The dream of the ’90s may be alive in Portland, but in one of the city’s hottest neighborhoods, present day takes precedence. The Pearl District–located just north of downtown between West Burnside Street and the Willamette River–has said goodbye to old industrial structures and railroad yards that dominated this district back in the day to make room for shiny shops, upscale galleries, and hip cocktail lounges.
Already blown through your spending cash on Voodoo Doughnuts and microbrews? Not to worry—there are plenty of ways to blend old with new in the Pearl District, with minimal damage to your wallet. Here are the top places to check out during your time galivanting around the Pearl District:
Powell’s City of Books
While technically a shopping destination, Powell’s is a rite of passage for any Portland traveler, and for book-lovers, it’s more of a religious experience than a retail one. The mix of new and used books ensures you’ll find a treasure to fit any budget. Because the store spans the entire West Burnside block between 10th and 11th Avenues, you can peruse the endless stacks for hours and get lost in literature for free.
North Park Blocks
Still craving more? You’re a stone’s throw from the North Park Blocks that run between NW Glisan and W Burnside. Tour the campus of Pacific Northwest College of Art to see how award-winning architect Brad Cloepfil transformed the old post office into modern architectural eye candy, lounge under a tree canopy, or come during the Northwest Beer Fest or the Annual Art in the Pearl Festival to really experience local flavor.
Got your tots in tow? Bring them just a half mile north to the shallow tidal pool fountain at Jamison Square and let them splash to their hearts’ content. Trek the boardwalk that connects to Tanner Springs Park to experience a grassy wetlands oasis two blocks away. If you’re child-free and visit in the summer, you may catch a Movie in the Park, when the square is transformed into a backyard theater at night. Notice the 30-foot aluminum totems called Tikitotmoniki and experience what they mean when they say, “Keep Portland Weird.”
If you like your cocktails with a side of art, plan your visit to the Pearl for the first Thursday of the month. The streets come alive as the galleries open their doors to showcase new exhibits. Wine and cheese are in abundance, and you can always dip into one of the many swanky bars when the free fare runs low.
Pearl District Eating and Drinking
What’s better than enjoying a locally brewed beer and steak frites inside of a public house? Probably nothing. With that said, make your way to 210 NW 11th Ave and grab a seat at the Deschutes Brewery Portland Public House. The brewery’s headquarters is located in Bend, but because they have become so popular they’ve opened locations all over the “Beaver State.” The Black Butte porter is a local favorite and something we highly recommend.
Whoever said fine Italian cuisine can’t be found in the Pacific Northwest is a no-nothing-at-all and obviously hasn’t been to Bellino Trattoria Siciliana. You’ll feel like Michael Corleone from “The Godfather” while you’re gorging on a plate of linguine di mondello. Don’t forget to finish the meal with a cannoli or a piece of tiramisu.
You want sushi. You need sushi. Treat yourself to some of the finest raw fish in the city at Sinju Restaurant. Sure, you can order traditional dishes like California rolls and rainbow rolls, but it’s about time you expand your palate. Order up some fatty tuna belly, Spanish mackerel, and monk fish liver. Yes, we said monk fish liver.
The Pearl District is extremely walkable, so all you have to do is park your Portland rental car at the first open spot you see. Enjoy the neighborhood, grab some grub, and continue to road trip your way through this dynamic city.