Walking Portland - a tale of many neighborhoods.
In this magic city, each neighborhood has its own unique personality, and walking is the best way to make their acquaintance.
The whole world knows that Portland is quirky. We have a neighborhood for every personality, and they are all beautiful. I especially appreciate the way neighborhoods and communities in our city live intertwined with commercial streets full of restaurants and shops, in every single Inner Portland quadrant. By the way we don’t have four, we have five, please don’t argue about semantics.
As soon as I landed here six years ago, I knew that if I was going to be a successful Real Estate agent, I needed to understand not only the unique character of each Portland quadrant but also each of their constituent neighborhoods. And I wanted to do it on foot.
I started walking Portland alone, and when my handsome dog Rufus joined me in 2016 I got the best walking partner in the universe. He gets me out of the house even in the middle of winter when, let's face it, it doesn't stop raining. The whole world knows it rains here, so lets come out and all say it: IT RAINS IN PORTLAND. Now let's never mention it again.
Portland scores higher than most cities when it comes to walkability, and when it comes to buying and selling real estate in Portland, I’d venture to say a neighborhood’s Walk Score can be more important to buyers than a home‘s energy score. (However, only one of them is mandatory - the City of Portland Home Energy Score ordinance took effect on January 1, 2018, and requires single-family homeowners to disclose a Home Energy Report and Score when they list their property for sale - but that's a topic for another post).
While a good walk score may seem like icing on a listing cake, in Portland, walk scores can actually be just as important as Gluten Free batter. There's no doubt about it - buyers love a good walk score. However, exactly how much a high walk score increases the value of your Portland property can depend on other factors, such as proximity to the city center, and here is where choosing a good real estate broker is key.
Walk score ranks addresses with a number between 0-100 to quantify how accessible to restaurants, shops, parks and other amenities that address is on foot. High scores (above 90) are considered a “walker's paradise” because no car is needed for daily errands. However, not all neighborhoods with a high walk score will score high in the beauty or affordability departments, and not all of them make my list of most enjoyable places to walk. In this post, I won‘t dwell on walk scores. Instead, I want to share with you what neighborhoods I LOVE to walk, and why.
"Portland's neighborhoods and communities live intertwined with commercial streets full of restaurants and shops, in every single Inner Portland quadrant. By the way we don’t have four, we have five, please don’t argue about semantics"
Perhaps the most well-known of Portland's walkable quadrants is the Northwest. It includes gems like Nob Hill, The Pearl, Hillside and Forest Park.
Highly desirable, and often accompanied by hefty house prices, these neighborhoods are all close to both our bustling downtown and the serenity and natural beauty of Forest Park, one of the largest urban forests in the country. Forest Park is truly stunning, and includes miles upon miles of trails, the most famous one being none other than ...the Wildwood trail! Within the park you can also find the Pittock Mansion, The Audubon Society of Portland, and Skyline Tavern, all worthy stops in your walking adventures. This park is 5,200 acres, so you will need many visits and each one will be different and special.
Some of the most beautiful houses I have seen and views I have experienced while walking in the city are in the Hillside neighborhood of NW portland. The mix of different architetural styles is awe inspiring.
"Down the street" from Forest park and Hillside is the part of town with the highest urban concentration, and quite frankly, one of the best urban walks in town. With rocking walk scores of over 95, Nob Hill and The Pearl are considered a ‘walkers paradise’. They boast magnificent old homes and buildings and some of the most fun commercial districts in the NW. A stroll down NW 23rd is a treat. I mean shops and restaurants inside historic houses? Sign me up!
NW Portland is hip, happening, visually stunning and full of natural beauty. Also, the Wildwood Realty office is here, in Nob Hill, so yeah, its fabulous.
Southwest Portland is very diverse: classy, urban and full of history. It includes Victorian rich neighborhoods like Goose Hollow, the luxurious streets of the SW Hills, the quieter and slightly more suburban feeling neighborhoods of Hillsdale and Multnomah Village, as well as Downtown Portland. It is vast, and if I am honest, not the easiest to walk around. Some of the SW areas are better suited for cars than bikes or pedestrians, but the individual neighborhoods still have little centers of action where you can find shops and restaurants. There’s also Washington Park, which is located next to Forest Park, but on the SW side of Burnside St. The best walk here is the Hoyt Arboretum, hands down, unless you want to read a book at the end of your walk, in which case, you get a ticket to the Japanese Garden.
Aside from Hoyt, one of my favorite places to walk in SW is Goose Hollow. With it’s fabulous walk score of 93, it is also one of our oldset neighborhoods. It is so close to downtown, yet so different. One immediately notices the mix of new modern buildings and old, grand Portland homes. I especially love the shade provided by old trees lining the narrow streets of old houses. I like narrow streets. Is that weird? I would argue they are cozy, like a house can be cozy. I enjoy strolling through and around King Avenue the most.
