Packing (and Other) Advice for General Assembly in Portland, OR
Just wanted to remind you to keep your eye on the long-range forecast for Portland GA. If the weather holds, we should be in for the high 70’s to mid-80’s and mostly sunny. But it’ll still be cool at night – between 50-60, likely.
Portland, like the NW in general, is a casual-dress place. You can go pretty much anywhere in jeans or shorts and not be out of place. If you are used to heat, you’re definitely going to want warmer clothes for evenings out, including a pair of long pants, a warmer sweater or jacket, and maybe even a pair of close-toed shoes (or socks to go with your Birkenstocks or Keenes, which is considered normal in the NW).
Might not be a bad idea to throw a folding umbrella or rain jacket in the suitcase, too, just in case the NW starts to act like the NW.
If it’s hot during the day (we in the Northwest consider it hot if it’s above 70), prepare yourself to find no relief ducking into a café or store. It’s not yet the norm in the NW to have air conditioning, though as climate change is keeping the summers hotter, there are more places that have installed AC.
And remember your Butt Butter if you’re going to join the naked cyclists. You don’t want to chafe your tender bits if you’re without your Lycra and chamois.
Speaking of streets, Northwesterners tend to actually stand at the corner and wait for the light to change. Police do ticket here for jay-walking, though it’s true that everyone’s more relaxed about that in Portland than in Seattle. An exception in Portland are the hipsters on their fixies, who tend not to stop for anything – beware.
Do make a visit to Burgerville, a sustainable business featuring locally sourced fast-ish food (including a couple of good vegan/ veggie burgers – my fave is the Spicy Anasazi Bean Burger; gluten-free buns available on request). BV seasonal specials in June are fried asparagus with aioli, and local strawberries in milkshakes, smoothies, lemonade and sundaes. Expect to recycle or compost nearly everything.
Though you can find Starbucks in Portland, self-respecting Portlandians will sneer if you ask them directions to one. Don’t hesitate to try the local coffee shops. It’s all good, and you can find one, oh, every 50 feet or so.
Pretty much every place in Portland has vegan and gluten-free menu items. Probably even the bike shops. And yes, you can count on a lot of kale and quinoa. Don’t hesitate to try the vegan fare – it’s nearly always fabulous. One of the best in town is Blossoming Lotus, which is pretty fancy and full of the trendarati more than hipsters these days, but outstanding.
Food trucks, yes, all over. BrewCycle, three routes plus walking & barge options. Great restaurants & cafes, too numerous to mention. Closest to the convention center are probably those on Broadway, just a couple blocks north of the DoubleTree, and east of 13th. A little further out are Pine State Biscuits (“biscuit focused Southern eatery”) and Nicholas (Lebanese). Wings? Fire on the Mountain – oh, mama.
There’s a Voodoo Donuts less than a mile from the convention center (I think they are overrated, but it’s hard to leave Portland without making a pilgrimage). Better is Sweetpea Bakery – all vegan, as are Food Fight! Grocery and the Herbivore Clothing Co. next door.
For those who aren’t into Thursday evening at GA, there is Last Thursday on Alberta, a street fair 6-9:30. Take the bus. And, there’s Saturday Market, 10-5 Saturday and 11-4:30 Sunday (yeah, I know, that’s not Saturday. But it is Portland). Take the Max. I won’t go into all the amazing parks and field trips.
All for now – if you have never been to Portland, you are in for a treat. Try to leave the convention center at least once, okay? And remember, if in doubt, put a bird on it!
Janine Larsen is a Congregational Life Staff member in the UUA’s Pacific Western Region and a Pacific Northwest native. Really. She lives outside Seattle, WA (known to Portlandians as the warning land of “how not to be”). When working with UU congregations in the Portland area, Janine enjoys allowing extra time to discover new ways to Keep Portland Weird.