After living in Seattle for a few months, my partner and I decided that to visit our city’s weird neighbor, Portland, Oregon. What we found was a city teeming with fun bars, markets, and fantastic food. It’s also the perfect place to get to know LGBTQ culture in the Pacific Northwest.
Portland has a proud history of LGBTQ activism. In fact, has been a home for gender and sexual minorities dating back to the time when the First Nations’ people were the area’s only inhabitants. Explorers Lewis and Clarke found many two-spirit individuals living in Oregon during their travels. In 2010, the Portland Two-Spirit Society was established to bring together Indigenous and Native people from within the local queer community. The society regularly hosts seminars and events open to all.
The City of Roses elected the first openly gay mayor in 2008 and the first openly bisexual governor in 2015.
If you’re in town searching for an accepting community, Q Center is the city’s largest LGBTQ community center. Offering tons of resources and support to the public, as well as a packed community events calendar.
There are many choices when it comes to places to stay in the city. We ended up at Ace Hotel Portland, located in the historic Clyde Hotel building. It’s located right across from Powell’s City of Books—an absolute must-see for even those who aren’t literarily-inclined. The hotel is also near many great restaurants and chic shops. While Ace hotel is definitely hip, comfort is its ultimate priority—for example, all rooms are equipped with cozy hoodies, a much more plush alternative to the standard issue bathrobe.
If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, another place that may intrigue more adventurous (or smaller) couples, is the Tiny House Hotel, a caravan of tiny homes located in a parking lot in the Alberta Arts district that is available for rent year-round. The square-footage may be small, but what they lack in space they more than make-up for in quirky charm.
Once we got settled, we headed out in search of food, because calories don’t count on vacation. Portland’s food scene is one of the major draws for many people, and we wanted to get an early start. One of the city’s most famous foods is their doughnuts, and there’s a real rivalry between old-school bakeries like Voodoo Doughnut and the new-school styling of Blue Star Donut. However, most locals secretly frequently less Instagram-friendly places like Delicious Donuts on East Burnside Drive, wooed by their house-made frosting, simple flavors, and endless customizability.
Doughnuts were purchased, photographed, and eagerly consumed, but what’s next? PDX has tons of incredible restaurants. Some have been local favorites for generations. We decided to try, Olympia Provisions—which has three locations throughout the city and two food trucks. They all serve artisan grilled cheese, Parisian baguettes, and grilled mortadella steak from their very own locally sourced charcuterie and cheese.
Nostrana is one of the city’s most beloved restaurants. It’s run by chef Cathy Whims since 2005. Whims uses interesting local ingredients like corona beans, wild-foraged mushrooms, and wildflower honey to create beautiful kinds of pasta, pizzas, and mains.
For a nightcap, we checked out The Bye and Bye. A fun revamped dive bar serving Southern-inspired food with a twist. The menu is totally vegan, including the Frito-laden Chili Pie. Not to mention the drinks. Gin, bourbon, and vodka infused cocktails take your evening to the next level.
Portland is full of awesome festivals. Including several that are specifically LGBTQ-focused. Portland Pride is always in June, and in recent years it has grown to encompass several different events like Portland Black Pride and Peacock in the Park. The latter is a massive drag and variety show that takes place every year in the Washington Park Rose Garden Amphitheater.
If you’re into films or movie history, Cinema 21, has been a local landmark since 1925. It is a great place to visit and is home of the Portland Queer Film Festival every September. If you’re not in the city during festival time, it’s still worth checking out. It regularly screens interesting art house and independent movies.
One of the best things to do in Stumptown is shop in the different neighborhoods and enjoy the quirky shops and storefronts. One of our favorites is Powell’s City of Books, located in the Pearl District, a mega independent bookstore that has something for everyone from great books to toys and games.
If you’re looking for clothes and accessories for outdoor adventures, Poler sells amazing, durable outdoor gear and apparel.
Outside of shopping, there are many scenic areas of the city. It’s perfect for an afternoon of walking. The Hoyt Arboretum, Laurelhurst Park, and the Waterfront Loop are great ways to get to know Portland. If you’re walking the Waterfront Loop on a Saturday, check out the Portland Saturday Market. It features hundreds of stalls, food trucks, and live entertainment.
Portland, Oregon, is the great place to let you inner weirdness out.