After three days and nights of experimentation, I have this visitor itinerary to recommend, all of it doable via the city's streetcar line.
LAX-Portland International Airport.
Take MAX to downtown, Southwest Yamhill Street and Southwest 10th Avenue stop. Fare $2.
Transfer to Portland Streetcar and ride to the Northwest district. Fare $1.70 to ride all day. Free in downtown's "fareless square." Streetcars run about every 15 minutes.
Check into the Inn @ Northrup Station, 2025 N.W. Northrup St., (503) 224-0543 or (800) 224-1180, www.northrupstation.com. Or the more upscale Hotel Lucia. Or the young and trendy Ace Hotel.
Browse the shops, markets, eateries and drinkeries on 23rd and 21st avenues.
Upscale dinner at 23 Hoyt, 529 N.W. 23rd Ave., (503) 445-7400, vwww.23hoyt.com. The menu is full of dishes such as pork from Carlton Farms (in the nearby Yamhill Valley) and lamb from Cattail Creek (in the Willamette Valley), accented by all manner of asparagus, morels, pea shoots, leeks and fennel.
Take streetcar to the Pearl District, which is thick with galleries, lofts that look like galleries, tea merchants, full-service bars.
Pause at the Tea Zone & Camellia Lounge, 510 N.W. 11th Ave.; (503) 221-2130, www.teazone.com. Try a "marTEAnis" and Yerba Maté ale.
Visit the EcoTrust Building, 721 N.W. 9th Ave., (503) 227-6225, www.ecotrust.org, an 1895 brick landmark that's been rehabbed since 1998 according to exacting green standards, from the garden on the roof to the weathered old floorboards. Its tenant include includes a pizza place and a Patagonia outlet.
Take the streetcar again, this time to downtown and Powell's City of Books, 1005 W. Burnside; (503) 228-4651, www.powells.com.
Then head to the Portland Art Museum, 1219 S.W. Park Ave.; (503) 226-2811, portlandartmuseum.org. Adults $10. It expanded in 2005, taking over the former Masonic Temple next door and refitting it to house modern and contemporary art.
A little before sunset (if you can tell where the sun is), head for the Portland City Grill, 111 S.W. 5th Ave., No. 30; (503) 450-0030, www.portlandcitygrill.com. It's perched on the 30th floor of a downtown high-rise. Easy elevator ride. Very comfortable. Stay for a steak dinner or head back to Northwest, defy the mania for all things local and have a northwestern southwestern dinner — that is, a spicy chicken enchilada — from Santa Fe Taqueria, 831 N.W. 23rd Ave.
Next, maybe take in a performance at Portland Center Stage, 1111 S.W. Broadway; (503) 248-4335, www.pcpa.com. It took over the 1891 Portland Armory Building and reopened last fall with a new performance space inside.
Then again, you could do indy movies instead at the newly opened Living Room, 341 S.W. 10th Ave.; (971) 222-2010, livingroomtheaters.com. Part restaurant and bar with big windows and lots of cedar, but principally a movie house, with six screening spaces designed to hold 40 to 60 viewers each in recliners and love seats and such. "It's all independent films," says box office associate Lisa Flaherty. "No Hollywood. And no film. It's all digital."
Breakfast: chocolate and coffee at St. Honoré Boulangerie, 2335 N.W. Thurman St.; (503) 445-4342, www.sainthonorebakery.com in Northwest.
Board a southbound car and ride it past Portland State University to the end of the line, to the South Waterfront, a formerly idle industrial zone and now Portland's next new neighborhood.
Ride the new Portland Aerial Tram, portlandtram.org, ($4) at the Oregon Health & Science University for a three-minute trip that delivers wraparound views of treetops, rooftops, downtown skyscrapers, at least four of the bridges that cross the Willamette and, on clear days, the snowy tops of Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Hood. 6 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays to Fridays and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays.
Then head back downtown for lunch at Bo Restobar downtown, off the lobby of the high-toned Hotel Lucia. 400 S.W. Broadway; (503) 225-1717 or (877) 225-1717, www.hotellucia.com.
Check out the bike pile at Southwest 10th Avenue and Southwest Oak Street. It's not public art. It's the stash of the Zoo Bombers, who gather on Sunday nights outside Rocco's Pizza & Pasta, 949 S.W. Oak St.; (503) 223-9835, www.roccospizza.org. Many pedal customized creations made from children's bicycles. Rookies borrow from the bike pile. First the Bombers catch a MAX train to the Oregon Zoo, 4001 S.W. Canyon Road; (503) 226-1561, www.oregonzoo.org, in the hills. Then they mount their bikes and hurtle through the dark down S.W. Fairview Boulevard and other steep residential streets.
Retreat to Jamison Square Park, in the Pearl District between northwest Johnson and Kearney streets. It has a burbling fountain and shaded benches. Observe pétanque, a game like bocce, or play.
Farewell dinner at Le Happy, a restaurant and bar that makes tremendous crepes and steak. That is followed by dessert in the distinguished quarters of Papa Haydn, where we sip apple and pear brandy from the Clear Creek Distillery, the fruit grown about an hour away, the distillery itself about 10 blocks off.