Seattle and Portland are two of the most dynamic cities in the USA’s Pacific Northwest, each endowed with rolling outdoor parks, breathtaking coastline views, tasty food destinations, and places to just relax or stimulate the senses.
While Portland is slightly more laid back than Seattle, each city has its own charm. Portland’s chilled-out vibe complements Seattle’s big city atmosphere. They are just three hours apart by land travel, so many vacationers tour both cities when planning a northwest holiday. Tourists can also visit the two cities via cruise from Seattle port so let’s begin our preview from there.
Seattle’s Top Landmarks
See freshly caught fish tossed from the display area to the counter inside the 3.6-hectare, over a century-old Pike Place Market, an open-air fish market overlooking the city’s Elliott Bay waterfront.
To imbibe the best of Seattle’s local art scene, head for the 140,000-square-foot Museum of Pop Culture (MoPop), featuring memorabilia from sci-fi movies and instruments by Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and more.
For a taste of history, head for Pioneer Square, Seattle’s oldest neighborhood. It was originally one or two stories below the current street level but had to be re-graded and raised after the Great Seattle Fire of 1889. Join the Underground Tour to view the “original Seattle.”
You can end the day with a 360-degree aerial view of the city by going up the observation decks of the 605-foot-tall Space Needle. This is a good place to enjoy sunset views besides the city waterfront.
Seattle’s Eating Joints
Just near Pike Market is the “first” Starbucks store that opened in 1971. The original shop, however, was actually located at 2000 Western Avenue, where it stood until it moved to Pike Place in the late 1970s. Also in the Pike Market area is Beecher’s, which is popular for its variety of handmade cheeses.
Visitors with a sweet tooth should try ice cream place Salt & Straw, which has outlets in both Seattle and Portland, or Top Pots Doughnuts, which offers some 40 flavors.
Tourists also shouldn’t miss the Korean-Hawaiian tacos of Marination Station at the Seacrest Boathouse next to the water taxi pier.
Seattle’s Famous Hiking Spots
If you’ll be hiking on a clear day, you’ll be able to view Puget Sound and Mount Rainier, when you hit the 2.8-mile Discovery Park Loop Trail. You can walk all the way down the West Point Lighthouse where you may chance upon frolicking sea lions in the Sound.
Other picturesque trails include Poo Poo Point on the western side of Tiger Mountain, named after the sound of the old logging trains’ steam whistles; Mount Si and its famous summit called Haystack Rock; and the Middle Fork Trail, which features the 268-foot Snoqualmie Falls.
Portland’s Top Landmarks
While Seattle was officially nicknamed Emerald City in 1982, being the “jewel” of the Evergreen State of Washington, Portland is dubbed as the City of Roses because of the rose shows and rose-filled streets that defined Portland in the early 1900s.
Portland is the home of the International Rose Test Garden, located in Washington Park, and one of the city’s landmarks. You can enter and walk among the 7,000 rose bushes in this garden for free.
Portland may not have a modern-looking museum like Seattle’s MoPop, but the city’s Oregon Museum of Science and Industry is one of the country’s leading science centers. OMSI has five halls with over 200 interactive exhibits and labs. It also houses the Kendall Planetarium. The facility also offers a tour of a decommissioned Navy submarine.
Another must-see landmark is Powell’s City of Books, the largest independent bookstore chain in the world. Occupying one city block, Powell’s has nine rooms with around a million second-hand, out-of-print, and new books arranged in more than 3,500 different sections.
If you want to enjoy a view of Portland’s skyline and six of the city’s 12 bridges, head for the Tom McCall Waterfront Park.
Portland’s Eating Joints
The city’s culinary scene is marked by “food cart pods” serving various cuisines. Eater Portland lists the locations of the city’s best “meals on wheels.”
Portland is also a haven for donut lovers, who should try the ever-popular Voodoo Doughnut and Pip’s for their out-of-this-world flavors and toppings.
The city is also referred to as “beervana” due to its numerous beer breweries, such as Baerlic Brewing, Breakside, Culmination, Ecliptic, Ground Breaker, Little Beast, Occidental, and Ruse.
Portland’s Famous Hiking Spots
The Multnomah Falls Trail is a crowd-drawer despite being technically outside Portland because of the popular Benson Bridge built by Italian stone masons in 1914 that stretches through the lower falls. The best time to visit the 611-foot falls is in autumn as the place teems with tourists in the summer season.
The easy half-mile hike from the Macleay Parking lot is the Witch’s Castle in Forest Park. Also known as the Stone House, the structure was not used by any witches at all but was originally established by the city government as a rest station for hikers in 1929.
So what are you waiting for? Plan your Pacific Northwest tour today, and gear up for plenty of gastronomic, cultural, and outdoor adventures.