Portland & Columbia River Gorge

Old Jun 7th, 2009, 06:16 AM
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Portland & Columbia River Gorge

We will arrive in Portland late in the day and stay near the airport. We plan to spend the next day visiting the gorge and Mt Hood.

What is the easiest and most scenic route to take? Which places must we stop and spend time? Short hikes (a mile or less one-way) are okay. We have the entire day. We will be there during the last week of August and will be continuing our vacation for several more days. I have a brochure describing lots of places to stop along "the fruit loop". We would enjoy buying fruit for the rest of our trip. We have considered a cruise on the paddlewheeler on the gorge. Is the cruise worth it, or is it better to sight-see on our own?

While I realize staying in downtown Portland is best, we are budget travelers and we can stay near the airport for a lot less. The Max rail line is very near the hotel. We want to visit the Rose, Chinese & Japanese gardens, Powell books, and simply walk around the areas of the city. Would public transportation suit our needs?

Thanks so much for any advice anyone can give.
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Old Jun 7th, 2009, 07:28 AM
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Sure, MAX will get you from the airport area into downtown very efficiently. The International Rose Test Garden/Japanese Garden are adjacent, and you can get there by connecting to a bus from MAX. The other places are walkable from MAX stops.

But you'll probably find the MAX ride tiresome and long each way.

Do some more research, and you might find you can get a hotel much closer to downtown for not much more money than staying at the airport. Priceline's "Name your own price" service can get you great hotel deals in Portland - though its non-refundable/non-changeable once you book it and you don't find out the hotel name til your bid is accepted. Lots of people use Priceline for Portland hotels; I used it for my parents a few years ago and we got a great deal on the Hilton.

Just make sure you understand how to use Priceline before bidding too much or you can pay way too much. Do some homework first and don't bid too rashly or bid too much at first. I'd recommend bidding on Priceline in the Convention Center - Lloyd Center district just across the Willamette River from downtown, for nothing less than a 3-star hotel.
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Old Jun 7th, 2009, 07:35 AM
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Sometimes saving a few dollars wastes money and time, you will be spending money on getting around, when you could just walk out the door and be there... you will need a rental car for the Gorge and it all takes up your time.. which I imagine is limited?

www.pova.com

Look into the Holiday Inn on the NW side of town, NW 27th & Vaughn I think .. look into the Mark Spencer hotel .. the Ace hotel ..

When we lived in Portland my friends beachbum and mms gave me directions... Andrew probably did too... very helpful people in Portland ;D

You take the Historic Highway, stopping at the Womens Forum, Vista House, all the look outs and you pass all the Falls.. getting out at each one if you wish or not ... ending with Multnomah Falls... take highway 84 back to town.
I think it is 84 ... lol ... a 30 min drive home... easy ..
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Old Jun 7th, 2009, 03:59 PM
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Be careful with Priceline. We have been very happy with the prices and hotels we've gotten in metropolitan areas. I'd booked with them for one night in Denver this summer. 3 weeks before our departure my husband had a small heart attack and told not to travel to high elevations this summer. Hotwire was willing to refund our money with a letter from the doctor, I could figure out how to contact a real person at priceline, so we lost the money.
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Old Jun 7th, 2009, 04:00 PM
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meant to say couldn't figure out.
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Old Jun 7th, 2009, 04:12 PM
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One reason Priceline's "name your own price" hotels are so cheap is that they are non-refundable/non-changeable, and that is true in most circumstnances. However, I've successfully requested and received refunds from Priceline twice. Once I emailed them and once I called them. In fact, the time I emailed them, I complained about a hotel that was too noisy and asked for a partial refund; instead, they gave me a full refund. The other time, my flight was canceled into the airport where my hotel was located - and when I called Priceline, they happily refunded my money once I supplied the flight number. They verified that that flight had been canceled and that was it.

I don't recall now how I contacted them but it wasn't hard. The email I received was written by a real person, and the person I spoke to on the phone was real also.
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Old Jun 7th, 2009, 04:15 PM
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Just now I clicked on "Help" and "Contact Us" on Priceline's website - and I could send them an email (sort of) or call their 800 number right from there, if I had an accepted Priceline request (reservation) already. That must have been how I contacted them in the past.
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Old Jun 7th, 2009, 05:25 PM
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Thanks for the suggestions. Priceline isn't a good option for us. My daughter and I prefer 2 beds and Priceline only guarantees one. We tried Priceline once and ended up with a postage-stamp size room, plus we had to pay $25 for parking.

