Portland, Ore., offers an abundance of ways to enjoy the Good Life.
One way to get a feel for the town is to check out some of the spots favored by locals and time your visit to coincide with one of the numerous festivals scheduled throughout the year.
The City of Roses has gained a reputation for its attention to food and libations, the arts (high and low), and yes, even roses, but it might be more apt to call it the City of Festivals. Regardless of the season, this town shows that it knows how to throw a party, with a variety of events tempting throngs of spectators and participants to eat, drink, shop and be merry.
Thought for Food
It's no surprise that Portland finds plenty to celebrate in the food and drink categories. This is a city where a restaurant such as
Dan and Louis' Oyster Bar has thrived in the same location for 100 years, and good fast food doesn't have to be an oxymoron.
Foodies visiting Portland can also enjoy annual events like the
Oregon Brewers Festival, marking its 20th year from July 26 to 29, or the
Bite of Oregon, Aug. 10 to 12. This event offers local specialties such as Dungeness crab, Pacific salmon and huckleberry and marionberry drinks and desserts, prepared by dozens of the area's top restaurants. Music, comedy, cooking demonstrations and a chefs' competition take place on four stages.
The variety of seasonal brews offered at the
Holiday Ale Festival, Nov. 29 to Dec. 2, may encourage dancing around the huge Christmas tree that's a focal point of the celebration. And keep an eye out for the
Oregon Seafood and Wine Festival, held every February at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland.
For everyday fare, the counter help at the locally owned
Burgerville chain are eager to discuss the provenance of ingredients in the Tillamook cheddar and pepper-bacon burger, and the Pacific Northwest halibut and Yukon Gold potatoes used for fish and chips.
From its open kitchen,
Widmer Brothers serves German fare including several kinds of sausage, sauerbraten and schnitzel. The daily specials might include "salmon and Garfunkel" -- fresh-caught wild salmon seasoned with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Servers are happy to recommend beers to pair with each course, including dessert.
Portland may not have quite as many brew pubs as it does
, but in a city with more than 30 breweries, you can easily find an extensive choice of regional and microbrewed beers on tap. In addition to a plethora of seasonal and craft beers, some brew pubs offer menus that extend well beyond wings and fries.
In addition to close to a dozen beers on tap,
McMenamins has a good selection of wine. When it comes to ambience, this local brewer stands out in any crowd, with pubs in venues as diverse as an
old theater and
dance hall, a
power station and a
A recent addition to the McMenamins' empire, the
Chapel Pub is located in a Depression-era funeral home that is now on the National Register of Historical Places. The Romanesque structure contains original elements such as stucco walls, wood beams ornamented with stenciled patterns and ornate wrought ironwork. A cozy wood stove and shelves stacked with board games in the brick-walled former garage invite visitors to linger over their brews.
In addition to stadium-size shows, Portland offers road-less-traveled musical experiences.
Abou Karim is one example. This Lebanese restaurant offers a standard Middle Eastern menu, enhanced by decidedly nonstandard entertainment: top-flight jazz, blues and rock musicians trading sets with traditional belly dancers. Jazz singer
Nancy King, a 2006 Grammy nominee, appears at the tiny venue most Fridays.
Oregon Live and
Citysearch are good sources for finding out what's going on around town musicwise, covering tastes from Tupac to Bach.
Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival, July 4 to 8, presents more than 125 performances on four stages.
The eclectic lineup includes the venerable Pinetop Perkins, celebrating his 94th birthday with help from fellow Chicagoans Koko Taylor, Carey Bell and Lurrie Bell; the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, the Neville Brothers and Johnny Sansone from New Orleans; Joan Armatrading; Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks; Eric Burdon; and Savoy Brown.
Pickathon Roots Music Festival presents bluegrass, country and folk performers from Aug. 3 to 5. It's hard to beat a lineup promising "songs for the drinking man and songs for the thinking man," from Chatham County Line; Langhorn Slim performing "folk music for the new, weird America"; and "Texas avant-hillbilly visionaries," the Danny Barnes Collective.
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Portland Jazz Festival, with updates about the 2008 celebration.
Art for All
The city's premiere crafts fair,
Art in the Pearl, is held each year on Labor Day weekend in the artsy Pearl District. More than 100 artists and artisans participate, and there's entertainment all day long, including Cuban, Chinese, Brazilian, klezmer and zydeco music.
If you can't make it then, try
The Real Mother Goose, long the place to go in Portland for one-of-a-kind handcrafted items ranging from delicate blown-glass vases evoking the art nouveau era to sleek modern furniture crafted from exotic woods.
The clothing at Changes, the adjoining "designs to wear" shop, is likely to tempt even those who usually stick to tailored garments. Hawaiian shirts by Citron, elegant metallic-threaded tops by Genie the Weaver, and chenille jackets by Mina Norton are among many appealing items.
Twist galleries rely more heavily on whimsy: birdhouses made of old license plates, sculptural robots crafted from found objects and leather-upholstered benches painted with piano keys and musical notes. The collections are appealing, humorous and inspiring.
Perhaps the longest-running and most elaborate of the area's festivals, appropriately enough, is the
Portland Rose Festival, which marks its centennial in 2007 with a theme of "Tradition, Innovation and Celebration."
The festival runs from May 31 to June 10, and includes tall-ship river cruises, Chinese dragon boat races, parades, fireworks, a grand prix auto race and a Centennial Exposition, in which 100 years of Portland's history unfolds decade by decade.
Film festivals abound in Portland, including the
Undead Film Festival May 11 to 12; one focusing on the writings of
H.P. Lovecraft Oct. 5 to 7; and a
documentary and experimental film festival.
Consider marking the 60th anniversary of the Roswell incident by attending a
UFO Festival May 18 and 19. Broaden your horizons at the
India Festival on Aug. 19. Or plan to attend the
Wordstock Festival of Books Nov. 9 to 11.
And finally, there's even a special event for procrastinators, the
Festival of the Last Minute on Dec. 16 to 24, a gift bazaar for those who put off their holiday shopping till it's almost too late.
Enjoy the Good Life? Email us with what you'd like to see in future articles.
Elzy Kolb is a freelance writer living in White Plains, N.Y. In addition to writing the monthly JazzWomen! column in Hot House magazine, her articles on the arts, travel, interior design and other topics have appeared in the New York Times, Interior Design magazine and The Stamford Advocate.