by Aaron Feigenbaum.
Portland, Oregon is a clean, beautiful city with pleasant weather and plenty of interesting attractions to see. Long inhabited by Upper Chinook Indians and several other Native American Groups, the first Europeans who explored the area now known as Portland were the legendary Lewis and Clark duo whose reports attracted settlers to the region. As the story goes, two of the settlers were William Overton and Asa Lovejoy. Overton sold his share to F.W. Pettygrove of Portland, Maine. Lovejoy and Pettygrove wanted to name the newly emerging town after their respective hometowns so they flipped a coin and Pettygrove ended up the winner. Portland became a trade partner with San Francisco and its prosperity was further propelled by a boom of local industry. The city became a steel, lumber, and railroad town through the 1970‘s. After that Portland began to gain a reputation, one that persists to this day, as a liberal-minded city that excelled in the arts, urban design, and environmental policy.
Things to See and Do:
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry: The OMSI is an exceptional science museum with lots of very unique exhibits. Perhaps the most well-known of these is the USS Blueback, a Navy submarine that served during the Cold War and appeared in the 1990 film “The Hunt for Red October.” Check out the Turbine Hall where you can see interactive displays about everything from holograms to steam power to biochemistry to robots. Then head over to the Earth Science Hall for some excellent geologic exhibits, and then the Planetarium to catch one its daily light shows. The museum also has an adjacent IMAX theater. Finally, the Science Playground is the perfect way to get kids to learn and play at the same time. Admission is $13 for adults and
$9.50 for kids.
Oregon Historical Society Museum: This museum is dedicated to telling the story of Portland and Oregon’s past and present. Current exhibits include: the history of dredging in the Port of Portland, local artists’ interpretation of Oregonian vineyards, the story of the Battleship Oregon which sailed to Cuba in the Spanish-American War, and an overall history of the region from early settlement to now. Adults are $11 and youth are $5.00
Portland Art Museum: Symbolic of Portland’s love of the arts, the Art Museum is richly endowed with paintings by artists such as Van Gogh, Cezanne, Monet, and Renoir. Founded in 1892, the museum is one of the oldest and largest of its kind in the U.S. It’s located right across the street from the Historical Museum. Adults are $15.00 and kids 17 and younger are free.
Oregon Maritime Museum: This isn’t your run-of-the-mill museum building. Rather, the “museum” is actually the last operating sternwheel tug boat in the U.S. You can get a guided tour of the whole ship and see ship models and maritime artifacts relating to steam power, underwater diving, the battleship Oregon, and WWII-era shipyards. Adults are $7.00 and youth are $3.00
Pittock Mansion: Nestled in the beautiful hills of western Portland, this stunning Victorian mansion was first built in 1909 for Henry Pittock, publisher of The Oregonian newspaper, and his wife Georgiana. The property was bought by the city in 1964 after extensive storm damage, and it was later featured in several movies and TV shows. The mansion looks the same as it did when it was built over a hundred years ago. You can take a walk through the mansion’s luxurious interior at the cost of $9.50 for adults and $6.50 for youth.
Portland Japanese Garden: This gorgeous oasis of tranquility has been called one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside Japan. Indeed, from the zen garden to the koi ponds to the quaint teahouse, there is no doubt that the creators of this garden strove to make it as authentic and beautiful as they possibly could. To top it all off the east veranda overlooks Mt. Hood which stands in for Mt. Fuji. Admission is $9.50 for adults and $6.75 for youth.
Lan Su Chinese Garden: Not to be out-done, Lan Su is as beautiful as its Japanese counterpart, with pavilions, ponds, an authentic teahouse with a full assortment of teas, and a lake at the center. Adults get in for $9.50 and youth for $7.00
Forest Park: True to Portland’s reputation as a leader in ecology, the gigantic Forest Park consists of 5,000 acres of woodland, thus making it the nation’s largest urban park. The park gives you over 70 miles of hiking trails, the longest of which is the Wildwood Trail at 30 miles. Forest Park is a world apart from the hustle and bustle of downtown Portland. There is an incredible diversity of wildlife both in the forest itself and in the numerous creeks that run through it.
International Rose Test Garden: A mecca for rose-lovers everywhere, this exquisite garden is one of the largest of its kind in the world. There are 7,000 rose flowers representing over 500 different varieties. There’s also an amphitheater which hosts free classical concerts and Shakespeare plays. In fact, the garden has a separate Shakespeare section which features all the flowers mentioned in his plays. Come May-July to see the flowers in full bloom. Admission is free.
Portland Aerial Tram: Not only does the tram provide convenience in connecting the South Waterfront neighborhood with the Oregon Health Sciences University campus, but it also provides stunning views of downtown and the mountains beyond. Roundtrip fare is only $4.35.
Underground Portland: For something off the beaten path, Portland Walking Tours offers a guided tour of the underground. According to the company, “We walk through the remains of the physical underground as well as exploring the underground subcultures, political underground and immoral underground of the city’s sordid history, and expose the myths behind the legends of the so-called “Shanghai Tunnels.” Tours must be booked in advance. The cost is $18.99 for adults, $17.00 for youth, and $9.00 for children.
Powell’s Books: In a time where Barnes and Noble and Amazon are dominating the bookselling market, some traditional brick-and-mortar, independent bookstores still manage to survive. Powell’s, located in the heart of downtown Portland, is just such a bookstore. It’s one of Portland’s most popular attractions and it claims to be the world’s largest independent bookstore. Indeed, the store is so big that employees hand out maps to patrons. Avid book fans could spend days combing through the shelves.
Oregon Jewish Museum: Last, but certainly not least, is Portland’s fascinating Jewish museum. Current exhibits include an overview of a century of Sephardic life in Portland, Israeli society visually represented through light and shadow, and a commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Oregon Holocaust Memorial. Admission is $6.00 for adults and free for children under 12 accompanied by parent or guardian.
Where to Daven and Eat:
Congregation Kesser Israel is, according to their site, Portland’s longest-established Orthodox shul. Their address is 6698 SW Capitol Hwy and can be reached at (503) 222-1239 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Congregation Ahavath Achim is a Modern Orthodox Sephardic shul located at 3225 SW Barbur Blvd . You can contact them at (503) 610-3850 or email@example.com.
There are also several Chabad shuls in Portland: The main one is Chabad of Oregon at 6612 SW Capitol Hwy and can be reached at (503) 977-9947. Another is Chabad of the Eastside at 2125 Ne 45th Ave./(503)-309-4490. There’s also Congregation Bais Menachem at 2317 SW Vermont St./ (503) 977-9947. Finally, there’s a Chabad house located on the campus of Reed College; its address is 3355 SE Steele St. and it can be reached at (503)-236-6642.
Portland only has one kosher restaurant, Cafe @ the J, which is under the supervision of Oregon Kosher. Kosher catering is available through MJCC Kosher Catering Facilties and Century Catering. There is also a kosher shop called Sunny’s Legendary Frozen Yogurt.
Otherwise, markets such as Albertson’s, Trader Joe’s, and Safeway carry a wide variety of kosher products.
Reaching Portland is straightforward and can be accomplished in several ways: The most direct car route is taking the I-5N all the way from Los Angeles. Otherwise, you can fly into Portland International Airport, take Amtrak, or take Greyhound.
(Sources: Wikitravel, Time, Oregon Kosher)