If I had to choose a second SW neighborhood to walk in, it would be Multnomah Village. Fun commercial center, beautiful homes in big lots among hills, and a modern Community Center located next to the large Gabriel Park are my favorite things here. But sidewalks are not always available, so be warned. An honorable mention to ending your walks at Baker and Spice in Hillsdale, my favorite bakery in the area.
I have walked North Portland the least, but it does have some of my favorite neighborhoods for long walks. Obviously walking over the St. Johns Bridge needs to be something you do immediately upon moving to Portland. North Portland includes the Overlook, Arbor Lodge, Kenton and St.Johns neighborhoods. None of them have a walk score higher than 72, but I would argue that depends very specifically on address, because if you live close to the bridge in St. John’s, you have everything you need close by. I love walking in St. Johns. The best thing about North Portland neighborhoods is that they still feel like the old Portland many locals remember and talk about. This neighborhood is friendly and relaxing and I never ever leave without eating Tacos at Tienda Santa Cruz. A little in between these neighborhoods and NE Portland are the Boise and Elliot neighborhoods, where you can find the popular Williams and Mississippi Avenues, which score higher in walkability and are well known for being hotspots for shopping and eating, but maybe not so much for scenic walking.
These rapidly gentrifying areas do still hold some Old Portland magic, including many historic homes, the Broadway bridge, and of course the 31 foot tall statue of Paul Bunyan. Funky and beautiful, North Portland needs more prominent featuring on my walks.
Northeast Portland is cool. If I'm going out walking on a foggy Fall morning, I always go walk somewhere in NE Portland. NE Portland residents love Holiday decorating and do it right. I put on my headphones to binge a true crime podcast, and I can walk here for hours. Alberta, Woodlawn, Alameda, Rose City Park, Hollywood, Beaumont and Irvington are all excellent spots to explore on foot. While official Walk Scores vary widely, they all score high with me for enjoyable long walks. Wisteria Drive in Alameda is among my favorite narrow streets. The grandiose homes of Irvington are among my favorite to photograph, and the Hollywood Theater on Sandy Blvd is sure to take your breath away. I also love walking Laurelhurst in the fall but I choose the sunny days for that so I can walk under the canopies of trees in shades of yellow. It‘s breathtaking. NE is both elegant and diverse, most streets are flat, and almost every neighborhood has nice wide sidewalks for your walking pleasure.
I saved the best for last, in my very biased opinion. Southeast Portland is BIG. It goes pretty far east in fact, to about 174th Ave. I can speak for having discovered phenomenal Mexican grocery stores far in SE Portland, but I haven't walked there frequently. Inner SE Portland on the other hand, I walk daily. SE Portland is fun, quirky and colorful and just a joy to walk around in. Walk Scores here vary but can be as high as 95. Some of the amazing walking neighborhoods of SE include Buckman, Hawtorne, Sunnyside, Ladd's Addition, Reed, Woodstock, Sellwood, Mt. Tabor and Montavilla (Montavilla is partly in NE as well, but I live in the SE side of Montavilla, so I decided to include it in this quadrant).
If you are hunting for some amazing historic homes to see and photograph, the Buckman neighborhood and Ladds addition are the places to explore.
When it comes to funky in Portland, you can’t beat the Sunnyside and Hawthorne districts. I like walking here alone, so I can walk into all the thrift and vintage shops and end the morning with a juice at Kure or Harlow. For me, this area has it all: sweet parks, friendly schools, beautiful houses of every style and size, fun bars, restaurants and shops and an incredible sense that those who live here find community. Full disclosure: both my kids attend schools in this area, and I do feel the community love here.
Up Belmont St and a short walk from Sunnyside, you find the Mt. Tabor and Montavilla neighborhoods. Similar to Forest Park and Washington Park, Mt Tabor offers an escape within the city, but Mt Tabor has the bonus of being home to some of the most beautiful mid century homes in the city, as well as views of Mt Hood that take my breath away every time. I live in Montavilla, home to the most charming little strip of local shops and restaurants in all of Portland, and ending your walk from Mt. Tabor with a cardamom roll from Hungry Heart bakery will remind you of why you live here.
SE Portland is my home yes, but it is objectively a fantastic place to walk and have a perfectly Portland day.
So which is the perfect neighborhood for you?
Portland is a special place. In recent years, Portland has seen a lot of changes and neighborhoods are growing and changing FAST. Any good real estate agent can give you market trends and facts, and should be able to guide you through a transaction, but when it comes to buying or selling a home, you should take care in choosing an agent that knows the city well, who takes the time to understand the neighborhoods and their residents, their unique culture and their quirks. If you are a seller, this will be key to being able to fully understand the market, and how to advertise your house to the right buyers. On the flip side, if you are a buyer, you need an agent who takes the time to understand YOU and YOUR needs in order to match you with the right neighborhood. Look for an agent who takes the time to go on a walk with you, and I promise it will tell you more about who they are and how well they know the business than an office meeting ever will.