How to do Portland on the Cheap
Check out this article in the HI USA Northern California newsletter about exploring PDX on a budget.
For those of us with the incurable thirst for travel and the never-satisfied itch for new adventures and new people-meeting, we know that sometimes not even those moths flying out of our empty wallets can prevent us from hitting the road. Fortunately, a stay at an HI USA hostel means you don’t have to blow your whole budget on a bed, and you get the added perks of connecting with people who also have the travel bug. And if you’re looking for a destination with plenty to do and see no matter how much you’re working with, we’ve got the place for you: Portland.
Many people shy away from Oregon during the winter months because of the region’s infamous rain, but a visit during off season means your stay in the “City of Roses” will be a little less costly than a visit during the peak times in summer. Besides, you can look at the rain as one of the city’s attractions, like its weirdness, bikes, and breweries, and you can totally brag about how you had a pretty authentic Pacific Northwest winter experience. Now, here’s how you do Portland on the cheap.
Getting Around in Portland
Whether you’re making HI Portland Hawthorne, or the HI Portland Northwest hostel your base, you’ll be within walking distance of essential amenities, including markets where you can buy food to make back in the hostel kitchen, and public transport to get you around the city and to the airport. You can get a bus pass for the day for $5, which will give you access to both sides of the Willamette River – a mighty landmark that separates Portland’s east and west neighborhoods – or you can see the city by foot (just remember to pack a water-resistant jacket just in case, and return the smiles of friendly locals used to a little drizzle). You can also rent a bike on site at HI Portland Hawthorne, for $20 per day to explore the city’s neighborhoods.
Food in Portland
Portland is being touted as one of the country’s up-and-coming food capitals, so there is a devilish amount of temptation when it comes to planning your meals. A good strategy is to get thrifty for two meals: make your own complimentary pancakes at the hostel for breakfast and make something inexpensive with goods from the store for lunch or dinner, then ‘splurge’ on one good treat. A Voodoo Doughnut is pretty requisite for a visit to Portland (prices start at 95c), and though your mom might not think that these ridiculous/awesome sweet eats count as a meal, we say “when in Rome!” The city is also known for its food trucks, some of which are mobile and some which have set up permanent residency on their favorite streets, and these are a good way to get a taste of the eclectic flavors influenced by cuisines from all over. Top tip: the truck Fried Egg I’m in Love, which sells killer sandwiches starring the good ol’ fried egg, is a short walk from HI Portland Hawthorne, and you can call ahead to pick up your order. There’s also an excellent coffee shop in the same space that’s actually a converted double decker bus.
Things to Do in Portland
The Japanese Garden (with a $9.50 entrance fee) inside Washington Park is actually quite magical in the rain, and they also loan umbrellas if you need one. In fact, Portland’s parks, like Mt. Tabor and the Hoyt Arboretum, offer a lovely taste of the city’s greenery and don’t have an admission cost. If you need to cozy up indoors, there are plenty of bookstores, mainly the entire city block taken up by Powell’s bookstore downtown, where you can while away the hours browsing through the stacks of stories and knowledge. Or you could catch a movie at the Bagdad Theater, just a few blocks from HI Portland Hawthorne, where it costs just $7.50 (before 5:00 p.m.) to see a film and you can do so with a beer in hand. Speaking of beer, this is another one of those local delicacies that you can’t miss out on, and usually you can get a nice tasting flight of local craft brews or even a brewery tour for cheap.
There’s also some good old fashioned exploring to be done, so save your phone data and just go wondering around the city’s neighborhoods and see what interesting weirdness there is to stumble upon. Be sure to also keep an eye on the activities board at the hostel, which features different in-house and local events happening each week, as well as discounts that are available to guests, and deals like the $4-Tuesday (every first Tuesday of the month) at the Portland Zoo.
Now that you’re armed with the inspiration and the info, get going to Oregon’s weirdest city!
HI USA tip: Don’t be afraid to ask the super friendly front-desk staff at either of HI USA’s Portland hostels for their thrifty recommendations of things to do in Portland.
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