We should most definitely get started on my most recent trip to Portland while it is still fresh in my mind.
Plans started out simple, a couple of my best guy friends from high school, myself, and an additional best friend would take a trip to the weirdest city of them all to see our all-time favorite band. Four peas in a dysfunctional pod, as we have been for years. I had visited recently with a significant other, so I had felt that maybe this second trip would be a little redundant. Well, I was wrong.
F R I D A Y
You hear about it and, although it is just a fish market, it is certainly something that needs to be seen first-hand. The ambience in the Public Market is cheerful, as if every surrounding person is just as happy to be there as you are. There are fresh donuts and grown men throwing a fish around as a party trick while music plays as if you’re Belle and this is a Disney movie.
One good ol’ Yelp search and hear we are, the Whisky Bar. Little did I know that it was one of the most historic barrel-aged spots that resides in Pike Place. I’m sure it is a time at night, but mid-day it was peaceful as ever. A nice spot to sit back, have a solid beer and catch up with the friends that we were visiting.
I will stay in an Ace Hotel at every chance I get, I cannot stress that enough. Our room was so comfortable that I considered ordering a bottle of wine through room service and never leaving. Massive oak sliding doors split the bedroom and bathroom, where two cotton white robes waited for you with a large “A” sewn on the front. The first fantastic touch was their locally sourced shower products, their second being the awesome, relevant merchandise that you could take home - including dog collars that read, “ASS MAN”. I (regretfully) signed up for their mailing list which mentions their New Orleans location far too often. I’ll be there soon and this will be the first place I report my experience, scouts honor.
I’ve come to the conclusion that you can’t plan a visit to Seattle without hearing about this bar. The cool thing about the Unicorn is that they somehow managed to interpret the style just how you’d imagine a bar that beckons this name. I’ve learned since our visit that during normal hours, the bar also offers a unique, eclectic menu featuring items like the Magic-Corn Dog and Unicorn Droppings. Be sure to explore throughout this massive bar and aw over the carnival themed decor as well as the classic pinball arcade and public karaoke.
Following the Unicorn, we were most recommended to the Chacha. Upon entering the seemingly quaint establishment, we took a seat at the small bar surrounded by Lucha Libre masks and spent some time there. After a lull in our one night in Seattle, began asking each other, “What is so great about this place?” Luckily, the bartender overhead. “Have you guys been downstairs yet?” So we went down the nearly hidden staircase, and here is where our questions were answered. An underground extension of the Chacha. This hidden, latin-style speakeasy features live local bands, a solid selection of imported beers and of course, more karaoke. Apparently a staple of Seattle, but we’re not complaining.
S A T U R D A Y
One last thing I would like to touch on in Seattle is to pay a visit to Kurt Cobain’s home. With respect to the neighbors, there is a small memorial bench toward the end of Viretta park, right off of the drive. You can’t miss it. It is a pretty powerful moment to take in when walking up to it, skimming over the countless carvings in worship of the late singer and his legacy.
Hack: Take the train
If there is one thing that you should takeaway from this entry, it is that the $35 four hour train ride from Seattle to Portland is well worth it. If you’d like to take advantage of the proximity between these two spectacular cities, then the Amtrak is the way to go. Who says you can’t vacation on a train with massive windows and the entire first cart homing to a full staffed bar and snack area? You're sure to come across locals from both cities who, as we all know, give only the best recommendations. Then there’s the scenery, and that you’ll just need to experience first-hand.
While the rest of of the world is standing in line at Voodoo, take the pitstop at one of the many Blue Star Donuts around the city. Their flavors are interchanging and whatever magic fairy dust is used in their dough mix is worth it.
The prime dive bar experience, “your neighborhood living room, drinks are cold and the welcome is warm.” We stopped in and had a few beers, taking some time to mentally prepare ourselves for what we knew would soon come. I would definitely share some good conversation over drinks here once again. Maybe next time we’ll take advantage of their community ping pong, pool and arcade games.
S U N D A Y
One regret we had on this trip is the part where our friends winded up staying in a better dig than us, the Jupiter Hotel. Of course, they couldn’t stop boasting about the history behind the hotel - an iconic swingers lounge turned into a chic, boutique establishment. I tried to find some research to back this theory and turned up empty, but I will tell you that the 2004 remodel held small hints behind, like chalkboard doors where you could once (allegedly) leave some interesting messages for your neighbors, interested or not.
Do you remember the last time you rode a bike? Me neither. I didn't realize this until I had to get on one to stroll around downtown Portland, right past the coast from brewery to brewery. I’ll tell ya, learning to ride a bike again with some of my oldest friends is an experience I won't forget. You know what I did forget? The brewery names. All but aside from the most beautiful Crystal Ballroom. What used to stand as a ball room, holding dance "revivals" during the Great Depression, is now a historic Portland music venue doubling as a brewery. Walk in, stay a while and admire the stained glass and ancient fixtures.
Do it! Go to the Portland strip clubs that they tell you about! Go to all of them! Don’t stop going! There are five-star steakhouses, clown-themed dancers and goths who hammer nails into their nose during their performance. Being from Las Vegas, I couldn’t have resented the idea more, but it certainly was not average. My rules for a typical trip to the strip clubs in Portland:
1. Leave your glasses at home
2. Don’t be surprised if you run into a clown
3. Don’t invite a stripper to brunch
4. Know that stepping into one is much like stepping into another dimension, whether this is a vegan dimension or a five-star dining dimension, the specifics are up to you
Fake friends are still friends, right? In addition - this is the bar that specifically breaks money into only two-dollar bills, so be weary of who you tip the next day. Keep in mind that the bellman knows.