Portland, Oregon is divided into four quadrants, with the streets laid out in a grid. The Willamette River divides the city into east and west and Burnside Street divides it into north and south. It’s easy to find your way around, but somewhat tricky to drive in the center of the city, since all of the streets are one-way.
Most of our frolic sources — and the urban-hip neighborhoods — are on the east side of the river. (But the west side has downtown, the classy Pearl, the NW 23rd shopping areas — too many funworthy places to neglect altogether!)
Portland’s light rail line – called MAX – is free in the downtown area and the near east side. It used to be called "Fareless Square." (Now it has a much more bureaucratic name that’s not nearly as easy to remember.) Combine MAX with your feet or a short cab ride and you can find almost everything you need, adventurewise.
On these pages – one listing neighborhoods and destinations, the other covering food and drink – we emphasize attractions for the younger set — however, it’s completely up to you to decide how young "young" is.
Portland is known for its restaurant scene (Link to the "Eats" page above). We’ve picked the kind of cafes, bistros, pubs, lounges and other eating establishments we think you’ll enjoy while you’re conventioneering and don’t want to drive all over the place. We’ve included some special occasion places, just in case. Most of our recommendations are casual and attract lots of people in their 20s and 30s. Our restaurant list is roughly arranged by neighborhood.
NEIGHBORHOODS & LANDMARKS
Powell’s City of Books
At 68,000 sq.ft., this is the largest new and used bookstore in the world! And, Oregonians argue, the best. Of course, you can order anything online, but nothing beats a visit to 1005 West Burnside, just a quick ride or nice walk from the convention center. It’s got rooms and rooms of reading material stacked to the ceiling, color coded and nicely ordered and watched over by knowledgable hipster clerks, most of whom seem to have graduated from Reed. Right across the street is Powells Bldg. 2, for techies – full of math, science, engineering, construction, transportation and computer books (and lots of non-technical books on technical subjects for those of us who need that). If you’re an iPhone user, download the free Powells app that guides you through the store, helps you locate books, shows you daily events and shares staff opinions (always worth reading). Powells is open 9 a.m. until 11 p.m. daily and there’s a nice cafe inside and lots of restrooms so you never, really, have to leave.
This is where Portland began in 1843. It’s the city’s oldest neighborhood, and home to such diverse delights as Voodoo doughnuts, the Chinese Garden, nightclubs, street people, tourists, the Portland Saturday market, Waterfront Park (great biking, walking and watching) and lots of restaurants — from dives to cutting-edge cuisine.
The Lan Su Chinese Garden is a walled square block with a Suzhou-style garden, pond and tearoom. A peaceful balance to ION technical sessions and/or very romantic, depending on your needs. NW 3rd and Everett, Open 10-6. 503.228.8131.
More about Old Town
North Mississippi Ave
You won’t find a Starbucks here or any other franchise. No way.
This hot spot for the 20s-30s Portland crowd is about 2-1/2 miles north of the Rose Garden area (and the recognizable spires of the Oregon Convention Center). It has great restaurants, coffee shops, bars, pubs, boutiques, a recording studio and live music hall. (It’s also called the Boise/Eliot neighborhood). The Meadow Boutique has a guide to local shops and eateries.
Alberta Arts District
Alberta Street has many African-American and Latino-owned businesses and art galleries, boutiques, coffee shops and lots of cool restaurants.
Waterfront Park and Eastside Esplanade Loop
This four-mile loop along both sides of the Willamette River is fun, easy (wheelchair-friendly, even) and a fresh-air antidote to inside activities.
Waterfront Park runs along the river on the west side. Cross the Willamette via a pedestrian walkway under the Steel Bridge and you’ll be on the Eastbank Esplanade, a trail that includes a floating walkway.
Here’s a nice map and description of the Park/Esplanade loop, including how to access it from the convention center.
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI)
This is a must see for the young and curious — including the really, truly young.
The museum’s Omnimax Dome Theater is a superb planetarium and the USS Blueback submarine, the last fast-attack diesel-powered submarine built by the U.S. Navy, is moored right there at the dock.
Then there’s OMSI After Dark for those 21 and over.
A truly great science museum half an hour’s walk or a five-minute drive. 1-1/2 miles south of the Convention Center on the east side of the river. 1945 SE Water Ave. OMNIMAX 24-hour hotline 503.797.4640
Laurelhurst Theatre and Pub
Want a cheap night out with all of your friends?
This 1923 art deco building from the golden age of American Motion Picture Theater architecture is about 1-1/2 miles southeast of the convention center. Cheap movies, good beer and pizza, 21 and over after 3 p.m. Current hits, classics and obscure film treasures from the past. 2735 East Burnside Street. Movieline : 503.232.5511