I realize that staying outside the city will require extra time for commuting, but we are up and out early and don't return to our room except to sleep. I just can't justify paying a lot for a place to sleep. Clean and safe is all we require. I always check Tripadvisor before booking.

I would like to hear from anyone who has made the loop from Portland to the gorge, to Hood River, to Mt Hood, and back to Portland. I am expecting this to take an entire day with lots of stops. Am I correct? What about the cruise through the gorge? Any input?
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Old Jun 7th, 2009, 06:01 PM
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True, Priceline isn't ideal in every situation. I use the site BetterBidding.com to do research on which possible hotels I might get in any particular zone, so I'm generally not surprised when I bid on Priceline. In the Convention Center - Lloyd Center zone, though, I don't think any of the hotels you'd likely get would have such tiny rooms and would be very likely to give you two beds if you call to add that preference to your reservation. I've used Priceline for hotels many times before and needed two beds sometimes and never had trouble getting them. But I wouldn't do that in, say, New York City or Chicago, where it's more likely to get a tiny room.

I guess I think Portland, unlike other cities, offers more of an experience by actually staying close to downtown vs. commuting all the way back to the airport. I think Portland is more than just a collection of sites you can check off your list and then go back to your hotel for the evening. I have definitely done the "train into the city/back to the hotel" method a few times and sometimes that works (e.g. Dallas recently), but I would never recommend that for Portland. There are many fun neighborhoods to walk around like the Pearl District and NW Portland or just around the waterfront. Being 45 minutes to an hour from your hotel each way greatly reduces your flexibility in being able to make spur-of-the-moment decisions on things to visit, etc. I just think you'd be missing out by staying all the way out by the airport just because you are afraid of not getting two beds with Priceline and/or paying a bit more - that's all.

As for the Gorge: there are numerous posts here about the Gorge and Hood River. - search for them. I have not done a full tour of the Gorge in a very long time (and never a cruise), but I've done the Columbia River Historic Highway drive many times, from Corbett, OR (off I-84) to Multnomah Falls and stopping at the viewpoints and numerous other waterfalls along the way, and I think you get the highlights from that in just a few hours. Hood River is a neat town and a cruise might be fun, but I'm not sure if I'd personally spend the time driving the loop up to Mt. Hood.

Just yesterday I visited the fabulous McMenamins Edgefield in Troutdale (gateway to the Gorge) and highly recommend you stop there for at least a visit. Wander around the building (an old poor farm mansion converted and restored to a complex of pubs and restaurants, etc.) and look at the unique pictures and murals, enjoy a free wine tasting, wander the beautiful grounds outside if it's a nice day, or eat at one of the restaurants on site. It's really a cool place.
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Old Jun 8th, 2009, 05:48 PM
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When we show visitors the Columbia River Gorge, we take I-84 to Corbett to access the Historic Columbia River Highway and drive that road as far as Moltnomath Falls (there are great views and several waterfalls along the way).

We return to I-84 and drive as far as the delightful town of Hood River. We walk around town, have lunch at Celilo, and then we continue on I-84 to Biggs Junction and cross the Columbia River to Maryhill where we visit Maryhill Museum and Maryhill Winery.

We drive back to Hood River on WA-14 for spectacular views of the gorge and Mt. Hood.

From Mt Hood we drive to Timberline Lodge on OR-35. We often have an early dinner at the lodge before returning to Portland.
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Old Jun 8th, 2009, 06:09 PM
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Thanks so much for the information.

Andrew - I have not heard of McMenamins Edgefield in doing research for this trip. It sounds like a great place to visit.

Happy Trails - The route you have described sounds perfect. I have printed off your directions.

I appreciate the advice for staying in downtown Portland. I will do some more research and possibly bid on Priceline as I get closer to the time of our trip. I didn't realize the trip from the airport to the downtown would take 45 minutes.
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