Long overshadowed by West Coast hot spots San Francisco and Seattle, eco-friendly, organic PORTLAND is increasingly matching its rivals in the hipster cool stakes, with booming arts, culinary, coffee and microbrew scenes, an inexplicably large number of indie cinemas serving beer and an alternative, outdoorsy culture lampooned in cult US TV show Portlandia. Celebrated local writer Chuck Palahniuk, who started his career here, describes the city in his travelog Fugitives and Refugees; while there are no major show-stoppers, its eccentric characters, cafés and markets, leafy parks and eclectic neighbourhoods make it the most enticing destination in the state. The city is famous for its bicycling culture, and visit in June and you’ll see why it’s also known as the “City of Roses”, with public gardens overflowing with blooms. The Willamette (pronounced “wuh-LAM-it”) River bisects Portland into its east and west sides, with the downtown core between the river’s west bank and the I-405 freeway, but to really get to grips with the city you’ll need to sample the neighbourhoods.
The city was actually named after Portland, Maine, following a coin toss between its two East Coast founders in 1845 (“Boston” was the other option). Today Portland is booming, with the likes of Nike and Columbia Sportswear based here, Intel a major employer and Adidas making the city its North American headquarters. That’s not to say things are perfect; as you’ll soon realize, Portland has a major homeless problem, with some estimates claiming up to two thousand minors on the streets at any one time.