My Portland Bucket List


I like having goals. They give me structure, purpose, and direction. They keep me focused and help me stay disciplined.Yet, not long after settling into Portland late last year, I found myself goal-less and floating through those first few months. Something was definitely missing, even if I couldn’t put my finger on it.

That’s when one of my dear friends–invoking my Seattle Bucket List and *new* Seattle Bucket List–suggested I come up with a similar list of Portland experiences. When I moved to Seattle, she remembered, I dove into the city with a relentless enthusiasm while exploring new attractions, restaurants, and breweries seemingly every week. So why couldn’t I do the same with Portland? Why not view my new/old city as a tourist?

My first reaction was skepticism: I’ve already dropped half my paycheck at Powell’s, screamed myself hoarse with the Timbers Army, grown a beard, and hiked in the Gorge. What more is there to Portland? Haven’t I done it all? (Spoiler alert: Nope!)

So here, in no particular order, is my Portland Bucket List.

Ride in the Providence Bridge Pedal

I’m buying a bike in the next few weeks, and the Providence Bridge Pedal feels like one of the most unique, Portland-esque rides around. What’s more Portland, after all, than riding a bike over all those crossings that give the city its Bridgetown nickname?

See a show at the Doug Fir

I’m a music geek who enjoys live shows on occasion, yet I’ve never seen a band at the Doug Fir, which looks–from the photos I’ve seen–like a log cabin dropped onto Burnside Street. I’m fascinated by the wholly Northwest motif and intimate setting–both of which combine to make this one of the city’s best-known venues.

(Honestly, this feels like a bit of a cheat: I have plans to dance my ass off to the Rebirth Brass Band at the Doug Fir next month. Still: My list, my rules!)

Take part in the dragon boat races at the Rose Festival

This is another cheat: I’m already on a dragon boat team and am registered for the Rose Festival races in June. But I’ve quickly become obsessed with this sport, and to race in front of my friends and family, against the backdrop of the downtown Portland skyline, feels like an amazing opportunity. (Of course, I have to be good enough as a newbie to make the squad–no easy task!)

Attend a Hillsboro Hops game

Hillsboro’s minor-league baseball team is named for my favorite ingredient in my favorite beverage. The question isn’t why I’d want to attend a Hillsboro Hops game; it’s why I haven’t attended one yet. Opening night is less than four months away!

Chillax at the Portland Japanese Garden and International Rose Test Garden

I’ve seen photos but have yet to visit these scenic Portland institutions. Don’t I owe it to myself to unwind for a few hours and snap a few photos? Besides, Portland is the Rose City; we’re kind of known for this. I might get kicked out of Portland if I don’t visit this summer.

Try the chicken and waffles at Screen Door

Look, I’m living healthier these days. My refrigerator is full of fruits and vegetables, I’m in the market for a bike, and I’m trying to squeeze more exercise into my already jam-packed routine. So cut me some slack on this one. I’ve spent hours in line at Screen Door–and nearly as much time devouring its fantastic food–but I’ve never been man enough to try the gargantuan plate of chicken and waffles that the restaurant is famous for. I don’t expect to finish it one sitting, much less two or three, but my curiosity is piqued. Let’s do this.

Spend a night at the Kennedy School

I don’t know how you see a shuttered elementary school and reimagine it as an adult playground, complete with a hotel, restaurant, several small bars, movie theater, soaking pool, and brewery. (And that’s probably why I’m not running the McMenamins empire.) Anyway, I’ve only ever eaten dinner at the converted Kennedy School in Northeast Portland but just might give myself detention one of these weekends.

Try some of the city’s notable restaurants

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Portland has something of a foodie culture. I have my favorites–Screen Door, Pine State Biscuits, and Pambiche among them–but I’ve yet to enjoy so many of Portland’s better-known restaurants and food carts. No more. It’s time to try the pizza at Apizza Scholls and Escape from New York, barbecue at Podnah’s Pit, brunch at Tasty n Sons … and the list goes on.

Relax and savor the view at Cathedral Park

If you wanted to drop a park into one of the most serene settings in Portland, you could do worse than the picturesque Cathedral Park. The site of the annual Portland Pirate Festival (!?!) sits on the banks of the Willamette River and in the shadow of the beautiful St. Johns Bridge. I can think of no better way to spend a lazy summer day than by reading some Raymond Carver while getting some sun, enjoying a cool beverage, and soaking in the scenery here.

See the MarchFourth Marching Band in concert

MarchFourth Marching Band is an energetic, over-the-top collection of musicians, dancers, jugglers, acrobats, and stilt-walkers. The band’s worldly sound draws on Cajun, Eastern European, Brazilian, and American jazz and funk influences to create a one-of-a-kind spectacle in a city known for one-of-a-kind spectacles.

What’s missing from this list? What else should I experience in Portland? Leave a comment and let me know!


2 responses to “My Portland Bucket List

  1. Pingback: My Oregon Bucket List | I Gotta Shine·

  2. Pingback: Recap: MarchFourth Marching Band | I Gotta Shine·

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