House Spirits Distillery
Vacations need not include days of travel, jet lag or pure idleness once you’ve arrived. Here in the Northwest, we crave active adventures, craft everything and the ability to let loose in our own backyard. The greater-Portland area is a mere three-hour drive (or four-hour ride aboard an Amtrak train), yet offers an exhilarating array of water-focused activities and whistle-whetting beverage stops.
Down By The Bay
Located 25 miles northwest of Portland, Scappoose Bay is one of the few remaining tidally influenced river bays in the nation. Its unique conditions make it perfect for nature spotting via kayak. During the rainy season, visitors can actually paddle through a flooded forest.
Nearby Sauvie Island, the largest island in the Columbia River, offers a rural backdrop and great swimming areas like Walton Beach. For the adventurous, perhaps a visit to the “clothing-optional” Collins Beach located on the island’s east side might be in order. Feeling hungry after all that swimming? Stop at one of many U-Pick berry farms.
Zip and Sip
Book an aerial adventure package at Tree to Tree Adventure Park, located 36 miles west of Portland near Hagg Lake. Starting at just $225, packages include lodging at nearby by hotels like the McMenamin’s Grand Lodge in Forest Grove and other perks like wine tasting, meals and various aerial park obstacles and tours.
If hurtling through the air doesn’t float your boat, take things back down to earth at Hagg Lake. The man-made lake is perfect for water sports including jet skiing, boating, windsurfing and swimming. Fishing enthusiasts will enjoy the fully stocked lake, repeatedly chosen by Cabela’s as a possible site for its Fish for Millions contest where catching the lucky trout means a serious payday.
Cycling For Saké’s Sake
The Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway is a 50-mile ride through rural farmlands, vineyards and quaint towns with views of the Coastal Range. Starting in Rood Bridge Park 16 miles east of Portland in Hillsboro, the meandering route winds about 12 miles before entering Forest Grove.
Stop in at the Northwest’s most celebrated premium saké producer, SakéOne. Each 3,000-gallon batch of the mild brew starts with 16,000 pounds of California calrose rice, polished to ginjo standards and given a perfectly timed soak in fresh, clear Oregon water before fermentation. Take a tour and try a saké flight paired with small bites ($10). Don’t forget your saké manners — never let your friend’s glass go empty.
Or quench your thirst with a pint of Gravenstein cider at the Bull Run cidery. Orchard tours and tastings are by appointment only at this “sustainable to the core” cider house.
Not really feeling like finishing the scenic bikeway? Head back to Hillsboro and swing by the Big Bottom Whiskey tasting room for samples of the 91- and 110-proof whiskey. On the lighter side, try the Matzobrau at Ambacht Brewing — brewed with 50 pounds of matzah! Vertigo Brewery taproom serves a wide variety of styles from the Apricot Cream Ale to the Artic Blast Vanilla Porter.
Wine Country Wandering
With dozens of wineries in Oregon’s Washington County and more further south toward Newberg, oenophiles could fashion any number of fantastic tasting itineraries. But no matter which wineries you include, be sure to make Ponzi Vineyards your last stop because once you arrive, you won’t want to leave.
One of the original winemaking families in the Willamette Valley, the Ponzi family makes internationally acclaimed wines that have even been served in the White House. The contemporary winery design includes sweeping hilltop views, fireside and private seating, bocce ball courts and a covered terrace. Featured flights are $15 per person or take the Signature Winery Tour & Tasting ($50pp) to see the state-of-the-art facility and enjoy a private tasting with selected food pairings.
For the past decade, Beaverton-based Indio Spirits has been distilling high-quality spirits including Canadian whisky, flavored vodkas, gin and finger-lime rum. Sample the goods in the tasting room, open on weekends.
Expect your morning brew to have an ecological conscious? Then the Accidental Café by Trailhead Coffee Roasters is a must-visit. Sustainably sourced beans are roasted and delivered via bike to all Portland buyers. The shop’s rolling “bike-café” even brews fantastic coffee for special events.
