Today we'd like to share some of our favorite ways to spend the holidays in PDX for their Winter Hometown Hunt project. If you are one of the 100,000 Portlanders who are new to town, chances are you might not have your own holiday traditions here yet, so I wanted to share a few of mine that I did growing up in the City of Roses (aka Rip City)! Let me know if this is helpful, and if I've missed anything.
Ice skating at Lloyd Center is classic, and it's even better this year because they recently redesigned their entire ice skating rink. You can go pretty much any day of the week and find a time to skate for a low fee. You might even be lucky enough to see some of the professionals practicing their routines. It is a beautiful sight to see.
Seasonal teas at Tea Bar are next on my list because they are so inventive and flavorful. The owner always makes sure to use high-quality ingredients and take her time developing recipes that showcase the best flavors that winter has to offer. With three locations now open in town, there's really no excuse for not making it out to one of these gorgeous tea houses for a few quiet moments of reflection.
Wintery craft cocktails at Expatriate are legendary. They are the go-to cocktail spot pretty much anytime of the year, but they don't hold back during the holidays. That is why you should go check out their creative offerings. Be prepared for a long line if you go during prime-time (such as a Friday or Saturday evening).
Long soaks at Knot Springs are a new favorite for this year. The Springs are absolutely gorgeous and have a beautiful view of Portland. You also get so hot during your visit that you can actually go outside on the balcony and see the whole view for yourself even if it's snowing. You won't get too cold, I promise! If you are sick, you might be able to find healing here because there's a steam room with essential oils (such as eucalyptus) that can open up your lungs and make it easier to breathe and actually help you with your recovery time. They also offer massages and wellness services, so if you're looking for a last-minute gift idea, this is a spendy but thoughtful way to go.
Shopping local businesses like jeweler Betsey and Iya is a huge priority when it comes to the holidays in Portland. This is part of Portland cultural heritage and a MUST when in town. Betsey put together an entire holiday shopping event that they call Little Boxes, and it takes place every year. It's something they created in direct opposition to Black Friday and consumerism that Black Friday stands for. The whole ethos is about finding a local creative or maker that you really love and can connect with and perhaps buying one or two of their special things for yourself or as a gift instead of driving all the way to Target and Walmart and Best Buy to waste your hard-earned dollars on all of those consumables that are low quality and not designed to last and that we don't really need in order to be happy and healthy. You've probably heard about shopping local, so I won't hone in on this point too much more except to say that when you spend your money locally, that money is recirculated into the community economy in positive ways, rather than being exported to far away places. If you go to the Little Boxes website, you can see an entire list of small businesses that are participating. They're even separated by neighborhood! You could technically do all of your seasonal shopping just within one hood. Now if that's not convenient, I don't know what it is!
Helping to serve seasonal meals to people experiencing homeless at the Oregon Food Bank is a holiday tradition and one that's very easy to set up. Just call or email them and see when the next one to your availability is and you can come in and get things ready to go to nonprofits around town, such as Central City Concern. You might do something as simple and repetitive as slicing vegetables, so it's not like you need to prepare yourself for a ton of human interaction if that is not what you feel up to doing. Just know that every little bit you can help out here really helps. You can feel confident knowing that the food is going directly to those in need as they're are well vetted and well cared for. You can find out more Oregon Food Bank on their site.
Checking out the art shows at Screaming Sky Gallery is something I like to do any time of year, but especially during the holidays it seems like a great way to kill two birds with one stone. Or more like three birds, if you really think about it. On the one hand, you are exposing your mind to beautiful and unique art and possibly getting inspired about new creative projects you might want to take on yourself. On the other hand, you are supporting local artists and giving them an outlet to express themselves and possibly even supporting them financially if you decide to buy a piece. Lastly, if you do get a gift from the gallery you're telling the person you give it to that you saw something about the art that they might need in their life. Maybe there's something special that you saw in the piece that you really connected with or that you think that the gift recipient might connect with on a personal level. It can really speak to people in ways that no other gift can. I've even seen people crying at the Screaming Sky Gallery, just because the art moved them so much. This is the kind of experience you could never get from giving someone a video game console.
I recommend any of the holiday plays at Portland Center Stage. They always put on fun and unique programming that can lift your spirits during what is traditionally a stressful time. They hosted David Sedaris' play about the holidays a couple of times, and it's just so funny. Plays can help you relax and laugh and blow off some steam. It's also a great way to support local craftspeople because, again, when you see a play instead of a big box movie made in Hollywood, you are letting local actors and costume makers and musicians live their dream jobs and contribute to the world in their unique way with their unique art form. You can trust that they're getting paid a decent wage and are working in pleasant conditions, which is not always the case with big box movie theater productions. Play tickets can range from reasonable to expensive, so just keep checking back online and see what seats are available and if there are any discounts offered through the social media pages of the theater. That is always a good way to get a discounted rate if money is tight during the holidays.
I hope these tips have been valuable and that you feel welcomed to our beautiful city that has so much to offer for everyone during the holidays. If you have any favorite traditions that I should have included on this list but missed out on, just shoot me an e-mail, because I would like to hear about it and possibly add them in. Have a lovely holiday season!
Hi, I'm Joni, founder and owner of Mint & Mirth.
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