10 Things to Experience in Oregon

In my quest to travel locally this summer and continue to experience the rich opportunities our great state has to offer, I compiled this list for newbies, frequent visitors and locals alike to experience some of my favorite (and non-touristy) places that Oregon has for us all. Many people hang themselves up on the "famous places" of Portland, and while some of them are worth the trip, many more places are waiting to be discovered.

1. Get a Tamarind Whisky Sour and Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings at Pok-Pok's little sister restaurant, The Whisky Soda Lounge. 

Chef Andy Ricker, hailed in Oregon as the top chef of PDX (and even the Northwest!) boasts his flagship, cult-classic restaurant "Pok Pok" in SE Portland with long lines and hour-plus waits on any given night. However, the genius behind Whisky Soda Lounge (also his restaurant) is that it serves as the "waiting area" for diners who can order many of the same foods and drinks as Pok Pok while being seated right away. I may or may not have canceled my Pok Pok reservation when I stepped foot in WSL and haven't been back there since! Whisky Soda Lounge is located across the street from Pok Pok at 3131 SE Division St, Portland, OR 97202.

2. Skip Multnomah Falls and hike to Punchbowl Falls instead. 

Avoid the crowds and wave at Multnomah Falls as you drive past on I-84, and make your way just a few more miles east for the shady Eagle Creek hike up to Punchbowl Falls. It is one of the most scenic hikes in the area, with more waterfalls than our impressive Multnomah Falls can feature. Punchbowl Falls also features a quiet and calm pool of water at the base which is perfect for cooling off in on a hot, summer day. When you search for Punchbowl Falls online, look first at the Eagle Creek Trail, which gloriously drops hikers after two miles at the Punchbowl Falls, though Punchbowl Falls is not the actual name of the hike. The Eagle Creek trailhead is located roughly 20 minutes east of Portland on I-84, just off of exit #41. Parking is ample, but it's another 1/4 mile from the exit.

3. Ditch the hefty fees of the Keller and catch a local show at Portland Center Stage instead. 

Sure, Keller Auditorium features many a touring broadway production, but the ticket prices can be steep. Portland Center Stage showcases local (and national) artists in original productions nearly year-round for a fraction of the cost and with just as good entertainment. Portland Center Stage hosts their shows at the Gerding Theatre at the Armory which is located at 128 NW Eleventh Avenue, Portland, OR 97208. Their 2014 - 2015 season begins on September 20th and runs until June the following year. Notable shows for this season: Dreamgirls (September - October), The Second City's Christmas Carol: Twist your Dickens (November - December), and Three Days of Rain (May - June).

4. DO wait in line for Salt and Straw. The locals don't lie. 

Salt and Straw, Portland's premier ice creamery, has received national press as of late in several different outlets. It's no surprise, as locals and visitors alike happily wait in hour-long lines on a regular basis, no matter the time of day. With flavors such as Coffee & Bourbon, Woodblock Chocolate with Salted Ganache and Sea Salt and Caramel, Salt and Straw keeps people coming back for more. Seriously. Salt and Straw has three locations: SE Portland, NE Portland and NW Portland. If you're staying downtown Portland, the NW Portland location will be your best bet. All locations are open from 11am - 11pm and yes, the line is worth the wait.

5. Blue Star Doughnuts over VooDoo Doughnuts.

"Good Things Come in Pink Boxes," is VooDoo Doughnuts's claim to fame. However, that may or may not be true. What VooDoo Doughnuts has going for it is its nostalgia and niche amongst doughnut connoisseurs. There aren't many places you can get a maple-bacon doughnut, a doughnut shaped like a voodoo doll, or the ever famous "you-know-what" shaped doughnut. But really, the lines are long and hot and if you're more of a doughnut fan than a quirk fan, I'd head over to Blue Star Doughnuts and select one of their fresh-from-the-oven doughnut varieties and plop down at one of their bar stools with a steaming mug of Stumptown Coffee to round out your breakfast. Blue Star Doughnuts is located just off Washington Street with easy streetcar access if you don't want to walk. It's address is 1237 SW Washington St, Portland, OR 97205 and it's open Monday through from at 7am and Saturday and Sunday from 8am until they run out of doughnuts!

