Oregon Odyssey: To Do List - Portland & Willamette

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lux4.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

Visitors to Oregon will note right away that things are done differently here. Shop clerks linger and chat while packaging up your goods, traffic moves more slowly and the pace of life seems firmly dialed to the "enjoy the journey" station. This enticingly mellow pace of life, coupled with Oregon's outstanding natural beauty and prolific food and wine culture, make it an ideal destination for foodies, outdoor adventurers and anyone looking to take things down a few notches. Read on for some of our top picks for activities to indulge in chez Portland and beyond, in the storied haunts of the Willamette.

SIP: Beaker & Flask
Situated on Portland's trendy eastside in a district known as "distillery row" (yes, cocktail fans, we do mean THOSE kinds of distilleries), Beaker & Flask serves up innovative cocktails using fresh and seasonal ingredients in a swank updated diner atmosphere. Hipsters mingle with die-hard cocktail fans at the bar, while groups tend to gather in the roomy booths on the space's perimeter. The spot's swank pub fare (think gourmet giant salted pretzels) provides a tasty - not to mention necessary - companion to the booze.

EAT: Noble Rot
Stunning views of the Portland skyline aren't the only attraction at hot eastside dining spot Noble Rot, which also boasts an organic rooftop vegetable garden that provides much of the produce the spot uses. Good weather makes dining on the elevated outdoor patio a must, though the décor indoors is almost as enticing with its exuberant colors and unabashed modernism. Indulge in adventurous wine flights and playful (not to mention reasonably priced) dishes like the mac n' cheese, herb- and truffled dumplings and PB&J.

FLIRT: Urban Farmer

Downtown Portland's Urban Famer - billed as "a tribute to the quaintness of a restored farmhouse and the aesthetic audacity of mid-20th century modernism" - is a hotel steakhouse on the surface but really better known (and utilized) as a stylish evening haunt for in-the-know locals. With its stunning location in the vast, sky-lit eighth-floor atrium of über-trendy The Nines hotel (see below), it may just be the second-hottest nightlife ticket in town (the first being the nightclub Departures, located just upstairs).

lux1757gr.69405_md.jpgSLEEP: The Nines
A Starwood luxury property, The Nines in downtown Portland might as well be imported directly from Miami, Los Angeles or some other epicenter of casual cool. Located on popular Pioneer Square, the new hotel offers all the amenities you'd expect from a luxe property, but at prices fairer than those you'd expect to pay in warmer climes. And though the urban-classic décor in the updated 1908 building certainly smacks of LA-Miami hotel design guru Kelly Wearstler, the spot is singularly Portland in its dramatic backdrop against the wooded hills surrounding Portland.

SLEEP: The Heathman
Just a few blocks from Pioneer Square you'll find the venerable Heathman Hotel, celebrated as much for its storied past as for its stylishly updated elegance. Called "one of the world's best places to stay" by Conde Nast Traveller, the boutique hotel boasts a popular restaurant and bar on premise and even welcomes passers-by to freshen up and relax in the spot's cozy upstairs library. The recent addition of a certified sommelier to the Heathman hospitality team means wines selections are now world-class, too.


EXPLORE: By Air, by Horseback

As any jaded wine traveler knows, you can't do wine all the time in wine country, and - fortunately for trekkers to the naturally stunning Willamette - when you tire of tasting, there's plenty of other things to do. Whether your adventurous side tends towards the equine (think vineyard tours on horseback) or the airborne (as in helicopter tours and balloon rides), WillametteWine.com has your number - not to mention contact info for all of these tempting extra-vinous wine country activities.

EAT: Farm to Fork
Tucked into the heart of Dundee's brand spanking new Inn at Red Hills, local favorite Farm to Fork restaurant leverages Executive Chef Paul Bachand's close ties to local foragers, fisherman, farmers and ranchers to create world-class culinary experiences that bear the signature of the Willamette region. Grab a seat on the terrace in good weather or stay cozy indoors during the region's rainy season; FYI indoor seating is situated in a common area that shares space with retail space, a deli counter and wine bar.

VIDEO: Click here to watch a video of Inn at Red Hills' proprietor Kendall Bergström-de Lancellotti dishing on the Inn, restaurant and adjacent wine bar.

lux2.jpgSLEEP: The Allison
Just opened this month, the highly anticipated Allison Inn & Spa in Newberg is officially Willamette's first luxury resort, replete with 15,000-square-foot spa, premier on-site restaurant and haute in-room touches including original artwork, gas fireplaces, private terraces and Bose sound systems. But the most enticing aspect of the spot is undoubtedly its tasteful eco-chic design (they're aiming for LEED Gold certification), which makes the most of the surrounding vineyards and general outdoor splendor with sweeping views through a multitude of floor-to-ceiling windows.

Inn At Red Hills
Situated just off of busy Highway 99 in Dundee, the Inn at Red Hills makes for a convenient and charming stop over between tasting days in the Willamette. With just 20 guest rooms, the Inn offers the attentive guest services you'd expect from a boutique hotel, modern in-room amenities and a full-service restaurant on-premise (see Farm to Fork above). Tip: Enjoy a signature Farmhouse Breakfast in the morning, then grab a picnic lunch from the deli counter before hitting the tasting trail.

REVIVE: The Allison
Whether or not you choose to stay at the luxe Allison Inn & Spa, you can take advantage of the spot's ambitious new spa facilities (Indoor swimming and spa pool! State-of-the-art fitness equipment! Men's, women's & co-ed lounges!) by dropping in for a signature treatment. Stick around after your facial, wrap or massage to unwind in the adjacent terrace and gardens, revive in the pool or freshen up in the locker room After, you'll feel rested and ready to readdress the tasting trail - which make just this the smartest thing you do in Willamette.

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Where can I get travel brochures for Oregon's wine country? Are they available for free and can they be sent to my home?

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