cases). You are on your own to find other places to eat and drink, asking the hotel or a conference attendee who lives in Portland, using a Portland food guidebook from Powell's, or looking on the web for a list of the nearby restaurants (or best food carts). You will see plenty of other possible eating places as you walk to the places I mention.

Happy hour

Portland has a very useful "happy hour" tradition. In other places in the U.S. bars and pubs often have happy hours — a few hours in the later afternoon when some beer or drinks are sold at a discount. However, that gives the places with liquor licenses an unfair competitive advantage over restaurants which don't have liquor licenses. Therefore, the non-liquor-license restaurants also have happy hours for food — a period when a short list of food dishes are sold at a discount. Today many (maybe most) food and/or drink establishments have a happy hour. There is an annual Portland guidebook for happy hours including ratings, discount coupons, and maps of locations.

Farmer's markets

In addition to the many restaurants focusing on ingredients that come from relatively nearby in the northwest, Portland also has a swell set of farmer's markets, several of which are easy to get to from the conference hotel. The bigger ones, e.g., at Portland State University on Saturday, are also likely to have people playing music.

Events, sightseeing, etc., in Portland

There is a lot of overlap between this section and the sections on walking, etc., and on unique ("weird") aspects of Portland. Check those sections, too. You can look at guidebooks, tourist maps, etc., to find the activities you want; I will merely mention a few that come to mind for me. Also look at the online list of July activities.

Walking and hiking, biking, parks, and Parks and Recreation

Walking around downtown

In downtown and up into the western hills, Portland can be a great walking city. You might start by simply spiraling out from the hotel for a few blocks to see the various businesses, eating and drinking places, etc., that are nearby. The eating and drinking section also describes walks north and south on 10th and 11th Avenues, west on Burnside, and north and south on 21st and 23rd Avenues. The whole Pearl District between NW Broadway, 10th Ave., Burnside, and say Northrup is worth exploring on foot. Going southeast from the hotel, you will come to Pioneer Square between SW Broadway and 6th and between Morrison and Yamhill. It is also interesting to walk farther south on Broadway for a few blocks, or farther east on Morrison or Yamhill past the Old Courthouse (the view from the cupola at the top of this historic building is cool) to the Pioneer Place indoor shopping mall (the Apple store is within this complex). Continuing down to the riverfront, you come to a park along the river which is good for walking. North, just before Burnside, is the Portland Saturday Market location (a shorter way to get there from the hotel is east on Burnside to SW 4th, right on 4th to Ankeny St., and then toward the river on Ankeny until you reach the Saturday Market).

Here are a few places that might be useful to you:


Portland has lots of parks, many of which are managed by the wonderful Parks & Recreation department of the city. There are small (or in one case, very small, i.e., Mills End Park which has an area of 452 square inches) or few-square-blocks parks all over the place. Then there are some much bigger parks: two of them are Washington Park (130 acres), in SW starting partway up the western hill behind the conference hotel, and Forest Park (5,172 acres, including 70 miles of recreational trails).

At some Parks & Recreation locations, there are community halls with swimming pools where the price to swim is very reasonable. I don't know if any such facilities are close to the hotel (I've only been to locations in NE, far SE, and far SW).

One way to visit Washington Park is the take the MAX train from the corner of SW Morrison and 10th to the Washington Park stop. Get off the train, and take the elevator up to street level (the MAX tunnel is deep underground). The Portland Zoo (very nice), Children's Museum (very nice), and Forestry Center (pretty interesting) are on three sides of the of the surface entrance to the MAX. If you walk up the road from the MAX surface entrance, you will see signs for the Hoyt Arboretum (you might want to look at this). Past a parking lot on the right with the Hoyt Arboretum sign in sight is a road off to the right (SW Kingston Dr.). You can follow this down the hill or you can follow one of the walking/hiking trails down the hill sort of parallel to the road. Eventually you will be near the Japanese Garden (very nice to visit) and the International Rose Test Garden (also very nice and free). From near the gift shop of the Rose Garden you will have a great view of Mt. Hood on a clear day. From one end or the other of the Rose Garden you can work your way farther down the hill in the park and then onto the city streets which you can use to walk back to the hotel. (You can do a similar trip by car by taking SW 11th to Jefferson, turning right on Jefferson and driving uphill, then down, and then up and under a high bridge until Jefferson merges with Rt. 26 going west about a mile from the turn off to the Portland Zoo, and then into the Zoo, etc., parking lots area, and around the parking lot to SW Kingston Dr.)

