Life

Our Writers Guide You Through A Perfect Summer Day In Their Home Cities

Jetsetting across the world, adventuring through the jungle, and vacationing on a tropical island are all great. Wonderful, in fact. But sometimes, it’s the gems we find in our own hometowns that keep life interesting. Whether a new restaurant pops up, you discover an art exhibit in your neighborhood, or you play tourist and hit the cliché sites you’d never visited before, there is always something new to uncover in any city.

That’s why we asked the Uproxx travel team to give us the inside scoop on the places they call home when they aren’t touring around the world. Below, five of our travel writers are sharing details on the perfect summer’s day in their home cities. Read on for the best spots to play, eat, party, and stay in Santa Monica, Providence, Boulder, Berlin (Germany), and Portland (OR).

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STEVE BRAMUCCI (@steve_bramucci) – PORTLAND, OREGON

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Preface

The last time I wrote about my home city of Portland, Oregon, it was for our 2021 Fall Experience Guide. But that piece wasn’t so much about what to do (though it did have some A+ reccomendations, so revisit it) as why to visit. My thesis was this: Portland fell on hard times during the pandemic which exacerbated the city’s homelessness problem. Travelers should be part of the beloved city’s recovery.

I stand by that idea, though it certainly set off a firestorm. I’ve never gotten more feedback on a piece in my life and I write about guns.

Nearly a year later, I’m back in Portland for the summer and thrilled to report that the homeless situation — which is complicated, linked to large-scale local and national issues, and should never be looked at simply as a scourge of society rather than an outgrowth of larger systemic failures — has been mitigated somewhat. Travel Portland, the tourism board for the city, features an excellent breakdown of what is being done on their site. On the ground, there are still plenty of encampments but they aren’t as likely to obstruct traffic or create conflict with residents and tourists as they were in the summer of 2021 (this is my impression but the observation feels fairly obvious). I would imagine that much of this is due to the fact that the city has begun to break up encampments in residential areas but not in industrial areas, meaning if you want your encampment to be semi-permanent, it’s better to set up in a less populous space.

To be clear, even commenting on the homeless situation feels out of my depth and beyond the scope of this piece… but it’s also something that travelers are sure to witness and develop feelings about — so ignoring it feels equally absurd. With that said, the short answer is that the homeless-tourist overlap is less present in the summer of 2022 than it was in the summer of 2021. Do with that whatever you will.

Now, let’s get to the reccos. (For an in-depth look at the Portland homeless situation, check this recent breakdown by the LA Times.)

Where To Play

I wake up in Portland and get on the bike. I know that pedaling in Portland has been perfectly parodied by Portlandia, but it really is a biking city. Mostly because it’s so compact. A ride from NE 50th (where the city begins to thin to the east) to NW 30th (where it starts thinning to the west) would take 25 minutes max. You can’t get anywhere in LA in 25 minutes.

Portland has multiple bike rental shops, plus e-bike stations, and it might be the last city in America where e-scooters are still a thing. Walking is fine but nothing is as breezy as PDX by bike, so don’t hesitate to get one. Cars are considerate and know the rules of the road — unlike LA. (Note: the city is great for skating features but terrible for skating as a mode of transportation. Leave your skateboard at home unless you’re going to the famed Burnside Skate Park.)

Once I have wheels under me, I typically head to Crema on NE 28th, near the famed Laurelhurst Theater (where you can watch movies while eating pizza and drinking beer for just a few bucks). Crema is great but if it means going out of your way you don’t need to make extra effort to chase it down — there are so many wonderful hipster coffee shops in Portland (all staffed by people who have the “1820s whaling ship” tattoo starter kit) that finding them and comparing them is part of the fun. Here’s a very solid PDX cafe roundup by the team over at Eater.

After getting a coffee, it’s time to explore the city by bike. For me, that always means a trip to Powell’s Books and Music Millenium. If I’m on the east side of the Willamette River, I’ll shop and peruse along NE 28th or up and down Hawthorne Street. If I’m on the west side, I do NW 23rd or stroll around Pioneer Courthouse Square. If I want the outdoors instead of shopping, I’ll head to Mt. Tabor to the east or Forest Park to the west — both are well within the city limits.

