Our “Cities By Bike” Series explores some of our favorite places by bike through the eyes of a local.
Roll along with us as we follow them through their favorite neighborhoods, sharing the must-visit sites, restaurants, happy hours, and more.
Our guide in Portland, OR is Lauren Hartmann. Lauren is a freelance stylist and writer, but most importantly a mom and wife. Together with her husband, Craig, she let us in on some of her favorite spots to get around by bike in her town. If you want to know more about Lauren and all the little things she does, check out her blog at LaurenHartmann.com or follow her on Instagram @thelittlethingswedo.
When PUBLIC Bikes reached out about teaming up to create a bike-friendly city guide of Portland, I was so excited! I love getting to play tour guide, and doing it on a bike added an extra layer of fun. Biking is a huge part of the culture in Portland and our city puts a lot of effort into making sure that riding can be safe and fun for everyone…even novices like myself. So follow along as I share some of our favorite things to see, do, and most importantly EAT in our fair city!
Portland weather can be a bit unpredictable, so I would highly recommend bringing an extra layer for your ride. A jean jacket, or a lightweight anorak that you can toss in your bag would be ideal because the weather here can turn on a dime. And don’t forget your sunglasses for when the sun peeks out from behind the clouds!
My husband and I have been Oregonians all our lives (OK, I moved here at age six, but still…), so it’s been fun to see our city grow and change over the years. One of the pitfalls to all the growth and influx of cool, new spots though is the ever-growing traffic. Getting around town in a car can be kind of a bear and there are fewer and fewer places to park in the city, so biking is a wonderful way to see (and eat your way through!) the city while saving time sitting in traffic.
SE Portland Bike Tour
When it comes to Portland, each area of town has its own unique vibe and offerings, but SE will be my forever favorite part of town, so we’ll be focusing our tour here.
But first, coffee: at Water Avenue
Start your ride off with the most important meal of the day: coffee. While the options for a great morning latte are plentiful in Portland, Water Avenue will always have my heart. The baristas are friendly, always happy to talk shop, and their single origin espresso can’t be beat. I fell even more in love with them when I was pregnant and switched to decaf for a bit (I know!). Their decaf is literally the only decaf worth consuming and even though my husband roasts his own coffee beans at home, he would always make a special trip to pick up my decaf beans. That’s true love, people. They also serve breakfast and lunch so you can grab a bite to enjoy alongside your morning brew. Their egg sandwich is truly out of this world and my husband loves their baked goods…honestly you really can’t go wrong with any of it.
Stop for a sip at House Spirits Distillery
Just a few blocks from Water Avenue Coffee, you’ll find another one of our favorites: House Spirits. While Portland is known for its beer, I decided that there are plenty of guides devoted to that, so I’m focusing on spirits, because I’m much more of a cocktail girl myself. At this stop you can take a tour of the distillery and enjoy a tasting of House Spirits offerings as well as a cocktail tasting (you know I was here for that!). They no longer have their delicious gin available on location (you may have heard of it…Aviation gin…as in the brand that was just snapped up by Mr. Ryan Reynolds himself), but they still make it and their White Dog Whiskey and Volstead Vodka are definitely well-loved at our house. My favorite from the tasting was the Rhubarb & Rose cocktail. Two thumbs up!
Act like kids at OMSI
If you’ve got kids along on your ride, OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) is a super fun stop, but there’s still plenty to offer grownups as well. Indulge your inner science nerd as you peruse all the cool exhibits, or better yet plan your trip around one of their OMSI After Dark events, where they have adult-centric science themes (think: the science of beer brewing)once the museum closes down for the day.
Go by train! Oregon Rail Heritage Museum
We didn’t stop at the Oregon Rail Heritage Museum on our outing, but it’s super fun with kids and right up the way from OMSI, so I wanted to include it for good measure. If you’ve got a railroad enthusiast in your life, this place will be their jam. You can tour the locomotives and train paraphernalia in the museum and on Saturdays they do a 45 minute round trip train ride along the Willamette River and Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge (another great bike ride for next time!). We did this for my son’s birthday and it was a total hit, even for the adults! Also, the pale, pistachio green doors make for a nice Instagram backdrop. Just sayin’.
Cruise across Tilikum Crossing + See the sights from the Aerial Tram
Across the street from the Rail museum is Tilikum Crossing: Bridge of the People. It’s the largest car-free bridge in the U.S. Utilized by the Portland Streetcar, MAX, buses, pedestrians and cyclists it’s a great place to transfer around to other parts of town, but it’s also just a handful of blocks from the Aerial Tram where you can get a 360 degree aerial view of Portland in all its glory. You can park your bike at the bottom (bike parking abounds) and take the tram up to OHSU (Portland’s world-renowned teaching hospital) where the views are stunning and you can take them in as you stroll through their zen healing garden.
Delicious Allergy-Friendly Eats at Bollywood Theater + Eb & Bean
Once you take in all the sites from the tram, you can head back across the Tilikum Bridge and over to SE Division (my favorite street in Portland!) for some delicious eats. Honestly, there are SO many tasty things to eat on Division so you’ll be able to find anything you’ve got a hankering for (other spots we love there: Pok Pok, Salt & Straw, Stella Taco, Lauretta Jeans), but Bollywood Theater and Eb & Bean are my favorites. Bollywood Theater has delicious Indian street food and there are plenty of vegan offerings (this is one place that vegans and non-vegans alike can love…all my allergy friends and I choose this spot for our meet ups, because there’s something for everyone). Try the Vada Pav AKA, the “Poor Man’s Burger of Mumbai” or the Kati Roll! After your meal you can head next door to Eb & Bean to enjoy some froyo for dessert. As someone who can’t do much dairy (tummy troubles), Eb & Bean is a godsend – so many delicious dairy-free options. They also have a ton of vegan and gluten-free topping options and pretty much everything is local down to the cookie dough bite toppings!
This loop is perfect for locals OR tourists wanting to see the sights (and eat delicious things!) by bike. Hope you enjoy!