15+ Cool Things within 15 Blocks of #WriteTheDocs Portland

Write the Docs North America is coming in less than a month! I'm stoked to hang out with my fellow tech writers, documentarians, and others who care about the docs.

Those of you coming from out of town will probably want to take the opportunity to explore Portland, but might not have a lot of time. Luckily, downtown Portland is very walkable. And although downtown doesn't get a lot of attention on travel sites, there are still plenty of cool things to check out near the Write the Docs venue, the Crystal Ballroom. 

If you want to skip the rental car and explore Portland in the few hours or days available to you before or after the conference, here's a list of over 15 cool things you can see or do within 15 blocks of the Crystal Ballroom. Feel free to check them out on my custom Google Map as well!

Shop

Powell's City of Books deserves the praise it gets, but there are a few other gems:

  • Floating World Comics is considered one of the best comics stores in the country.
  • Daedalus Books is smaller and more cozy than Powell's, with a big selection of philosophy, art, music, and literature.
  • Everyday Music sells a huge variety of music and an impressive collection of vinyl. Best of all, it's across the street from the Crystal Ballroom.

Do

The Portland Art Museum has a great selection of rotating and permanent exhibits, but you might not know:

  • The Portland South Park Blocks is full of cool sculpture pieces, especially as you move further south. Bonus: it runs right in front of the Portland Art Museum, so they're easy to explore on the same day.
  • Oblation Papers & Press features a public writing station (with typewriters!) and excellent stationery.
  • Lan Su Chinese Garden is perfect for a quiet walk and a cup of tea. Designed by Chinese artist Kuang Zhen and built by 65 artisans from Portland's sister city Suzhou, it's a very faithful representation of classical Chinese garden design.

Another big name is the Portland Timbers soccer team (which has a game on 5/14; tickets), but they don't have the only games in town:

  • Director Park has a giant chess board you can use to play with friends or strangers. If the pieces aren't out, just ask at the security station attached to the Elephants In The Park cafe.
  • Ground Kontrol features classic arcade games, food, and beer. There are cup holders on the consoles so you don't have to abandon your beer to play.

Eat

There's too much good food near the Crystal Ballroom to list it all, but I do have a few personal favorites:

  • Bombay Chaat House food cart, which is my favorite Indian in Portland. They're not located at one the big food cart hubs, but they are ridiculously delicious. (Cash only, I'm afraid.)
  • Ruby Jewel, which specializes in locally sourced, handmade ice cream that's perfect for a sunny day.
  • Portland loves pizza. Local favorites in near the Crystal Ballroom are Hot Lips and Pizza Schmizza.
  • Blue Star is where locals get their donuts, and it's just a couple blocks from the Crystal Ballroom. Better than standing in line at Voodoo!

Drink

  • Coffee
    • Stumptown is the classic Portland coffee, which gives Seattle coffee a run for its money.
    • Nossa Familia is owned by a Portuguese immigrant whose family has been in the coffee business for 100 years.
    • Heart has a quiet space and delicious coffee.
  • Beer
    • Pints is a Portland-based brewing company with beers not widely available elsewhere.
    • Henry's Tavern has a massive tap list, including a big selection of beers from all over the Pacific Northwest. 
    • Bailey's Taproom tends to get busy, but is a local favorite.
    • McMennamin's is ubiquitous in Oregon, and indeed, there are three within spitting distance of the Crystal Ballroom: Ringler's (downstairs from the venue), Ringler's Annex (a bit down the street), and Zeus Cafe (also just down the street, under the Crystal Hotel).
  • Booze