Last week I shared our first stop on our quick road trip around the Cascades—Seattle.
For the last two nights of our #GreatCoastRoadTrip with Coast Hotels, we drove first to Wenatchee, Washington, and then onto Portland, Oregon, before flying home. It was a whirlwind—and of course I’d suggest that anyone considering doing the same to extend this over many more days!
We left Seattle early on a quiet Monday morning, stopping only for some fuel at Top Pot Doughnuts before beginning our drive through the Cascade mountains to the Apple capitol of the World, Wenatchee.
We were quite wary about even the 2-1/2 hour drive because car rides with a four-month-old are pretty unpredictable and we’d already had plenty of scream-filled rides around Seattle. Ten minutes can feel unendurably long when your baby is crying, so we basically resigned ourselves to the fact that we could really only make ground when Skyler was sleeping.
Our saving grace is that four-month-olds like to sleep. A lot. So with only one roadside stop to nurse in the mountains (with a beautiful view!), we pulled up to the Coast Wenatchee Center Hotel around noon—just in time for lunch.
I’ll confess that we were at first a little disappointed to leave the mountains and drive into the foothills. The landscape changed from that wet, green lushness that one associates with the Pacific Northwest to one of golden grasses—much more like what one finds in our own region—and even in the Southwest, at times!
But the small town won us over and we immediately came to understand what an awesome getaway this must be for folks needing a break from wetter climes: apparently the sun shines in Wenatchee an average of 300 days a year (as opposed to 152 in nearby Seattle). Its prime draws, beyond sunshine, are apple orchards, vineyards, and plenty of outdoor activities—like hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, or paddle boarding. Their chamber of commerce has put together a pretty inspiring website, if you’re looking for ideas.
After a warm welcome from the hotel (with little gifts for the kids), we walked a few blocks over to the very colorful Lemolo Cafe, where a sprawling, seasonal menu meant that Aron and I could still try things like Salmon pizza while Hudson could order a PB&J. Everyone wins.
The Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center is closed Sundays and Mondays, but they were nice enough to open their doors and give us a private tour. Housed in two joined historic buildings (former postal facilities), the museum hosts both permanent and rotating exhibits. A docent played for us—and let Hudson play—a 1919-built pipe organ, once used to add sound to silent films at the Liberty Theatre. Other highlights included a working model of the Great Northern Railway and an entire apple-sorting line from the 1920s.
We sort of rushed through (naptimes were fast approaching!) but learning more about the region’s apple-industry history was the perfect transition to a brief stop at an apple orchard: Smallwood’s Harvest Farm.
There are dozens of farms and fruit stands in the area, but this one also had a small petting zoo and some play options that Hudson really appreciated. However, if you are coming expressly to pick apples during Harvest season, I might look around for some options further off the main road.
Next we took a quick walk around the Bavarian village of Leavenworth—probably the more famous tourist town in the area, and a popular spot around the holidays.
That evening, we left the car back at the hotel and walked down to the waterfront for dinner at the Pybus market. The beautiful space hosts restaurants, wine bars, cheese shops, and fruit stands—though Hudson went right for the small lego table that was set out for kids.
Most of the vendors had closed for the night, but luckily the restaurants stayed open late. We chose to eat at the Latin restaurant, South—sitting outside on the patio with views of the Columbia River. (Aron was tasked with trying to bounce Skyler to sleep during dinner, so I should amend that to say that Hudson and I sat and enjoyed the views).
After taking in the views of the valley from atop the hotel at the Rivertop Bar & Grill, looking down at the river we’d be following all the way into Portland… for five hours or so.
This was the drive that really struck terror in our hearts, but it went as well as we could possibly have hoped for. Skyler may not like being in her car seat very much, but she is learning to fall asleep in it! I had to squeeze in between her and Hudson only once to entertain her.
At one point, after going through a stretch of roughly 40 miles with no options for stops, we passed a sign for St. John’s, a Greek Orthodox Monastery that was fronted by a cafe with espresso and baklava and such. We were maybe a minute past when she woke and starting crying so we quickly make a U-turn and stayed there for about an hour or so for lunch.
It was the best find! Fresh savory and sweet pastries, gyros, good coffee, some picnic tables, and little patch of grass and tree stumps for Hudson to run around in! Highly recommended if you’re coming this way.
This was both of our first times to Portland, so we wished we could have arrived earlier and stayed longer.
Though formally known as the City of Roses, most people are probably more familiar with Portland’s informal catchphrase, “Keep Portland Weird.” For me, the city connotes bikes, bridges, and brews. Roses, eccentrics, or beer? Whichever held true, I was excited to finally have the chance to visit.
