7 Favorite Winter Weekend Things to do in Portland
Winter is the perfect time for a weekend getaway visit to Portland. The crowds are sparse, the weather brisk and often wet with rain and snow, and the city’s most notable attractions still alive and well. It has become a family tradition of ours to travel to Portland for a weekend getaway and hunker down in a comfortable hotel, catch up on sleep, doze in front of the fireplace, and tear up the city in 48 short hours. Here are 7 favorite ideas for a great weekend winter getaway in Portland. Grab the Google map at the end of this post for ease of reference and let’s get started!
1. Where to Stay: Kimpton RiverPlace Hotel
The Kimpton RiverPlace Hotel is one of Portland’s only waterfront hotels, at once a luxury lodge and a convenient post within walking distance of the downtown hub of restaurants, museums and other cultural and tourist attractions. Set above the banks of the lovely Willamette River and next door to the sprawling Tom McCall Waterfront Park, the Kimpton RiverPlace Hotel is outfitted with classy and comfortable rooms (many include wood-burning fireplaces), a seafood-centric fine dining restaurant (serving all three meals) and lively bar, and spectacular mountain and water views for guests.
The RiverPlace has become our favorite place to stay in Portland because although a minute’s walk from downtown, it’s set back from the city across busy Naito Parkway on the waterbanks and is therefore QUIET. The RiverPlace not only has a full service restaurant and bar, but also offers room service and the lobby provides daily complimentary coffee, hot chocolate, freshly baked cookies and in the afternoons, wine and small bites. Rooms are equipped with binoculars for spectacular bird and cityscape spectating and guests can grab a complimentary bicycle in the lobby to run around town or the waterfront park if you’re not up for walking or taking public transit.
Kimpton RiverPlace Hotel / 1510 SW Harbor Way / (503) 228-3233
2. Where to Have Coffee: Heart Coffee Roasters
If you’re not having complimentary Stumptown coffee or hot chocolate in the Kimpton RiverPlace lobby by the fireplace or in your room, I suggest heading to Heart Coffee Roasters downtown for a Honey Cardamom latte and a Korvapuusti (Finnish cinnamon roll). Heart has been roasting their own beans and providing other fine cafes with coffee since 2009 and not only has a full menu of Chemex and Aeropress coffee and espresso drinks, but also serves the city’s finest croissants and other pastries made by Nuvrei Bakery.
Heart Coffee Roasters / 1123 SW Washington St. / 7AM – 6PM M-F; 8AM-6PM Sat & Sun / 503-954-3645
3. Where to Eat Breakfast
Weekend Breakfast: Red Star Tavern
Less than a mile from the RiverPlace hotel is Red Star Tavern, a sparsely lit den-like restaurant (er, if a den could have soaring high ceilings) set in a beautiful old downtown building with delicious options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Choose from the basic eggs-your-way breakfast to omelettes, pancakes, French toast, Benedicts and creative seasonal plant-based hashes. Grab a large comfortable leather booth alongside the giant windows and sink into a millet cake with radish, arugula, roasted root vegetables and a poached egg, washed down with a mimosa or two.
Red Star Tavern / 503 SW Alder St. / (503) 222-0005 / M – TH 6:30 a.m. – 11 p.m.; F 6:30 a.m. – 12 a.m.; Sat. 8 a.m. – 12 a.m.; Sun. 8 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Weekday Breakfast: Canard
Canard is that strange anomoly of a restaurant that does everything well for every type of Portland diner. At once casual and classy, whimsical and sophisticated, Canard is enjoyable at any mealtime, but notably for early morning weekday breakfast. It’s the brainchild of James Beard Award winning chef Gabriel Rucker (Le Pigeon, the fancier destination modern French restaurant next door) and his partner Andy Fortgang who set out to provide Portlanders with French bar food . . . including of course mini steamed cheeseburgers. Opened in January 2018, Canard took off to widespread critical acclaim and made its way those national “bests” lists and took Oregonian critic Michael Russell’s best 2018 restaurant in Portland title.
Two years later Canard is still going strong, and that’s why we like to go at off-hours, or early in the morning. For breakfast, try the perfectly executed classic French omelette with goat cheese and fines herbs; Oefs en Mayonnaise with trout roe, maple and bacon; French Toast with cadillac orange, walnuts and creme anglaise; and loaded chorizo potatoes with manchego and green onion. If you’re feeling for something more over-the-top, start with the Venison and Chestnut Terrine followed by the Duck Stack, a decadent pile of pancakes, duck gravy, tabasco onions and duck egg, and include the foie gras and truffle option, and then split a couple of steamburgers. For those less hungry and more plant-based inclined, get the salad with crunch quinoa and the quinoa roasted veggie bowl with carrot harissa, cucumber raita and avocado.
