If you regularly follow my blog, you know that I just returned from a visit to the Pacific Northwest. While the main purpose of the trip was to go see Dave Matthews Band at The Gorge in Washington, I was able to make my way around a good portion of Washington and Oregon during the trip.
This is the third time I’ve visited the area. Each time, I try to discover new places, as well as visit some old favorites. During each visit, I remember how much I love the area and wish I had more time to explore.
This last trip was quite a whirlwind. We put around 1,000 miles on our rental car. Over a 12 day period, we stayed in 6 different hotels/houses – never spending more than 4 nights in a row in one place.
I won’t be covering any of the Dave Matthews Band shows or The Gorge itself in this article. If you want to read my tips on going to The Gorge, click here:
You can also read about the DMB shows here:
Keep reading to find out the highlights of my trip including where we stayed, what we ate, and what we drank.
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I’m not going to spend too much time on Seattle. It’s a great city to visit. I’ve spent a lot of time there on previous visits, but on this particular trip I only flew in and flew out of Seattle and didn’t really spend any time there.
While there are lots of fun things to do in the city, there is one place that we always go in Seattle, no matter how short our visit – J&M Café in Pioneer Square. If you are looking for a bar where the locals go, a place that has amazing live music every night, and one of the best burgers you’ve ever had, then J&M Café should be on your list.
We discovered J & M Cafe during our first visit to the city in 2014. It was late at night and we were looking for a place to sit down and grab some food and a couple of beers. We were crossing a street and asked the person next to us if they had a suggestion. He pointed us to J & M Café, and we have never missed a trip there since.
The honey badger burger is so good, my husband actually hugged our server the first time he had it (I am not making this up!).
Tip #1: According to my husband, add a fried egg to your honey badger burger. He says it will be the best burger you’ve ever had!
Tip #2: If you are visiting Seattle and looking to save some money on hotel costs, consider staying in Tukwila. It’s minutes from the airport and only about 20 minutes to downtown Seattle, which makes for an easy drive or Uber ride into the city. During our last trip, we stayed at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites. It’s a brand new hotel that’s right near a large shopping center, which gives you great access to stores and restaurants. It has very easy and close access to the highway. There is also a nice walking/bike trail behind the hotel.
THE ROAD TO PORTLAND
After spending a night in Seattle, we were off the next morning to head to the Portland area. To break up the drive, we decided to stop off in Olympia, WA. Located about 90 minutes south of Seattle, it also happens to be the capital of Washington.
When I planned this trip, I had good intentions of checking out the Farmer’s Market they have in town from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. Not surprisingly, we got sidetracked when we saw a sign for a winery and decided to stop!
The winery we visited was Stottle Winery. I’ll be writing more about all the wineries we visited during our trip in an upcoming post, so stay tuned for more details on the wine.
The winery was located in an industrial complex, and as luck would have it, there was a place right next door – Salish Sea Organic Liqueurs – that was also open for tastings. Salish Sea makes over 20 different flavored liqueurs that are all organic. We were able to share a tasting and try 8 of their flavors. They ranged from jasmine to lemongrass to nectarine to ginger. My personal favorites were the maple and the nectarine.
During our tasting, we were told that there was also a brewery in the same complex. Bonus! Wine, liqueurs and beer within a 2-minute drive of each other! The brewery was called Top Rung Brewing. We were each able to do a sampler. The beer was impressive and we ended up walking away with some to take with us and enjoy during the rest of our trip.
After the tastings, we only had time for a quick stop in downtown Olympia. The town had a bit of a hippie vibe to it. There looked to be some cute shops and restaurants. Unfortunately, we only had time for a quick stop to sample a couple of beers at Cascadia Brewing Co. & Homebrew Supply. Next time we’ll plan better!
Portland is the largest city in Oregon. Not only does it have a great food, music and beer scene, but it’s located right outside the Willamette Valley wine region, which is one of the best wine regions in the country. For those that love the outdoors, it’s also located on the Columbia and Willamette rivers, as well as close to Mount Hood.
WHERE TO STAY
Staying in the central part of Portland is great because you are close to everything in the city. However, if you plan to explore areas outside of the city – including the Willamette Valley wine country – you may want to consider a location outside of the city. It will save you some money, and you will be able to park your car with ease, unlike in the central part of the city.
For this trip, we stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn Beaverton. When I look for a hotel outside of the central part of the city, the key is having easy access to the highway and a 15 to 20-minute maximum drive into the city.
Tip #3: Every Saturday night, the hotel hosts a “Wine Country Welcome Toast”. They have complimentary local wine available for guests in the lobby. We checked in a little later than planned and were in a rush to head back out, so we missed it. I did see all the empty bottles sitting out, and it looked like a great spread!
Tip #4: When I travel, I take a reusable water bottle with me. Particularly when you are spending long days beer and wine tasting, it’s important to stay hydrated. Bringing your own bottle is good for the environment, as it eliminates all of those plastic water bottles. This hotel had a container of cucumber-infused water set out in the lobby. I just filled my bottle up with ice from the ice machine and the water in the lobby every day, and I was good to go!
WHAT TO EAT
There were two places that really stood out during our visit to Portland. The first is a breakfast spot called Pine State Biscuits. Their biscuits are out of this world! There are three locations in the city. We went to the SE Division location on Sunday morning.
