Northwest Portland Hostel

Centrally Located – in the Heart of Portland

Northwest Portland Hostel Blog

Volunteer while traveling

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Many of us know the importance of being a traveler vs a tourist. Tourists graze the surface, visit well known spots or ones that mimic their home environment and don’t worry about engaging with local culture as mindfully. Travelers, on the other hand try to blend in with locals – from learning new traditions and attempting to speak in local language(s) to eating the food travelers, try to leave a light footprint.

When thinking about authentic travel, what sticks out? Some of the things we mentioned above like trying local cuisines, saying hello/goodbye and attempting to speak in a local tongue, being thoughtful about attire and customs. What all of these elements have in common is trying to be changed more than you are changing. Trying to let a place soak into your bones – to have a small impact on the place you are going and to let it have a big impact on you.

Eating the food, going to locally owned shops, trying activities that residents love, making friends and getting wonderfully lost is all part of this but are there other ways to engage in local culture that is meaningful? When trying to answer that questions we came upon volunteering as one solution.

In our city, Portland, there is a lot going on! From local craft markets to micro breweries (there are about 10 within 10 minutes walk of us), food carts and donuts galore. The ability to be in wild places without having to leave the city – our plethora of parks and hiking spots that you can bus or walk to is a thing to be proud of. All of these are amazing and we feel so lucky to live in an area where travelers can have access to all that we love about this city. These things are a rich and vital part of our local culture but we think there are other meaningful facets if our city that can get lost. It just takes a little bit of digging.

Portland has a rich history of thinking green. Solar trash compactors and lots of receptacles with spots for different recyclable items to go in help us keep our streets clean. The combined with the faith that locals have in giving back means that our streets staying clean is an active process created out of loving residents and thoughtful policy and spending. Volunteering while traveling can be a way to be part of something bigger with relatively little effort on your part.

Here in Portland there are a number of short term (think an hour or so) volunteer opportunities you can take advantage of while passing through. Here in our neighborhood alone each Saturday there is a clean up. One of these events starting here at our own NW Portland International Hostel (last Saturday of the month)! SOLVE Oregon helps to coordinate and put these events on and do an amazing job of it. Snacks and coffee are provided in addition to all materials needed for the event. Friends of Forest Park do ivy pulling and trail maintenance, many of those sites are in our area. SCRAP is just right down the street and has fun items to craft and make art. With so many cool things in their space they need help sorting! Soup kitchens and other events often need volunteers and there are great opportunities in our area.

When traveling consider how you learn more about the communities you are in, how you give back to those communities and take part in them.

Fall Favorites in Portland

Monday, November 6, 2017

There are a TON of awesome things to do in Portland in the fall. The Rose Gardens with a few straggling late bloomers, the Japanese Gardens with turning foliage and the Aerial Tram with it’s views of the every whitening Mt. Hood are some SW favorites.

Moving to NW we head into cozy and bustling 23rd with its packed in shopping making it so you only have to duck into the rain for a second between stores. 21st is just a stones throw away with lots of cute bars and eateries, coffee shops and lunch spots that can cater to every dietary need. A few of our favorites are Dick’s Kitchen (for the vegan, veg, paleo, GF individual) and Bamboo Sushi specializing in craft sustainable sushi.  Kells Brewery is good for a sports game and a local brew while McMenamins Blue Moon has got you covered for cozy seating around their indoor fireplaces.

The Peal has many cute and worthy stops as well. Plan your trip for the beginning of the month to hit First Thursday where all the art galleries stay open late and you can meet artists, snack away the hours and check out the latest exhibits. Portland’s downtown art museums stay open late as well and often have free admission on that night. Stroll around the street fair aspect of the event, grab some cart food and talk about art with friends. The Pearl really is a hub for the Arts in Portland. Home to Pacific Northwest College of Art, the Portland Jewish Museum as well as the Museum of Contemporary Craft as well as almost 20 galleries.

Food carts are open and there are a few good places to duck into after you have grabbed your meal. The Big Pink building has an open area where you can step in, take a seat and eat your meal. Another great spot is the covered area in Director Park. As cart culture develops in Portland you find more and more carts with seating areas for their patrons to use! We love it.

Old Town has the Chinese Gardens, a beautiful space, year round! The original Voodoo Donuts and the Saturday Markets are within a stone’s throw of one another as well as lots of fun clubs and venues. These make for great indoor fun while still experiencing local culture.