The south end of Forest Park is in NW Portland, with many ways to approach it. One approach might be to take the 10th Ave. streetcar (be sure you get on the one going deep into NW and not the one that is going to cross the river to the east side) to the corner of NW 23rd and Northrup and then walk uphill on Northrup to 25th, go right on 25th to Upshur, and then walk up Upshur until you reach the MacLeay Park Entrance: there is a nice trail off to your left (going under the road bridge). If you are interested in Forest Park and its hiking trails, you might buy a copy of One City's Wilderness: Portland's Forest Park, 3rd edition; perhaps a used copy is available at Powell's.

One place worth visiting in the south end of Forest Park is the Pittock Mansion. This is the home a rich guy built in the early 1900s, and it is outfitted with period furnishings. It's pretty interesting. I particularly liked the bathroom plumbing. However, even without going in the mansion, there is a nice view from mansion. You could hike up there, or you could go there by vehicle (west on Burnside and look for the signs on your right) and then hike back downtown.

The Audubon Society of Portland is located near the south end of Forest Park on NW Cornell Road. It's a 1.5 mile walk from the northwestern stop of the 10th Ave. streetcar, or you can follow the directions in the prior paragraph to the MacLeay Park Entrance to Forest Park and then hike the trail through Balch Creek Canyon to Audubon.

People who are away from their home or gym stairclimber might want to take a look at The Portland Stairs Book by Laura Foster. In it she describes almost 200 public staircases in Portland and five stairway treks. Ms. Foster has also written another book for people who like longish walks: Portland Hill Walks: 24 explorations in parks and neighborhoods.

There is also the 4T cycle (trail, tram, trolley, train). Take the MAX from the corner of SW 10th and and Morrison. Get off at the Washington Park stop and take the elevator to the surface. Then follow the directions from the zoo to the trail head and the trail described at the 4T website until you get to Oregon Health and Sciences University. Take the cable car (tram) down the hill (it is free going downhill; $4 going uphill). Then catch the streetcar back to SW 10th and get off at the stop on either side of Burnside for the short walk back to the hotel.

The are scads of additional hiking opportunities in the Portland region.


Portland views itself as one of the best biking cities anywhere. There are bike lanes on lots of major roads, there are streets which are implicitly more for bikes than for cars (and the reverse, so the bikes and cars can tend to avoid each other), there are innumerable bike shops and a number of places making bikes or bike parts, and there is valet bike parking at the bottom of the cable car up to OHSU including the option of bike repairs while you are at work (I believe my daughter-in-law gets two or three dollars from her employer for each day she rides her bike to work and doesn't drive her car and thus contribute to the overcrowding of the business's parking lot and streets getting there).

The closest bike shop to the conference hotel is West End Bikes just across SW Stark from the hotel. They sell bikes and bike clothes and equipment, repair bikes, and fix bikes. They undoubtedly can give recommendations about biking in Portland. (I have not used this bike store — I've used another some blocks south on 10th and one in NE; but this shop is most convenient to the hotel, and they were friendly to me when I went in to ask about the extent of their services.)

It seems like every day of the week group bike rides of varying levels of difficulty are scheduled. You should be able to google to find one. And I think Zoobomb still runs on Sunday nights bombing downhill from Washington Park (near the Portland Zoo) to the bottom of the hill. Take a look at the pile of bikes at the corner of Burnside and 13th (where those two streets intersect with SW Stark).

The Portland city Department of Transportation concerns itself with biking, including free Bike/Walk maps. I picked up copies of these maps for NE and N Portland at a branch library (maybe the Central Library on SW 10th, a short distance from the hotel, has copies of the Central, SW, and NW maps available for you to take; I know you can pick up copies in the Parks and Recreation office on the ground floor at 1120 SW 5th Ave [a building designed by Michael Graves—look at it from across the street]).

"Weird" Portland

Some Portlanders espouse the motto "Keep Portland weird". Probably this means different things to different people. To me it means keep Portland unique (unconventional, non-normal). Another saying is, "Portland, where young people come to retire" (or at least to live a more laid back life than they might lead in other cities—there is a scholarly study investigating the supposition that people migrate to Portland to live a better life more than for economic opportunities). Below are some examples of "different" kinds of places in Portland (which real Portlanders might not agree with). I hope you get the idea from the above. I think it is all very interesting and an impressive effort people to be different.

Sights not in Portland, but more or less close

Here's a list of places from the web (there is considerable overlap between this list and the places I mention in the next section).

The are a lot of vineyards up and down the Willamette Valley, and some of them have tours (google on "Willamette Valley wine tours").

There are also orchards and other food producing locations you can tour (I will look for a list). Among other things, the region is a major producer of hazelnuts, which you may be able to buy at a farmer's market in Portland (to maintain their taste, keep them in the freezer between uses).

