Portland, Oregon is a place that had been calling me for years. Friends of mine had been there and recommended I visit. It seems my friends know me well enough as I thoroughly enjoyed it! The city has a wonderful vibe, great people and some really interesting things to do and see.

Here are the top five things I think you shouldn’t miss when you’re in Portland!

Lan Su Chinese Garden

I really like Chinese gardens. The Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland is an oasis of calm in the Chinatown area of the city. The area immediately around it is a little run down but don’t let that put you off. The visitors page says, “A result of a collaboration between the cities of Portland and Suzhou, our sister city in China’s Jiangsu province that’s famous for its beautiful Ming Dynasty gardens, Lan Su was built by Chinese artisans from our Suzhou and is one the most authentic Chinese gardens outside of China.”

Chinese gardens are very beautiful and this one is no exception. There is a lot of thought put into their design and form and you must take time to appreciate the different aspects that various vantage points afford. I spent a couple of hours here soaking it all in.

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There were calm lakes filled with fish, a Tea House, beautiful wooden rooms, intricately pebbled walkways, rock formations, a waterfall – everything about it was perfect. There are also a great variety of plants and trees which conjure up images of China that would be very interesting to a horticulturist. A philistine like me still appreciated their beauty!

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Tickets are $9.50 for adults, which I thought was very reasonable.

What was weird about this place? The fact that there is free Wi-Fi for visitors to the garden!

Stepping Stone Café

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The Stepping Stone Café is located in the Nob Hill area of Portland. This is a beautiful leafy area filled with delightful houses and wonderful architecture. I took lots of photos around here and spent quite some time just walking around admiring places.

Breakfast on my first day in Portland was here and I had a dilemma. No, literally, I had a Dilemma for breakfast!

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Great coffee, great Dilemma, great biscuit and some excellent service meant breakfast here was one of the highlights of my trip. It’s about a 30 minute walk from the middle of the city and the exercise was probably a good thing to work up an appetite!

What’s weird about this place? They sell Mancakes which are gigantic pancakes that I couldn’t even begin to contemplate!

Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade

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Are you someone who remembers going to an Arcade as a kid or teenager? You know, a place filled with video games where you could play to you heart’s content – at least until the money your parents gave you ran out?

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Some very smart lovers of arcade games are responsible for Ground Kontrol. It’s an arcade with all original games from the 1980s and 1990s. What is great about this place is that there is a bar and they also do food, so there is little reason to leave! A local friend in Portland introduced me to this place and I am still delighted I had the opportunity to visit.

When I arrived, I spotted something I hadn’t seen for years – RoadBlasters! I made a beeline for the console and spent quite a few bucks playing it. Later on, I sampled the other games – all of them working perfectly and the same as back in the day.

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They have a guy on site responsible for keeping all of the retro games in order which is no mean feat, especially as the technology is old and parts can’t be bought new.

What’s weird about this place? All of the games are 25c per credit just like it was back in the day, so bring your quarters!

Voodoo Doughnut

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Anthony Bourdain is a man I really like. His television show No Reservations was watched religiously by me and my housemates several years ago. In one of the episodes, he went to Voodoo Doughnut and I put it on my list of things to do when I went to Portland.

There is a queue to get in and make your purchase but it moves fairly swiftly – I think I waited about 15 minutes or so. What did I buy? One of these bad boys!

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Very delicious and well worth the visit! I’d go again – who doesn’t like sweet things?

What’s weird about this place? Pretty much everything from the name on down – c’mon Voodoo Doughnut! You can’t not go!

Food Carts

There are many food carts in Portland but I wasn’t prepared for the sheer number of them. Across from my hotel there were oodles of them offering all sorts of food. The hotel had a piece about the carts in their guide saying they couldn’t recommend the best one but look for a queue and you’d know. From that advice (and some cheeky Internet research!), it seemed the best one was Nong’s Khao Man Gai.

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Khao Man Gai is a Thai chicken and rice dish for which the cart is named after. There are plenty of reviews on the Internet about this place, so I’ll not attempt to do it justice here except to say that you must try this! It was divine!

What’s weird about this place? Absolutely nothing and that is weird in a city that prides itself in keeping things weird!

Final Thoughts

There are other things that are great about Portland. The Willamette River is worth a walk along including the Market which is riverside. The Detention Bar in McMenamins Kennedy School is great too. It deserves a mention both for its atmosphere and the convivial company contained within. It is literally a converted school where you can smoke Cigars and drink.

I had a wonderful few days in Portland. I’d highly recommend the city for a short or long break as there really is so much to do!