Be prepared… there was a long wait to get in. The line extended the whole block when we got there. But, it was well worth the wait. The way it works is you order your food at the counter. They give you a number and it’s self-seating – grab a spot wherever you can. They’ll deliver your food to you when it’s ready. The coffee and utensils are also self-serve.
Tip #5: I highly recommend the Reggie Deluxe biscuit. It has fried chicken, bacon, cheese and an egg on the biscuit, all covered with their delicious gravy. We also got the hash-ups as a side, which were equally delicious.
Tip #6: When you are finished eating, they ask that you clear your own table. There are stations located throughout the restaurant to drop off your dirty dishes and trash. Please be kind and clear your table. It speeds up the process so the next patron can sit.
The second place that is worth a visit is Noraneko. Located on SE Water Avenue, this is one of those places that you would never just come across on your own. But, it’s worth seeking out! I’m not normally one to rave over ramen, but this was the best ramen I’ve ever had.
They have several different varieties of ramen, each with its own unique twist. I would also recommend the Tori Kara Age, which is Japanese style boneless fried chicken. The chicken was so tender and the breading was perfection!
Tip #7: One of the best things about Noraneko, is that it’s open until 2 a.m. every night! We ended up there the first night after seeing the Smashing Pumpkins in concert. We were looking for a place to grab a late bite to eat and ended up at Noraneko. It was so good, we came back again the next night!
WHAT TO DRINK
Oregon is known for its wine country and particularly its pinot noirs. As mentioned above, I’ll be doing a separate post on the wineries we visited, so stay tuned for more information.
Portland also has a huge craft beer scene. And, the beer is really good! We only had time to visit one “beer neighborhood” called the Eastside PDX Ale Trail. But, that gave us the opportunity to visit several breweries all within walking distance of each other. The breweries that we visited on the trail included Burnside Brewing, Lucky Lab, Rogue, and Baerlic.
Tip #8: Be sure to visit the Rogue Eastside Pub & Pilot Brewery. The location features 36 taps of Rogue beer – some of which are their standards and some of which are limited release experimental beers. They also have 19 additional taps where they serve the beer of fellow independent brewers from around the world. It’s a little overwhelming to choose, but worth a visit!
Bend is a little town on the Deschutes River. With easy access to the mountains, the river, and lots of lakes, it’s an attractive vacation spot year-round. We were only there for one night, and primarily to see a DMB show (surprise!), so we didn’t get a chance to explore much.
The town is also known for its beer scene. We only had time to stop at two breweries – Crux Fermentation Project and Silver Moon Brewing & Tap Room. As usual, Oregon beers did not disappoint. The original Deschutes Brewery is also located in Bend, so I’d suggest stopping by there for a tour and to sample some beers if you are in town.
HOOD RIVER, OR
Hood River has become one of my favorite places to visit. We first discovered Hood River in 2016, when we made a stop there during our second Gorge trip. We loved it so much that we decided to spend the night again this trip.
WHERE TO STAY
One of my favorite hotels anywhere is the Best Western Plus Hood River Inn. The rooms are super cute. They remind me of little cabins rather than a hotel room. Each room has its own patio or balcony. There is a great walking path behind the hotel. Best of all, breakfast is included. And this breakfast is not your standard “free continental breakfast” at most hotels. This is a full out, sit down, delicious breakfast. If the weather is nice, you can even sit out on the deck and look out over the Columbia River.
Tip #9: Ask for a room on the back side of the hotel with a view of the Columbia River. You can sit out on your balcony with a bottle of pinot noir that you bought on your travels, and enjoy the wine and the view!
WHAT TO DRINK
Hood River is also known for its breweries and wineries. Unfortunately, we were only there one night and didn’t have time to stop at any of the wineries (we had visited many of them in 2016). But, we got a chance to make a couple of brewery stops.
First, we checked out Ferment Brewing Company. The brewery is brand new. It’s a little pretentious and the beers were mediocre. But, the inside is decorated beautifully and there are amazing views from their deck.
Our second stop was to pFriem Family Brewers. They have a lot of IPA’s on their beer list, so it’s not really for me. But they have very high-quality beers, so it’s worth a stop.
Tip #10: If the night is nice, take a walk by the Columbia River. Just across the street from Ferment and pFriem is a nice park area with a walking trail right near the river. It’s a beautiful view!
WHAT TO EAT
There is only one place to go in Hood River for dinner – Double Mountain Brewery & Taproom (http:/http://www.doublemountainbrewery.com/)! I have the same feelings for the pizza there, that my husband has for the honey badger burger at J&M Café in Seattle. I dream about this pizza. It’s so good!
Oh, and they have a great beer and wine list too!
After leaving Hood River, we headed to The Gorge for Dave Matthews Band and Labor Day Weekend. And, before we knew it, we were on our way back to Seattle to head home.
Tip #11: If you aren’t in a hurry to get back to Seattle from the Gorge, make a stop in Leavenworth, WA. It’s a quaint little German-themed town with lots of cute shops. There are also a lot of wine tasting rooms, and you’ll find some restaurants with really good German food. We had lunch at Andreas Keller Restaurant and the food was fantastic!
There are so many places to see in the area, and never enough time to see them. I can’t wait for our next trip to the area in 2020, so we can go out and explore even more!
Have you been to the Pacific Northwest? Any tips you would add? Do you want to add this area to your travel bucket list? Let us know what you think by commenting below or e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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