Portland offers more than 250 urban parks; the largest forested urban park in the nation and more parks than any other city in the U.S. So, it is no wonder Portland has its own Park Avenue.
The SW blocks – an 8.76-acre park – date back to 1852 and spans twelve tree-lined city blocks in the downtown cultural district and is one of the cities most vibrant and lush walkways. They include the Oregon Symphony, the Portland Art Museum, the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Oregon Ballet Theater, beautiful churches and each block features artwork in the form of statues, fountains and mosaics. This charming street that stretches through the heart of downtown is well worth a day’s exploration.
Start by wandering the upper park blocks from SW Jackson St. to SW Mill St., which lie within the Portland State University campus. As with all of SW Park Avenue, this six-block stretch is impeccably landscaped; lush with rose and flower gardens, framed with massive trees, carpeted in grass, and dotted with park benches. Visit the parks most recent addition, on the block between Hall and Harrison, installed in 2004, Holon, a white Indiana limestone piece by Oregon sculptor Donald Wilson. A block north at Montgomery is the bronze statue and fountain Farewell to Orpheus by Frederic Littman.
In these blocks you will also find Oliver Laurence Barrett’s, bronze statue of Rebecca at the Well and at SW Salmon St., sits the Simon Benson Memorial- constructed in 1959, by architect Albert E. Doyle- which looks out at a drinking fountain, representing one of the twenty-four bowl fountains that Benson gave to the city in 1912. Another twenty fountains have been added to the collection over the years and they remain some of Portland’s most unique features.
Afterwards, make your way to the Park Avenue Café at the corner of SW Market St., where you can enjoy espresso, pastries, bagel sandwiches or vegetarian breakfast wraps in the café, at one of their outdoor tables or on one of the many park benches. From here continue walking South on Park Ave., to the center of the block between Market and Clay. Here you will find a granite mosaic sculpture by Oregon artist Paul Sutinen called In the Shadow of the Elm. Then walk down two blocks to admire the exquisite architectural details of St. James Lutheran Church. One of many places of worship on this street, it dates back to the 1800’s. Another worth checking out is the First Congregation Church on the corner of SW Madison St.
Head to the Oregon Historical Society Museum, which offers a glimpse into the history of the Pacific Northwest through local art exhibits and artifact collections. The museum also displays temporary exhibits, art and photography. After taking a peak into Oregon’s past, venture one block East to SW Broadway, and stop into Higgins for lunch. A Portland classic, the restaurant offers their popular pastrami sandwich and the sirloin burger with aioli on a house-made bun. All other menu items change weekly; but they always serve up unique seasonal and local choices. If a lighter or simpler lunch is calling you, try Superdog or Pizzeria Lombaria, both near the corner of SW Park Ave and SW Clay St.
After lunch wander to Roosevelt Square, which lies between Jefferson and Madison, where the 18-foot-tall bronze equestrian statue of Theodore Roosevelt, sculpted by western artist Alexander Phimister Proctor stands mounted on a 14-foot tall base of California granite.
Next on the agenda, and a highlight for art lovers, is the Portland Art Museum. It is the oldest art museum in the Pacific Northwest, dating back to 1892. Two buildings attached by an underground walkway, house a diverse collection of over 35,000 works of arts including European and American paintings and sculpture, silver, Asian art, Native American art, Pre-Columbian and African art, contemporary art, sculpture, prints, drawings and photography.
After you’ve satisfied your art appetite, stop in the Art Bar & Bistro for coffee or a cocktail. Nibble on the antipasto platter or try one of their many martini or cocktail concoctions. From here continue your walk down the final SW Park Blocks to Lincoln Square, which lies between Madison and Main, to see the 10-foot bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln, sculpted by George Fite Waters. The last two art pieces in the park are the Shemanski Fountain, located between Main and Salmon and then the triangular structure of cast Oregon sandstone designed by Carl L. Linde, The fountain is designed with three small lower drinking basins so dogs can quench their thirst too.
The SW Park blocks include shopping and fashion too; Michael Allen’s, a designer men’s boutique and Mercantile, an 8,000 square space is the place to find collections from American and European young designers. For artistic types, check out Art Media, where endless isles of art supplies, books and tools may tempt you.
For dinner venture to Southpark Seafood Grill & Wine Bar. This sophisticated bar and restaurant offers plenty of indoor and outside seating and is known for its regional fresh seafood and full-flavored Mediterranean influences. The first downtown wine bar in Portland, it offers wine flights, local and European wines. The food is top-notch; start with the Coho salmon cakes or curried zucchini tomato soup and for entrees, they offer a butternut squash ravioli, seared diver scallops, paella, and grilled ahi, to name a few. Or, for something more exotic, try Dragonfish- a pan-Asian restaurant serving great cocktails and sushi.
After a full day of exploring the SW Park blocks, wander to your room at the Roosevelt hotel, step out on your balcony for a birds-eye view of the city and the area you spent the day exploring. Get a good night’s sleep because there is so much more to explore tomorrow.
What & Where:
Park Avenue Café (1525 SW Park Ave.; 503-225-9335)
St. James Lutheran Church (1315 SW Park Ave.; 503-227-2439)
First Congregation Church (1126 SW Park Ave.)
Oregon Historical Society Museum (1200 SW Park Ave.;503-222-1741)
Higgins (1239 SW Broadway; 503-222-9070) Open Monday through Friday for lunch
Super Dog (1438 SW Park Ave.; 503-243-5045)
Pizzeria Lombardia (1434 SW Park Ave.; 503-295-3663)
Portland Art Museum (1219 SW Park Ave.; 503·226·2811)
Art Bar & Bistro (at SW Broadway and Main; 503-432-2905)
Michael Allen’s (811 SW Morrison Ave; 503-221-9963)
Mercantile (735 SW Park Ave.; 503-223-6649)
Art Media (902 SW Yamhill St.; 503-223-3724)
Southpark Seafood Grill & Wine Bar (901 SW Salmon St.; 503-326-1300)
Dragonfish (909 SW Park Ave.; 503-243-5991)
The Paramount Hotel (808 SW Taylor St.; 503-223-9900)
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Alexa Meisler is the editorial director of 52 Perfect Days. Born in Paris, France she has since lived in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon. She currently resides in San Diego with her husband and son where they enjoy exploring California and Mexico.
Travel has always been a part of her life; traveling to such places as Morocco, Tangiers and Spain as a young child as well as taking many road trips to Mexico with her grandparents as a young girl. Since then, she has traveled abroad to locations such as Russia, Taiwan and throughout Europe.
Prior to working at 52 Perfect Days she was a freelance travel writer; focusing on family and women’s adventure experiences.