What is your favorite fall thing to do in Portland?



Introducing the Hostel Cafe year round Music Nights

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Since opening up the Hostel Cafe in the beginning of 2017 we have noticed that neighbors and travelers alike enjoy a space with cheap healthy food where one can both chill on a laptop or lunch with friends. Soon we will even bring sports game viewing (soccer!) to our cafe. With all of the new and amazing things the Hostel Cafe brings to the neighborhood and our guests, we wanted to bring just one more: free live music, year round.

For the past 9 seasons we have hosted summer music nights with touring and local featured artists and two open mic sessions. Due to space we have kept June-August as our active season. Over the years our music nights have been held in the Secret Garden and then eventually in our Courtyard; served local brews by local brewers, shifting eventually to Portland brews fresh off the cafe taps – and always kept those authentic German bratwurst!

Now with the new building comes new opportunity! No longer limited by space and location we are doing what we have hoped to do for years and expand our support of local musicians, bring free cultural events to our community, and share American music with travelers every week, for free.

For our year fall/winter/spring sessions we will forgo the excitement of an open mic and full bands in favor of the cozy intimacy of duos and single performers in our cafe. Have a lovely dinner and drinks with friends, bring your family for some neighborhood fun or have friends meet up to start a night out – we think that Hostel Cafe’s new music nights will be another great way to bridge the gap between local Portland community and the traveler community.

Looking forward to seeing you there!




Whine About Wine

Friday, August 25, 2017

Oregon has over 400+ wineries and almost 1000 vineyards! This Oregon industry is booming and we have become a new destination for those exploring the new frontier of wine making. Because of this, many people ask us about great wine in our area, so we thought we would write a post about some of our favorite wine shops within walking distance.

The wine shops we will explore are Cerulean, Boedecker, Taste on 23rd, Portland Wine Bar, and Vinter’s Cellar.

Cerulean is a local favorite with their Columbia River Gorge vineyard and their excellent wines. Based out of beautiful Hood River Oregon they have a 23 acre certified organic vineyard just on the other side of the river in Underwood, Washington state.

At just a few minutes walk away Cerulean’s location features a private dining space, lounge and bar open to the public (with happy hour!) and an art gallery. Set in a fully restored historic warehouse that mixes modern and vintage you will not be disappointed in their amazing space.

Our Cerulean favorites: 2013 Chardonnay and the 2010 Nebbiolo – both made with organic Pacific Northwest grown grapes!

Boedecker has many cool features. We especially appreciate their weekend tasting sessions (just $15 per person) and their many wines made from grapes grown on several local vineyards. Their raw grapes primarily come from vineyards they either developed or work in partnership with all over the Pacific Northwest. We love their classy and intimate pouring space and don’t think you will regret popping in for a glass or two!

in 2003 Stuart and Athena Boedecker created Boedecker Cellars and have focuses on quality local wines ever since! Nestled in lovely NW Portland, just west of popular 23rd Ave, Beodecker is set among beautiful local shops and old houses in this historic Portland neighborhood.

Our Boedecker favorites: 2013 Pinot Noir and the fact that they have wine making classes.

Tast on 23rd has got to be one of our favorite spaces. With local artists doing live painting every Tuesday, delicious foods, an intimate setting that truly reflects old Portland NW neighborhood charm and a knowledgeable and on point staff we highly recommend this location! Try one of their amazing seafood entrees, or one of their many many cheeses with a wine pairing. They have wonderful salads and a great dessert menu. Despite all these great features the best thing about this bar is their wine list. With a few exceptions all of the wines are Pacific Northwest varieties. Local local local!

And if you needed one more reason to go Taste on 23rd currently features complimentary tastings on Thuesday evenings. Open every day with a happy hour from 4-6 this is local business serves cocktails and brews too! Find them just a 10-15 minute walk on 23rd Ave. Visit on a Monday for 1/2 price on bottles in house or Tuesday for 1/2 price on bottles to-go.

Our Taste on 23rd favorites: 2015 King’s Bridge Pinot Gris and the 2010 Redman Pinot Noir.

Portland Wine Bar is in the center or our bustling “small town city” and is conveniently located on public transit lines. Walking there is also a snap! An easy 20 minute stroll brings you to the door of their chic urban location.

