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TPG contributor Jen Jones Donatelli fills us in on one of the Pacific Northwest’s great destinations – whether you’re looking for a great indie music scene, cutting-edge restaurants, a nearby wine country getaway, or just a chance to experience the west’s beautiful scenery.
Watch one episode of “Portlandia” and you might be tempted to dismiss Portland as the sole province of offbeat hipsters and nature-loving politicos—but you’d be missing out. This vibrant, growing Pacific Northwest city is home to some of the world’s best craft beer, breathtaking natural vistas, and a progressive culture all its own. Dig into this awesome city with today’s Destination of the Week feature.
WHAT TO DO
What better place to stop and smell the proverbial roses than Portland, also known as the “City of Roses?” The International Rose Test Garden provides hours of fragrant fun, and the annual Portland Rose Festival takes place every June. (Portland’s temperate climate makes it the perfect place for these flowers to thrive.) NBA fans can also take in a Portland Trailblazers game at—where else?—the Rose Garden Arena.
Nature is a big part of Portland’s appeal, and it appears on many “Top Green Cities” lists for its eco-friendly approach and ease of public transport. Much of the city is centered around the Willamette River, and scenic Mount Hood provides a striking contrast to the city’s skyline from afar. Top outdoor attractions include Tom McCall Waterfront Park (where the annual Oregon Brews Festival and other events take place), the bustling Portland Saturday Market, and Washington Park (home of the aforementioned rose garden, Oregon Zoo, and the Portland Children’s Museum).
And of course, thanks to a booming micro-brew scene and more than 475 “food carts” trucking around town—not to mention top restaurants like Clarklewis and Andina, or Occidental Brewing Co. if you want to sample the famous local brews—there’s plenty of fare to keep the epicurious stimulated. For those who want to sample the Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays and Merlots for which the Pacific Northwest is becoming known, a day trip to the Willamette Valley wine region is also easily within reach.
Located 12 miles northeast of downtown, Portland International Airport (PDX) is the 29th largest passenger airport in the U.S.—serving the city’s population of more than 593,000. PDX provides scheduled non-stop service to 58 cities (53 domestic and five international), and also serves as a hub for Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air.
Other airlines that fly into PDX include Air Canada, United and US Airways (Star Alliance); American Airlines (OneWorld); and Delta Airlines (SkyTeam); as well as Southwest, JetBlue, Spirit Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Virgin America and Frontier. International nonstop destinations include Amsterdam and Tokyo on Delta, Vancouver, British Columbia and Toronto.
Named Conde Nast Traveler’s “Best U.S. Airport,” PDX offers tax-free shopping and free WiFi. (No wonder more than 13 million people from all over the world trek through the airport annually.) Since May 2012, frequent flyers of Alaska, Delta, and American have been able to participate in the TSA’ s Pre-Check program for expedited screening. Zagat voters also named PDX their favorite in 2010.
Whether you stay downtown, near the airport or off the grid in wine country, plenty of points-friendly options are available:
Country Inn and Suites by Carlson: Planning on hitting the links at Colwood National Golf Course? The nearby Country Inn and Suites is a good option. A 100% non-smoking facility, this hotel offers a complimentary airport shuttle, heated indoor pool, on-site fitness center, and free WiFi. This property is located near PDX (as is fellow Club Carlson property Radisson Hotel Portland Airport). Rates in September start at $94/night; Club Carlson members can redeem 15,000 Gold points or 5,000 points + $56.40 for a free night.
Hilton Portland and Executive Tower Hotel: A 2012 recipient of TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence Award, this sleek downtown hotel is the largest in the state. The two-building property features multiple restaurants and bars including Bistro 921 for casual all-day dining, and Porto Terra Tuscan Grill & Bar for Italian cuisine. Guest rooms include king or double beds, 37-inch flatscreens, workdesks, armchairs and recently remodeled bathrooms with granite countertops and stainless steel fixtures. Rooms in the Executive Tower are more spacious with L-shaped work desks and panoramic views from the 20th floor. There is a 24-hour business center, pool and athletic club. An HHonors Category 6, a free night will run you 40,000 points or 20,000 points + $70.
Other Hilton properties around Portland include the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel – Portland and Embassy Suites Portland – Downtown, plus another Embassy Suites hotel and a Hampton Inn that are near the airport.
Hyatt Place Portland Airport/Cascade Station: If seeking a relatively low-point option for your stay near PDX, this hotel might be just the ticket. It’s located in the Cascade Station shopping area and has an on-site Bakery Cafe serving Starbucks coffee. Rooms feature signature Hyatt Grand Beds and 42-inch flat-panel televisions as well as complimentary WiFi throughout the hotel. There’s also an indoor swimming pool, and parking is complimentary. Nightly rates start at $119, and a free night costs just 8,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points.
Marriott Portland Downtown Waterfront: Portland features an array of Marriott properties, including this flagship. Within walking distance of Portland State University, this Willamette River-facing hotel is also a stone’s throw away from downtown’s many dining, shopping, and nightlife options. You can also just lounge in the hotel’s newly renovated lobby or nosh on Pacific Northwest fare at the recently opened Truss (aptly named for the area’s many bridges). Eco-minded travelers will appreciate this hotel’s ENERGY STAR label designation and Green Seal certification. Average nightly rates start at $149, or redeem a free night at this Category 5 hotel with 25,000 points (20,000 with PointSavers).
