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March 22nd 2015
Published: March 22nd 2015
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Oneonta GorgeOneonta GorgeOneonta Gorge

30-minutes outside of Portland, a must-see natural wonder
Long perceived as a "hipster" city, this preconception of Portland is in reality, not too far-fetched. That is, if hipster entails liberal politics, environmental consciousness, temperate climate, food carts, and fervor for beer and coffee. This city prides itself on being different, as evidenced by their slogan, "Keep Portland Weird," and if strange is good, then Portland is great. But as unique as this town is, other city governments around the country are taking note and following suit; renown for their dedication to public transportation, high walkability, and large bike-share program, Portland's city council is setting an example for running a sustainable town.

Sustainability is also dependent on natural resources, which is quite abundant in the Pacific Northwest. As Seattle is flanked by Puget Sound and Lake Washington, Portland is also surrounded by water; the Willamette River flows right through the city center (dividing it into North, Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, and Southeast districts), with the nearby Columbia River supplying the valley with water. Along one bank of the Columbia River about 30 minutes east of downtown are two breathtaking natural attractions--Multnomah Falls and Oneonta Gorge--both of which were our first stops in Oregon.

Multnomah Falls is one of the
Multnomah FallsMultnomah FallsMultnomah Falls

One of the most photographed waterfalls in America
most photographed waterfalls in the country, and for good reason. It's easily accessible from the main road with plentiful parking, and a short hike lands you on the famous bridge bisecting the fall. The immense height of the waterfall cannot be captured through a lens, so drive by and stop for a moment to witness the wonder for yourself. Then continue down the same road to Oneonta Gorge, proclaimed as one of America's most surreal places to visit before you die. Prepare to get soaked because the hike requires climbing over a log jam, wading waist-deep in freezing water, then walking to a secluded waterfall at the end, but it's worth every numb toe to catch a glimpse of this amazing gorge.

After we dried off, Kristina and I headed back into town for happy hour from 2-6 p.m. at the best rated restaurant in the city, Imperial (410 SW Broadway). The head chef and owner, Vitaly Paley, defeated the Iron Chef on Food Network, so you can rest assured the menu is superb. We ordered the flat-top burger and elk tongue sliders, both of which were juicy, tender, and perfectly seasoned. And since this is the beer capital
Blue Star DonutBlue Star DonutBlue Star Donut

Try the dark chocolate almond ganache
of the world and home to the highest number of breweries, we were obligated to sample some beer. We selected the Double Mountain IPA, a hoppy, full-bodied brew that compliments a hefty meal.

Since our late lunch was quite filling, we foregoed the food cart scene that made this city famous, but dessert was still in order. We headed to Blue Star Donuts (1237 SW Washington) and got the dark chocolate almond ganache, then drove by Voodoo Donuts (22 SW 3rd Ave) but the long line dissuaded us from entering. We also walked pass a Portland institution along the way, Powell's Books (3723 SE Hawthorne Blvd), and decided to pop in for a quick read as our food digested.

After finishing our breather, we headed west to our favorite neighborhood in Portland, the Alphabet district, to visit Salt n' Straw (838 NW 23rd Ave), voted the best ice cream in the country a few years back. With a wide selection and generous samples, this cute shop offers unique combinations, including my now-favorite flavor, pear and bleu cheese. The mix sounds odd and frankly, repulsive, but it's the most delicious flavor we've ever tasted; this is quite a statement
Salt n' StrawSalt n' StrawSalt n' Straw

Our favorite ice cream parlor and rated best ice cream in America
for a couple obsessed with ice cream from around the world.

We then strolled around the neighborhood as we enjoyed our sweets. Across the street from Salt n' Straw was another novelty shop that is now among my favorites as well: The Meadow (805 NW 23rd Ave). It's a cozy store offering distinct chocolates, bitters, and salts from every nook on Earth; enter to take a peek, leave with a whole new perspective on salt. It's a rarity to still find unique products or goods after traveling so much, but to stumble upon this treasure was a pleasant surprise.

Once we finished a round-trip of this quaint shopping street, it was time to return to Seattle to catch an early flight back to Virginia the next morning. Kristina and I were disappointed to leave this gem in the Pacific Northwest, something unexpected considering we had little expectations for this town. In fact, we hadn't even considered coming here during our Seattle-Vancouver trip until late into our planning. But maybe that's why Portland has become our favorite American city. The natural wonders, the food, and the people don't follow any rules or conform to any standards, so come with
The MeadowThe MeadowThe Meadow

Unique novelty shop featuring chocolates, bitters, and salts from around the world
no expectations to leave with full satisfaction. The city lives and breathes as it wishes, which ultimately, keeps Portland weird.

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