America’s Great Neighborhoods: Portland

Author: Alecia Pirulis


Picture rolling hills leading to dramatic mountain peaks covered in snow, a wooded landscape under a clear blue sky … and a city in the center of all that pastoral beauty, its skyscrapers reaching above the tree line and somehow blending seamlessly into the natural landscape. Where are you? Some Utopian paradise? A fictional futuristic city that somehow solved its smog problem and lack of natural resources? No – you’re in Portland, Oregon – the country’s greenest city and the second greenest city in the world.

Looking at today’s Portland, it is difficult to believe that this gorgeous city among the trees was once known as “Stumptown.” During the 1800s, most of the trees were removed to make way for rapid population growth, leading to the unfortunate nickname. But today, Portland’s beautiful tree canopy has made it a Tree City USA – a title the city has held since 1976. The tree canopy is so extensive it covers almost 30 percent of the city.

If you’re drawn to Portland’s gorgeous landscape, coffee houses and distilleries, indie music scene, can-do spirit, friendliness, and its multitude of small businesses, here are some of the best neighborhoods in Portland, Oregon:

The Pearl District: Hip coffee shops, a unique collection of art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, historic warehouses converted to trendy lofts, and a terrific mix of nightclubs and bars … the Pearl District is one of Portland’s most popular and beloved neighborhoods. The name came from a gallery owner who claimed the neighborhood had “hidden gems” among the old warehouses. The Pearl is very pedestrian friendly. It is located just north of downtown, and it is a short, easy walk to the heart of the city – or hop on the Portland streetcar line. Things you’ll find in the Pearl include three parks, five miles of bike lanes, a farmer’s market, terrific restaurants, and shops – but if you are looking for a single-family home, you won’t find one in the Pearl – this neighborhood consists of lofts, townhomes, condos, and apartments.

Hawthorne: What would you expect to find in one of the greenest neighborhoods in the greenest city in the country? Hawthorne, one of the greenest areas of Portland, is a district filled with hipsters, vintage homes, locally-owned shops and restaurants, brewpubs, and microbreweries. Of course, Hawthorne is extremely pedestrian-friendly. This district is located in Southeast Portland and is very much a mixed-use community – residents live, work, and play within walking distance of their trendy loft or apartment. The Hawthorne District includes several other southeastern neighborhoods, including Mt. Tabor, Buckman, Ladd’s Addition, Richmond, and Sunnyside.

Sunnyside: Think punk rock meets bohemian meets … Victorian architecture? Sunnyside is a fun, funky, slightly off-kilter neighborhood known for its local businesses … and only local businesses – you won’t find any big chain stores in trendy little Sunnyside. As part of the Hawthorne District, Sunnyside is often just referred to as “Hawthorne,” but it has such a unique flavor that it deserved a mention on its own. This neighborhood has its terrific landmarks, such as the 1927 Bagdad Theatre and Pub, the Avalon Arcade, and Peacock Lane – a lane famous for its annual Christmas display that attracts thousands of visitors every year.

Old Town Chinatown: Located between the Pearl District and Downtown Portland, Old Town Chinatown is a historic district in Central Portland. It contains some amazing landmarks, such as the oldest public art in Portland, the Skidmore Fountain, which was built in 1888. The Voodoo Doughnut is a world-famous doughnut shop and home to Portland’s Official City Doughnut – Voodoo’s “Portland Crème” – by an official resolution made in 2008. Old Town Chinatown is also home to the Shanghai Tunnels, Powell’s City of Books, and the Dan and Louis Oyster Bar, established in 1907.

Downtown Portland: It isn’t what you’d expect from the urban core of a major city. Downtown Portland has a beautiful waterfront area, narrow streets, plenty of trees, and cozy city blocks with plenty of boutiques, locally-owned restaurants, an amazing amount of mass transit options, and the Portland Mall – pedestrian-friendly streets that have limited traffic. And while you’ll find the typical office buildings and high-rises in Downtown Portland, you’ll also find amazing historic architecture, the Pioneer Courthouse Square, Portland State University, the Portland Saturday Market, the Portland Art Museum, and the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.

North Tabor: Does your favorite footwear include a pair of skis and hiking boots? Do you have a bicycle rack on the back of your fuel-efficient hybrid? Is your tent and camping gear always packed and ready to go? Then you’ll love Portland’s North Tabor neighborhood. It is on the north side of Mount Tabor, within walking distance to Mount Tabor Park, Normandale Park, and Laurelhurst Park. Mount Tabor Park covers 190 acres and includes the 630-foot-tall mountain. It contains hiking trails, woodlands, and reservoirs. If you have a dog, the park also features a beautiful off-leash dog park. And if your pet likes variety, Normandale Park and Laurelhurst Park also have off-leash dog parks.