Summer Family Vacation Part II: Portland, Oregon

Here's Part II of our Pacific Northwest family summer vacation.  We left Seattle in the early afternoon and headed to Portland.  As soon as we were out of the city, the weather started to clear up and we were happy to see blue skies and sunshine! 

We arrived at our rented apartment from AirBnB, unloaded our suitcases from the car and freshened up for dinner.  Our AirBnB was in a great location close to so many of the best food spots in town!  We met up for dinner at the Country Cat with some good friends who'd moved to Portland a couple of years ago from Las Vegas. The restaurant was small and cozy and we had a great table right up against the window and not in the middle of the restaurant.  That was great for us with the kiddos! Afterwards we made our way to Salt & Straw on SE Division St. for ice cream.  The ice cream shop had a long line and we probably waited a good 30 minutes before we had our ice cream, but it was worth it! Plus, time went by fast since we were chatting and catching up! Thank goodness our apartment was just around the corner, because we were stuffed and ready for bed. 

 Before heading out  to explore on Monday, we grabbed breakfast at one of the awesome food truck pods that are all over the city.  We chose Fried Egg I'm in Love because they had great reviews on Yelp and with breakfast sandwich names like  Smells Like Protein Spirit and Free-Range Against the Machine, we knew they'd be good! They did not disappoint. Bellies full we took off on our day trip to the Colombia River Gorge area and got to see the famous Multmonah Falls and drive along the river and visit the countryside. We were a little early in the season for berry or cherry picking but we got to feed and pet some alpacas so that totally made up for it! Plus, the craft beers and gourmet food truck at the Gorge White House really hit the spot after our long day.  Once we were back in Portland we picked up some groceries at New Seasons Market. It's a local(ish)grocery store chain in Portland/Vancouver areas that is similar to Whole Foods.  We were beat after our long day but so happy we got to spend some time in nature and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

We planned to stay in Portland on Tuesday.  We started our day with a cool make-your-own-pancakes place called Slappy Cakes.  The food was ok and the pancakes weren't amazing, but the kids really enjoyed making their pancakes into different shapes! It's a nice place for kids, but don't expect an amazing meal.  We did lots of walking and sightseeing in Portland and visiting a lot of the major attractions, such as the Japanese Garden, the International Rose Testing Garden, Voodoo Donuts, Powell's Bookstore, and eating from yet more food trucks.   We met up for dinner with our friends again at Deschutes Brewery and Public House, which was another not-so-great place.  The wait was long, the food was mediocre, and the service was poor. We were disappointed, especially since there are so many other good places to to eat at in Portland. I don't recommend it. 

We took another road trip on our 3rd day to visit the Oregon Coast.  Seriously would love to spend a full weekend out there!  The coast is so beautiful and we really enjoyed Cannon Beach and Astoria! We got back to Portland just in time for dinner and we chose to visit another food cart pod, this one was on SE 28th Pl and Division. We were totally diggin' the vibe there and we all ended up picking up our meals from different carts! Diego had pizza, they actually had a brick oven! Elysse chose mini corn dogs (not so adventurous this day) Jason had sushi, and I chose Indian.  We were pretty tired from our trip, so rather than eat it there, we took it with us and enjoyed a nice quite evening at the apartment. I also took advantage of the washer and dryer and ran a load of laundry.  Not exactly what you want to be doing on vacation, but it was just 1 load and it made packing easier. Plus, it was one less thing to do when I got back home!  

 Our last day started off with a quick breakfast in the apartment while we, and by we, I mean mostly I, packed everything up to check out.  We then met up with our friends for lunch at Lardo.  Do yourself a favor and go there for lunch next time you're in Portland.  I crave their Korean Pork Shoulder sandwich and the Pork Meatball Banh Mi! So so good!! The rest of our day was spent at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry! I didn't think we would spend the entire day there, but there was so much to see and do that it really did fill up our whole day. Then it was off to PDX to head back home to Las Vegas! One worse thing about the flights back home to Vegas is that they're usually filled with folks ready to party, while we're always tired and grumpy our vacation is ending and theirs is just starting! LOL 

Seriously though, it's hard when vacations end but I'm always so grateful we got to go! We visited some amazing places, enjoyed cool weather, ate some delicious food, and made lifelong memories together.  What more could we ask for?!? What are some fun places you've visited this summer? I'd love to hear some of your favorite vacation spots ever too! 