Since opening their doors in 2013 owner and winemaker Mark focuses on local, small batch wines from other small Oregon and Washington wineries and rotates often to bring in new flavors to your palate.  “Keep it weird. Keep it local” is their motto. Stop in to their cute and welcoming downtown wine bar and check out their wares to see for yourself.

Our Portland Wine Bar favorites: Winery at Manzinita 2014 Malbec is divine!

Viter’s Cellar bills itself as a custom winery – where you’re the wine maker! This unique take on the wine experience lets you really connect with the qualities of the drink. If you would just rather taste the fruits of the labor you can also just grab a glass of wine (without taking part in the process of the making) and a bite to eat from their menu. Vinter’s Cellar hosts Guillen Family Wines and pour their award winning pinot noirs every Friday, Satruday and Sunday. We would highly recommend you stop in for a glass as Guillen Family Wines uses old world minimal manipulation techniques to create their masterpieces, including the use of whole cluster fermentation with indigenous yeasts and also sur-lie aging.

They have a lovely open space with a cute wine bar feel. A vegan and an omnivorous menu is on offer with a variety of charcute, pizzas, salads and desserts. Their menues support local farms, seasonal foods, gluten-free, vegan options. Check out their happy hour and monthly specials! Find them about a 10-15 minute walk in the Pearl District.

Our Vinter’s Cellar favorites: Seduction Syrrah and their Yellow Line Elderflower mead

Have a favorite Portland wine shop? Share with us in the comments!


Taste on 23rd

Bringing our Secret Garden Music Nights to the Courtyard!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The 9th year of our Summer Music series brings some really great new changes.

Foremost among them is the addition of our cafe menu to the event! Moving from our Secret Garden to the hostel courtyard brings the full restaurant menu to our favorite summer events. From locally sourced burgers and fries to salads and soups, we have great items we are excited to share with all our attendees this summer. The Hostel Cafe also brings us 8 local beers on tap, three wines, and kombucha from Happy Mountain. The full drinks range is now available to all in our Cafe, commons, and the courtyard where our music nights are centered. Our favorite German bratwurst are still available so die-hard Secret Garden fans can still get their sausage fix! We’ve moved the BBQ to our courtyard so you can get ’em hot.

Another great thing about our new space is the central space. Every guest walks through our commons to get to their room, this amazing introduction into Portland is one of our favorite aspects of our music nights. The community can walk by, and walk in, providing the face to face community-traveler interactions that we cherish about our cafe, and our volunteer led activities but is amplified in our music nights.

2017 has brought a lot of changes to the hostel. We built a whole new building – doubling our capacity. The opening of our Hostel Cafe brought new energy and healthy, cheap options to our community and travelers coming through. We have increased our amazing staff, brought new events to our guests and neighborhood and our courtyard music nights are one of the things we are most happy to bring to the forefront.

Come see us every Tuesday from 6:30 to 9:30 for bratz, brews, ‘buch, locally sourced foods and great people. We look forward to having you!


Medical Care Options in our Neighborhood

Friday, June 2, 2017

There are a few nearby options for quick health care in our area. Some of our guests have found them useful but as always follow your own inclinations!

  • ZoomCare located in the Pearl on 13th Ave – Urgent Care

Just a 10 minute walk from the Hostel this is a cheap go to for many travelers with general ailments. They do same day appointments that you can book online choosing the time and location that is right for you. Their ultra modern feel and easy access health “menu” makes this an approachable spot to get those little things checked out.

  • Legacy Good Samaritan at 23rd and Lovejoy – Hospital and Emergency Room

“Good Sam'” has been in the area for decades. They are a large facility with numerous resources at their finger tips. Their have 24 hour emergency room is a comfort when you really need care now.

Always come to the desk if you need anything! We always want to know if someone is having a hard time and are happy to call you a cab or help you find the best medical facility for your needs. Take care of yourself while traveling so that you can enjoy all that Portland, and the world, has to offer!



Get Out of the City (While Staying in Town)

Monday, May 1, 2017

Lucky Portlanders get to have it all: extensive bike lanes, great public transport and green spaces accessible by foot, bike, or bus. This makes it easier than ever to leave your car behind when you come to visit Portland.

From our location you can walk to Forest Park (via Washington Park, or the Lower McLeay Park), browse trees in the Hoyt Arboretum, do the 4T Hike and get those great Aerial Tram views all without much travel time. In this blog we focus on nature escapes you can walk from easily while staying in NW Portland. However there are a few honorable mentions at the bottom that are definitely worth checking out if you are wandering in another park of Portland.

