Greetings Internet Stranger! I’m Stella Jane, and welcome to 24 hours in Portland Oregon! Sometimes it can feel like we’re surrounded by miserable, unkind people all day. Everybody’s cranky from our co-workers to our neighbors to the three-headed sloth that haunts our nightmares.
Wouldn’t you like to escape to a city where everyone is kind and full of crunchy goodness? Then 24 hours in Portland Oregon is the perfect destination for you!
Join me for a day of beautiful art, socially conscious food, and enough books to occupy even a three-headed sloth for a lifetime’s worth of reading! Everyone in Portland Oregon might not be exactly like the bubbly and friendly Jess Day from New Girl, but it sure seems that way to this New Yorker!
Want to cut right to the chase, Internet Stranger? The best activity in Portland is this food tour with tons of five-star reviews!
Or if you want to explore all the best activities in Portland, check this search engine right here to find the best deals!
24 Hours in Portland Oregon
Where to Stay?
Portland is a very cool city, so for your 24 hours in Portland Oregon, you need to stay somewhere equally cool. That’s why I recommend the Ace Hotel Portland. It has a central location, a delicious breakfast included every morning, comfy beds and robes, and plus you get freshly baked local goods as an amenity!
See! I told you people in Portland were friendly! They even leave a polite note with the treats! How cool is that?
If you want a great deal on this hotel, click here.
And if you’d rather explore great deals on other hotels in Portland, click here.
This search engine will help you find the best places for your taste and budget so you can really enjoy your 24 hours in Portland Oregon.
24 Hours in Portland Oregon
Morning: Portland Art Museum
I’m so excited to take you along my favorite 24 hours in Portland Oregon. For me, the perfect day would involve one museum, one walking tour (either self-guided or with a group), and one delicious dinner with a tasting menu. Fortunately we’re going to get all three today, Internet Stranger.
We’ll start our 24 hours in Portland Oregon with the Portland Art Museum. (Not to be confused with the museum in Portland, Maine.) You can get information about prices and hours on their website. Keep in mind that though Portland has a hippy-dippy reputation, the museum is not at all free.
For a small art museum, the Portland Art Museum packs a big punch. There are several floors of collections ranging from classical Asian to contemporary American. If I were to explain every piece in the museum, we would be here all day. So instead, I’ll limit myself to…
Three Fun Facts: Portland Art Museum
1) What Were You Saying About Classic Asian Art?
The Portland Art Museum has an incredible Asian art collection, especially the ceramics. But I was most fond of this 19th century Japanese woodblock print advertising the play The Ghost Story of the Moon at Kasamori. Ghosts? Moons? Giant Swords? Truly this play has everything I like.
According to the docent notes at the museum, the GSOTMAK is about a young woman named Osen who works in a teashop. Her sister is murdered by her lover (the sister’s lover, not Osen’s lover), so Osen decides to wreak bloody vengeance on her sister’s behalf.
It’s like Kill Bill, but the original version! And with much more tea, one assumes. I feel like this play could be a huge hit on Broadway. Who doesn’t like watching a young teashop worker go medieval on her sister’s murderous lover? Someone needs to get on that. And I only ask ten percent of the gross!
2) What Were You Saying About Contemporary American Art?
Kehinde Wiley might be the most famous contemporary American artist showcased in the Portland Museum of Art. He is most famous for painting the official portraits of President Obama and First Lady Obama. Wiley often paints people of African descent in poses from classic European paintings and sculptures.
In this painting, a young Afro-Brazilian man is posed like a giant statue of Cuauhtemoc, an Aztec emperor. The original statue is in Rio de Janeiro, and it was a gift from Mexico to celebrate Brazil’s independence from Portugal.
I think Wiley is pointing out that even though Brazil is independent from Portugal, you can still see the influence of colonialism in Brazil. Young men like the one in the portrait are trapped in impoverished neighborhoods called favelas and not enough attention is being paid to them.
But now I expect to get an angry email from Wiley telling me I am Very Wrong. That’s always the danger when you try to infer an artist’s message. This email hasn’t arrived yet, but I’m sure it will any day now.
3) What About Artists From Oregon?
Any artist from Oregon worth his/her salt is going to attempt to paint the state’s most famous natural wonder: Mount Hood. This work, from 19th century painter Albert Bierstadt, is one of the most famous portraits of Mount Hood.
However, though the painting is famous, it has some technical issues. Apparently he was more interested in being romantic and impressive than accurate because it’s not possible to get this view from one single place in Oregon. Also Mount Hood is not that big.
I wonder what Bierstadt would have to say in his defense, if he hadn’t died in 1902. I imagine he’d point out that the paintings were popular and if people wanted a scientific portrait of Mount Hood, they should go see a mountain scientist.