In the afternoons, I encourage every visitor to Portland to get on the water. That might mean anything from chilling on the beach down at Oaks Bottom, next to a very-seedy-but-still-fun amusement park to renting a boat or Waverunner to explore downtown. If you’re loving the bike life, you can actually cycle down the Springwater Corridor and hit multiple beaches along the river. Or bike along the waterfront on the opposite side of the river, stopping to rinse in a series of fountains and water features before parking your bike at the Tom McCall Waterfront Park for a proper dip.

My personal favorite water-based spot is currently Sauvie Island — widely known as the place where every Portlander gets their pumpkins and farm-fresh veggies. The beaches on the east side of the island face the very calm and clean Willamette channel. And these are proper beaches, too — white sand and water lapping on shore. There are no stones and you don’t feel like you have to wear shoes into the water in order to come back with all your toes. At the far end of the beach is what is most likely the coolest nude beach in America. Rather than being a place simply to celebrate the human body (also a great thing!), this is an actual scene — where the city’s sex-positive population goes to play and be free.

Where To Eat

chef's menu
Quaintrelle

Portland is an eater’s city. There’s just so much good food and so many different lanes. There’s a pizza scene, a farm-to-table scene, a robust Thai/ Vietnamese scene, a seafood scene, a Mexican scene, an ice cream scene, a fine dining scene, and about a million chefs with butchery charts tatted on their forearms making “stylized Pacific Northwest” fare — which basically means they have salmon on the menu and know that the chicken is indeed local. (Sorry for a second tattoo barb, that’s apparently how I categorize Portlanders.)

Across the board, this is one of the best food cities in America, so let’s get into the locally grown weeds:

  • My beloved Tasty & Sons is permanently closed but Tasty, in Lake Oswego, is a close relative and very worth the drive. Try the Pork Coppa lettuce wraps and the bucatini.
  • American Dream Pizza is my favorite pizza on the planet but that’s probably at least 80% because I’ve been going there for 35 years. Still, give it a try — the crust is basically a twisted breadstick wrapped around a crunchy cracker, which is a pretty wonderful combo. If you’re more into the modern era of hipster-fied pizza with upmarket ingredients and a charred cornice, you really need to go to Ken’s Artisan Pizza, which basically invented that pizza subgenre on the west coast. There’s going to be a wait but this beloved pizzeria is well worth it.
  • There’s so much good Thai and Vietnamese food in Portland that you almost need to break it down into a few sections, but I personally love Paadee (across from Crema), where you’ll find a life-altering pork belly larb (laab) and the best pad see ew in town. As good as that is, nothing can compete with 2020 Uproxx Travel Hot List darling Eem. This bbq-Thai fusion restaurant has probably the best cocktail program in the city and doesn’t accept reservations, so it’s very accessible. Go with friends, get two orders of the white curry with burnt ends (trust me on this), and then build the rest of your meal from there.
  • Portland food carts were a full-on thing… around 2010. These days they’re more like incubators for talent and places for new concepts to build a following. Counting on a cart to be open without checking beforehand is literally insane. Instead, just go to one of the many food cart pods and see what’s available. Last night, I tried Mole Mole! on Alberta. The cart serves stylized Mexican fare that’s more like what you’d get in Mexico City than the Oregon plate-lunch style Mexican food (though I love that food with a passion!). A nice perk is that you can take your plate next door to Baerlic Brewing to chill in their backyard beer garden away from the hum of traffic.
  • Finally, as a lover of fine dining and upmarket cuisine where the plates are almost theatrical in nature, I have to give love to Quaintrelle. Chef Ryley Eckersley is trying to do so much at once and so brimming with imagination that it’s almost hard to track and can get a little scattered. But the journey is well worth your effort and his dishes are often transcendent. The crab larb on the fall 2021 tasting menu was one of the best dishes I tried all year and the oysters are the most creative in the city. If you like food-as-entertainment, this place is a hotbed for ideas. I recommend getting the chef’s tasting menu with a wine pairing and settling in for a wild, almost psychedelic ride. The thoughtful transformation of ingredients is a joy to behold.
  • Lastly, plenty of Portland ice cream shops have popped up to compete with Salt & Straw. I respect that — few cities love ice cream more — but none of them are as good as the OG. So go to Salt & Straw without any FOMO about what you might be missing. If you like savory ice cream, the Sea Salt with Caramel Ribbons is my favorite ice cream flavor in the country, and I’ve tried most of them.

