As with so many cities in our wonderful and vast United States of America, often there are just too many amazing experiences to share in a single blog post. Portland, Oregon is one such city! As promised in a previous post, here are 5 MORE things to see and do in Portland and the surrounding areas.
First, we’ll start off within the Portland city limits, check out a couple things in the local environs, and then head to the coast for an excellent weekend adventure.
- Slappy Cakes – Portland, Oregon
- Beacon Rock and Bridge of the Gods – Columbia River Gorge area
- Timberline Lodge and Mount Hood – Timberline, Oregon
- Oregon Coast Aquarium – Newport, Oregon
- Yaquina Lighthouse – Newport, Oregon
- BONUS – Mo’s Seafood & Chowder – Newport, Oregon
Sound like fun? Well, grab something to take notes and be sure to include these adventures on your next free weekend or your next visit to Portland, Oregon.
This just might be my favorite place to eat in Portland – and that’s saying a lot because Portland is a bit of a foodie paradise! With locations in Maui, Singapore, Japan and Thailand – this breakfast/brunch/lunch spot makes you work for your pancakes. That’s right – all of the tables come equipped with a griddle in the center of the table and the first thing your server does is crank up the heat.
The main idea here is DIY pancakes. In fact, Slappy Cakes’ motto is: SQUEEZE, ADD, FLIP, EAT. Easy enough, right? First you order squeeze bottles of pancake batter with flavors like buttermilk, peanut butter, chocolate, etc. For our party of seven – 4 adults & 3 kids – we ordered five bottles. Next, you choose things to add “into” and “onto” your pancakes. Things like chocolate chips, coconut, blueberries, strawberries, bananas, bacon, or nuts to sprinkle “into” your pancake. Finally, you choose from maple syrup, honey, whipped cream and more to pour “onto” your pancake. Drooling yet?
And here’s where the FUN begins. Along with a napkin, knife, fork and spoon, everyone gets a SPATULA! Because like I said, DIY.
Everyone then starts squeezing and squirting and sprinkling and flipping and eventually slurping – it’s a pancake pandemonium, I tell you, pancake pandemonium!
But Slappy Cakes is about more than just pancakes. They serve up all of your classic breakfasts, as well as migas and huevos rancheros, a variety of scrambled concoctions, benedicts and all of your standard breakfast sides. They offer weekly specials as well as a full bar with some specialty breakfast/brunch cocktails. And all the locations take advantage of locally grown produce and ingredients in an effort to support regional vendors. That makes it taste good not only in your belly, but in your heart too!
Slappy Cakes is a popular place having been featured on The Cooking Channel, as well as being hailed by famous chefs like Alton Brown, Bobby Flay and Rachel Ray. So check their website for their hours and arrive early – there is typically a line for a table, especially on weekends! Contact Info: 4246 SE Belmont St., Portland, OR / 503 477-4805 / www.slappycakes.com
BEACON ROCK & BRIDGE OF THE GODS
Beacon Rock is located at Beacon Rock State Park on the Washington state side of the Columbia River Gorge about an hour’s drive from Portland. It is actually a basalt plug (the lava core of an ancient volcano) and was named Beacon Rock by Lewis and Clark over 200 years ago.
I had spotted the giant rock years ago on my first drive heading west, while on the Oregon side of the gorge, and en route to Portland. It is a massive rock towering over 800 feet tall. Later, on subsequent journeys to Portland, I always watched for the landmark and so was quite happy to finally plan a day exploring the behemoth and surrounding areas.
Our intention was to hike to the top of the rock on the Beacon Rock Trail but the trails were closed due to refurbishments – so sad. (But an excellent reason to return!) The trail is nearly two miles up and back and is rated “moderately difficult” with well-maintained pathways, hand rails and a stunning view of the area as a reward. You can bring your leashed dog with you too!
Instead, we enjoyed the park’s Doetsch Walking Path. This easy 1.2 mile loop trail was once a ranch belonging to the Doetsch family. The paved loop travels through old pastureland and along the Columbia River with sweeping views of nearby mountains. There are several interpretive signs along the way, as well as benches for enjoying the views and wild blackberries, if you’re there the right time of the year. (We were and yes, I ate blackberries.)
