As the most populous city in the state of Oregon, Portland has been receiving a lot of attention lately. Forward-thinking progressives, train-hopping vagrants and bike-loving hipsters have made it into a veritable mecca of liberal ideology. It’s widely regarded as one of the most environmentally friendly cities in the world. Its government has invested in projects like light rails and is noted for its strong land-use planning. Portland is a wonderful city filled to the brim with interesting things to do, and provides a rich cultural resource for anything thinking of living there.
Parks and gardens
People living in Portland are very proud of their city’s parks, and take the prospect of preserving its open spaces very seriously. This practice has gone as far back as 1903, but more recently, Portlanders have voted on a regional bond measure that would allow city officials to acquire valuable natural resources, such as lakes with a wide variety of fish. That bond was passed in 1995, and by 2011 the city has purchased more than 8,100 acres of ecologically-valuable land and permanently protected it from development.
Portland’s Forest Park is the largest wilderness park within a city’s limits in the United States, covering more than 5,000 acres of land. On the other end of the spectrum, it’s also home to Mills End Park, a two-foot-diameter circle that is the smallest in the world.
The city is also well-known for its vast number of rose gardens. Portland’s climate is perfectly suited to growing the iconic flower, and so there are plenty of rose gardens through the city streets. The International Rose Test Garden holds more than 7,000 plants of about 550 different varieties – it is the oldest garden of its type and perfectly exemplifies why they call Portland the City of Roses.
Portland is also famous for its microbreweries, of which there are dozens throughout the city. Its penchant for locally-crafted beer may date as far back as 1888, when a tenacious brewer offered to pump his beer through a local fountain. However, Portland’s renown for the practice began in the 1980s, when Oregon law was changed to allow the consumption of beer on brewery premises. The region’s weather naturally led to the development of high-quality local ingredients, and the Bull Run Watershed yielded very pure water, which helped further cement the city’s reputation as a beer destination.
Denizens of the city fully embrace this identity. Several documentaries have been created that explore Portland’s role in the microbrew revolution. In fact, as of 1999, Portland had more breweries than Cologne, Germany, perhaps making it the beer capital of the world. In 2006, the Mayor of the city officially gave Portland the nickname of Beertown. There’s certainly no shortage of fine brews to try the next time happy hour rolls around. It’s a great opportunity to expand one’s beer palette and try some new flavors they never thought possible.
Like many major cities, Portland has plenty of venues to see a variety of performing arts. The city is home to a ballet company, a symphony and an opera company. Beyond the fine arts, there’s still plenty to see.
The city is also home to a number of famous bands – acts like Everclear, Modest Mouse and the late Elliott Smith lived in Portland. The Satyricon nightclub, although it has since been demolished, is where Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain met his widow, Courtney Love.
The likes of Matt Groening and Gus Van Sant have also grown up in Portland. The city is filled to the brim with a rich cultural history that can’t be ignored and remains a great place to be if you enjoy the finer things in life.
Portland’s restaurant scene is nationally renowned, and has been recognized as a rising star in the food industry for the past several years. In 2007, the New York Times produced a feature on the city’s burgeoning restaurant scene. It’s widely regarded as the most vegetarian-friendly city in America.
Beyond food, Portland is also well-known as a premier coffee destination in the Northwest, able to stand toe-to-toe with even Seattle. It’s home to the original Stumptown Coffee Roasters, which is generally regarded as one of the best direct-trade roasteries in the country.
There’s certainly no shortage of things to eat and drink in Portland, and as one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the country, getting around should be no problem. This is a city that has fully embraced the growing popularity of cycling, which in turn has made roads clearer and easier to navigate for everyone.
Photo Credit: iStockphoto/timnewman