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How to Explore Portland on $100 a Day or Less

Guest Blogger



The sum of Portland is greater than its quirky, pop-culture-disseminated parts, but it's certainly a place where “weird” is typical.

What I mean to say is, it's no New York City—and that's exactly how its inhabitants like it.


And whether you're into blood-pumping outdoorsy adventures or satisfied by an urban bike ride followed by a pint or three, Portland has a whole lot to offer the curious traveler.


But despite its ever-increasing popularity, you can still have a rich Stumptown experience for just $100 a day, or even less.


Here's how.


Base Expenses: Accommodations and Getting Around

First things first: Let's get bedtime figured out.


HI Portland Hawthorne District Hostel is in a trendy district, and offers dorm beds from $31-$40 per night depending on the season. If you're exploring with your sweetheart, upgrade to a private room for $79-$87 per night, or a maximum price of $43.50 per person.


You also have access to free all-you-can-eat pancakes and oatmeal, so breakfast—and almost certainly one late-night, after-beer snack—is taken care of. There's also a Sunday potluck brunch, so you can munch and mingle with your fellow travelers.


If you'd rather stay a little bit further northwest betwixt the happening Alberta and local-filled Boise districts, check out Travelers' House. Dorm beds run about $45 per night, and privates are on par if you're splitting. Plus, you'll be steps from the food cart court at Mississippi Marketplace and down the street from Alberta's ample strip of bars and baristas.


Both hostels offer free WiFi and a communal computer if you decide to leave your laptop at home (good thinking). You can also check out the vast and funky selection of Airbnb digs in town, which start as low as $10 per night depending on accommodations.


So we've covered bed, and potentially breakfast, for $45 per person, tops. Next, grab your smartphone and download the TriMet app, where you'll find a day's transit pass is $5.

That means you've got $50 per day leftover to eat and play on.

And if you think that doesn't seem like much, just wait. Portland is a veritable smorgasbord of free and frugal fun—if you're willing to go out and find it.


Day One: Friday

After grabbing breakfast at your hostel, take the transit to start the day with a view of what's to come.


Portland's aerial tram is renowned, and for good reason: the city looks stunning under its sweeping 500-foot view. Plus, a round-trip ticket is just $4.55.


Do yourself a favor and rise early for the occasion. The first ride starts at 5:30 a.m. on weekdays, and the sunrise is bound to be incredible. Plus, the crowd, which includes actual commuter traffic, starts to pick up around 7.


When you hop off, you still have the whole day ahead of you—ample time to explore the roads and rivers you just witnessed.


Hop back on the bus and head north to the legendary, city-block-sized Powell's City of Books. With 68,000 square feet, or 1.6 acres, of multi-level shelving space, it's enough to make even the most dedicated bookworm dizzy. Plus, it's a totally free way to spend several well-entertained hours. If something does catch your eye, reach past the first copy to find a used edition, and score some new vacation reading material for $10 or less.


Need a snack before moving on? Take a five-minute walk to the Portland Penny Diner. If it's yet to strike 11 a.m., grab the PDXWT Breakfast Sandwich, complete with coffee mayo and sauerkraut on a house-made roll, for just $6. If you spent extra time immersed in the stacks, try the oh-so-thematic Hipster Breakfast Sandwich for $5. It's served all day and 100% vegan—when in Rome, as they say.


Feel free to wander downtown for a bit if bright lights and big buildings are your style, but otherwise grab the next MAX shuttle heading west toward Washington Park. Between Memorial and Labor Day, free tours of the International Rose Test Garden begin at 1 p.m. meet at the gift shop 10 minutes prior to catch one.


Otherwise, wander under the magnolias and conifers at Hoyt Arboretum, which is free to enter and especially beautiful in the fall. You might even find a nice shady spot to sit and read your new book.


As the afternoon advances, you may find yourself starting to think about dinner. You were up early, after all. Walk out of the park and toward Nob Hill for a giant combo plate or a few rolls of sushi at SanSai Japaneseyou'll be well-fed, and your bill is bound to fall under $15 per person.


Plus, you'll be out in time to head around the corner to 21st Avenue Bar and Grill to catch a brew or two before happy hour ends at 6. Even if you stay late enough to watch the golden sunset on their back patio, regular-priced 

drinks aren't too spendy. Your final $15 gets you pleasantly buzzed and brings you to the end of the day's budget, just in time to head back to the hostel to chat with other travelers or dive further into your reading.


Day Two: Saturday

Portland's Saturday Market technically runs on Sunday, too, but it's a great way to start your second day in town. It's the largest continually-run outdoor market in the country, filled with local arts and crafts as well as delicious street food and produce. Give yourself $10 to spend on a trinket and $20 if you're eating, and be sure to stroll along the water at Tom McCall Park when you're done. This might be your last chance at downtown, so if you're interested in seeing the world's smallest park or pregaming Multnomah with some urban waterfalls, now's the time.


Next, we'll head east over the bridge; My Father's Place is a good spot if you didn't fall for any of the food carts at the market. You can score a full-sized, three-egg omelet for just over six bucks or a variety of lunch platters for under $10, but it's the eclectic people-watching opportunity that makes this joint a destination. The cafe is frequented by “rockers, hipsters, white-collar professionals, college students, enigmatic drifters, storytellers, cultural tourists, artists,” and “your Grandpa” -- at least according to its website.


Continue to wander east for more urban hiking in the swan-spotted Laurelhurst Park and Mount Tabor, soaking in the local shops and tenements along the way. Portlanders actually live here—at least the ones who moved to town over ten years ago. And yes, you're almost certainly welcome to pet the plethora of dogs you're bound to run into in your travels.


As the sun crosses the median, double back for some prime thrifting on hip-as-can-be Hawthorne and Division Street, aka Portland's hipster epicenter. Most of the consignment shops are open until about 8 p.m., and you can score some perfectly-weird new duds for $10 or less with the proper application of time and attention.


Dinner tonight's at Dots Cafe, where locals immerse themselves in generous plates of gourmet nachos and fries for less than $8. Try “The Kitchen Sink” or a sub-Chipotle-priced burrito bowl, and enjoy the ever-so-Portland surroundings: velvet wallpaper and a photo booth.


Go ahead and indulge in a few to pregame a midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show at the historic Clinton Street Theater across the way—they've been showing it weekly since 1978. Tickets are just $8 a piece and can be purchased in advance online. Plus, it's a great excuse to don your newly-thrifted outfit.


Day Three: Sunday

Sleep in before starting the day with a $5 soak at the McMenamins Kennedy School to shake off Saturday night. You're gonna need it—because today, you're headed to the iconic Multnomah Falls, and a moderate, 2.2-mile hike to their summit. If you're feeling really well-rested, you can continue on to the 5.4-mile Wahkeena Falls loop.


Before you grab your boots and backpack and make for the brand-new Columbia Gorge Express ($5 round trip), make a pit stop at New Seasons Market for a picnic lunch to enjoy on the trail. Even if you include a bottle of Oregon wine and a hunk of fancy local cheese, you can easily keep your total cost under $35 and have enough to eat for dinner, too.


After your outdoor adventure, treat yourself with a stop at 180, whose xurros put the highly-touted—and tourist-inundated—Voodoo Donuts to shame. Little on the menu will run you more than $5, giving a sweet weekend an even sweeter finish.




*All content provided in this blog is supplied by Jamie Cattanach and is for informational purposes only. Barclaycard makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information contained in the blog or found by following any link within this blog.


Image credit: Shutterstock

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