24 Hour Treasure
I got a kick out of this trompe l’oeil painting, amusingly titled “Peanuts” by De Scott Evans. Just don’t try to eat one of the peanuts, even though there’s a note on the painting that says “Free Sample. Take One.”! They’ll definitely kick you out of the museum for that!
24 Hours in Portland Oregon
Afternoon: Downtown Food Tour
Now that we’ve spent a serious and thoughtful morning at the Portland Art Museum, it’s time to get out and get wild! And by wild, I mean crammed with delicious Oregon eats!
On the Forktown Downtown Portland food tour, which you can book here, we’re going to stuff our faces with meat, fat, chocolate, and ice cream. There will be day drinking! There will be decadence! But first…there will be salad!
Approximately Top 5: Portland Oregon Food Tour
1) Nel Centro
Our first stop on the food tour was an upscale restaurant. (It has since closed, but I’m sure you’ll get something equally delicious.) It serves what our guide, whom I shall call Jess Day, called Riviera cuisine. Basically that means French-Italian fusion.
The ingredients are locally sourced and seasonal. Jess Day said that farm to table cuisine is really big in Portland because everyone who lives there is a big hippie who grows their own artisanally infused weed in their backyard. (I may have inferred that last part.)
But you’ll never hear me complain about farm to table cuisine when it’s as yummy as this beet salad with house made ricotta. After all, beets are nature’s candy! And lest you worry this stop was too healthy, we also got to sip on a cocktail with Prosecco (Italian sparking wine) and St Germain (a French elderflower liqueur). That’s Italian-French fusion at its finest.
2) Meaty and Melty Food Cart
This is probably the least surprising Portland Oregon fact you’ve ever heard, but food trucks are very popular here. Jess Day said they took off after the recession because people couldn’t afford the rent on a brick and mortar store. Now there are hundreds of food trucks in Portland.
After that refreshing beet salad, it was time to indulge in a warm sandwich from the Meaty and Melty Food Cart. It was made with Olympia smoky ham, local Cheddar, and a delightfully sweet and spicy apple and pear mostarda.
No, I’m not misspelling mustard. Mostarda is an Italian condiment made with candied fruit and mustard syrup. It sounds kind of bizarre, but it was truly the perfect compliment to the ham and cheese sandwich.
For the final main course, we settled in with a warm bowl of pasta at a local Italian restaurant called Grassa. I’m pretty sure that’s Italian for fat! But most people don’t go to a pasta restaurant to be on a diet anyway. And you don’t want to spend 24 hours in Portland Oregon and miss out on this beautiful handmade pasta.
Our dish here was house-made rigatoni with “Sunday ragu” sauce. I assume this means that some poor soul spent all Sunday cooking the meat sauce. But what if people want to order this dish on a Saturday? Will the ragu just have been sitting in the fridge all week? Or is “Sunday ragu” just a metaphor?
Well, even if the ragu is a metaphor, it’s a delicious metaphor. And the pasta was perfectly al dente. Afterwards our main course stomachs were all full. It was time to move on to the dessert stomach!
Our first dessert was at a craft chocolate shop. Chocolate is one of those wonderful treats, like pizza, that’s more delicious when it’s made with top-notch ingredients and love, but is still pretty tasty even if made with trash ingredients and indifference.
We sampled three different kinds of chocolate. The first was a single origin Peruvian chocolate, which means that all the beans came from Peru. It tasted kind of fruity even though nothing was added.
This store is famous for its experimental chocolate bars, so we tried one made with sourdough and olive oil. That sounds like an Italian appetizer, but it was actually sweet, sophisticated, and scrumptious.
My favorite thing at this chocolate shop was the drinking chocolate which reached Scrooge McDuck levels of richness. I’m glad there isn’t a store like this near my house or I’d never drink water again, only drinking chocolate. Then I’d get dehydrated and all my hair would fall out or something.
5) Ruby Jewel
The main dessert was ice cream sandwiches at a local chain called Ruby Jewel. Ruby Jewel has three locations in Portland, and when I visited they were planning to open a fourth. Blah blah local producers, blah blah seasonal ingredients…this is Portland! We’d expect nothing less! But most importantly the sandwiches are amazing.
One of the best things about a food tour is that you get to sample more flavors than you would on your own. We bit into two sandwiches. The first was a refreshing lemon cookie with lavender and honey.
The second was a decadent chocolate cookie with salted caramel. If you put one sandwich on each shoulder, it would be kind of like those cartoons that has an angel sitting on one shoulder and a devil on the other. But I recommend eating the sandwiches instead of befriending cartoons.
