By Michelle Eickmeyer
ACRL, here we come! Conference travel can be an interesting beast. I love experiencing the show with you (and hearing both your concerns and victories) but it can drag on a bit if I’m not careful. As an exhibitor, I’ll be spending 3 full days in Portland working, followed by a red-eye home. There will be down time, but often conference down time is not down enough. And very often it is filled with “regular work” from back at the office.
As a conference attendee, the list of sessions I want to attend is longer than the time I have to give. I have a list of people to meet, check in with, and catch up with. If you are one of those left behind at your library/university/office, conference travel can seem romantic and alluring. Yes, I’m traveling to Portland. No, I won’t actually get to see much of the city beyond the cab ride to the hotel, the walk to the convention center, and, if I’m lucky, a dinner or two. Beyond that, you’ll find me in the exhibit hall. (Seriously! Come find me! We’re in booth 427. And we’re giving away beer!)
What if YOU (or, dare I dream, I!) have some free time? What could you do with a few hours in Portland? A lot!
Before I start with what to do, let’s get down to what’s important — what do you need to pack for this party? Lucky for us east of the Mississippi, Portland’s climate is fairly moderate. The average temps for the last week in March have highs of 58-59. (These are magical numbers to me.) Better yet, Portland has been trending 2-10 degrees ABOVE average this particular March! While winter’s rainy season technically ends in February, I’m packing an umbrella. And a light coat. Those high temps are going to be in the middle of the day… while I’m in the exhibit hall and you’re attending sessions or meetings.
Of key importance in any city you’re visiting is transport. While cabs or the like are always an option, they can be quite expensive depending on where you are and where you want to go. Portland has a number of public transportation options, including streetcars, light rail trains, and buses. Three light rail lines (green, blue, and red), three bus lines (4, 6, and 8) and a streetcar route (central loop line) all have stops on the north side of the exhibit hall. If you know where you’re going, the TriMet website (link below in sources) has a great trip finder tool.
Using this tool, I know I can get to the Oregon Zoo in about 30 minutes, with no transfers, on the blue line. And while it might not be summer, this is still a great time to get out, get some steps in, and enjoy the (hopefully warm) air. The Oregon Zoo is known in the area for walkability and family friendliness. It’s a medium-sized zoo of 64 acres. (For scale, the San Diego Zoo is 99 acres, the Detroit Zoo is 125 acres, and NY’s Central Park Zoo is 6 acres.) This is a pro and a con. Admission is not free, but it is a reasonable at $11.50 for adults, and the zoo is open until 5pm. *Just a note, if you are considering the zoo, there is a Zoo’s Clues day camp for children schedules on the 24th.
Like any good city on a river, Portland has an extensive river walk. The Willamette River (rhymes with d@mnit – you’ll never forget that, will you?) is just west of the convention center. The Steel Bridge is the closest bridge to the convention center and is the esplanade’s northern border. The entire loop is 2.6 miles, but there are options to to smaller portions. Take a look at the map – you could turn around on any of the other bridges or just walk down and back.
Interestingly, Portland has several fountain gardens. Lovejoy Fountain Park and Ira Keller Fountain Park both offer well-reviewed grounds and (free!) beauty. Each located near downtown, they will require some transport to get you there and back.
If you have a bit more time, I’d be remiss to not include Powell’s Bookstore on the list. With several locations, and one within walking distance of the exhibit hall, you can get your book fix on in spades.
There are scores of great restaurants of all types in Portland. Recently two contestants from Bravo’s “Top Chef” were cast from Portland restaurants. I’m going to challenge you to think beyond dinner. FOURTEEN local eateries have been featured on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” (Seriously, what’s up with the biscuit fascination, Portland?) Beyond the fork or spoon…. think doughnuts. Perhaps the most unique doughnut bakery in the world, Voodoo Doughnuts is located in — you guessed it — Portland! With original favorites like Captain my Captain, the Marshall Mathers, and the Memphis Mafia, you’re sure to have an experience you won’t forget.
Whether you can get out for 10 minutes or an hour or two or not until dinner, I hope you have a great time in Portland. I can’t wait to see so many of you there and hear about your grand adventures.
Michelle is an “anytime!” traveler and language enthusiast. She has degrees in talking from Central Michigan and Michigan State University. She is currently becoming a runner and used to play golf in high school.