Summer Family Vacation Part I: Seattle, WA

As I mentioned in my last post, I got to run the Rock N Roll Seattle Half Marathon last month. And, having never been to the Pacific Northwest, we decided to make it a family vacation, adding Portland and the Oregon coast to our trip.  Today, I'll be sharing all about our weekend in Seattle first and Part II will go into our 4 days Oregon.

Since our trip ended in Portland, that's where we flew into.  Whenever we have trips where we are visiting a few cities or doing a road trip once we land, I prefer to fly into the city we'll be visiting last.  The main reasons I prefer to do this are 1: Renting a car one-way is a lot more expensive than returning it at the same airport.  2: It's less stressful to be near your airport at departure than having to calculate for a few hours drive.  I'd hate to miss our flight due to unforeseen traffic or getting lost. 

The drive to Seattle from Portland took longer than anticipated due to traffic, but we had plenty of time to pick up my race packet at the expo and then make our way to Pioneer Square for our walking tour by Beneath the Streets.  We'd heard about these tours from some friends and when I saw they were giving 1 complimentary tour to Rock N Roll runners, I figured we'd give it a try.  We don't normally do group tours on vacation because I prefer a more authentic vibe, plus with little ones, you just never know if they'll find them interesting.  Well, to my surprise the kids, who aren't so little anymore, did enjoy the tour.  They found it interesting and even asked some really good questions to our tour guide.  Afterwards, we stayed in the area and enjoyed some of the fun games they had in the square.  

Our next stop was Pike Place Market.  The market was closing when we arrived but it was still super crowded.  I know this is an icon Seattle tourist spot, but I wasn't really impressed.  I think there were just way too many people walking around aimlessly and being, well, tourists.  We originally planned to walk around the market, watch the famous fish throwing, and eat from a few of the popular food places.  With the market closing, we didn't get to see much and we only made it to one place Beecher's Handmade Cheese for some mac n cheese.  It was cool to see the cheese making process through the window, but it wasn't really amazing mac n cheese.  The best part was seeing all the beautiful flower stands.

Afterwards, we checked into our hotel room for the night and we were all so tired & a bit cranky from waking up early for our flight and walking around all day, that we just ordered a pizza and salad and had it in our room.  

It was another early morning for me on Sunday to get up and run the half marathon.  It was a great course and I really enjoyed it and the VIP lounge area.  You can read the race recap on my previous post HERE.  After the race, we made our way to Seattle Center for a closer look at the Space Needle and to grab some lunch before making our way to Portland! I wish we would/could have spent more time in this area.  I would like to go back and check out some of the museums, but we still enjoyed our time walking around the pretty gardens and the kids had a blast at the playground there.  Our last stop was to go see the Fremont Troll under the Aurora Bridge.  Such a quirky spot and I'm so glad we got to see it! 

Although it was a bit of a whirlwind, our weekend in Seattle was a ton of fun.  Coming from Vegas, we welcomed the gloomy and rainy weather.  It never really rained but we did have a few drizzles.  Ideally, I think 3 days in Seattle would have been perfect and would have allowed us to visit a museum or two and not crammed so much into 2 days.  

Have you been to Seattle? Besides the museums, what else would you recommend we do or see on our next trip to Seattle? What side trips would be worth a visit from Seattle? Thanks for stopping by and be sure to come back for the rest of our PNW trip!  

Seattle Rock n Roll Half Marathon + VIP Experience Recap

Last month I got to run the Seattle Rock N Roll Half Marathon as a member of the Rock ‘n’ Blog team.  As part of the team, I received a Global Tour Pass, which allows me to run any of their races worldwide (travel costs not included). I also received 1 complimentary VIP Experience upgrade for my choice of race.  

Having not been to the Pacific Northwest before, we decided to turn this into our summer family vacation and we added Portland and the Oregon coast to our trip.  I'll be sharing some of the highlights from our trip soon, but for now I'm just going to recap the race ;) 

We arrived at the expo for packet pickup early Saturday afternoon and it was super quick and easy to get my packet.  The expo was busy and felt a little crowded, but this is normal for such a big event.  I waited in a small line to pick up my VIP Pass.  I was super excited to check out the VIP experience since I'd never done it before and let me tell you, it was fancy! VIP Experiences range in price per event. The Pre-Race Experience begins at $45 and the full VIP Experience is $75+, with Las Vegas being the priciest of them all at over $200! This is in addition to the cost of the race registration.  

