Nicknamed Nob Hill for its resemblance to the San Francisco neighborhood, this Portland district does not boast the same steep inclines of the Bay Area, but is just as engaging. Comprised of about 50 blocks, Northwest is as walker-friendly as the rest of Portland but exudes a more small-town, relaxed vibe than the rest of the busy city.
While Hawthorne on the east side may intrigue visitors for its similar ambiance, try Northwest if you like Hawthorne but feel a little overwhelmed by the trendiness and Indie kids. Portland's easy-going, friendly atmosphere is reflected here in both the people and businesses. The two main "drags" are 21st and 23rd, but soon you'll realize how far-reaching the area is (without being overwhelming).
With plenty of places to eat, including gourmet pizzerias, kosher delis, and boutiques that range from upscale to earthy, Northwest offers plenty of eating and shopping stops, including grocery stores whose opulence rivals that of the neighboring specialty stores. Wanderers are welcome here – the 50-block neighborhood is filled with sprawling trees, colorful homes, and of course, parks.
If you're looking for exercise, the sidewalk staircase winding up the west hills to Pittock Mansion will burn plenty of calories and pay off with a view overlooking Portland. The way down will lead you through Forest Park and MacCleay Park, local favorites. Portland's famed and seemingly unending Washington Park is also in the area, slightly uphill and far enough from streets and businesses to be considered a quieter haven from the slight rush of Northwest. For a less strenuous activity, try Couch Park, a gorgeous patch of green that doesn't require a good stretch before setting out for it. And dog owners (or admirers) will appreciate the off-leash dog area here, and at most of the parks in the area.
Northwest is dedicated to pedestrians, one of its most appreciated qualities. While cars and public transit travel easily in and out of the district, wide, clean sidewalks line the streets, providing easy access for street crossing with large groups, where even larger groups of three and over might not consume an entire walkway. Bicyclists are also in luck: Northwest caters to your kind, with wide bike lanes and reputable bike and bike repair shops.
While Northwest may seem day-use only with its emphasis on shopping and the outdoors, the district also puts a new spin on nightlife. Quirky bars and restaurants pepper the area and stretch across all 50 blocks, and many include wait staff that have earned a reputation for courtesy and kindness.
It's easy to lose a day – or two or three – in Portland's Northwest, so try to dedicate at least a full 24 hours to the location and take in all it has to offer.
- • Nob Hill Business Association: www.nobhillbiz.com
- • Northwest District on Wikipedia: www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northwest_District,_Portland,_Oregon