We pulled into downtown and up to The Benson, a stately 101-year-old hotel on Broadway, and were welcomed inside a grand lobby where gorgeous Russian-wood panelling, beautiful marble floors, elaborate chandeliers, and incredible filigree had us all craning our necks to take in every lovely detail. The idea behind the Coast Hotels brand is that each hotel is “refreshingly local,” and the Benson in particular felt completely unique to the city.
Our room was a corner suite: a double room joined with a junior suite that meant we could put the kids to bed in their own space–such a luxury.
But perhaps what stood out the most was a particularly child-friendly touch: they sent up a fish for Hudson to take care of during our stay!
We named the little blue Beta Phil and Hudson talked to him and showed him his toys. In fact, when we came home to Davis, Hudson said he wanted to go back to the hotel to see “Phil-ly Fish.” A two-year-old more excited about returning to a hotel than about his own dog and his own toys?! That’s golden.
We tried to get started with our look around Portland as soon as we dropped our bags, but after five-plus hours in the car and a hungry infant I’ll admit there was a part of me that just wanted to enjoy the beautiful room!
We rallied, however, and I’m glad we did. We started at the beautiful (and expansive–over 5,000 acres) Forest Park. There, we discovered Peggy the steam engine, a Discovery Center with a Dr. Seuss exhibit, the Rose Test Garden, the Portland Zoo, and a fantastic looking children’s museum. The park itself sounds like an amazing urban treasure, with nearly 70 miles of trails crossing its entirety.
Still, we wanted to give Hudson a little more of a chance to burn off some steam, so next we headed to PlayDate PDX for an hour of jumping and climbing (for him) and a couple of cold beers (for us).
Basically, they’ve put a three-story playground inside a loft with a cafe. It’s a brilliant concept–particularly for when the days aren’t as lovely as this one.
But because the sun was shining (and would be, until nearly 10pm), we coaxed him off to dinner at nearby Boke Bowl. They feature ramen with handmade noodles, unique dashis, and seasonally changing ingredients.
The restaurant was suggested to us by our friends, who we met up with for dinner. At their suggestion, I added fried chicken to mine and Aron topped his dish with pork belly and an egg. We rounded things out with steam buns (Hudson’s had peanut butter and jelly inside), and a brussel sprout salad. It was only the next day that I realized we’d forgotten to try the housemade miso-butterscotch twinkies!
Of course, there were countless awesome restaurants (and at least a dozen brewpubs) recommended to us by the many friends who have raved about the food scene in Portland. If only there were more meals in the day…
The next morning, the Benson treated us to a hearty breakfast at their restaurant, the Palm Court. Most of the diners looked a bit more like business travelers, so our table looked especially full by comparison: Blueberry Pancakes (packed with blueberries, the way I like them), Eggs with smokey hollandaise, Almond smoothies, fresh coffee, and hot oatmeal.
Funny side note: our waitress brought Hudson some crayons and he was showing her a stuffed bear the hotel had given him. She asked if he were afraid of bears and he answered “no.” She looked a little surprised and glanced over at us, sort of as if we hadn’t been doing our duty explaining the danger. It was one of the moments when you realize that if you live in the Pacific Northwest, you’d probably talk about bears a bit more often than just reading about that family of Berensteins.
All that food should have meant not eating again for many hours, but alas there was just too much good stuff to find room for. Before 1pm we’d also sampled a scoop of Brown Sugar Sour Cream and Strawberry Jam ice cream from Ruby Jewel, Transylvanian fare from the 10th and Alder food truck pod, lattes from Stumptown coffee, a pork belly and cheddar sandwich from Lardo, and one or two local IPAs. I even tried to score a doughnut at Blue Star (whose sign would fit right in to an episode of Portlandia), but they were sold out!
Somehow, in between all this gluttony, we also made some time for shopping and strolling between downtown and the Pearl District. One of the highlights was finally visiting the bookstore I’ve been hearing about for years: Powell’s City of Books. A Portland institution–and rightly so–Powell’s is the largest used-and-new bookstore in the world with nine color-coded rooms and over 3,500 different sections. I was especially partial to the light-filled children’s section.
Other highlights? Union Alley, which housed a Steven Alan and the local brand, Danner; Canoe, a meticulously curated home design store; and Frances May, an indie boutique filled with covetable labels.
And of course, coffee at Stumptown and photobooth snapshots at the ACE Hotel. (Shhhh… don’t tell the Benson.)
It was probably best for my wallet that we had to leave for the airport after lunch. But we definitely had to go too soon. Portland, we’ll be back.
P.S. Coast Hotels invited me to blog our trip (which they entirely provided) for their website. I’m under no further obligation to write about them here, but we’re grateful to them for this taste of the Pacific Northwest. Read the Seattle travelogue from our road trip.