Where To Party

Portland has a ton of bars but (like the coffee) it seems ridiculous not to just let you explore them on your own. I love The Doug Fir Lounge and City Bridge & Tunnel and Pacific Standard but there are just so many bars to choose from. Find a neighborhood you love or pick a quadrant of the city and wander.

That said, partying in Portland in summer is really more about the live music than the drinks themselves. Every July when I come to town I check the lineup at the Crystal Ballroom, The Roseland, and even the freaking Portland Zoo. Seeing a show is probably the best way to catch the PDX vibe.

Ready to really turn up? Portland has a few clubs I like a lot but in summer I vote festival all the way. Pickathon is back in August and if there’s a better, wilder party in the Rose City, I haven’t found it. (And I like to party. Tons.)

Where To Stay

Portland has so many hotels I love. I spent Christmas at Hotel KEX and the Hotel Grand Stark is a perfect mix of sexy and faux seedy but there are lots of others I’m ready to rave about. This is at least partly because the city has incredibly high design standards paired with some great midcentury buildings. But my favorite hotel in the city is currently The Hotel Zags. In 20 years of travel writing never have a seen a property take the idea of amenities so far. They have bikes, skateboards, cameras, basketballs… You can literally take a bike and a Leica camera out as part of your stay — no extra fees. They even give you a memory card for free.

There’s also a game room and multiple indoor and outdoor lounges. I was there over New Year and they let me throw a party in the game room. Meaning that if you want a hotel where the party never stops (and where you can bring it with you), this is it. People congregate, there are live shows and events, and the energy is always high. It’s centrally located downtown and extremely affordable. The rooms aren’t going to overwhelm with their luxury but they’re stylized and well appointed. Plus the amenities literally smash the offerings of the most pricey hotels in the city.

Bottom line? For around $150 per night, I really don’t know of a better hotel value in the United States right now than The Hotel Zags.

CHLOE CALDWELL (@chloeicaldwell) – SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA

Where To Play

You can’t spend a summer day in Santa Monica, one of the city’s most iconic beach destinations, without spending some time outside in the sun. Start with a walk or a bike ride on the boardwalk from the Santa Monica Pier to Venice Beach and back. You’ll pass by street performers, artisan vendors, the famous Venice Beach Skate Park, beachside restaurants, boutique shops, and lively beachgoers. Rent a bike from Boardwalk Bike Rentals, and enjoy a leisurely ride to start your morning on the right foot (before it gets too hot).

Reward your exercise with some well-deserved relaxation in the sand. Snag a spot on Santa Monica Beach and post up with a blanket, snacks, a football or frisbee, and some cold drinks for the ultimate beach day. Warning: It does get crowded this time of year. It’s worth taking a decent walk down the beach (away from the pier) until you find somewhere less obstructed by beach umbrellas and kids taunting seagulls with their snacks. Slather on the SPF and spend a few hours kicking it by the water.

The Santa Monica Pier is an LA tourist attraction that’s actually worth the hype. Well, it’s at least worth checking out if you’ve never been before. From the carnival games to the roller coaster, sunset views, classic comfort food options, and the Ferris wheel that doubles as an LED light show at night, you’ll never get bored when spending an evening on the pier.

Where To Eat

Elephante Restaurant Santa Monica
Elephante

The better question is where not to eat?

There are endless dining experiences in Santa Monica that offer a diverse selection of cuisines. You’ll find fast food, high-class restaurants, Irish pubs, seaside seafood, and everything in between. If you’re looking for something that offers a trendy LA vibe, make a reservation at Elephante. This LA hotspot serves light coastal Italian cuisine and Mediterranean-inspired cocktails. The restaurant offers clear ocean views, so it’s an excellent spot to enjoy dinner while watching the sun go down over the horizon.