The Portland Marriott City Center is also a Category 5 hotel and is nearby. If you’d prefer a Category 4 hotel, where a free night redemption will cost you 20,000 points (15,000 with PointSavers), try the Courtyard Portland City Center, Residence Inn Portland Downtown Riverplace, or Marriott Portland Downtown Convention Center. There are also several other properties around the city in the Courtyard, Residence Inn and Fairfield Inn & Suites brands.
Crowne Plaza Portland Downtown/Convention Center: Convenience is the name of the game at this hotel, where rates start at $136 or 25,000 Priority Club points per night this month. Guests can get where they need to go via the adjacent Streetcar stop or the MAX light rail stop at the Oregon Convention Center, or take advantage of the hotel’s free shuttle to PDX airport (about 10 miles away). A Hertz location is also on-site for any rental car needs that might arise. If you prefer exploring by foot, many attractions are within walking distance—such as the Rose Garden Arena, Memorial Coliseum and Lloyd Center Mall (Oregon’s largest). Another perk is the current 1,000 Bonus Point Package, in which you’ll earn 1,000 bonus Priority Club points for each night you stay. Rates start at $154/night for the package.
Other Priority Club-eligible properties around town include the Holiday Inn Express in northwest Portland, as well as several near the airport including a Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express and Candlewood Suites.
Between October 1 and December 20, 2012, you’ll be able to take advantage of Starwood’s “Better by the Night” promotion, through which you can earn double Starpoints on eligible stays of 1-2 nights and triple Starpoints on stays of 3+ nights. Plus, you’ll get 250 points simply for booking at SPG.com or through a Starwood website, or 500 points for booking through SPG’s iPhone app. So, where can you cash in?
The Nines: Perched atop the storied Meier and Frank building and located next to Pioneer Square, The Nines is one of Portland’s most popular trendy hotels. The hotel is both a Visa Signature Hotel and American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts affiliate, as well as a Conde Nast Traveler Gold List selection. Work by local artists dots the walls in its 331 guest rooms (including 13 suites), and travelers rave about the on-site restaurants, Departure (Asian cuisine) and Urban Farmer (steak). Rooms start at $245/night, and a free night redemption costs 10,000 Starpoints.
Westin Portland: A AAA Four-Diamond property, the Westin Portland is another well-reviewed Starwood hotel in downtown Portland. Signatures features like the Heavenly Bed and Heavenly Shower make each room a comfortable respite, and the hotel also contains a Daily Grill restaurant. It’s within walking distance of the cart-filled “food courts,” Nob Hill boutiques, nightlife in the Pearl District and more. Average nightly rates start at $161, or get a free night for 10,000 Starpoints.
Fine Hotels & Resorts
Fine Hotels & Resorts is a program exclusively for American Express Platinum Card cardholders, who are eligible for extra benefits such as room upgrades, free continental breakfast, early check-in and late check-out, dining and spa credits and more.
Heathman Hotel: Along with the Nines, this is another luxury boutique hotel that falls under the Fine Hotels & Resorts umbrella. In addition to the above perks, you’ll snag a $100 food and beverage credit that you can use during your stay when you book through FHR. Personal concierge service and a plum setting in Portland’s Cultural District are just a few of the reasons it was named one of Travel + Leisure’s “500 Best Hotels.” Indulge your artsy whims with a stroll through the nearby galleries or a night at the neighboring Portland Center for the Performing Arts and Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, and at the end of the day, take restful solace in your Tempur-Pedic mattress. September room rates start at $259/night.
The Riverplace Hotel is another local affiliate of Fine Hotels & Resorts.
Visa Signature Hotels
When cardholders use a Visa Signature credit card to book a room through the Visa Signature Hotels program, they are eligible to receive extra perks such as discounted room rates, room upgrades, free breakfast, early check-in and late check-out, dining and spa credits and more. Visa Signature cards include the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire, British Airways Visa, the Hyatt card, the Marriott Rewards Premier and Marriott Rewards cards, the Southwest Plus card, Bank of America’s Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines cards,Capital One Venture, Citi Hilton HHonors and Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve, US Bank FlexPerks, Citi AAdvantage Visa Signature, and many more, so chances are you’re carrying at least one of them in your wallet.
Allison Inn & Spa: Besides the Nines, this is the Portland area’s other Visa Signature Hotel. It’s an excellent choice for those who want to take advantage of the perks their Visa Signature card gets them – including automatic room upgrade and late check-out based on availability, a $25 food and beverage credit per stay, free in-room internet or valet parking and complimentary continental breakfast for two daily – but prefer to spend their time in Oregon out in wine country instead of the city. Guests can also take advantage of the inn’s partnership with Lexus and drive a sleek sedan off into the surrounding Willamette Valley wine region. Viva vino! Rates start at $315 per night.