Before I actually went to Portland, I could only see it as this two-dimensional backdrop for Fred Armisen to wear dresses in and for young Nike employees to tweet about light roasts being the new dark roasts and the importance of a work-life balance that no one anywhere else can achieve. And while we all might strive to be the kind of people who ask our waiters about our chicken’s childhood before we eat it for dinner, Portland’s social tourist allure felt a bit more circus-wonder than a friendly vacation hot spot.
So when I was given the opportunity to give the city a spin, I decided to focus my tourist efforts on unearthing the Portland beyond Portlandia. I had a feeling there was a Portland for me — the kind of person who can’t tell the difference between pignolis and pine cones and who has no interest in going to a contemporary art show inside of a speeding taco truck — and I was determined to find it. After a four-day stay that felt much too short, I managed to uncover the Portland I was looking for, with a surprising ease.
If you’ve been toying with the idea of experiencing the city beyond its pop culture significance, here’s your guide:
Stay somewhere cool.
There are tons of great hotels in downtown Portland, but if you’re looking for accommodations that make you feel like you’re actually a part of the city, you’re going to want to stay at The Ace. With bohemian no-frills apartment-like rooms, an extremely accommodating staff, heaps of cozy communal spaces and a city-wide social allure, this hotel feels like the beating heart of the city. With people from all over coming to hang in the cozy bookish lobby, get a drink at the uber-exclusive Pepe le Moko or drink the smoothest Oregonian wine there is (the 2012 Argyle Brut, Pinot Noir/Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, OR) at Clyde Common, you’ll wish you could live at The Ace by the time you leave.
They have a knack for making you feel at home even when you’re most out of your element.