There is a nice picnic area near the parking lot and exceptionally clean restrooms. Be aware that a Washington State Park Discover Pass is required to leave your vehicle in their parking lots. You can purchase an annual or one-day pass either online or at the park you are visiting. Contact Info: 34841 State Road 14, Skamania, WA 98648 / 509 427-8265 / http://parks.state.wa.us/474/Beacon-Rock
BRIDGE OF THE GODS
Upon leaving Beacon Rock we made our way east on State Road 14 that borders the Columbia River on the Washington side. Our goal was to cross the river upon our first chance in order to head back west to Portland. What a scary pleasant surprise when the first opportunity to present itself was this bridge, bearing this sign!
Bridge of the Gods is a cantilevered bridge (meaning the horizontal/projecting structures of the bridge are much longer than the vertical supports and the strength of the bridge is as a result of horizontal tension and vertical compression – you’re welcome). This one is steel and you can see the river 140 feet below. Yes, we crossed it and the grated surface of the bridge made it feel like the entire bridge was GROWLING at us. The speed limit is only 15 mph allowing plenty of time to
imagine plummeting to your death enjoy the view. Good times!
What I really love about it, though, is that it is the link between Oregon and Washington on the Pacific Crest Trail. The scenic trail is 2,660 miles long and starts at the Mexican border and terminates at the Canadian border. The bridge and this stretch of the trail has received recent fame when it was featured in the 2014 motion picture, “Wild”, starring Reese Witherspoon. The book is based on the novel/memoir by Portland author, Cheryl Strayed, about her own healing and self-discovery through her solo trek on the Pacific Crest Trail.
The bridge connects SR-14 on the Washington side with I-84 on the Oregon side. It only costs a couple bucks to drive across in a car or truck (2 axles) but you can walk or bike across for FREE. Right. Contact Info: Old Highway 30, Cascade Locks, OR 97014 / 541 374-8471 / http://portofcascadelocks.org/bridge-of-the-gods/
To read about MORE activities that we love in the Columbia River Gorge – click HERE.
TIMBERLINE LODGE & MT. HOOD
The Timberline Lodge, built in 1937, is exactly what you picture when imagining an alpine retreat in the Pacific Northwest. While being the perfect mountain retreat for skiing in the winter, it is also a terrific destination to get up close and personal with Mt. Hood in the summer.
At 6,000 feet and located on the southern slope of Mt. Hood, the lodge is a great starting point for the numerous activities to be discovered by summertime visitors. It was lunchtime when we arrived so we started out with a meal at one of the many restaurants on property. With kids in tow, we opted for pizza at the casual Blue Ox Bar, tucked cozily down some stairs in the basement. The interesting pizza combos were excellent and the low-key atmosphere was the right choice for younger guests.
Timberline Lodge FUN FACT : While the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado was the inspiration for Stephen King’s novel, The Shining, the Timberline Lodge was the inspiration for the hotel in the 1980 movie starring Jack Nicholson.
After lunch we headed out back of the hotel for some hiking on the nearby trails. The hotel actually sits on the Pacific Crest Trail so this is an opportunity to hike a bit on the famous trail itself. There are trails for all skill levels so whether you are up for a hike all the way to Mt. Hood or just want to amble around the hotel for some spectacular views – there is something perfect for everyone.
The Palmer Snowfield and Glacier on Mt. Hood is open June to September for summer ski camps, training and to the public, making it the only ski area in North America open 12 months out of the year! The Palmer Express chairlift, just next door to the lodge, is open in the summertime to get you right into the middle of the ski action. And if skiing isn’t your thing – take a ride up anyway, for spectacular views of the surrounding area including Mt. Jefferson in the distance.
So, the next time you find yourself looking for something to do when in the Portland area – take a pleasant drive to the Timberline Lodge and Mt. Hood. And don’t forget your camera! Contact Info: 27500 E. Timberline Rd., Timberline Lodge, OR 97028 / 503 272-3311 / www.timberlinelodge.com
How about a nice day trip or weekend away from the city? Newport, Oregon is located approximately 130 miles from Portland and makes for a very pleasant road trip to the coast. There are scores of hotels, motels, and RV parks to make for a very comfortable overnight adventure to the beach. Here are a couple of our favorite things to do while in Newport and a great place to eat while there too.
OREGON COAST AQUARIUM
I love a good aquarium and the Oregon Coast Aquarium did not disappoint. Located on the Yaquina Bay near the Pacific Ocean this aquarium has everything you would expect from an aquarium located on the coast.
