With Bathing Spas And Dreamy Nature, Portland Is Emerging As A Top Wellness Destination
When it comes to emerging wellness destinations, few cities have as much to offer as Portland, Oregon. This Pacific Northwest gem has created its own distinct version of wellness travel, complete with sustainable exploration, tasty vegan food, meditative gardens, and epic nature that will restore every part of your being. Plus, “The City of Roses” has a couple of bathing spas where you can wash away even the most stubborn stresses that have been weighing you down.
Here’s how to infuse your trip to Portland with wellness and self-care.
Explore the City on Two Wheels
The absolute best way to explore Portland—especially on a wellness trip—is on two wheels. After all, it was the first major city in the U.S. to be named a Platinum Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists back in 2008, and it has continued to earn awards for its bike-ability ever since.
You can easily hop on a bike from Portland’s bike-share program, Biketown, for some independent exploration. Single rides start at $1 to unlock the bike, plus 20 cents per minute of ride time, likely getting you where you need to go for less than the cost of a taxi or Uber.
Better yet, consider taking the Intro to Portland Bike Tour from Pedal Bike Tours. The guided three-hour experience will take you through some of Portland’s prettiest and most popular neighborhoods by bike. Along the way, you’ll see Henry Weinhard’s 140-year-old brewery, pedal through a university campus, and cross the Willamette River, pausing to appreciate views of majestic Mt. Hood along the way.
Meditate in the Japanese Garden
Wellness feels effortless at the Portland Japanese Garden. This renowned attraction, considered one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Asia, is a pristine paradise of tranquil natural beauty. While the garden is one of the top attractions in the city, it’s filled with quiet hideaways that make perfect spots for a meditation session: mossy rocks near trickling streams, cozy chairs nestled against the sandy zen garden, or the rustic area outside of the Kashintei Tea House. Simply meandering along the calm paths through the 12-acre garden can be a meditative experience in and of itself. It’s both literally and figuratively a breath of fresh air.
Don’t miss the bonsai collection, featuring stunning miniature trees that are hundreds of years old. Contemplating the tenderness caretakers have shown these plants over the centuries is truly humbling.
Get Lost in a Sea of Books
There’s something deeply restorative about surrounding yourself with books—and Powell’s Bookstore might be the ultimate place for literature therapy on your wellness trip to Portland. Also called the “City of Books,” Powell’s flagship in downtown Portland’s Pearl District boasts more than 1 million books, making it the largest indie bookstore in the world. Grab a coffee from the in-store Guilder Cafe, then make your way through some of the bookstore’s nine color-coded rooms. Wandering through this wonderland of tomes feels like self-care for your soul.
Immerse Yourself in Nature
More than just a great place for walking and biking, Portland is also one of the best cities for hiking. It’s home to one of the country’s largest urban parks: Forest Park, a 5,200-acre refuge for native plants and wildlife. The park contains an impressive 80-plus miles of trails—more than enough space to stretch your legs and find wellness through nature.
Not sure where to start? The urban hiking excursion from Around Portland Tours makes for a fantastic introduction to Forest Park. Guides take small groups of travelers on a part of the famed Wildwood Trail, pointing out important trees, funky creatures (like banana slugs), and manmade attractions, including the Witch’s Castle (ruins of an old rest stop now covered in graffiti).
You’ll eventually make your way to the Pittock Mansion, a historic home that offers expansive views of Portland and the surrounding mountains, before heading down to Washington Park. The tour wraps up at the International Rose Test Garden, so you can immerse yourself in colorful blooms and floral fragrance for the rest of the afternoon, if you so choose.
Soak in Bathhouses
No wellness trip would be complete without some spa time. Portland’s Knot Springs is just the place to go to soak your body after a day of biking and hiking. The wellness social club’s bathhouse offers a 10-step relaxation circuit that starts with a hot shower and a house-made exfoliant scrub. Then, you’ll make your way through a variety of pools, including cold plunges, bubbly hot tubs, and warm still baths, all tucked beneath a canopy of plants. You can also hit the sauna and sweat it out in the herbal fusion steam room in between your dips and soaks. When you’re ready to wind down, head outside to the al fresco lounge area where you can relax on a reclining chair and watch the city bustle in the distance with a cup of tea in hand. The outdoor deck is westward facing, so you’re in for a visual treat come sunset.
For an even more low-key, yet no less restorative spa-style experience, make your way to Common Ground Wellness Cooperative. This neighborhood-focused wellness center welcomes visitors to enjoy its serene saltwater hot pool and dry cedar sauna in the sunny courtyard. Most guests take their soaks in the buff at this swimsuit-optional spa. Common Ground’s rules to be mindful of your gaze and avoid conversations with strangers help make the space feel comfortable and safe though, so if you’ve ever wondered about what it’s like to experience a nude-friendly spa, this is the place to do it. Regardless of how much (or little) clothing you wear, you’re sure to leave this spa feeling deeply relaxed.
Nosh on Vegan Fare
If you weren’t vegan before coming to Portland, you might be by the time your wellness trip ends. The city brims with vegan cuisine, ranging from nutritious to downright decadent (hey, there’s no rule that wellness requires strict adherence to a healthy diet).
Farmhouse Kitchen, a festive Thai restaurant in downtown Portland, offers vegan curries and a flavor-packed herbal rice salad (khao yum) with toasted coconut, peanuts, shallots, lemongrass, cilantro, sliced long peans, chili, kaffir lime, and tamarind dressing. The cooks steam the rice with butterfly pea flowers to give it a blue hue, and it’s as pretty as it is tasty.
Fermenter has you covered when it comes to refueling with nutrient-dense, gut-friendly meals (and refreshing wine slushies) after a hike. Its veggie bowls are particularly popular and offer the chance to try a little bit of everything: local quinoa, braised beans, kale salad, North Coast kraut, and seasonal produce, along with your choice of yogurt, miso, or spicy herb chili sauce (or all three!). Add on the millet-lentil tempeh for a boost of protein.
For vegan comfort food ahead of a night on the town, fill up at Plant Based Papi in Fortune bar. Helmed by renowned chef Jewan Manuel, this inventive restaurant whips up vegan takes on old school favorites, like Nashville “chicken” sandwiches, double double burgers, crispy mushroom-based calamari, and jackfruit street tacos. The jalapeño mac will give you a new appreciation for vegan cheese.