Everyone knows Portland is the craft beer capital of the universe. Making the rounds of the top brewpubs is an enduring highlight when visiting the city.
But what if you don’t like beer? Never fear: there’s much more to the city’s nightlife, for drinkers and abstainers alike.
Portland is known for its craft beer, but the city has vibrant nightlife options even if you're not a fan of barley and hops © Piriya Photography / Getty Images
The craft beer scene in Portland isn’t the only boozy trend making a statement. Craft cider makers in town are adding a uniquely Stumptown flavor to the world-wide fad, thanks to the nearby bounty of orchards in Hood River Valley. Try the Cider Riot taproom for an award-winning lineup of unique dry ciders made by scrappy local brewers who source all Cascadian-grown apples.
The Cider Riot Taproom gets its raw materials from the beautiful apple orchards around Mount Hood © Getty Images
Interested in comparing makes? Head to the gargantuan Schilling Cider House for its vast selection of hard ciders from several different companies.
For something a little more throwback, visit the Oregon Mead & Cider Company, where entertainingly obsessed enthusiasts will help you sample a range of surprisingly nuanced, locally made meads and ciders at its excellent tiny taproom.
And let’s not forget that Portland is next door to one of the best wine regions in the country. You could take a day trip through the Willamette Valley to visit the wineries, but if you have limited time or transport, the wine bars in town proudly serve many of the local vintages. We like the romantic Bar Avignon which, in addition to its extensive wine list, takes the farm-to-table trend a step further with seed-to-plate offerings. The Broken Fence Farm just down the street grows most of the ingredients at the chef’s request.
The vinyards in the Willamette Valley, near Portland, are a prime source for some of the city's best flavors © Trevor Tinker / Getty Images
Then there is urban winery the Southeast Wine Collective. Designed as a space for local winemakers to try their hand at creating commercial custom crushes, the winery also features Oui! Wine Bar + Restaurant, where oenophiles and regular folks, can sample artisanal blends and Oregon favorites. Try a wine flight to get a taste of what the wine club members are up to.
Sake & spirits
For a truly unique experience check out a guided tour of Oregon-based craft sake brewer, Saké One. One of only a handful of sake brewers in the US, Saké One has been adding Momokawa and a number of other internationally recognized brands to the market since 1998.
Sake, a Japanese rice wine, is served gently warmed in a small earthenware or porcelain bottle © Melissa Tse / Getty Images
Prefer your libations distilled? Get to the source and take a tour of Distillery Row in the industrial southeast part of town. Start with New Deal, one of the first small-batch distillers in the country. True to the artisanal spirit, New Deal uses locally sourced ingredients whenever possible. The still is from Global Stainless in Canby, Oregon, and all the grains and sugars for whiskey and rum are from Bob’s Red Mill in Oregon City.
For a taste explosion, get Portland’s take on the craft cocktail renaissance at stylish bars like Angel Face, the time-capsule Driftwood Room at the Hotel deLuxe, over-the-top tiki-themed Hale Pele and the exclusive Multnomah Whiskey Library.
Alcohol-free fun in Portland
Eschewing spirits? There are plenty of other evening entertainment options in Portland.
Coffee & Tea
First, the obvious: coffee! The Pacific Northwest does it better than most, and Portland has some charming coffee houses in which to linger over a latte and a picture-perfect dessert. Pix Patisserie is legendary for gorgeous pastries and chocolates, plus inventive drink pairings.
Portlanders and visitors alike enjoy the many coffee shops in the historic downtown area © Jordan Siemens / Getty Images
Old Portland favorite The Pied Cow Coffeehouse is in a beautiful Victorian with an outdoor garden for warm weather.
Tea houses are another welcoming choice, especially given the typical Portland weather most of the year. On a rainy night, few things beat cozying up with a mug of hot tea. Check out Townsend’s Tea House in the funky Montavilla neighborhood. It has comfy reading nooks, all kinds of fair-trade loose-leaf tea, bubble tea and its own brand of kombucha on tap.
Fun & games
For a gentle indoor adrenaline rush, challenge a pal to a video game battle at Ground Kontrol arcade. The downtown hangout has tons of classic games, from Galaga to pinball; it’s all ages until 5pm, after which it’s over-21 only and alcohol is available.
Planet Granite, an enormous indoor rock-climbing gym has something for every level of climber, from total newbie to expert © Becky Ohlsen / Lonely Planet
Looking for something more physical? Check out Planet Granite, a massive indoor rock-climbing gym, open until 11pm on weekdays. In the evenings, DJs spin tunes while rock jocks ponder routes and techniques. The party atmosphere promotes mingling. If you’re there on your own, let the front desk know you’re looking for a belay partner – or you can stick to bouldering and chat with your neighbors. Yoga more your thing? How about CrossFit? Several gyms in town have evening classes available for drop-in, including spinning, barre and Pilates. You don’t have to put your workout regime on hold just because you’re only passing through.
There’s no fee at all for an evening of stargazing on a clear night. If you have your own wheels, head to the Portland Women’s Forum scenic viewpoint for fantastic vistas over the Columbia River Gorge. Closer in, grab a park bench atop Mount Tabor park and watch the sunset (the park closes to vehicles at 10pm but is open to foot traffic until midnight).
Embrace your inner nerd with OMSI’s Science Pub, a series of regular talks about various science-related topics in different venues across town. Lectures are designed to entertain as they inform, and cover everything from the science of attraction to the cancer genome. Similarly, Oregon Historical Society runs a History Pub series, in which experts discuss subjects as diverse as genealogy record-keeping, Latino culture in the Pacific Northwest and the history of forest fires in Oregon.
Powell's is one of the USA's largest independent bookstores, with a whole city block of new and used titles and a well-attended series of readings © Anthony Pidgeon / Getty Images
An offshoot of the nationally beloved radio show, the Moth StorySlam is a regular event in which contestants tell five-minute stories on a set theme; for example, ‘manners,’ ‘falling’ or ‘ego.’ Venues vary, so check the online schedule for tickets. Back Fence PDX is another live storytelling series with a podcast component; on top of its regular themed story nights, there are ‘Russian Roulette’ evenings, in which contestants spin a wheel for a story prompt, then have five minutes to come up with a five-minute true story based on the prompt.
If you prefer your stories in book form, drop in to Powell’s City of Books for an author reading. There’s something on the calendar nearly every night, and if all else fails, it’s a great place to browse. Most other bookstores around Portland hold regular readings as well; check schedules online.
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