Booze & Snooze
Spirit-lovers should check out the Jupiter Hotel Distillery package ($214/night plus tax), which includes overnight accommodations in an ultra-mod Metro room, a Distillery Row Passport for two, overnight parking and gift certificate to Water Avenue Coffee. Travel down Distillery Row in Portland’s central district east of the river via PDX pedicab and start tasting. From north to south, Distillery Row includes New Deal Distillery, Vinn Distillery, Rolling River Spirits, Eastside Distilling, House Spirits Distillery and Stonebarn Brandyworks. Passports can be purchased separately online for $20 each.
N.E. Pub & Tub
If staying at McMenamin’s Kennedy School, start the morning with a cup of latte art at Extracto Coffee on Killingsworth Street. Then hop on your bike and make your way to Hopworks Bikebar on Williams. Park your two-wheeler in one of the 75 spots at the ecoFLATS building, give the energy-generating Plug-Out exercycle a whirl and reward yourself with an Organic Hopworks IPA.
Practically next door, Lompoc’s Fifth Quadrant bar boasts some of the best pub food in town and if you find yourself there on a Tightwad Tuesday, Lompoc pints are only $2.50 a pop! Right around the corner is Lompoc’s Sidebar — rarely crowded, the barrel-lined walls feel cozy, especially if the fireplace is lit. After an exhausting day of pubbing it, head back to the Kennedy School for a soak in the ceramic saltwater hot tub, free for hotel guests and only $5 per hour for visitors.
Almost as popular as craft brewing, whiskey bars have a strong showing in Portland. Branch Whiskey Bar in Portland’s N.E. district has a painted brown interior to match its extensive list of brown liquor, heavy on the Kentucky Bourbon. Order a Petting Zoo Massacre to sop up some of that bourbon — kobe beef burger, foie gras, poached egg, bacon, gruyere and foie aioli.
Those looking to bone up on their bourbon knowledge can take the Bourbon 101 class at The Pope House Bourbon Lounge downtown. Planning on returning to Portland often? Join the Bourbon Derby and get your name on the Wall of Fame — all it takes is 50 different bourbon tastings. Maybe one of them can even be a shot of the very hard-to-find Pappy Van Winkle 23 yr. ($100).
The king of all Portland whiskey bars, however, has to be the exclusive Multnomah Whiskey Library a few blocks south of Powell’s Books. From the speakeasy-style nondescript entrance to the tufted leather furniture, green library lamps and the acres of glass bottles lining the shelves — enthusiasts can enjoy a dram in peace by the fireplace or a flight with friends. With more than 1,500 choices, there’s bound to be something you haven’t tried before and the well-versed staff provides excellent tableside service.
A mere hop, skip and a stumble away, Hotel deLuxe’s Hollywood-inspired rooms provide the perfect setting to finish a glamorous night. Also nearby, Hotel Lucia offers contemporary rooms a few blocks west or make it a night in the historic Heathman Hotel.
Kids and parents alike love cooling their toes in the Jamison Square Fountain located in the Pearl District. Rectangular stone slabs allow water to gently cascade down, simulating the trickle of a tidal pool. After you’ve worked up an appetite playing in the fountain, take the family a few blocks south to the Deschutes Brewpub for a bite and a pint.
Downtown’s riverfront park is a great place to stroll. Kids will definitely want to get their feet wet at the Salmon Street Springs, a 185-jet fountain recycling as much as 4,924 gallons per minute. Continue your stroll over the Hawthorne Bridge for a unique view of the Willamette River.
Rolling Along The Columbia
In 2016, historic Highway 30 will celebrate its centennial anniversary. Many sections of the old route have been restored over the years providing scenic views of the Columbia River and quite a few waterfalls during the journey from Portland to Hood River.
Approximately 45 miles from Portland, the town of Cascade Locks received literary attention in 2012 when author Cheryl Strayed published her epic Pacific Crest Trail memoir “Wild,” ending the trek at its Bridge of the Gods. We think she could probably have used a drink at that point. If only Strayed had known about Thunder Island Brewing Co., an adventure-based brewery turning out ales inspired by the outdoors. Catch your dinner at one of the many fishing piers or head over to the Brigham Fish Market, owned by Native American sisters Kim and Terrie, for its signature salmon dip.
Spend the day kayaking, kiteboarding or windsurfing from the east wind-grabbing Blackberry Beach or hop aboard the Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler dinner cruise for a comfortable perch from which to watch the pros.
