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Portland , "The City of Roses", is the largest city in Oregon and the second largest city in the Pacific Northwest.
Had a coin flip gone the other way, the largest city in Oregon would be called "Boston, Oregon". From that fateful coin flip on, the city of Portland has, for the most part, been the recipient of great fortune.
Portland lies about 70 miles from the Pacific Coast on the northern border of the state of Oregon, straddling the Willamette River just south of its confluence with the Columbia River at Vancouver, Washington. About 50 miles to the east lies majestic Mount Hood, which forms the perfect backdrop for Portland's skyline.
As the largest city between San Francisco and Seattle, Portland vies with those cities as the spiritual capital of the laid-back northern Pacific coast. However, it does so in a way that mixes big-city dynamics with small-town friendliness. Until recently Portland avoided the problems that come with fast growth. Although Portland is now experiencing rapid growth, similar to Seattle, it has been able to keep its unique character.
Progressive city planning practices, such as an urban growth boundary, have made Portland a very compact and user-friendly city. Unlike other metropolitan areas, you can drive 10 miles from downtown and be out in the country. Environmentally friendly practices, such as recycling, are part of the culture here. It is also known for taking creative and unconventional ideas to solve its problems. For instance, it tore up a downtown freeway and transformed it into Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Its public transportation system, TriMet includes the MAX light rail system. MAX, which has won nationwide acclaim, was originally built in the 1980s.
In recent years, the city has become known as much for its microbreweries, much like Seattle's reputation for its coffee houses. There are many microbreweries around Portland, many of which have won nationwide and international acclaim.
It is also known for being the home of Ward Cunningham, inventor of the "wiki".
Portland is one of the most beautiful cities in the world with an exciting blend of historic and modern architecture. The scenery can't be beat with views of Mt. Hood and the Willamette River, stately Douglas Fir trees, roses everywhere and stunning seasonal color. Combine this with great art, waterfront festivals, a diverse population and you have one very exciting city.
Portland International Airport (IATA: PDX) is located 9 miles northeast of downtown on the Columbia River. Most major airlines serve Portland from nearly all major airports in the United States. Non-stop air service is also available from Vancouver, BC, Canada; Tokyo, Japan; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Guadalajara, Mexico;Frankfurt, Germany. Daily direct service is also available to Mexico City, Mexico; and Singapore. New non-stop service to Amsterdam begins in the spring of 2008. The airport also has free wi-fi.
A taxi from the airport to downtown is around $30. The MAX light rail, which has a stop right at the airport terminal, will only set you back $2.05 and will take you from one end of the Portland to the other. Plus it goes directly into downtown. All light rail connects with the city wide bus system. You be the one to decide: MAX or taxi.
If you're renting a car, the best way to get to downtown Portland from the airport is to take I-205 south to I-84 west, then follow the signs to the City Center at I-84's terminus and interchange with I-5. This will take you over the Morrison Bridge into downtown. Renting a car for a downtown destination is not recommended: inconvenient, spendy and hard-to-find parking combined with active parking meter enforcement (8AM-7PM) and nonintuitive street closures, transit malls and restrictions make it frustrating--even for locals. Within downtown, buses, MAX and the streetcar are free. Most people can walk from one end of downtown to the other in 15 minutes—-faster than driving at times.
When returning a rental car to the airport, follow the signs to stay in the left lane. However, it is very easy to make the mistake of exiting too soon at the control tower/shuttle bus exit. You need to curve to the right (with the rest of the highway) and not go straight. Even in light traffic, it is dangerous and illegal to immediately turn around.
Amtrak provides service to Portland from all along the west coast. The Amtrak Cascades service runs two trains per day between Portland and Eugene, Oregon to the south. Additionally, there are three Cascades trains between Portland and Seattle to the north. These trains are more reliable schedule-wise than the long distance trains.
For long distance service, Portland is served daily by the Coast Starlight, running the length of the West Coast (Seattle-Portland-San Francisco Bay Area-Los Angeles). The Starlight has earned the nickname the "Starlate", since it is usually delayed for hours running north from California. The Empire Builder (Portland-Spokane-Glacier Nat'l Park-Minneapolis/St Paul-Milwaukee-Chicago) also provides daily service eastward, and tends not to be as delayed as the Starlight.
Portland's Union Station, 800 NW Sixth Av., is located north of downtown, about a 15-minute walk from Pioneer Square. It is adjacent to the Greyhound bus station. The bus mall ends at Union Station, so local TriMet Buses run by Union Station very frequently.
From Washington to the north and California as well as most of the rest of Oregon to the south, the easiest way to get to Portland is on Interstate 5. You can enter the south part of downtown from I-5 before it goes over the Willamette River, or you can take I-405 which runs directly through downtown Portland with a number of exits.
From Boise and other points east, Interstate 84 leads along the Columbia into Portland. From the Oregon Coast Highway and other points along the Pacific coast to the west, the easiest approach is U.S. 26.