Portland is one of my very favorite places. To me, Oregon in general is the most beautiful state I’ve encountered…and I’ve been to 30 of ‘em. But this California girl is just not used to the rain. While I’ll admit it holds a certain beauty, having to go anywhere at all when it’s raining is essentially torture.
So why did I decide to visit the Pacific Northwest in autumn, you ask? Well, that is a damn good question. Maybe it was to escape the 80-degree weather we had in Orange County at the end of October.
I didn’t necessarily think it through, but I can’t say I minded it entirely. While it’s not ideal travel weather, there’s something magical about stepping off the bus in preparation of a mile-long walk in a torrential downpour…right?
Whether you enjoy the rain or not, make the most of it. After all, Oregon can’t maintain its flawless scenery and epic waterfalls without it. Next time you find yourself in Portland during the rainy season, consider these activities to keep your spirits up.
Learn About Science
Hiking in the Columbia Gorge area just outside of Portland, is one of the best things about the region. But, when the rain is coming down, avoid the mud and head inside.
While you won’t get the same amount of exercise, or the same stunning views, a museum is a great option. Opt to visit the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, located right on the Willamette River. The view is almost as lovely—even in the rain. The walking path that leads to the museum is right along the water and offers vistas of cute houses and hills covered with greenery.
The museum has an intriguing history, first operating as a small exhibit detailing the state’s natural resources as the City Hall Museum in 1896. In the middle of the 20th century, it got its current name, but operated out of a local businessman’s house, complete with a planetarium. It opened in its current spot in 1958.
We didn’t know any of this upon our visit but we were interested nonetheless. The museum is known for its hands-on exhibits, and we certainly got our hands wet. We started upstairs in the Life Hall. The “Beginning the Journey” immediately captured our interest—a friend that was with me is a nurse. With actual human fetuses on display, it details every stage of human development during the nine months of pregnancy.
Also in the Life Hall, we examined the importance of eliminating food waste. With it, came a station offering up tasty treats—or not to tasty, depending on how you look at it. After trekking through the rain, we figured why not…and then we ate some insects. Our mild adventurous sides leant themselves to trying the crispy superworms and the chili-lime grasshoppers, but children were downing things as large as silkworms and June beetles to get their hands on some cricket brownies.
Downstairs, we spent way too much time experimenting and exploring various science projects in Turbine Hall. You can get your hands on various robotics technologies, explore physics and chemistry or enjoy the colorful intricacies of the laser lab.
Stuff Your Face
Trying new eateries is always a fun pastime while traveling, but it’s especially great on rainy days in Portland. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from, of course, but there are a couple in particular that you should visit.
Don’t let the dimly lit dining room at Tasty n Adler fool you. This lively New American joint isn’t as expensive as it looks, but the quality of literally everything we tried was outstanding.
Sip while you wait (because, chances are, you will be waiting for a little while—it’s a popular spot). In addition to an extensive wine list, tequila and bourbon flights, they offer signature cocktails. We opted for the Elizabeth Taylor, a Champagne cocktail mixed with crème de violette and a single black cherry.
Once you’re seated, nibble on the eatery’s house-made corn nuts while you peruse the menu. We dined on dishes like French fries, grilled octopus and the Alder burger, not wanting to leave the warm communal space, chatting with the older couple at the table next to us that was also visiting from Southern California.
Much closer to the river, you’ll find another spot that is worth checking out: Lechon. The South American restaurant with a name based on a popular Spanish pork dish is just about as hip as you can get. You wouldn’t guess it by the old-fashioned statue of a ballet dancer out front. But walk in and you’ll find flowers in vases on a long countertop, crystal clear wine glasses hanging over the bar and a vibrant purple aquarium filled with jellyfish—yes, jellyfish.
We visited at an awkward time, between lunch and dinner, but they were more than happy to accommodate us. While trying to decide what we wanted to dine on, we noticed an interesting pick on the wine menu: rather than red or white, it was orange wine. A local pinot gris, the wine is aged in terracotta pots to produce a unique hue and a dry, acidic drink with a leathery flavor.
If you’re looking for a light meal, like we were, the shrimp ceviche is perfect. Served with yuca chips with which to scoop the shrimp, avocado, spicy jalapenos, cilantro and aji lime amarillo sauce. The menu also includes things like an artisanal cheese platter, avocado toast with smoked trout, a chimichurri burger and sautéed mussels with chorizo.
Lechon also hosts special Sunday suppers once a month, with the 2018 series featuring food from different countries. Travel to the Philippines, France, Mexico and beyond with the restaurant’s culinary delights.
Enjoy Some Brews
A trip to the Pacific Northwest isn’t complete without a trip to a trendy brewery, especially in Portland. Known for their brews, this is a great way to beat the rain while still having a stellar time.
While I wanted to experience the brewery culture that is currently booming in Portland, I’m the only one that’s not a big beer drinker. Give me a glass of wine, or a fruity cocktail, or even something with gin or tequila. But beer? Not a fan.
I do, however, enjoy sour beers. I should have known that Portland would have a brewery devoted to them. That’s where we headed, to Cascade Brewing Barrel House.
We ordered a variety of two-ounce pours, covering much of the menu and sharing amongst ourselves to sample them all. From the spiced Pumpkin Smash to the white raspberry Framblanc, the flavors were overwhelming and delicious. Some other standouts were the Kriek, red ales crafted with both Bing and sour pie cherries, and Noyaux, a blend of apricot and raspberry, as well as the fruit and cheese platter for a late-night snack.
Relax at the Hotel
One final way to unwind as the rain pours is to stay in—as in, don’t leave the hotel. This option is only appealing if you are staying somewhere extravagant where you can enjoy the in-room experience.
Hotel Monaco couldn’t be more perfect for a rainy day. The bold colors in the first-floor living room are wonderful for dreary days, and activities abound, too. From a grand piano to an oversize chess set and a bookshelf full of hardcovers, it’s a haven for travelers stuck inside. Or, simply relax on the plush patterned chairs, enjoy the warmth of the fireplace and chat with your crew.
Less than a mile away, Hotel Monaco’s sister property (they’re both Kimpton hotels) is another great space for staying in. The spacious in-room sitting space at Hotel Vintage means your whole group can hang out without having to head downstairs. We opted to throw on our bathing suits and hop into the oversize spa bathtub with some glasses of wine. It was a little crowded, but it sure beat traipsing about in the rain.