PORTLAND -- A visitor to the City of Roses can sum up the town with the four Bs: Bikes, brunches, beer and bacon.
This West Coast city, with a long history of docks and railroads, has become a place that offers entertainment and gourmet dining, all accessible through a dependable public transit system.
Incorporated in 1851, the city got its name when one of the founders won a coin toss and named it after his hometown in Maine.
While it still has an active train and shipyard, Portland is home to many tech start-ups, along with fitness giants such as Nike and Adidas.
The weather is typical to the Pacific Northwest, so other than mid-June through August, rain is a daily occurrence. Make sure to bring rain gear.
Recently, as parodied on the IFC show "Portlandia," the city became known for its love of all things organic, locally-sourced, hand-crafted and creative.
Yet with all its hipster stereotypes, there is still plenty for families to see and do in what locals refer to as the City of Roses, Stumptown or PDX.
Portland on wheels
Getting around the city is easy. Portland is divided into quadrants, which can be further separated into districts or neighborhoods, such as Pearl or Hawthorne.
Besides cabs and car rentals, visitors can use bus, light-rail, street car and aerial tram, said Megan Conway, Travel Portland vice president of communications and public relations.
"It's a really good town for a car-free vacation," Conway said.
The light rail system, called MAX, will take visitors directly from the airport into downtown.
Buses run at regular intervals throughout the day.
A public transit pass is not zoned, and will take you anywhere in the city. It is available in a $5 all-day pass or $2.50 for a two-hour pass.
Another good way to see the city is on a bicycle.
Along with being public transit-friendly, Portland bills itself is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the United States.
"A lot of hotels have bikes in their lobbies for free or rent," Conway said. "A lot of shops rent and provide bikes for tourists as well."
With a bike, visitors can enjoy the local scenery and visit the local shops by joining a themed group ride.
The group rides vary in difficulty and theme, ranging from the Ice Cream Ride, where families bike around town buying a cone from shops all over town, to 100-mile-long century rides.
For a list of available rides, visit shift2bikes.org/cal, rideoregonride.com/events or www.rubbertotheroad.com.
Voodoo and vintage
Downtown is home to the Portland Art Museum, Oregon History Museum and historic districts such as Chinatown.
For those looking to take a leisurely stroll, within a half-mile of downtown's Pioneer Courthouse Square are shops such as the famous Voodoo Doughnut, with its maple-bacon doughnuts, or the block-long new and used bookstore Powell's Books, as well as national department stores, where visitors can enjoy Oregon's tax-free shopping.
A block away from the square is Rocket Fizz, 535 SW 6th Ave., a candy and novelty gift shop that opened its doors about a month ago.
"For me as an American, in our culture, we have memories that aren't that old," Rocket Fizz owner Darren Gaspary said. "We have gag gifts and novelty gifts to make people smile."
Gaspary said the store carries 500 flavors of soda and 3,000 types of candy from around the world.
"Everyone's a kid," Gaspary said. "Some have more experience than others."
For those looking for something retro, the town is lousy with vintage shops.
Since the 1960s, Paul Bassett, owner of Avalon Antiques & Vintage Clothes, 410 SW Oak St., has sold high quality vintage items from the 1840s to the present.
His shop downtown carries a variety of items, including fancy timepieces, straw boater hats and classic cocktail dresses.
Basset said through his years there, the oddest thing he carried in his shop was a collection of items from Papua New Guinea, including masks, sculptures and shields.
"It's the weirdest thing we've ever had," Bassett said.
For a list of vintage shops in the Portland area, visit www.shopvintageportland.com.
During the weekend, visit the Saturday market off of Naito Parkway in the Skidmore Fountain area: a large weekly arts fair where local vendors display and sell handcrafted items such as jewelry, soaps, ceramics and metal work.
To get an authentic shopping experience, be sure to head over the river and into the Hawthorne District to hit trendy local boutiques, music shops and gift stores.
Coming up roses
For a one-stop cultural experience, be sure to visit Washington Park, home to the Oregon Zoo, World Forestry Center-Discovery Museum, Portland's Children Museum and the International Rose Test Garden.
The zoo sits on 64 acres and specializes in conservation, breeding endangered species including Asian elephants, Peruvian penguins and polar bears.
The International Rose Test Garden was established in 1917 and offers about 590 varieties. It is one of 24 official testing sites for the All-America Rose Selections.
"It's a nice hub for family travel," Conway said.
To get there, take a ride on the red or blue MAX line heading to Beaverton/Hillsboro.
On the same line is the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, 1945 SE Water Ave., which -- along with a variety of science exhibits -- offers tours inside the USS Blueback, a retired Barbel class submarine, used in the filming of "Hunt for Red October."
Across from OMSI is the Oregon Rail Heritage Interpretive Center, which displays three steam locomotives.
Food cart fame
When visitors get hungry, do as the locals do and hit a food pod -- a collection of food carts selling cuisine from around the world.
Chris Shenk is the owner of Steaks on Fifth Avenue, off of 5th Avenue and Stark Street, which sells Philly cheesesteaks with optional bacon toppings.
Shenk said he is one of the first carts to open up in a food pod.
"This is one of the original spots that opened up," Shenk said. "I was one of three spots that opened up 16 years ago."
Pods can now be found throughout the city, filling up vacant lots and parking spaces, selling food throughout the day and into the night.
The City of Roses also prides itself on its local cuisine. With farm and wine country just outside of the city, much of the food sold in restaurants comes from the area.
"It's become more of that in the past six to seven years," Conway said. "Portland is one of the first to do the farm to table."
Conway said taking advantage of the happy hour discounts at one of the many brewpubs and restaurants is a great way to eat and try out more places than getting a full meal.
"Portland is a big happy hour town," Conway said, "which has nothing to do with drinks."
But the meal that Portlanders take most seriously is brunch.
Lines will snake around the corner of popular brunch establishments such as the Screen Door, 2337 E. Burnside St., where brunchers can order a blackened tofu and three-egg scramble or praline bacon waffles.
Whatever the choices, Portland is a good place for a car-free vacation.
"I think it just has a nice balance of outdoor recreation and a city feel," Conway said. "There is also an element of the personality and the craftmakers that you won't find anywhere else. It's just a really fun place to explore."