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Tuesday Travels: the Portland Edition

This week’s guest post for Tuesday Travels is by my dear friend Kristen Courter of Courterblog. Mommy to kiddos Jonathan & Holly.  I first met Kristen when we were both living in Oklahoma and attending the same church.  The gal with the golden voice is now a blogger and mostly stay-at-home mom who also teaches piano lessons.  She and her family have also relocated to the beautiful pacific northwest.  Today, Kristen will be serving as you tour guide to her current hometown of Portland, Oregon.

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Ahhhh, Portland, Oregon . . . maybe not your first choice for a visit in November (yes, it’s true, it rains a LOT in the winter months), but a family vacation dream come true from May through September!  I’ll just meander around all the reasons you might decide to visit our fair city, with kids in tow.

Portland, while known for its liberal vibe, is extremely family-friendly.  Many quality restaurants/microbreweries have kid menus and play areas (see Hopworks Urban Brewery and Laurelwood Restaurant), and you won’t find a better cup of coffee and than in one of our many fine coffee shops that serve Stumptown Coffee, a local favorite.  If you can pack your bikes, or have a desire to cruise the city on rented ones, you’ll find Portland delightful for biking.  Here is a quick article mentioning Portland is rated the No. 2 bike-friendly city in the world!  There are urban trails all over the place, but you’ll find an especially nice ride for tourists along the Willamette River, which runs through downtown and is developed along the east and west banks.  You could ride to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry,  a fantastic science museum with an IMAX theater and a huge hands-on play area designed for toddlers/preschoolers.

So let’s say you want to get out of town a bit and do some hiking with the family.  Just a short 30 minute drive east of the city, you’ll enter the scenic landscape of the Columbia River Gorge.  Stop at a few jaw-dropping waterfalls along the highway, or pick a trail and head up the mountain for a challenge.  You won’t be disappointed with the view, and think of all the calories burned (especially with a baby on your back!)  Farther along the gorge highway, you’ll run into the charming city of Hood River, where you could learn to wind-surf (wind-surfing capital of the world), or ride the Mount Hood historic railroad (a favorite with my train-loving 3 year old son!).  Now you are in the foothills of Mount Hood, and your family might decide to rent a comfy suite in a mountain lodge or venture into the backcountry with tents and sleeping bags.

After you’d had your fill of the mountains (and who gets tired of that?) head back to the city on the weekend and visit the downtown Portland farmer’s market every Saturday morning.  You’ll see firsthand the boom of organic farming going on in the northwest, and taste samples of fresh goat cheese, gourmet ketchup, spring lamb, and our world-famous Oregon strawberries.  For the die-hard berry lovers (that’s our family!), head to the north side of town to Sauvie Island’s Kruger’s Farm and pick your own!  The berry season starts with amazingly sweet strawberries, then blackberries and marionberries ripen, and finally blueberries.  Last weekend we got a little overzealous and picked 21 pounds of fresh strawberries!  (But I made some awesome freezer jam!)  Portland offers a number of summer festivals, fun for the whole family, starting with the huge Rose Festival, complete with Grand Floral Parade, waterfront village fair, and dragon boat races.  Later in the summer, music-enthusiasts will love the totally free Cathedral Park jazz festival, while your little marauders will enjoy the Portland Pirate Festival, both held in a park under the beautiful St. Johns Bridge.  Finally, summer in the city isn’t complete without enjoying the myriad of summer concerts held in parks across the city from June thru August, organized under the amazing Portland parks and rec system.

I can’t entice you to Oregon without highlighting the breathtaking Oregon coast, with miles and miles of beaches, all of which are free and open to the public.  The closest beach town to Portland is Cannon Beach, a charming coast town with great seafood restaurants and B & B’s galore.  A little farther south along Hwy 101, you’ll find Newport, with its impressive coastal aquarium.  You’ll cross the Cascade range of mountains on your way to the coast, and the scenery is spectacular: rocky cliffs and green rain-soaked forests of huge fir trees make for awe-inspiring hikes.

My family moved out here two years ago, and we can’t stop raving about the amazing Pacific Northwest summers.  The air is warm, rarely hot, with cool breezes and a slight chill in the morning.  Roses bloom everywhere, people are out on their bikes or just walking, and the coast always beckons.  What are you waiting for, come on, ya’ll!

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