People tend to go to Portland for one reason above all others. But that reason varies mightily. It might be the wonderfully wide-ranging restaurant scene (from countless food carts to the don’t-dare-miss-it Thai treasure Pok Pok); the country’s most revered big bookstore, Powell’s Books; the hipster vibe, or as a gateway to Pinot Noir Heaven, the Willamette Valley 30 miles to the southwest.
But in summertime, there’s no better impetus to go than the clunkily named International Rose Test Garden.
Tumbling down a hillside in Washington Park, the garden boasts killer views of the city and Mount Hood. But all eyes should be trained on the myriad blooms. Who knew there were so many shades of orange, pink, red, yellow and violet? Or so many ways to use white to punch up said colors in multi-hued eye-poppers?
The name is actually accurate — new hybrids have been tried out there since 1917, making this the nation’s oldest continuously operated rose test garden. But there’s also a casual feel to the endless tiers of shrubs and vines, and visitors’ reverence for roses tends to make for peaceful strolls.
The lone downside for Minnesotans: You’ll never look at that perfectly nice rose garden on Lake Harriet’s east side the same way again.