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What's New in Oregon

In Portland

The city of Portland, which developed its first-rate MAX light rail service in the late 1970s, opened its fourth line, the Green Line, in 2009—it connects Clackamas Town Center in the city's southeastern suburbs to the downtown campus of Portland State University. The city's TriMet system has further plans to develop light rail lines through the city's hip Inner Southeast neighborhood to Milwaukee (to open in 2015), and expand its popular downtown streetcar line to form a loop crossing the Willamette River via a new transit bridge, providing service to Inner Southeast (to open in 2012).

Consistently named America's best airport by readers of Condé Nast Traveler, Portland International Airport added several new restaurants and shops to its terminals in the past year, as well as a massive expansion to the on-site parking garage. Several new nonstop routes have been added to Portland in recent months, including Air Canada service to Calgary and Toronto, and Alaska Airlines service to Chicago, Honolulu, Kona (HI), and Maui.

Portland has had its share of notable hotel developments. The McMenamins Group, known for converting historic and often quite unusual old buildings into atmospheric hotels, plans to open the new Crystal Hotel in early 2011. This 51-room boutique property, which occupies a century-old building with a checkered past (it's housed everything from shady flophouses to gay strip clubs), is just a couple of blocks from McMenamins famed Crystal Ballroom, and it will feature a full-service restaurant, saltwater soaking pool, and cellar bar.

The swanky 331-room the Nines hotel, part of Starwood's Luxury Collection brand, is Portland's fanciest new hotel. It's been created ingeniously inside the top nine floors of downtown's venerable Meier & Frank department store building—the rooftop Departure restaurant/lounge and lobby-level Urban Farmer restaurant have helped turn the Nines into one of the city's see-and-be-seen hot spots. Sleek and contemporary 174-room Hotel Modera, with its first-rate Nel Centro restaurant and handy location near Portland State University and the Portland Art Museum, is another notable lodging newcomer, as is the Gold LEED-certified Courtyard by Marriott—Portland City Center. This 256-room property is right on the new Max Green Line light rail and is home to a hip diner-inspired restaurant called The Original.

Portland's more residential and less touristy East Side continues to develop increased cachet among visitors seeking funky shopping, offbeat yet stellar dining, and hip lounge hopping and live music. The Hawthorne and nearby Belmont areas have long been popular for their countercultural vibes, but just to the south the adjoining Clinton and Division areas have seen an influx of cool places to eat and shop. The fringy, decidedly nonconformist Alberta Arts District and rapidly expanding Mississippi Arts District are two northern neighborhoods on the east side with plenty of distinctive new options for sipping, noshing, and browsing.

Fans of greater Portland's outstanding wineries and microbreweries are celebrating the recent development of a third component to the city's artisan-beverage reputation: Distillery Row, which comprises several rising stars in the craft-distillery scene on the city's inner east side (around SE 9th Avenue between SE Harrison and SE Washington streets). Here you can sample the likes of New Deal vodka and 12 Bridges gin—most of these small-batch producers are open for tours and tastings.

Elsewhere in Oregon

One slight complaint about the wine regions in Oregon has long been the lack of upscale accommodations to match the bounty of stellar vineyards and tasting rooms. Finally, things are changing. In late 2009 the Allison Inn & Spa gave Oregon's Willamette Valley a resort to crow about—the 80-room property has a first-rate, full-service spa and a highly regarded restaurant. Another wonderfully received newcomer to the area, the 20-room Inn at Red Hills is delighting gourmands with its exquisite rooms and sterling Farm to Fork restaurant and market.

In the Columbia Gorge community of Hood River, the Columbia Cliff Villas is an excellent new base for exploring the growing number of wineries in this part of the region. The grand condo hotel overlooks the river, and has enormous, gorgeously furnished suites with full kitchens and multiple bedrooms.

Out on the coast, in summer 2010 Astoria's exceptionally good Columbia River Maritime Museum launched a terrific new interactive exhibit, "Crossing the Bar, Perilous Passage," which provides an enthralling look at the dangerous Columbia River Bar—the turbulent mouth of the Columbia, which ships must navigate upon entering the river from the Pacific. The exhibit includes actual footage of rescues and dangerous crossings as well as a map locating the hundreds of wrecks that have occurred here over the centuries.

Also in Astoria in summer 2010, the town's old county jail, which was featured prominently in the quintessential '80s coming-of-age adventure movie The Goonies, became home to the new Oregon Film Museum. Memorabilia and exhibits related to several movies shot in Oregon—including Free Willy, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Animal House, and Kindergarten Cop—fill this quirky museum.

Other developments along the coast include the addition of a new Swampland exhibit at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, complete with exhibits on everything from mangrove to cypress swamps, and a crew of creatures who frequent these regions, including an alligator, anaconda, red tail boas, snapping turtles, and piranhas.

Down the coast a bit, the state's most revered golfing destination, Bandon Dunes, opened its fourth golf course, dubbed Old Macdonald, in summer 2010—the rolling, windswept course overlooks the ocean and has a design inspired by one of the nation's pioneers of golf-course design, Charles Blair Macdonald. Critics have already begun hailing this challenging layout as one of the West Coast's most impressive courses.

Visitors to Lane County, which includes the city of Eugene and parts of the central coast, can plan their trips and ask for guidance at Springfield's new Eugene, Cascades, and Coast Adventure Center. The facility opened in summer 2010, and sells day passes to parks, beaches, and recreation areas throughout the region. It is staffed by specialists who can help visitors seeking advice on rafting, hiking, kayaking, and the dozens of other recreational opportunities that abound in this area.

On the leafy campus of the University of Oregon in Eugene, the Museum of Natural and Cultural History is in the midst of an ambitious three-part expansion. The museum's new collections center opened in 2009, a state-of-the-art exhibit hall will open in 2011, and a research wing is being added in 2012. This follows work done on U of O's similarly impressive Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, which completed a major redevelopment in 2005.

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