The museum contains both indoor and outdoor exhibits and encounters – 1/3 are located outdoors – keep that in mind on rainy or cooler days. The exhibits are divided into sections relative to the creatures found in those areas. Exhibits such as Sandy Shores, Rocky Shores and Coastal Waters are a few.
A particularly interesting exhibit was called Secrets of Shipwrecks. Here, you learned all about the sea creatures that lurk and come to inhabit wrecks and foreign objects below the ocean’s surface.
The numerous animal encounters available to experience was quite impressive. We laughed and were amused at the sea otters, sea lions and pelicans. And while interesting, we were a little repulsed by the turkey vultures and octopus. But the sea jellies? Love … there is something so graceful and mesmerizing about them undulating through the water.
Oregon Coast Aquarium FUN FACT: Keiko, the orca who starred in the 1993 motion picture Free Willy, lived here at the aquarium for two years before going to live in Iceland.
The facility has a café, coffee bar and there are picnic areas located near the parking lots. And don’t forget to visit one of the gift shops for an aquatic-inspired souvenir. Newport Coast Aquarium is a fun and informative place to visit for children or adults – be sure to include it on your itinerary the next time you’re in the area. Contact Info: 2820 SE Ferry Slip Rd., Newport, OR 97365 / 541 867-3474 / www.aquarium.org
YAQUINA HEAD LIGHTHOUSE
There is something very romantic and mysterious about a lighthouse. They seem to harbor secrets and stories of the sea. Whenever I visit a lighthouse I always feel as if I’m only learning part of the story – the obvious story. It’s as if they have towered for so long, above the commotion of life, a lone and silent witness to things which we have no perspective.
The Yaquina Head Lighthouse owns this mystical beauty. Built in 1872, it stands 93 feet tall – the tallest lighthouse in Oregon – at the end of a strip of land that juts a mile into the Pacific Ocean. It originally burned oil but today houses a fully automated Fresnel lens (a lens designed specifically for lighthouses that are lighter and thinner than other lenses, but that is visible over greater distances) that continues to signal and warn those venturing too close to land and other hazards.
You follow a curvy road to get to the lighthouse. Once there you can learn about it’s history at an interpretive center or opt for a guided tour where you can climb the 144 steps to the top to witness the spectacular view. And a whole new perspective.
When we arrived a naturalist was posted on the sidewalk with a telescope trained onto the horizon. He invited us to peer through the lens and witness the gray whales cavorting lazily in the foam. It took my breath!
Next we descended a wooden staircase to the beach only to be delighted with a shoreline strewn with smooth, black rocks. No sand – just mounds of these round, black rocks. They made it difficult to walk but were so delightful that we teetered along happily enjoying their novelty.
There are also several short trails that crisscross their way around the area. Whatever you do – don’t miss out on this treasure when visiting Newport. Contact Info: 750 NW Lighthouse Dr., Newport, OR 97365 / 541 574-3100 / www.yaquinalights.org
BONUS: MO’S SEAFOOD & CHOWDER
What better thing for dinner after visiting the aquarium … and the beach … than seafood! Oh, you know it – let’s eat FISH! And Mo’s in Newport is the original seafood shack dating back to 1946. Their slogan is, “The Home of Mo’s World Famous Clam Chowder”, and Mr. Jones – quite the clam chowder connoisseur – proclaimed it outstanding!
Mo’s FUN FACT : Today a garage door covers a portion of the front of the restaurant. The story goes, that a customer left one day and accidentally put her car into “drive” rather than “reverse” and plowed right through the front of the building. Rather than repairing the wall – Mo just put in a garage door and to this day they raise it up when the weather is particularly pleasant!
Today there are several Mo’s locations up and down the coast, but Newport is the original. There is even a Mo’s at the Portland airport in Concourse C! So next time you see one, be sure to give Mo’s clam chowder a try! Contact Info: 622 SW Bay Blvd., Newport, OR 97365 / 541 265-2979 / www.moschowder.com
There are so many more great adventures to be had in the great city of Portland, Oregon – check out our post: 5 Fun Things to Do in Portland, Oregon + BONUS Freebie for even more to add to your Portland “to do” list.
What is something YOU love to do when visiting Portland? By all means, SHARE with us in the comments below!