6. Wine taste those delicious pinots.

Just under an hour away from Portland on either side of the city are some delicious wineries to sample Oregon's finest: Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. With over 400 wineries in the state of Oregon, you're sure to stumble upon one (or six) that you love, and those remaining 394 will cause you to want to return solely for the sake of those wines and views. It's not uncommon for vintners to strike up a conversation with you while you sample, boasting the pride of their crops from 2011 and relishing in the glory stories that take place during fall harvesting season. Wineries worth visiting on your first time are Domaine Drouhine, Sokol Blosser, Argyle, Winderlea and Archery Summit. You can catch the rest on your return visit!

7. Heading to the beach? Visit Gearhart instead of Seaside. 

Seaside is a touristy cacophony of visitors expecting a quaint Oregon beach town and instead being met with cramped streets and blaring neon signs with schmaltzy mini-golf stands charging three times the price of the suburbs. Jaded much? Locals never go to Seaside when they visit the beach; instead, they escape to Gearhart which is ten minutes away from Seaside and park their cars to take a stroll to the quiet shores with their dogs and kids in tow and a picnic basket from the community grocery store. If you love idyllic beach towns, Gearhart's got it all in one solid block. Gearhart is located just five miles past Seaside off of Highway 26 west, about a 90 minute drive from Portland.

8. A drive to Timberline is worth it in the winter.

Timberline Lodge is Oregon's notable mountain top resort and is iconic in the movie world serving as the backdrop for the movie, "The Shining." When it's not full of tourists in the summer, it's packed with native Oregonians in the winter because it's the perfect ski lodge to visit after a long day on the mountains. It features room types for everyone-- from the basic bunks and shared bathrooms, to the spacious suites with private facilities, there is a room to satisfy any price range should you choose to stay overnight. Even if you do visit during the summer, the views are incredible and windows with tables for dining are ample, meaning that the chances are great that you'll get to eat your meal looking out across the valley. Timberline Lodge is open year-round and is just an hour's drive outside of Portland. It is located at 27500 W Leg Rd, Timberline Lodge, OR 97028.

9. Piazza Italia for the best Italian food in the city.

You know a place is good when you can't get a table for days. Piazza Italia is just that. It's a hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant in Portland run by native Sicilians and Italian transplants who don't care if the Superbowl is on, thankyouverymuch, they will be watching soccer. The portions are large and the food is fresh every day. The lasagne and Pasta al Tonno is to die for. We have scoured the planet for the best Italian food so far, and Piazza Italia is it. (We've even been to Italy three times...) Piazza Italia is open for both lunch and dinner, but their kitchen closes from 3:00pm - 5:00pm. It is located at 1129 NW Johnson St, Portland, OR 97209.

10. Got Kids? Skip the waterfront and bring them to Jamison Square.

Jamison Square is an outdoor water park with a small pool and water feature that area children enjoy playing in in the summertime. Luckily for moms and dads, restaurants, ice cream and coffee shops line the park so there's something for everyone. The waterfront tends to bring in crowds of all kids, but Jamison Square is much quieter and more private than the front of the city. Jamison Square is free and there is plenty of parking nearby, including Portland Streetcar access. Jamison Square is open from 9am - 6pm Monday - Sunday, and is located at 810 NW 11th Ave, Portland, OR 97209.

If you're looking to have an authentic yet non-traditional experience of Portland, whether it's your first visit, your tenth visit, or heck, maybe you even live here but haven't visited these places before, this list is sure to help you appreciate some of the great spots to play, dine and be otherwise entertained in our fine state of Oregon.

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