Hoyt Arboretum: 12 miles of trail lace this wooded area that many call Portland’s Museum of Living Trees. Filled with native and foreign plants and trees from all over the world covering there are over 6,000 trees and over 2,000 different species of plant life, including 63 vulnerable and endangered species in this 189 acres refuge. Take the Red or Blue Line MAX to the Zoo Tunnel and take the elevator up. Once in the parking lot you will find signs pointing you to the World Forest Center and the Hoyt Arboretum.

Washington Park: This great green space is home to a number of trails and sub-parks. Home of many trails (the Wildwood, Beech, Magnolia, Oak, White Pine, Maple, Walnut, MAC, Redwood, Madison and many other trails in addition to an entry point to the 4T hike and the Pittock Mansion) you can spend hours here. In the Hoyt Arboretum alone there are 12 miles of trails. You can also find the Portland Children’s Museum, the Oregon Zoo, the International Rose Test Gardens as well as the Japanese Gardens and tons of other small finds like playgrounds, great view points and an archery range! By following the trails that connect the various locations within the park you really can spend all day here.

Forest Park: We think their own words say it best, “At 5,157 acres, Portland’s Forest Park is one of the largest urban forest in the United States. With more than 80 miles of soft-surface trails, fire lanes and forest roads, Forest Park stretches for more than seven miles along the eastern slope of the Tualatin Mountains, overlooking Northwest Portland and the convergence of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. Forest Park offers an unparalleled opportunity for visitors to experience a true northwest forest without leaving the Portland city limits.”

4T Hike: The 4T Hike features, well, 4 ‘T’s. Utilizing the Train, the Trolley, the Trail and the Tram this hike takes you from SW Portland back down into NW where we are. This is a great hike because you get in some good sight seeing via the great views from the Tram as well as driving your way through the city on our various forms of public transportation.

Lower McLeay Park: From the Hostel you can take the #15 bus to 29th and Thurman to the Lower McLeay Park Trailhead. This moderate path winds up following a forest brook for much of the way. You can take this trail to one of Portland’s best view points, the Pittock Mansion. 3/4 of a mile up the path you come to to a split in the trail at the Witch’s Castle! You can walk up into this old stone structure where there used to be bathrooms, and before that a ranger station. At this point you can keep on the McLeay trail another 1/3 of a mile where you will come out near the Audubon Society or you can branch off onto the Wildwood Trail, one of Forest Parks most popular trails.

You can also check out Mt. Tabor Park, Powell Butte Nature Park, and Oaks Bottom Refuge in SE Portland, as well as the Spring Water Trail stretching the length of the city from SE to NE. In SW Marquam Nature Park is a great spot and in NE Pier Park and Peninsula Park are both great the latter being a smaller more traditional city park and the former more expansive and woodsy.

Anywhere you might have gone that we didn’t mention? Let us know!



Wildwood Trail in Washington Park


Renting a Car While in Portland

Friday, April 7, 2017

When in Portland there are a lot of ways to rent a car! Getting out of town is one of the best parts of visiting the Pacific Northwest. From where we are in the NW you can reach a number of hiking spots (Hoyt Arboretum, Forest Park, Lower McLeay Park, 4T Hike, Hike to the Pittock Mansion) just by walking or busing from the Hostel. However, getting into the Gorge, the Cascades, to the coast are all just within reach – one of the best things about our little pocket of the state! These locations require some sort of transport – whether by greyhound (to the coast) or by car.

Probably the most popular pick is Enterprise on 16th and Burnside. Just a few blocks from hostel this car rental location gives Hostel and Guesthouse guests a 10% discount when your hostel key card is shown. Ranging from $25 per day to $100+ per day you can rent exactly the car you want and return it just a 5 minute walk from your home away from home.

If you need a ride, or have a ride but are looking for buddies, you can also post on our ride share board. With a column for those seeking a ride and a separate space for those looking for passengers you can find just what you are looking for.

Car rentals by the airport can be appealing as there are several companies right next to one another making it easy to compare and pick the price or car that is right for you. Getting to the airport is easy – just take the max (between a 5-10 minute walk from the Hostel) and get off at the Airport. From baggage claim, right near where the MAX drops you off, are shuttles to the various car rental areas. Hertz, Alamo, Enterprise, Dollar, Avis and National are all located right nextdoor to one another.