View from the Pre-Race VIP area

View from the Pre-Race VIP area

Here's what you get when you upgrade to VIP status + my experience from each of the perks. 

  • Reserved Parking: There was no on-site parking at the start line, so the reserved parking for this race was for parking at the shuttle area.  Since I was being dropped off, this did not really apply to me.
  • VIP Shuttles: Didn't use it since I was being dropped off, but it was super early and I want to say it was even earlier than the general shuttles.  
  • Private Gear Check: This was awesome! The gear check truck was located right by the VIP Lounge area both for the start and finish line! 
  • Pre-Race Continental Breakfast & Coffee: This was another great option.  They offered all the basic runner breakfast foods: bananas, peanut butter, muffins, bagels, yogurt parfaits, plus coffee, tea, water.  There were plenty of tables and chairs too.  
  • Private Restrooms: Worth it! Oh, so worth it! Indoor bathroom with no line and actual flushing toilets! That would have been good enough, but they also had feminine products, deodorant, hair spray, Vaseline, sunblock, wipes, etc.  Talk about being spoiled! For the Seattle venue, they offered the restrooms that were inside the stadiums and adjacent to the VIP area, inside the stadium.  
  • Private VIP Lounge: The set up was really nice and private. There was plenty of seating.  However, I will say that I'm not a real social butterfly, so it was kinda lonely. Normally, if I'm running alone the hubs will be with me for moral support and company until it's almost race time.  I did speak to a few other runners and such, but I think this would be way more fun with a friend or group.
  • Post-Race Massage: When I went over to check this out, there was a pretty long list of names ahead of me.  Since I didn't purchase VIP passes for my family that was waiting outside for me, I didn't want them to wait too much longer, so I didn't stay.  However, there were about 4 massage therapists and it looked like some legit massages.  Not chair massages and they were about 10-15 minutes long.
  • Yoga Stretching Area: They also had an area with mats for stretching and foam rollers.  I took advantage of this and loved it!
  • Post-Race Changing Tents: At the Seattle race they didn't offer the tents, but we were able to change in the indoor bathrooms in the stadium.  It was so awesome to just grab my bag from gear check and be able to change into clean dry clothes and freshen up! Seriously, it was awesome
  • Catered Buffet:  They offered a post-race brunch too at Seattle and I'm not sure if they offer this at every race but it was a great spread. They had fruits, salad, sandwiches, pasta, fish, bread, desserts! Lots of options to choose from!
  • VIP Bar: The Bar only had beer, but a mimosa would have been nice too! The beers were unlimited but I didn't want to be a lush, so I only had 2 :) 
  • Exclusive View of the Post-Race Concert: For Seattle this was awesome! Because the VIP area was at the top of the stadium stairs and the concert was at the bottom courtyard area, we had a great view of the entire post-race festival.  

So, is it worth the extra cost? In my opinion, yes, it can be worth it.  If you only run a few races or even just one race a year, if you have the extra funds and want to treat yourself, or as a gift from someone! It's definitely a fun experience to try at least once!

Now, on to the race itself.  It was a lot better than I expected.  Coming from Las Vegas, I was really enjoying the cool overcast weather and all the green!!! The course was beautiful and ran alongside the water and gorgeous homes.  It wasn't as hilly as I was expecting it to be and I was very grateful for that!  There weren't as many spectators on the on-course as other Rock N Roll races, but I still think it was a great race with plenty of entertainment, scenery, and fun! 

Gear check and then right up those stairs to VIP area or you can use the VIP elevator.  I'll let you guess which one I chose ;)

Gear check and then right up those stairs to VIP area or you can use the VIP elevator.  I'll let you guess which one I chose ;)

The post-race brunch spread! So tasty!!! 

The post-race brunch spread! So tasty!!! 

Great vantage point of the post-race concert! 

Great vantage point of the post-race concert! 

Have you ever purchased the additional VIP Experience package? What are your thoughts? Worth it? Wast of money? Would love to hear what you think!