1. Gay Kayaking
I got back to fabulously outdoorsy Portland, Oregon, for the first time in over a year. Even I, a renowned sloth, can't resist the energetic options Oregon offers. I went kayaking round Sauvie Island, home to local luminaries, Gus Van Sant and Pennie Lane, with the lovely Kyle Sheeley from Out Kayaking and kayaks from Scapoose Bay Kayaking.
2. Deer Me, How Weird!
Bumper stickers proclaim "Keep Portland Weird" and the city is as endearingly quirky as I remember it. It's still the only city I've visited recently with an official doughnut -- and the only place I know where you can get married while waiting for your Maple Frosteds to be boxed up. You'll find a plethora of Portland Cremes and the men who can marry you, 24 hours a day, at Voodoo Doughnuts (22 S.W. 3rd Ave.).
3. Lesbians Take the Cake
Portland wins accolades as America's most bike-friendly city. Those exploring the city on two wheels can stop by lesbian baker Amanda Felt's scrumptious Black Sheep Bakery (833 S.E. Main St.) and roll up to the bike-thru window for caffeine and cake. To see the city by bike, book an emerging hoods tour or a caffeine crawl with Pedal Bike Tours (503-916-9704)
If you're more in the mood for the hard stuff, stop by Portland's Distillery Row and pick up a bottle of local gin, vodka, or Aqua Vit from House Spirits microdistillery (2025 S.E. 7th Ave.). Their limited edition Apothecary Line spirits (with individually letter-pressed labels) will tempt you to stock up on high-proof creations from ouzo to absinthe.
4. Floral Beauty
To escape the city, duck into the gorgeous Chinese Gardens (127 N.W. 3rd Ave.) and pause and reflect over a flight of teas in the gracious, two-story teahouse.
Up-and-coming neighborhood Mississippi gives a good taste of the city's quirky character with lesbian and gay-popular coffeehouses such as Fresh Pot (4001 N. Mississippi Ave.) and tasty tables at the lively Por Que No (3524 N. Mississippi Ave.).
One of the best restaurants I've eaten at, Japanese haven Bamboo Sushi (310 S.E. 28th Ave.) in South East Portland, lives up to its motto of "sustainable, delectable, possible" with ocean-wise seafood choices approved by Monterey Aquarium.
5. Dressed to the Nines
Portland's deliciously decadent Nines Hotel (525 S.W. Morrison Street; 877-229-9995; $126+) swooped right to the top of my favorite hotels list. This exquisite take on nouveau Portland is perched atop the old Meier and Frank department store (now Macy's), kitty corner from Portland's living room, Pioneer Square. Every downtown delight is within easy sashaying distance, including restaurants, bars, the waterfront, Portland Art Museum, and legendary bookstore, Powell's. The Nines' lobby is a thing of beauty. A striking seven-story atrium soars up to a vast skylight, elegant mannequins pose, and imposing, glass cabana-esque structures loom to the right and left as you stroll into the space, giving the impression there are open skies above.
6. A New Perspective on Portland
Transformed from the dowdy old Portland Inn City Center to an irresistibly hip haven, courtesy of a multi-million dollar renovation and a transfusion of mid-century retro-modern style, Modera (515 S.W. Clay St., 503-484-1084; $80+) opened in June 2008. From the minute I sashayed into the lobby I was impressed by the d?cor: by the generous chaise lounges, laden with russet and striking black and white cushions, backdropped by glowing pebble lamps; by the bold modern art and sculptures that grace the long, low space; and by the courtyard's fire pits -- although these were somewhat subdued by an enthusiastic dose of Oregon's famed "liquid sunshine" during my visit.