Sauvie Island, half an hour out of Portland to the north and a little west, has a wildlife preserve, farm stands, and beaches (on the Columbia River). The Sauvie Island Community Association website has information about these and other activities.

There are lots of hiking opportunities not too far from Portland.

I'll add more as I think of it.

Places to visit away from Portland

The point of this section is to suggest interesting vacation trips you can connect with a trip to the TUG conference in Portland.

There are two highways that run north and south, up and down the west coast: Route 101 which runs more or less along the coast by the Pacific Ocean, and Interstate Route 5 (I-5) which runs east of the coast range of mountains through the valleys to the west of the big Cascade and Sierra mountain ranges. For much of its length I-5 is a high speed, limited access, divided highway, and for most of its length Route 101 is a slower, often 2-lane road which becomes the main street of the towns it passes through. These two highways extend from the Washington state border with Canada to the California border with Mexico.


The Canadian border is about a 4 hour drive north of Portland via I-5. After whatever delays happen at the border crossing, it is another 30 or 45 minutes into downtown Vancouver. Vancouver is a wonderful city.

From Vancouver it is a few hour ferry ride to Vancouver Island which has the city of Victoria at its southern tip. Victoria is another nice city, and the Butchart Gardens north of Victoria and west of the road between the ferry dock and Victoria is a fine sight to see.

You can also take day trips by ferry from Seattle to Victoria, a beautiful water passage to a pretty city. Yet another alternative is to take a ferry from Port Angeles, Washington (on Route 101 west of Seattle), to or from Victoria.

A nice car trip I have done is from Portland to Vancouver via I-5, from Vancouver by ferry to Vancouver Island (with a short visit, before getting on the ferry, to Point Roberts, Washington, which can only be entered by land via Canada), from Victoria by ferry to Port Angeles, and south on Route 101 to Astoria, Oregon, and from there back to Portland. We set aside a week for this trip in order to do sightseeing along the way.


Seattle is of course also a wonderful city, three hours by road or train from Portland. The nice, reasonably priced, non-stop Bolt Bus runs frequently in both directions between Portland and Seattle. (Portland people regularly do day trips to Seattle for NFL football or MLB baseball; in July the Seattle Mariners baseball team will be playing.)

Don't confuse Vancouver, British Columbia, with Vancouver, Washington. The latter is just across the Columbia River from Portland and is basically part of the metropolitan Portland region.

North on I-5 of Portland (and Vancouver, Washington) a ways is a turnoff to the east to Mt. St. Helens Volcanic National Monument. This is a very interesting place to visit.

I'll add more about Washington state as I think of it: Good clamming in Long Beach, WA.

Oregon Coast

Take a look at a map to understand that Portland is not on the Pacific Ocean. It is 1.5 hours or more drive from Portland to the coast.

The drive (or bike ride) from Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia River (just across the river from Washington state) to the California border is very interesting. South of Astoria is Seaside which is a resort town. A few miles farther south is Cannon Beach which has art galleries, good restaurants, lots of accommodations, Haystack Rock, a nice beach, etc. Going on down the coast there are lots of interesting little towns, typically where a river from the interior of the state comes through the coast range of mountains and to the sea; there is also typically an east-west road into these towns through the coast range of mountains to and from the Willamette Valley (which runs north-south between the coast range of mountains and the Cascade range). Some of these towns are Newport (seals and sea lions to be seen, and the unusual Sylvia Beach Hotel), Coos Bay (more seals and sea lions and a nice garden at Shore Acres State Park), Bandon (another art gallery town), and eventually Brookings. The first town across the border into California is Crescent City.

There is lots of good seafood along this route, and good fishing as well. In the coastal towns more or less west of Portland there is surfboarding; google for a surf shop on the coast or in Portland to ask where to rent a board and perhaps for some advice for where to try surfing. There are also some interesting lighthouses along the coast. Tillamook has a cheese factory as does Bandon (called the Face Rock Creamery). There are plenty of state parks, wildlife preserves, and hiking locations along the coast.

While Route 101 generally follows the coast, sometimes you may want to take a route closer to the coast, for example, from Tillamook out around Cape Meares (good lighthouse) past Oceanside (and Roseanna's Cafe) and Netarts. Similarly, you will also have to go west from Route 101 in Coos Bay to reach Shore Acres State Park.

I will add more about the coastal area as I think of it.


Continuing down Route 101 into California one comes to the giant Redwood trees. These are definitely worth seeing. (You might read Richard Preston's book Wild Trees as part of your visit to the Redwood Trees.)

You can take Route 101 all the way to San Francisco (perhaps moving even farther west to Route 1 as you get near San Francisco).