Other popular car rental spots in our area are Avis and Budget. Both located downtown (anywhere from a 15-25 minute walk) they offer cars in the $25-$100+ range.

Some guests have had success with Turo, a person-to-person car sharing website.

We haven’t tried all of these places, so let us know how they were for you!



Rainy Day in PDX

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

This piece details one of our favorite rainy day itineraries!

We start out by grabbing a coffee at Barista. We love their location in the Pearl just a few blocks away on 13th and Glisan. Great pastries too. From there we walk up 13th Ave taking the raised sidewalks (a charming hold over from when the avenue gave access to industrial loading docks) to Powell’s books. In Powell’s we check out the Rose Room with it’s games located near the children’s and young adult’s book section. You can saunter over to the Orange Room with check out stands, journals, cook books and pretty useful items to bring home as gifts. We love taking the industrial elevator up to the Pearl Room to check out the rotating gallery pieces and the Blue Room for self published poetry and literature. After all that walking it is time to grab some real food!

Heading south up 10th Ave we run into the largest food cart pod in the city at SW 10th and SW Washington. There we love to run around and grab a few things from each cart to sample. Frank’s Noodle House with their hand pulled noodles is always a favorite. We don’t want to stand out in the rain though! Well, perhaps sometimes we might. Today however we are looking for a nice dry spot to eat our goods. Director park has a covered eating area that is perfect during moderate/mild weather. During rain and wind the awning might be a bit high to really protect us from the elements. If this is the case we walk down to one of Portland’s most iconic buildings: the US Bancorp Tower otherwise know as the Big Pink. This tower is home to offices and small public stores on the lower level, there we can head on in to their main entry floor and find some comfy chairs to sit in while chatting the meal away. If this spot is too busy we might find a better table up on the second floor which has a an open view of the floor below and lots of large and small tables to choose from.

Checking out local culture is one of our favorite things about traveling somewhere new so from lunch we walk out of the Big Pink to the MAX station right outside! Catch a train up to Jefferson St and walk over to SW Park Ave (9th), to check out the Oregon Historical Society (photo of their amazing exterior mural below). The Oregon Historical Society is open everyday until 5pm making this a great destination any day of the week. We can spend hours here reading articles, checking out historical periodicals, chatting with volunteers and staff while checking out their interesting and detailed displays.

Time to wind down! It’s easy to hop on the Street Car on 10th and Madison (one street north of Jefferson) back to the Pearl District. We hop off at Glisan and 10th to make our way up to Glisan St to 17th Ave and the historic Mission Theater – one of Portland’s many Brew-n-View theaters. Second run and old favorites decorate the schedule at this micro-brewery and restaurant. Here we can look forward to having some brews and pizza before heading one block back to the Hostel or up to 21st for some more late night fun!

Did you spend your day doing this! Please tell us what you thought!


Sweetest Day of the Year

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Do you like cookies? Us too.

Each Valentine’s Day we make sugar cookies by the dozens, mix up bags of colored frosting, throw some sprinkles on the table and let the cookie decorating begin!

We don’t know much about St. Valentine – we know that he was associated with sympathy, and now, with love. The holiday is thought to be an observance of his passing, or perhaps a christianization of the pagan fertility festival Lupercalia. Each year christian churches host marriage-vow renewals, as well as special prayer services for those seeking a partner. There are religious dinners and feasts but more commonly we associate it with a more material holiday helped to popular fame y greeting card giants. The giving or making presents for loved ones, flowers, cards and tokens of affection iconize this holiday. It can be easy to lose track of what this holiday can mean for us.

Valentine’s Day is a holiday that many look forward to, but it is also a difficult day for many. As with any holiday loneliness can be more acute and sadness can well up with ease. It is a good time, we think, to remember to be kind to one another, to hold tight to compassion, to sympathy, and to love. Consider writing a letter to a loved one, or visit an old folks home or animal shelter.

We hosted letter writing encouraging travelers and neighbors to write to someone they love – even if they don’t send it. To be brave and say something they have been wanting or needing to say. To give the gift of thoughtful words on Valentine’s Day.

After decorating and eating cookies and writing letters we let the evening wind down with a film showing in our main kitchen. More than anything we want people to be together today, and everyday, in love.

Shout out to Metropolitan Learning Center school kids who made us valentines and dropped them off! We love you! Thanks for being great neighbors! And thanks for all of you who came out on February 14th! And to all of you who helped perpetuate love this year.