Canard / 734 East Burnside / (971) 279-2356 / M – F 8 a.m. – midnight; Sat/Sun 9 a.m. – midnight
4. Where to Hang Out
The Park blocks form a city park in downtown that’s been called Portland’s “extended family room.” 12 blocks long, the park is intersected by the Portland Streetcar and forms the city’s cultural district and greenspace at the center of Portland State University. The blocks are quite literally the heart of Portland’s cultural life with each block containing public art, drinking wells including for dogs, bronze equestrian statues of Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln and over 300 elm, oak and maple trees, as well as an extensive rose collection.
If you stroll from the RiverPlace hotel over to Red Star Tavern for breakfast or brunch, you can wind right through the blocks, past the Portland Museum of Art, Portland State University, and a mess of other towering and beautiful historical buildings and if on a Saturday, you’ll hit one of Portland’s only year-round farmer’s market at PSU which is replete with local produce, flowers, artisan foodgoods and prepared hot food. Definitely worth a visit.
PSU Farmer’s Market / South Park Blocks between SW College & Montgomery on the campus of Portland State University / Saturdays 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. year round
Washington Park: Portland Japanese Gardens
One of Portland’s oldest parks and now encompassing the Portland Zoo, Portland Children’s Museum, Hoyt Arboretum, Japanese Garden, International Rose Test Garden and the World Forestry Center and Oregon Holocaust and Vietnam Veterans Memorials, Washington Park is a must-stop for Portland visitors. If you don’t have time to hit them all in one weekend, we suggest starting with the Portland Japanese Garden.
The Portland Japanese Garden is nestled in the hills of Portland and includes eight separate garden styles plus an authentic Japanese Tea House, streams, walkways and a fine view of Mt. Hood. Opened in 1963, the Portland Japanese Garden is where to come for contemplation and quiet, but you can also see art and cultural exhibits which change regularly but are always beautiful and inspiring.
According to the Garden’s website, when His Excellency Nobuo Matsunaga, the former Ambassador of Japan to the United States, visited the Garden, he stated it was “the most beautiful and authentic garden in the world outside of Japan.” Lucky Portlanders!
Portland Japanese Garden / 611 SW Kingston Ave. / (503) 223-1321 / Winter Hours: Mondays 12 noon – 4 p.m.; Tues. – Sunday 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
5. Where to Walk, Hike & Bike
What is a winter weekend getaway in Portland without a hike through lush Forest Park. At 5,200 acres, the park is one of the largest urban forests in the United States and has 80 miles of trails! Forest Park stretches for more than 7 miles along the eastern slops of the Tualatin Mountains overlooking Northwest Portland where the Columbia and Willamette Rivers converge. This is THE park to visit if you want a true Northwest forest experience without leaving the Portland proper city limits. A good and not-too-hard-or-long trail is the Skyline Loop which winds up to an incredible old water tower across the road from the Skyline Tavern which features bar fare, live music, great views from the patio and a great ping pong table.
No winter weekend getaway to Portland would be complete for the historical-at-heart without a stop at the Pittock Mansion, a massive stone estate set high in the hills of Portland overlooking the city. A little bit of history on the Mansion: Henry Pittock was a successful newspaper publisher who built a financial empire by investing in real estate, banking, railroads, steamboats, sheep ranching, silver mining and the paper industry. Also an enthusiastic outdoorsman and bicyclist, he was part of the first group of climbers to climb Mt. Hood. His wife Georgiana was a founder and fundraiser for many charities and cultural organizations including the Martha Washington Home which was a residence for single, self-supporting women. Together they built the Pittock “mansion on the hill” . . . a massive and sprawling estate built of Tenino sandstone and designed by San Francisco architect Edward T. Foulkes in the style of a French Renaissance Chateau on an incredible property providing panoramic views of the city, the Willamette River and the Cascade Mountains. Sadly Henry and Georgiana lived in the Mansion only four years before they died. The residence was later inhabited by family members into the 1950s but after the home was badly damaged in the Columbus Day storm of 1962 it sat in disrepair and unoccupied until the city of Portland purchased the property. Thankfully, the Department of Parks and Recreation runs the mansion as a museum and visitor center to showcase this lovely home that is now on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Pittock Mansion /3229 NW Pittock Drive / 503.823.3623
Feb.-May: 10am-4pm Daily
June-Labor Day: 10am-5pm Daily
Sept.-Dec.: 10am-4pm Daily
Tom McCall Waterfront Park
Without a doubt the easiest and most scenic urban walk in Portland, start the weekend getaway with a walking tour of Portland’s many bridges by rounding the Tom McCall Waterfront Park.
Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park / 98 SW Naito Pkwy / M – Sun. 5 a.m. – midnight
6. Where to Eat Lunch
Casual and Nostalgic: Skyline Restaurant
For the perfect winter weekend getaway burger nook that hits the spot after a hike in nearby Forest Park, drop in to Skyline Restaurant. Founded in 1935 by the Steele family, this roadside diner perched at the top of southern Forest Park was originally known as “The Speck.” The current owner’s grandmother worked for the family who purchased the restaurant from the Steeles, so it really is an always has been a family place serving classic American burgers, fries, sodas and shakes as well as weekly specials, homemade rotating soups, and other timeless diner fare such as fried chicken, hamburger steak, fish and chips, macaroni & cheese and hot dogs.
Skyline Restaurant /1313 NW Skyline Blvd. / 503-292-6727 / M – Sunday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Traditional Japanese: Murata
Murata is that rarity of Portland restaurant with no website, no social media presence (nearly) and located at the back of an unassuming box of a downtown restaurant that serves authentic Japanese food in a very traditional setting. Owner Ryoshiro Murata is a master of skill and poise. If you want the real Japanese deal food, this is your place. You can have a steaming beef or seafood nabe hot pot, braised sake-marinated salmon cheeks, marinated vegetables and fish, sushi and sashimi. For an ultimate winter weekend getaway treat, sit in a tatami room and get the kaiseki-ryori tasting menu (you’ll need to make reservations at least two days in advance) and enjoy an artistically and lovingly prepared multi course feast.
Go: Murata / 200 SW Market St. / 503-227-0080 / M – F 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.; M – Sat. 5;30 – 9:30 p.m.
7. Where to Have Dinner
Fine Seafood: Kingtide Fish & Shell
Even if you are not staying at the Kimpton RiverPlace Hotel, I’d still implore you to head to their full-service restaurant Kingtide Fish & Shell. The service is warm and friendly, the views of the waterfront are so wonderful, and of course most importantly the seafood and other menu items are fine with a capital F. Chef Lauro Romero is a master of seafood cooking and deeply committed to sourcing the restaurants ingredients locally and seasonally. The food is vibrant, colorful, beautifully plated and cooked to technical and taste perfection. Whether you want Pacific clam chowder, chilled prawns or broiled oysters; crabcakes, smoked mussels or ceviche; raw local netart or kusshi oysters (or the daily oyster); ceviche; lobster tortellini, bouillabaisse or or seasonal catch “a la plancha;” octopus tostada or sashimi, and on and on, Kingtide has you covered. If you are with a group, definitely order a grand tiered platter of chef’s choice oysters, prawns, mussels and ceviche. Feeling not so fancy? Try the fish and chips or lobster roll. Not big on seafood? Not to worry, Kingtide has ribeye steak, pasta, chicken and one of Portland’s sleeper best burgers: 8 oz of house-ground short rib and brisket served with bacon and Chile jam, barely buzzed cheddar (rubbed in lavender and espresso!) and smoked onion aioli. As a burger lover I can tell you this is one of my favorite in all of the city.
Kingtide Fish and Shell / 1510 SW Harbor Way / 503-295-6166 / Dinner daily 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Italian: Il Solito
If you’re hungry for some Italian food in Portland, head over to Il Solito which is a charming restaurant with THE best jammy and cooked-down red sauce in the city. Located in the heart of downtown and tucked into the lobby space of the Hotel Monaco, Il Solito is self-described as “East Coast Italian in downtown Portland” and indeed the restaurant’s cuisine fits its nomiker Italian translation: the usual. Except with a modern twist and of course, locally sourced and farm-forward. Think Spaghetti and Meatballs, Chicken Parmesan, handmade pastas (hundred layer lasagne), Cioppino, Osso Bucco and Market Steak. I consider Il Solito to be one of the city’s most underrated places to get consistently great Italian food. Bonus: open for breakfast, lunch and happy hour as well.
Il Solito / 627 SW Washington / 503-228-1515 / Dinner Sunday – Thursday 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 5 p.m. – 11 p.m.
Are you planning on visiting or spending a winter weekend in Portland this year or in the future? If so, let me know in the comments below or over on social media if you grabbed the map below and hit the spots highlighted, I’d love to hear from you!