LA is known for its myriad tacos joints. So if you want a taste of the local fare in the heart of the action in Santa Monica, grab a table at Blue Plate Taco. The restaurant is all about a clean coastal approach to traditional Mexican food, serving a range of delicious tacos made with organic and sustainably farmed ingredients. Make sure to wash down your food with a house-made margarita, too.

Where To Party

Bungalow Santa Monica
Chloe Caldwell

Summer in Santa Monica feels like one long beach party, many thanks to the various day clubs and beachside bars. The quintessential Santa Monica bar for mingling over 2 p.m. tequila shots is The Bungalow. The environment here kind of feels like an elevated college party, which is why I’ve personally formed a love-hate relationship with this place. This popular day bar gets overcrowded by 3 p.m. on the weekends, so make sure to get there early or be prepared to stand in a 45-minute line.

The Santa Monica Whaler (sister to the famous Venice location!) is a new-ish bar that’s just steps from the beach in Santa Monica. It’s a bit more casual than The Bungalow, making it an ideal location for catching a game or grabbing post-beach drinks. You’ll also often find a live DJ at The Whaler that keeps the party going into the night.

Where To Stay

If you’re staying in town for more than a day, you’ll want to stay at Santa Monica Proper Hotel. It’s a bit pricey, but its ultra-trendy rooftop restaurant, chic design concepts, and proximity to the heart of Santa Monica make it worth the splurge. It’s right down the street from The Bungalow, making it easy to stroll home safely for a nightcap and a comfortable snooze. The Santa Monica Proper also houses a spa for hangover recovery and a rooftop pool for the ultimate Instagram backdrop.

EMILY HART (@emilyventures) – BOULDER, COLORADO

Where To Play

I didn’t grow up in Boulder, but, as they say — I got there as quickly as I could. From the iconic Flatirons to the quaint downtown and chill vibes, it has everything for the perfect summer’s day.

You can’t visit Boulder without hiking in the famed Flatirons. I recommend visitors hike a trail that starts at Chautauqua Park — my favorites are the Royal Arch Trail and 1st and 2nd Flatirons. After working up an appetite on the trail, stop by the Dining Hall for a glass of wine, a charcuterie plate, and a scoop of their homemade ice cream. Just be aware that parking can be difficult in the summer months – and is paid only on weekends and holidays. Skip the hassle by hopping on the city’s free Park to Park shuttle from Memorial to Labor Day.

If you want to beat the heat, head to the Boulder Creek which runs right through downtown. Here you can walk, picnic, wade, and tube down the cool waters. There are multiple gear rental spots nearby that can outfit you for an adventurous afternoon in the water.

Where To Eat

Rosetta Hall Boulder
Rosetta Hall

Boulder has long been known for its outdoor recreation, but it is quickly becoming a spot for foodies. There always seem to be new restaurants popping up with fare from all over the world.

On a summer day, like any decent single woman in her 30s, I gravitate towards a rooftop restaurant and bar. And with views that take your breath away, Boulder has plenty. I love Rosetta Hall for its eclectic mix of rotating restaurants (pro tip: get coffee in the morning at the on-site coffee house and you’re likely to have the rooftop to yourself). Avanti Food and Beverage Hall is another favorite with Flatiron and Pearl Street views.

And if you’re feeling a little more upscale, I love to visit Corrida for tapas at happy hour and one of their famed tableside-made gin and tonics.

Where To Party

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There is no better place to go out in Boulder than Pearl Street. It’s the main street through downtown, with loads of shops, restaurants, and bars. I love to walk down the street at night to enjoy street performers and people-watching before ducking into one of my favorite bars. Among those, I love The Kitchen Upstairs Cocktail Lounge for its laidback late-night vibe and License No. 1 at the Boulderado for an underground speakeasy experience — often with live music.

Where To Stay

St. Julien Hotel & Spa
St. Julien Hotel & Spa

If you’re staying in Boulder overnight –- and I highly suggest that you do — I always recommend the St. Julien Hotel & Spa. In fact, despite its very close proximity to my house, I have stayed here at least three times for a relaxing and luxurious staycation. It is perfectly situated just one block off Pearl St. downtown, making it accessible to walk to nearly everything I’ve recommended here.