Another option might be to make a loop back to Portland via Route 199 from Crescent City to Grants Pass, Oregon, and then north back to Portland on I-5. A slightly bigger loop is to continue south on Route 101 to Arcata, California, and then go east on Route 299 to Redding, California, and then take I-5 north past the spectacular Mt. Shasta, back into Oregon, and on to Portland. Also, take a look at Route 3 from Route 299 to Yreka, California, which is already north of Mt. Shasta.

Willamette Valley and I-5 from Portland to the California boder

Some of the bigger cities and towns going south of Portland are Salem (state capital), Albany (with Corvallis and a state university a little to the west), Eugene (state university town, essentially at the south end of the Willamette Valley), Roseburg, Medford, and Ashland (a theater and arts town).

I'll add more as I think of it.

To the east of Portland

Straight east of Portland on Route 84 is the Columbia River Gorge. This is a beautiful route to travel. My friends who do windsurfing say this is the go-to place for their sport.

You can make a few hour loop via Route 14 east from Vancouver, Washington, to a bridge across the Columbia River, and then back to Portland on Route 84.

On the Oregon side of the river, there are plenty of sights to see, e.g., waterfalls, things to do, e.g., floating down streams with the current and swimming, etc.

You can also take Route 26 from Route 84, 20 minutes or so out of Portland, to Mt. Hood and the wonderful Timberline Lodge. I am not a skier, but I believe there can be skiing and/or snowboarding more or less year around on Mt. Hood. As the lowest snow level gets higher on the mountain in the summer, the trails may become more oriented to better skiers. I have read that Timberline runs several-day skiing camps in June and July.

Eastern Oregon

Going on from from Mt. Hood (last paragraph of the prior subsection), you can go southeast to Madras and then south to Bend (you could also swing north and connect with Route 84 to the northeast of Mt. Hood for a loop back toward Portland). Bend is on the east side of the Cascade mountains. From Bend you can loop back to Portland via Albany and I-5 through Sisters which claims to have the best Marionberry milkshakes in the state (I think SnoCap Ice Cream was the little overcrowded place I liked). (Marrionberries are an Oregon specialty, a hybrid created at Oregon State University. Try something flavored with these while you are in Oregon.) You can also continue east from Bend into the high desert of eastern Oregon (interesting scenery, wildlife preserves, state parks, etc.). Or you can continue south along the eastern edge of the Cascade range and into Crater Lake (a must-see, if you have the time); it also has a nice lodge I am told. And you can continue south into California crossing the border a little south of Klamath Falls, Oregon.

The train that goes from Portland north to Seattle, also goes south into California to a location little east of Sacramento in California's Great Central Valley (it continues all the way to Los Angeles). South of Eugene, the train goes southeast to Klamath Falls in order to cross the the mountains into California via a more manageable pass (than the pass between Ashland, Oregon, and Yreka, California) and the train track comes back near I-5 at Dunsmuir, California; in other words, the train goes on the east side of Mt. Shasta, not the west side as cars on I-5 do.

Cascade Mountains

Regarding the already mentioned Cascade range of mountains, on many days you can easily see Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Hood from locations in Portland. Sometimes you can see Mt. Adams (east of Mt. St. Helens) and Mt. Rainier (a little bit southeast of Seattle). From east of Bend (and a maybe?? a bit from the Willamette Valley down toward Albany and Eugene), you can see several other tall mountains, e.g., Mt. Jefferson, South Sister, Middle Sister, North Sister, and Mt. Bachelor.

There are lots of volcanic-related sites/sights in the state. There are also lots of hot springs in Oregon, for which there are specialized guidebooks. And of course these mountains have more state parks, hiking trails, etc.

More Oregon notes from Robin (I do not know Manzanita or the ghost towns)

Manzanita is another wonderful little coastal town, a bit south of Cannon Beach. Neahkahnie Mountain is a good place to hike.

Timberline Lodge and Crater Lake Lodge both have pretty fabulous restaurants. Both have great hiking options in the summer.

If people want to get off the beaten path, they can travel to old west towns such as Shaniko (ghost town), John Day and Baker City. The Wallowa and Blue Mountains (Joseph and Enterprise) are worth a mention, plus the Steens and Frenchglen.

Alaska and Hawaii

It's a pretty straight shot by plane, e.g., Alaska Airlines, to either Alaska or Hawaii from Portland.

Reaching Portland by train

I have already mentioned the trains down the coast from Seattle and up the coast from California. There are also cross-country trains. My wife and I once took the train from Boston through Chicago (train change there) and all the way to Portland (wonderful trip!). We have also longed to take the train from the east across Canada from which one could come down the coast somehow (maybe by train) to Portland.