by Rachel Warden
As a college student, you often hear from people that it’s best to travel young. “Go out and have an adventure,” my father would always tell me. So last summer, I took a week off from work, chores, and other responsibilities to take a road trip. I packed up my little pink suitcase, tossed it in the trunk of my boyfriend’s car, and off we went to endure a ten hour drive! Our destination? Portland, Oregon. Taking a long drive to explore a constantly rainy, overcast hipster city is kind of an unusual place for a couple of college students to go during their summer break. But I wouldn’t go back and change a thing.
Over the years, Portland has acquired a few stereotypes. For example, the show Portlandia, depicts Portland as a “hipster town” that is stuck in the 90’s. To this I respond: the rumors are true. Many men bear thick, burly beards and tattoos are splayed across their arms. Of course, not everybody fits the pattern.
The lifestyle is much different than NorCal culture. Although California and Oregon are adjacent, there is still a great deal of diversity and subcultural groups that differ. For instance, many people in Portland commute by riding their bicycles. In fact, bicycling is one of the main focuses of this city. Every year, they even have naked bike parades throughout the streets of the city. To put it this way: it’s kind of like a rainy, more hipster, and less hilly San Francisco.
Other than nude people riding bikes, there are many other interesting tourist attractions in Portland. Thrift stores and yoga studios are sprinkled throughout the city districts. There is also a huge emphasis on organic farming and environmental consciousness. One of the best things about this city is that it heavily supports local business. Many of the shops and restaurants are exclusive to the city. The farmers market is also a prominent part of the economy in Portland. Every weekend, Portland State University hosts a local farmer’s market on campus. It’s a huge community event. I had the chance to experience the food and bustle of a Saturday morning at the farmer’s market. Along with the shop vendors and food trucks, there were also a few young people who performed and played music.
College students playing instruments aren’t the only street performers in Portland. One of the most iconic symbols of the city is the “Unipiper”, also known as Darth Vader. He is a man who wears a kilt and a Darth Vader mask, while riding a unicycle and playing the Star Wars theme song on a set of flaming bagpipes. Though I did not have the chance to watch him perform, there are videos of him on Youtube next to the famous “Keep Portland Weird” sign.
There is an alternative to spending the day in the city. For tourists who are more inclined to be in nature, there are the tranquil Japanese Tea Gardens to explore. The serenity of the luscious garden provides a placid environment. Large trees envelop the Japanese style gardens in a cascade of earthly green colors. The air is full of the sounds of chirping birds, water trickling down the gentle water falls, and the occasional hushed whispering of nearby tourists.
The garden is a popular spot for photographers to shoot during the fall season. The trees turn magnificent colors of red and gold, painting a brilliant image of autumn in Oregon. The Japanese Tea Garden has been rated as one of the most beautiful gardens in the United States. Although it costs money for entry, it is a small price to pay in comparison for the splendid scenery to which you may embark.
Another outdoor alternative to the bustling hipster city life is a hike to Multnomah Falls. The falls are located 40 minutes north of Portland neighboring the border of Washington. It is a popular tourist attraction that has a quaint gift shop featuring the typical tourist gifts such as postcards, snow globes, and everything else of the sort. A beautiful lodge-style restaurant is also featured as a part of the tourist experience. But the most important feature of all is, of course, the mystifying beauty of the falls.
The hike was not easy, that’s for sure. The road was steep and slightly slippery in some parts due to the rainfall that morning. Every so often, a light drizzle sprinkled atop our cold noses as we ventured into the forest. Trees encompass the paved trail in a canopy of lush, green leaves and moss. Eventually, as what seemed like forever, we reached the top of the hill, overlooking the falls. It was quite a sight to behold. The scenery captivates the hearts of many who travel through these parts. Multnomah Falls is not only perfect for tourists, but it is also an ideal location for photographers who wish to capture the grace of the Pacific Coast’s landscape.
My experience visiting Portland was something that I would never take back. Portland is not an ordinary place to vacation in any way, but that is what makes it such a wonderful city. It is absurd. It is weird. It really is where the “dream of the 90’s is still alive”. But all of these things are what makes it one of the best cities in America to travel to while you’re young.
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