The pool is dreamy, the happy hour is my favorite (try the truffle tots!), and the mountainside views are almost unreal.

ZACH JOHNSTON (@ztpwhiskey) — BERLIN, GERMANY

Where To Play

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Outside! Berlin is very much an outdoor city thanks to huge parks within the city limits and a deep-seated sidewalk cafe culture.

There are two focal points for outdoor fun: Tempelhofer Feld and Tiergarten:

Tempelhofer Feld is easily accessible via public transportation and offers you a chance to walk the landing strips of a defunct Nazi airport. The feld has been turned into a massive social area with garden colonies, beer gardens, dog runs, BBQ pits, baseball diamonds, soccer fields, and two huge runways of pavement to skate, roll, or surf on. The neighborhood just east of the park is full of bars and restaurants of every ilk. The best play is to grab some food and a few bottles of beer on the way into the feld and then find yourself a spot to watch the world go by with your crew.

Alternatively, you can hit up Tiergarten, which is much more like a classic cosmopolitan park with shady footpaths, stretching seas of green grass for lounging, old-school beer gardens, statues of old dead German generals, and nudist sections. The far west side of the park has two bustling beer gardens, Schleusenkrug and Cafe am Neuen See. Both serve beer to the masses with plenty of local and seasonal German fare (especially at Schleusenkrug). Both places will be brimming with locals after work on weekdays and all weekend long until the sun goes down. Then, Berliners tend to hit the bars before hitting the clubs a while later (often as the sun is coming up again).

Lastly, you can find an endless array of scenes on the actual streets of Berlin. Outdoor cafes that turn into bar scenes are all over the city. Moreover, “Spätis” are on almost every other block and sell cold beer and drinks for retail prices. A lot of them put picnic tables out in front of their storefronts for people to chill and drink all night long on the cheap. And I mean cheap. A very good Bavarian lager or pilsner will cost around $1.60 for a half-liter bottle.

Where To Eat

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This list could be endless. But I’ll give you two options:

One is Zollpackhof. This is quintessential Bavarian cuisine served in the city’s most iconic beer garden. You can get huge chunks of roast pork on the bone, scoops of zesty cheese with warm pretzels, whole roasted chickens, whole roasted fish, and so much more. It’s the true “German” experience right in the very middle of the city. Oh, and the beer is fantastic. They tap Augustiner from the wooden keg on the weekends and it’s divine.

A great place to get a sense of modern Berlin dining is Mr. Susan. The restaurant is Korean-at-heart with a dash of Berliner seasonality and a killer cocktail program. You should go for the kimchi alone, which is made in-house. It’s some of the best in Europe, period. The menu, of course, stretches beyond amazing kimchi to cover mostly seasonal dishes built around a Korean culinary backbone with a beautiful precision that never feels fussy or pretentious. The menu is very limited and very seasonal, so you’re likely to get something different each day you go. While the boozy shaved ice is a must-try in the summer, Mr. Susan’s spritz menu is where to start with innovative and super refreshing versions of the Italian classic that feels very Berlin and now.

Where To Party

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Again, on those streets! Berlin is very party and sex forward. Finding both is pretty easy if you know where to look. Hit up Party News Berlin on IG to see what’s going on in the club scene. It won’t be a complete guide, but it’s a good place to start.

Generally, expect a night to go like this: Late dinner until ten or eleven, beer or cocktails somewhere local until two or three, hit a club around four or five, then just keep on goin’. Rinse, repeat (and maybe get some downtime in one of the parks mentioned above).

The scene in Berlin is fairly eccentric, so you’ll be able to find pretty much any niche you’re looking for. My advice, find a chill cocktail or beer bar and simply ask the bartender or server. They’ll always have more accurate and up-to-date recommendations than anything you can read here. Plus, if you strike up a conversation with a local, they might just take you on a wild ride with them through Berlin.

Where To Stay

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While I could call out some funky avant-garde boutique hotel where the lighting may drive you to insomnia, I’d rather go with a place that’s suited to Berlin’s style while still being affordable and comfortable.