McMenamin’s Edgefield estate in Troutdale is the place to go for all-encompassing liquid entertainment. The former county poor house was carefully renovated with whimsical flourishes such as faces painted on the ends of old pipes and murals adorning every square inch of wall space. Organic gardens dot the grounds as do two par-3 golf courses, a heated freeform saltwater soaking pool, brewery, distillery and winery. Stop by The Little Red Shed for a late-night pint — as close to The Shire as Tolkien fans may ever get.
Calling All Beer Nerds
BunsenBrewer wants you to join its great beer experiment. Located 25 miles east of Portland in Sandy, bartenders sport white lab coats and pull your brew into glass beakers. Dedicated to the cutting edge, patrons can pay their tab in both Dogecoin and Bitcoin, though cold hard cash remains acceptable.
Mt. Hood Recreation
Portland’s perfectly pointed icon boasts one of the longest ski seasons in the nation, allowing visitors to enjoy its frozen liquid asset. Stay at the historic Timberline Lodge or find your own amazing deal online. Utilizing crystal-clear glacier water, Mt. Hood Brewing Company calls itself “a brewery with altitude,” committed to an intentionally small geographic distribution — none of the suds leave the state.
Local ski areas transition into summer adventure parks with mountain bike lifts and numerous hiking trails. Nearby Trillium Lake is the place to go for picture-perfect views of Mt. Hood. Popular for snowshoeing in the winter, Trillium Lake offers easy summer hikes, fishing hole, swimming, kayaking and access for non-motorized boats. The campground is available in the summer for tent camping or check out Barlow Cabin for a cozy winter base.
Tubing Down the Clackamas
Spend the day drifting down the lower Clackamas River’s easy-going current. “Put in” at Barton Park and commence floating. Anywhere between two and four hours later, “take out” when you see the bridge to Carver Park. To avoid walking the 6 miles back to the launch site, consider taking two cars or parking your bicycle at the “take out” point. Psst: For maximum refreshment, float an extra tube to hold a drink cooler, but remember — cans or plastic containers only.
Soak In the Nude
Admittedly, getting to Bagby Hot Springs takes some effort, located 83 miles southeast of Portland past Estacada. But the mineral-rich naturally heated spring water soothes a multitude of ills. Clothing is expected in the public and upper decks with communal tubs seating 8-16 people. However, five cedar tubs in the private deck, partially covered by a roof for all-weather soaking, leave clothing optional. These hot springs are open 24 hours, with frequent long lines for the private deck during peak hours.
Start the morning with a signature lavender mocha at Happyrock Coffee Co. in Gladstone, then cruise on over to the docks to begin your eNRG Kayaking-guided Willamette Falls tour. The 90-minute paddling adventure culminates in views of the largest waterfall in the Northwest (by volume).
Continue soaking in the view at Highland Stillhouse Scottish Pub with a patio overlooking Willamette Falls. Home of the area’s largest selection of single malt Scotch whisky, the Stillhouse is a local institution as yet unscathed by hipster style. The two-level tavern embodies all that is good in a dive bar — cozy, dimly lit nooks, kitschy décor and fried house specials like fish ‘n chips and Scotch eggs.
Don’t miss the 31st annual Upper Clackamas Whitewater Festival happening May 17 and 18. Founded by the self-styled Oregon River Rats in 1984, this popular festival features dozens of events like the oar boat slalom, cataraft rodeo, innertube slalom and the kayak downriver race. Spectators can attend raft-repair clinics and end the nights with live music, barbecue and plenty of nearby Fearless Brewing beer incorporating the “magical waters” of the Clackamas River. Camping is available at Lockaby and Armstrong Campgrounds roughly 15 miles from Estacada.
Breweries & Skeweries
Relax on the outdoor patio at Stickmen Brewery in Lake Oswego with a pint of Big Honey Kolsch in one hand and a yakatori skewer of chicken in the other. Jump east to Breakside Brewery in Milwaukie and try the Wanderlust IPA featuring five kinds of hops, or drink your dessert in the form of a Salted Caramel Stout. Pop open a Kinda Dry or a Sorta Sweet hard apple cider at Portland Cider Company’s 100 percent wood-paneled tasting room in Oregon City.