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Old Town Portland Remains a To-See Destination

The area where Portland started in Old Town and Old Town Chinatown  is just as vital today as some 100 years ago. It is home to some of the city’s most beloved attractions, nightlife options and art galleries.portlandoregon2592nm071610
Constructed of materials shipped directly from Suzhou, China, Lan Su Chinese Garden is considered one of the most authentic Chinese gardens in the country. A two-story teahouse pavilion overlooks a tranquil pond and meticulously tended foliage and the garden’s annual Chinese New Year celebrations are a community tradition.
The Portland Saturday Market brings hundreds of artists, craftspeople and food vendors together under the west end of the Burnside Bridge on Saturdays and Sundays from March to December.
And no Portland to-do list is complete without a visit to Voodoo Doughnut. Oddball delights like the maple bacon bar draw crowds to this kitschy-cool institution, open 24 hours a day.
The monthly First Thursday art event includes free shows and refreshments at dozens of galleries and stores throughout Old Town Chinatown, downtown and the Pearl District.
Circle the block at the Everett Station Lofts to check out more than a dozen different mini-galleries. Flashback street fashions, Japanese gadgets and prints by local artists line the walls at Compound Gallery, while Upper Playground’s Fifty24PDX gallery features collectible toys and comic-style prints. More art in a similar vein is on offer at Floating World Comics and the adjoining Grass Hutgallery.
Retro fun abounds at Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade, with two floors of old-school, quarter-operated video games such as Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and Tetris. There’s a full bar and DJs spin tunes in the evenings.
The female impersonation revue at Darcelle XV Showplace has been a local entertainment legend since 1967. Held nightly Wednesdays through Saturdays, the glitzy extravaganzas are still emceed by the grande dame herself, Darcelle XV, who turned 80 in 2010.
More restrained evening entertainment comes at Wilfs, a retro supper club in historic Union Station that features live jazz nightly, Wednesday through Saturday, and a modern, sustainable twist on the classic American menu.
Portlanders love the outdoors — so much so that even when they’re enjoying inside activities, they’re much happier doing them outside. For example, on a one-block stretch of Southwest Ankeny Street between Second and Third avenues in Old Town, picnic tables trump pick-up trucks, since the cobblestone alley has been closed to traffic. Instead, under a lattice of white twinkle lights, revelers enjoy cocktails, dinner and, perhaps most of all, doughnuts.
Closed off in 2011 as a pilot program between the street’s businesses and the city, the space stayed car-free, ushering in a new wave of al fresco business across the city, where restaurants and bars can rent parking spots in front of their establishment and install seating in place of cars. But here, the local businesses have banded together to keep the street traffic-free, indefinitely and year-round.
The on-street eats stem back to more than 100 years ago when the founder of Dan & Louis Oyster Bar peddled live crabs on these very sidewalks. Today the popular seafood eatery serves their fresh seafood curbside, cooked to perfection. Next door, the nightlife crowd at art-infused Valentine’s spills out of the tiny lounge, able to sip the night air while still enjoying the live music and DJs making melodies inside.
Further up the block, a pair of eateries tickle the taste buds and offer outdoor seating at which to enjoy the festive atmosphere. Voodoo Doughnut, open 24 hours a day, has painted their picnic tables pastel colors to match their rainbow of candy-coated confections (and their bright pink boxes).
To be sure, the alley is pure Portland, and its newest resident, the Know Your City information kiosk is dedicated to keeping it that way. The kiosk offers history tours, lectures, publications and programs dedicated to showing off Portland — and what better place than in the thick of the city?