Stay and Play in Portland's Alberta Arts District
Venture Off-The-Beaten Tourist Path to Experience Portland Like a Local
Caravan Tiny House Hotel, Les Caves, Alberta Rose Theatre, Portland Rose Garden, Grain and Grisle, Helsers, La Serinita (awesome burritos)
Last year, while Bella was in summer camp Tim and I toured Oregon for a week. This article covers the Portland itinerary we WISH we had. We really love to experience local, authentic scenes and the downtown Portland Pearl District hotel neighborhood scene was surrounded by chain stores, touristy restaurants and a fair amount of homeless folks (camped right outside of our hotel). On the evening of our last night in Portland, we took a lyft to the Alberta Arts District and fell in love. It is a small, vibrant neighborhood featuring local shops, art galleries and restaurants.
Adults and possibly teenagers
Although I have not yet stayed at this "hotel," I am recommending it because we walked by it when visiting the neighborhood and was thrilled to find a unique, small lodging option in the middle of a vibrant neighborhood. It looks like a fun place to stay and has a 5-star rating on trip advisor. I especially think it would be fun to get a group of friends to rent out the entire hotel! The first tiny house hotel in the world, this collection of 6 tiny houses that sleep 2-4 people is sited between two single-story buildings right in the middle of the Alberta Arts District. The Pacifica tiny house is ADA accessible and all of their units were designed by leading tiny house architects who regularly host tours.
If you can swing a mid-week visit, consider Wednesdays in the summertime to enjoy their "Caravan Campfires" featuring live local bands, a campfire and s'mores.
Les Caves, a romantic winery bar featuring unusual, rare wines
This is a must-visit spot for wine lovers. Les Caves primarily features wines from the owners' two Oregon wineries: Ovum Wines and Golden Cluster. Although, if you look on their facebook, twitter feeds you will see that they also occasionally feature unusual wines from around the world. When Tim and I wandered in to Les Caves one of the winemakers was behind the bar, which presented a rare opportunity to learn first-hand about the wines. He was super friendly, knowledgeable and poured me an orange wine---produced by leaving white grape skins on during the fermentation process (rose' ferments with intact red grape skins). The orange wine was lovely and something I had been trying to find ever since I read about the ancient type of wine in "Food and Wine" magazine.
To access Les Caves, walk through the gate to the left of the Red Sail Home Decor store on NE Alberta Street and look for a descending concrete staircase on your right. Head down the stairs and you will find an intimate, candle-lit bar that truly looks like a cave. Be brave and consider lounging in the elevated alcove seating area that used to house the theater's elevator. Note: if it is hot outside, this is the place to find relief!
The Rose Theatre is a great place to take in acoustic music, art house films and comedy. ur
Our friend's sister, and local Portlander Kristine L. recommends the following Alberta Arts District restaurants:
- Grain & Gristle for brunch, lunch, or dinner. It was just named Portland's best burger and one of the best brunches.
- Helser's on Alberta for all day breakfast, lunch and bloody marys.
- La Sirenita for the best burritos on Earth!
- For a mid-morning treat, head to the Waffle Window for Belgian-style waffles acommpanied by unique toppings, such as spicy jalapeno bacon, hard chocolate-dipped or fried chicken.
International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park
My girlfriend Keelan recommended that we visit the Rose Garden and we were so happy that we did, because it was spectacular! The 4.5 acre garden showcases more than 8,000 rose bushes, in 600 varieties, that are in bloom May through November (this is possible because volunteers deadhead the flowers all summer and fall). This garden is the oldest, most continuously operated rose garden in the United States and began as a sanctuary for hybridized roses created in Europe that were in danger of being destroyed in the bombings.
The roses provide a fabulous backdrop for photographs and pure marvel for flower lovers. Strolling through the colorful gardens provide a full sensory experience, with the highlight being the many nuanced sweet scents. There is a unique rose-themed gift shop at the top of the garden, where you can sign up for the guided tours.
We walked to Washington Park from the Pearl District, but if you are staying in Alberta you should take a lyft or drive. There is limited parking at the Rose Garden, however, so it is best to park at the base of the park and take a free seasonal shuttle, hike or take advantage of a bike-share vehicle to get up the hill.
IF YOU GO
- ABILITY TO UNPLUG: low. There is cell coverage everywhere (except maybe the wine cave).
- There are so many other places in Portland to visit, but the Alberta Arts District is a great home base if you want to live like a local.