The Hotel Indigo Berlin East Side Gallery is a boutique version of IHG hotels. The property has a great rooftop bar scene with live music, a great lobby with flea market chairs, and rooms that feel more “Berlin” than corporate with real local art. The beds are comfy, the bathrooms are well-fitted, and the whole vibe at night is geared toward hooking up and/or going out.

The location is also fantastic. You’re across the street from the East Side Berlin Wall gallery which is a mile-long section of the Berlin Wall that’s been turned into an outdoor art exhibit. A few steps down from there is one of Berlin’s most iconic bridges and two neighborhoods (Schlessi and Boxey locally) that are overloaded with bars and clubs and all the people that go along with those scenes.

WONGO OKON (@whereswongo) — PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND

Where To Play

Memorial Day Weekend is the unofficial start to summer in Rhode Island, one that gives the city’s residents almost a month to get their ducks in a row before the summer solstice arrives. Before you know it, the state’s many beaches are open for business, and with a plethora of seashores to choose from, you’ll find somewhere to lay your blanket and soak in the sun without having to drive too far. Westerly’s Misquamicut State Beach, Newport’s First Beach and Second Beach, and Narragansett’s Wheeler Beach and Town Beach. If you’re truly looking for some spontaneous fun, you can hop on the ferry and take a trip to Block Island where can spend more time on the beach, grab a moped and explore the island through a ride, and more.

If you’d rather keep things inland, Rhode Island’s state capital provides plenty of opportunities to play and de-stress after a long work week. On Friday nights, novice and advanced rollerskaters and rollerbladers can move and groove around under the city lights. Just a few minutes away is Free Play Bar Arcade which houses plenty of arcade games to enjoy for the inexpensive price of just $10.

Where To Eat

The beautiful thing about Rhode Island is that it presents cities crowded with different cultures which allows for a vibrant platter of food to pick from. The Village Restaurant provides excellent authentic Nigerian food right in downtown Providence. Your craving for Peruvian and Bolivian cuisine can be cured with a visit to Los Andes on the north side of Providence while a trip downtown can offer an array of Latin cuisine when you stop by Terra Luna. Southern comfort foods can be found at Kin, Troop, Bucktown, Sommer’s Corner, and The Stack House and Fleming’s checks out as the steakhouse to try while in town. Rhode Island is known for its vast seafood and Providence’s Hemingway’s and Dune Brothers, as well as Warwick and Narragansett’s Iggy’s Doughboys and Chowderhouse, are sure to satisfy your needs. However, if you just desire the simple things, Nice Slice is where to go for pizza while Blake’s Tavern and Harry’s will both give you the right burger to enjoy. Lastly, a late-night trip to Thayer Avenue gives you plenty of options after midnight for a final meal before heading off to bed.

Where To Party

Troop bar providence
Via Troop

Rhode Island’s party scene is alive and well and this is especially the case in the summer. Stay Silent, an events and creative agency, puts on a collection of themed events on a monthly basis at their home base, Crib. They include Hookah Killed The Dancefloor, Luv U Better, and Sugarcane. Not to mention they’re also responsible for Day Trill, the biggest outdoor party in New England, which goes down twice a summer with the first occurring back in June and the second one set for August. Elsewhere, Afrobrunch is a hot commodity in Providence, and it’s been that way since the beginning of the year when it started using afrobeats to soundtrack your brunch experience. Troop is guaranteed to provide a different party every time you walk in while Salon reopened its doors this summer to bring back the basement function complete with a bar on two floors, granting you the opportunity to drink the night away. Other club and party options include Black Sheep, Nara Lounge & Restaurant, OURS, and many more.

Where To Stay

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Now that you know what to do when you make the trip to Rhode Island, it’s time to pick where you’ll stay during your time here. Picking a hotel in this state depends on whether you want to be inland or by the coast. If you desire the latter, Ocean House in Watch Hill and Newport’s The Vanderbilt, The Chanler, and Castle Hill are some great options to go with. If you’d rather reside inland, Providence’s Renaissance Downtown Hotel, Hilton, The Dean Hotel, Omni Hotel, and The Biltmore Hotel are also great options to pick from.

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