24 Hours in Portland Oregon
Late Afternoon: Powell’s City of Books
You might think I’m strange for suggesting we go hang out in a bookstore. But Powell’s isn’t just any bookstore. It’s a city of books! It’s the world’s largest independent bookstore! You could spend several hours exploring. They have every genre imaginable. Don’t believe me?
They have an entire section devoted to nautical fiction. It has a sign and everything! Portland isn’t even on the ocean! No 24 hours in Portland Oregon is complete without a stop here. Just be sure to leave yourself plenty of time at check out because the lines can get long, and we can’t be late to dinner.
24 Hours in Portland Oregon
Evening: Dinner at Han Oak
Portland is just a great food city, as I think we established earlier on our food tour. There are so many excellent restaurants, with food from cuisines all over the world. Unfortunately, the pandemic hit the Portland restaurant scene hard, so many of the restaurants I visited on my first trip to Portland have since closed.
But one restaurant that is blessedly still open is Han Oak, one of the best Korean restaurants in the country. You definitely have to make reservations in advance before coming here, but it is surely worth it. I strongly recommend getting the tasting menu because look at everything you’ll get to experience:
My first course was these lettuce wraps–you can choose between pork and hanger steak for the lettuce wraps. (I got the steak. Skipping steak is for chumps, as my grandmother used to say.)
This came with some lovely veggies to add to the wrap, like a cabbage slaw and something that was like seaweed salad but was apparently not seaweed salad.
I do so love a classy bar snack, and this spicy chicken wing made with ramen powder really fit the bill. The bread and butter pickle with it was made from daikon instead of cucumber, which was a fun twist.
And here we have the Han Oak version of okonomiyaki, which is one of my favorite Japanese snacks. This version is made with a waffle instead of the traditional okonomiyaki egg base, and I have never yet made a food that adding waffles couldn’t improve. I mean, just look at chicken and waffles.
Here we have a fun veggie plate, which doesn’t look gorgeous because I started to chow down and then realized that I had forgotten to take a picture. My bad, Internet Stranger!
On the veggie plate, we have the owner’s mother’s traditional kimchi, a less traditional shredded cabbage “quick-chi”, and charred Brussels sprouts with tofu buttermilk dressing.
I honestly would never have thought to put tofu in a sauce, but it was nice and tangy and I couldn’t taste the tofu at all. (Probably because tofu doesn’t have much flavor.)
Up next we had the dumpling course: a shrimp dumpling that I did not photograph and a pork dumpling that I did. The pork dumpling was served in a peppy vinegar sauce and the skin had just the perfect amount of thickness. I’m glad that more and more people are realizing that dumplings are a classy food.
I’m not sure we’ve had enough food on this tasting menu, but in any case we are up to the final savory course. It’s chicken confit with hand-cut noodles. Using handmade noodles in this dish really made a difference because they were packed with flavor. I didn’t feel like I was shoveling a random bunch of carbs in my mouth.
The chicken was perfectly moist and a little salty, which went well with the broth. Usually on a tasting menu, this is where you’d be served steak or some other fancy cut of meat, so I enjoyed basically getting a delightful bowl of chicken noodle soup instead.
This dessert went a lot easier on the taste buds than it did on the eyes. My waiter said it was the Korean version of an Eton mess, which is a terribly British boarding school dessert. (At Han Oak, they call it et’han’ mess.)
The most memorable part of this dish was all the different textures from the black sesame meringue and the lime mousse, but also from the boba and squishy lychee. A fun end to a fun evening!
24 Hours in Portland Oregon
Tools For Travel
- A portable cell charger so your cell phone won’t run out of juice during your 24 hours in Portland Oregon
- My favorite travel guide to the state of Oregon, including Portland.
- The most reliable travel umbrella that is small enough to fit in my purse, but strong enough to stand up to powerful winds on our 24 hours in Portland Oregon
- These great TSA approved clear toiletries bags, so I can always keep spare toothpaste and travel sized toiletries in any carry-on.
- My book Get Lost, that I wrote myself with all my best travel tips. This book will show you how travel can take you on a journey of self-discovery.
That’s a Perfect 24 Hours in Portland Oregon!
What would you do with 24 hours in Portland Oregon? Is the nautical fiction section at Powell’s very popular? And where are my fellow New Girl fans at? If you’re a New Girl fan, please email me at email@example.com with the correct answer to “One, two, three, four, JFK!” Thanks!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while this article is about how to have a perfect 24 hours in Portland Oregon, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY have 24 hours in Portland Oregon. If you’re looking for another 24 hours in Portland Oregon, click here.
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