Note: This could also be called my “RA RA RA Portland’s Awesome” Blog Entry
"It must be really rainy and gloomy up there."
After hearing the statement for the fifth time yesterday during another work phone call with folks in LA (who were getting rained on might I add), I thought it about time to clear the air about Portland. I know that some locals will hate me for telling the “truth”, but this city really needs to stand up and take its place. You see what irked me about the statement was the fact that it wasn’t a question, it was stated as general fact. To many people, Portland and Oregon in general raises the picture of pot smoking, beer drinking, nature loving, commune living, bicycle riding, and very very wet, hippies. Some of that is definitely true and who doesn’t love a good bike ride after a micro-brew or two, but this state has come a long way baby… time to get educated.
It is always raining up there in Portland, it must be so depressing…
I figured I should tackle this first as it is the most commonly asked thing we get. To put it in a nutshell: yes it rains here, it snows here a little, and we have cloudy days. We also have beautiful summers, some of the best falls around, and in general… we have seasons.
On the rain question, we are not even near the top of the list. We are actually ranked #36 for rainfall in the US. So while Astoria, OR (Goonies!) on our NW coast is one of the wettest cities in the country, the state in general is actually pretty mellow. Here are the top 10.
9. North Carolina
Yes, Portland is wetter than the rest of Oregon given our location, but still much lower than you might think.
As a California native, I grew up in an environment where we really had two seasons, the hot/warm season (Spring/Summer) and the warm/cold season (Fall/Winter). Trees didn’t change and snow never fell and you had to worry about droughts. I definitely have times when I miss the heat, but then you look around and see the green of the trees, the rivers flowing, snow-capped mountains, and you realize it is worth it.
So what do you guys do for fun?
The better question is what don’t we do. Portland in general is located in an amazing location providing access to the ocean and the mountains. This means spectacular surfing, sightseeing, and incredible skiing/snowboarding almost year round with hardly any traffic in under an hour.
Couple that with kayaking, mountain biking, hiking, backpacking, snowshoeing, and more all in under 15 minutes. Basically if you can dream up a sport, the chance is someone here is already doing it… ultimate frisbee leagues, parkour, the skies the limit. And if you go east a few hours to Bend you have some of the best climbing and rafting around.
And for pro/amateur sports we have the NBA’s (Trail) Blazers, the Beavers (AAA), the Winterhawks (WHL), and the Timbers (new MLS team).
What about food and drink?
We have some of the greatest chefs in the country in the Portland area and we have been recognized by most major food publications as one of the new hotbeds for cuisine. Most chefs focus on local/sustainable ingredients and work with local farms to ensure quality cuts of meat and the freshest vegetables and fruits. If you are vegan or vegetarian, then know that we are consistently voted the #1 Vegetarian city in North America. Food Network has made us regulars and Anthony Bourdain just loved us, which is all I really need to hear.
On the drink front, we are the #1 micro-brew city in the world with more brewpubs and breweries per capita than anyone else. This typically means there is always something new on the menu to try and always something to your liking.
If you don’t like beer, then look to the Willamette just 20 minutes from downtown to some of the best wineries in the country. Oregon may be an up-and-comer in the larger wine world, but is now consistently seen along side Napa as one of the best domestic regions. Oregonians have known this for a while of course.
Ah, you guys sound really healthy…
We are actually, we have some of the lowest obesity rates (adults and children) in the country and AARP has consistently rated us one of the top cities to live for people over 50. We also have some of the best hospitals and specialists around.
On to the environment, do you guys bleed green or what?
Saying that Portland is conscious of the environment is an understatement. We have been named greenest city in the US multiple times and in the top 10 in the world. We have more people who commute to work on bike everyday than anywhere else in the country (despite the weather!). The bottom line is people here care about the environment they live in. We want to keep enjoying this beautiful state, so we take care of it.
So yes… we bleed green. I don’t need to say much more.
You guys ARE super liberal, it’s a little weird
We do end up looking like a very blue state at most elections, but this comment is probably better generalized for Portland itself and not for Oregon. We have roughly ~3.8M residents, but roughly 1M+ of those people live in Portland proper or the surrounding suburban cities with another ~400k in Eugene and Salem. When you look at the 2008 election coverage map, you can see how the major metropolitan cities drive elections. Results: Obama: 57%, McCain: 41%, Nader: 1%.
So while I may fit in really well, there are many conservatives who find Portland to be a little too blue.
People are starting to take notice
From Outside Magazine, Men’s Journal, Men’s Fitness, Money Magazine, Travel+Liesure, to Dwell, Popular Science, Dog Fancy, AARP, and more Portland is consistently rated as one of the healthiest and best places to live in the entire US. We are the #1 bike friendly city in the US (#2 in the World), we are the #1 greenest city in the US (by a big margin)
Commercially, you are seeing more of our restaurants on the Food Network, more of our chefs up for James Beard awards, more of our designers on shows like Project Runway, and more mainstream bands that got their start in Portland clubs.
So whats the bad news?
First, our economy is hurting and our state government is having a hard time fixing it. Any type of tax measure is met with public outcry, but the lack of funds is equally a problem. We are a sales tax free state which can be a plus, but our income tax and property tax isn’t much different from most states with sales tax. This means we aren’t making up for it and thus the budget shortfalls. Schools are suffering and more and more kids are being put into private education.
Jobs are also suffering as a great majority of our state is composed of blue collar workers. They have been hit the hardest during the last several years and our unemployment rate is one of the highest in the country. This does seem to be changing, but it is slow going. The good news is, the housing market is still solid and affordable so people aren’t losing their homes and new people coming in aren’t pushing prices too high for the “normal” citizen.
We are not a racially diverse state which I view to be a bad thing, especially when raising a little one. The state is 81% white and while we are an incredibly open city where 1 in 7 relationships are same-sex, our cultural demographic is lacking a bit. The number is changing, but we are well below the national average. Religiously, we run the gambit and are widely represented.
A final note..
We moved here because when we first visited the city we felt something. It was a feeling of a city in transition, a city that was moving from one stage to another, and we knew we wanted to be a part of it. Between old converted warehouses to some incredible new modern design, there is a connection between this town and its people. There is passion here, people take risks, they LIVE their lives instead of watching it from the outside.
Our city is growing at an incredible rate to the point where it almost can’t handle the load. So after reading this, just forget everything I said and remember again that we have a ton of rain and stay where you are. We are very happy to keep it as is :)