Portland is often referred to as the ‘hipster capital’ of the USA, which may sound like your worst nightmare but it really is a very cool place.
Its large population of bearded and tattooed men, skaters, musicians and craft ale make it the perfect place for an alternative J1 summer. It’s home to hundreds of independent coffee shops, restaurants and bars; the city has banned franchises in the down-town area so you won’t find a Starbucks or MacDonald’s for miles, which gives a real sense of community that is often lacking in big American cities.
Portland is ranked one of the greenest cities in the USA, so expect beautiful parks and a real feeling of being surrounded by nature. Although parts of the city do echo the shiny skyscrapers of NYC, it generally has a relaxed downtown feel and the rustic architecture provides a worn but loved appeal. Outside of the city you will find some of the world’s most beautiful scenery for hiking and cycling, with stunning attractions such as the Columbia River Gorge or Mount Hood; as well as wine country for those that fancy a weekend touring vineyards and sampling the goods!
If bars and nightlife are more your thing, then you’re in luck as Portland comes alive after dark. With more bars and pubs than you’d care to count and gigs every night of the week, Portland natives love their nights out as much as the Irish, so you’ll feel right at home.
The city is famous for its amazing street food, you can find every type of cuisine; from Indian and Mexican to coffee and pastries; and all cheap as chips. One food cart enthusiast even set up a website dedicated to helping visitors find what they’re looking for, check out foodcartsportland.com. While you’re there make sure you visit Voodoo Doughnut, a world famous doughnut shop that is quirky beyond belief and has the best flavour combinations imaginable.
The locals in Portland are friendly, fun and creative. Everyone is a bartender slash artist, musician or poet. And if you want to be in a band it’s definitely the place to go, with Craigslist advertising hundreds of openings. The general attitude is open and accepting, it’s one of the only US cities where the liberal idealists outnumber the right wing conservatives, and you sense it the minute you step off the plane.
The weather isn’t always beaming sun, and Portland does have rain most of the year (sound familiar!?). However in the summer it dries up and temperatures sit comfortably in the 20s, so it’s a good place if you aren’t a sun worshiper and have a pasty Irish complexion.
As for jobs, the abundance of coffee shops and independent restaurants means there’s usually openings. But as with all J1s, it’s a good idea to start looking before you book the tickets, jobs are hard to come by today and Portland is no exception. Rent averages between $400-$600 a month, so if there’s a group of you travelling together start looking in advance. Portland is also home to several universities so it’s worth contacting them to find out about temporary accommodation.
So if you decide to spend your summer living and working in Portland you may comeback with a new outlook on life and a slight hippy, but you’ll have an experience you won’t find in LA or New York. Just warn your mum before you return home with tattoos and a moustache!
Image: eleephotos via flickr.com