This has been the summer of random trips around the country to visit family and friends for weddings and special occasions. When my younger brother landed the lead in Hair: The Musical in Salem, OR, I had no other choice but to fly up to see him. I’ve heard from countless people about how incredible Oregon is and it surpassed every expectation I had. It truly is one of the most beautiful states I’ve seen in the US filled with trees, creative people, delicious food, and the best coffee I’ve ever tasted.
The first thing I noticed about Portland was that it smelled like a pine candle the second I stepped out of the airport. I was lucky enough to be traveling with my sister, mom, aunt, and grandmother. Most of our time was spent in Salem, OR to see my brother’s show. We got very well acquainted with the tiny, historic town. My favorite part about Salem was the random hole-in-the-wall restaurants that were filled with so much life even if there weren’t very many people in them. We ate at 2 different restaurants where the owner was actually our server.
My grandmother turned 80 while we were in town and all she wanted for her birthday dinner was Mexican food and margaritas. Luckily, we found a restaurant on Yelp called Los Dos Hermanos that served Salvadorian food. The owner spoiled us with samples of her margarita on the rocks before we ordered a pitcher! Their Salvadorian tamales are made in banana leaves so they are juicier and more flavorful than normal tamales. My grandmother was also surprised with a sombrero and their strawberry tequila cheesecake for dessert. She said it was the best birthday she’s ever had, and it truly was a special night.
My second favorite night was spent with my siblings as we walked around downtown Salem, drank iced coffee juleps from Archive Coffee & Bar, sat on the boardwalk by the river, and stuffed our faces at a local Korean spot called Happy Bibimbap House. The hot pot came to the table still sizzling and we watched the egg cook right in front of us. The owner brought us samples of their kimchi and a few of their other appetizers. Definitely order their green onion pancake if you do get an appetizer; it’s so flaky and flavorful you will want another one for your meal. A definite must in Salem.
The night before the musical was spent at Table Five 08 eating the best of everything fresh and local. I ordered their Grilled Swordfish with grapefruit, coconut, peanuts, shallot and cilantro which is EXACTLY what came to the table. There’s no wondering what extra ingredients they threw in because the recipe is so fresh and simple. The flavor was so unexpected and delicious. The star of the show was their Macaroni & Cheese made with havarti, gouda, bacon, green onion, and sriracha. Seriously the best Mac & Cheese I’ve ever had.
The musical was at the historic Grand Ballroom & Theatre being put on by the Enlighted Theatrics group. What an experience. If anyone knows anything about Hair: The American Tribal-Love Rock Musical, you know it’s a wild ride. With a wide variety of actors from all over the country, this local theatre put on one of the best versions of this show I’ve seen. The show was filled with so much passion, you could tell that everyone on that stage truly cared about the story they were telling. I’m excited for the future of this theatre group and you should definitely check to see if they have a show running if you’re ever in the area.
Portland was one of the most beautiful, culture-filled cities I’ve ever visited. Even their downtown is covered in trees and greenery. Every store and restaurant appeared to be locally owned and filled with home-made jewelry, gifts, and art. I started and ended my Portland experience with espresso of course. A few coffee shops I visited in Oregon were Heart, Gov Cup, and Spella Caffe. All of them were the best coffee/espresso I have ever had, so you really can’t go wrong with an almond milk latte no matter where you go. Spella Caffe has something extra delicious on their menu though: Affogato with their Stracciatella gelato! You can choose any of their home-made gelatos to go along with a small serving of espresso poured on top. Their Stracciatella was simply a vanilla gelato with Italian style chocolate chips. Holy cow. This will change your life.
After my caffeine fix, I spent the day wandering the city stopping into as many little shops as I could manage. Deschutes Brewery has always been a favorite of mine so I was delighted to find a restaurant location downtown that I could peek my head into. My good friend insisted we visit Powell’s City of Books for a look at their rare book collections and multiple floors of nerdy goodness. The smell of endless aisles of books could bring a smile to anyones face. Filled with a variety of used, new, and out of print books, this place might hold a treasure within it that you didn’t know you were looking for.
My favorite part about Portland is that it’s nestled in between so many beautiful outdoor areas filled with so many fun things to do. You could go an hour in any direction and run into the beach, wine country, hiking, or even a waterfall!
Multnomah Falls is Oregon’s tallest waterfall and is only located 30 miles east of downtown Portland! If you’re looking for a good hike, and an amazing view, this is definitely the place to stop by! There’s easy access to parking for the falls across the street at the Multnomah Falls Lodge directly in front of the main viewing area of the waterfall. Stop in for a nice lunch after you’ve spent an afternoon hiking to the very top of the waterfall!
Proposal Rock Beach:
Oregon has some of the most alluring beaches I’ve seen in the US. Clouds and mist cover most of the shore and the wind is constantly blowing you everywhere, but there’s something so beautiful about the darkness of it. You can’t help but take picture after picture because you can’t quite get over how the entire shoreline is covered with homes that people actually live in.
Proposal rock in Neskowin, OR was the closest beach area to Salem that I could find. Only an hour drive to the tiny island onshore that was rumored to be the spot where a local legend sea captain took his love to ask for her hand in marriage. There’s a small cafe and snack shop just before you near the beach incase you want to grab some picnic snacks and a bottle of wine before spending your day relaxing by the ocean waves.
Our trip to the beach was slightly colder than we had planned on, so we decided to drive up the coast to find a cozy spot on the shore for lunch. Luckily, we stumbled upon Pelican Pub and Brewery only 18 minutes north in Pacific City, OR. For being in the middle of nowhere, this brewery/restaurant was the PERFECT lunch spot. It literally sat in the middle of the beach only a few hundred ft away from the shoreline. We shared a beer flight and filled up on their delicious pan-seared sweet potato quinoa cakes and incredibly fresh Alaskan fish & chips.
Stoller Family Estate Vineyard & Winery:
The west coast is known for the endless amount of wineries, so of course we had to stop into one of the best we could find in Oregon. Stoller Family Estate is a beautiful winery and vineyard in Dayton, OR. All of their wines are made on the estate and they offer daily tasting for only $15. The design of the building was created in order to minimize their environmental impact making them one of the premiere sustainable wineries in the Pacific Northwest. The building itself is such a beautiful thing.
The entire back portion of the land is covered in patio chairs and picnic tables for you and your loved ones to spend an afternoon relaxing in the peaceful vineyard. They also offer a disc golf course that covers the land with complimentary discs if you have kids that need distracting while you spend some time to yourselves. This winery is one of many in the area if you’re looking for an entire day dedicated to drinking some of the finest wine in the country.
Oregon quickly became one of my favorite places I’ve ever visited and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone looking for a trip with a wide variety of things to do. If you’re looking for amazing food, scenic views, friendly people, stores covered in art, an afternoon at the beach, bottomless wine, and beautiful drives through the hill country then seriously book your flight now. You won’t regret it.
Until Next Time,