Northwest Portland Hostel

Centrally Located – in the Heart of Portland

Northwest Portland Hostel Blog

The Best of Portlandia: Catherine’s guide to the perfect spots to snap a photo in the Alphabet District

Saturday, August 31, 2013


The Alphabet District is Portland’s oldest neighborhood and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  It is roughly defined as the area bounded by NW Marshall Street, NW 17th Avenue, W. Burnside Street, and NW 24th Avenue (moving clockwise from the north of the neighborhood).  It was founded in the 1840′s by Captain John H. Couch (pronounced Coo-ch) who decided that Portland should be Oregon’s largest city instead of Oregon City, which was the main settlement at the time. Captain Couch speculated on a land claim in 1845 in what is now part of the Pearl and Northwest District, and there he built homes for himself, and three of his daughters. Later, Couch subdivided his land and sold it to investors who built large homes and state of the art rental apartments.

The neighborhood gets its name from its streets which run alphabetically northward from W. Burnside Street (which divides north and south Portland on both sides of the river) to NW Wilson Street.  It is a bustling place full of shops and restaurants; hiking trails and gardens; young professionals and families, and home to the NW Portland International Hostel.

Catherine, our Volunteer and Activities Outreach Coordinator, has a few places she’d like to share with you to capture that Kodak moment.

Catherine says:

“When I act as a tour guide for friends and family that have never been to Portland before, I always take them to the Alphabet District.  There are so many beautiful spots to photograph there – lush landscapes, beautiful flora, quirky statues, and old Victorian houses.  It is a wonderland for photo ops.

Here, Catherine helps you by recommending her favorite spots to “say cheese!” in the Alphabet District.


Forest Park is best known for being one of the largest urban parks in the United States.  It is easily accessible from the Hostel by foot, car, or bus.  By foot or car: take NW Glisan Street west toward 23rd Avenue.  On 23rd Avenue take a right and follow the alphabetical streets until you reach NW Thurman.  On NW Thurman Street take a left and walk/drive to NW 28th Avenue until you reach NW Upshur Street.  Follow NW Upshur Street to the MacLeay Park Entrance of Forest Park.  Or pick up bus #15 from 18th Avenue and W. Burnside Street to the park entrance.  Forest Park offers over 70 miles of trails to explore.  It also boasts an impressive diversity of wildlife (as many as 62 mammal species have been observed) and flora that are characteristic of the Western Hemlock Zone.  Catherine suggests snapping photos at the Stone House for a fun photo opportunity.  Or she recommends keeping your eyes and ears open – “You might spot a northern flying squirrel, a woodpecker, or a bobcat to take shots of on the Wildwood Trail.”


Washington Park is one of the oldest parks in Portland.  It is the site of many picturesque spots including the  Oregon ZooInternational Rose Test Garden, Pittock Mansion, Hoyt Arboretum, Children’s Museum, and Portland’s Japanese Garden.  It is also home to many wonderful smaller parks and play areas for kids, sports fields, picnic sites, an amphitheater, and great statues of famous Oregon figures.  To walk to the base of the park, take NW Glisan Street west to NW 23rd Avenue.  Take a left on NW 23rd Avenue and continue south on SW Vista Avenue.  Then, take a right at the traffic signal on SW Park Place.  Ahead you will find a staircase that will lead you into the base of the park.  You can also take bus #63 to Washington Park from SW 18th and Salmon.


When you are ready to head out of nature there are a couple quirky public art pieces that Catherine recommends for that perfect photograph to remember.

The Hogs of 23rd Avenue – The statues of three lounging cast metal pigs are perfect for a silly Portland photo.  The statues can be found on the sidewalk in front of the Nob Hill Bar and Grill on NW 23rd Avenue and Lovejoy Street.

Horse Rings – All over the Alphabet District you can find small metal rings anchored to the curbs of the streets and sometimes these rings will have small plastic horses attached to them.  The rings are maintained by the City of Portland and represent a time when the only mode of transportation in the city (aside from walking) was on horseback or by carriage.  In 2005 a group called the horse project started documenting the location of the rings around the city and attaching toy horses to them to remind residents about their city’s rich history.  Watch where you step, or you might miss them!

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A Remarkable Flock

Wednesday, August 28, 2013



Chapman Elementary School, like the Northwest Portland International Hostel, is home to travelers from all over the world during the month of September.  But unlike the travelers at the hostel, the foreigners at Chapman School don’t carry passports or luggage with them.

This is because the tourists at Chapman School are birds – Swifts to be exact – who use the chimney at the elementary school as their nightly roost before continuing on their journey to Central America and parts of Venezuela.


Portland residents have gathered since the early 1990′s to wonder at the sight of the Swifts blackening out the sky and swirling as a vortex into the chimney.

In fact, so many Portlanders have marveled at the event that it is easy to say its become somewhat of a cult phenomenon in the city.  There’s even been a documentary made about the sight called “On the Wing” which explains the story of these birds and shows some amazing footage of them.

chapman swifts

So bring a blanket and a picnic and don’t miss the largest collection of roosting Swifts in North America!  It will surely be a night to remember!

Chapman Swifts: September 1st – September 30th from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm at Chapman Elementary School



PDX Adult Soapbox Derby

Thursday, August 15, 2013


soap box derby 2

August 17th is the PDX Adult Soapbox Derby on Mt. Tabor.  Now in its 17th year, the Adult Soapbox Derby is one of the most Portland-y events out there.  This is not anything like your childhood memories of soapbox races! This is a serious competition for some seriously fun-loving, gutsy, and some might say childlike, adults.

my soapbox photos 1

And where does such a daring event take place? Why, of course on a volcanic cinder cone! Because streets are for kids!  

my soapbox photos 2

 If you’re not already convinced to attend, then check out their website for more information.


August Events at HI Northwest Portland Hostel

Monday, August 5, 2013

I think all Portlanders would agree that summer in the City of Roses is nothing short of magical. It’s during this time that neighborhoods all over the city come alive with bike events and street fairs.  You’ll see city parks swell with people taking advantage of free movie and concert nights, and you can hear the Timbers Army chant “PTFC” throughout the streets. Everywhere businesses throw open their windows and doors for patrons to bask in the sun, and we all enjoy a Portland micro-brew or a cone from Salt & Straw ice cream.

There are so many uniquely Portland events to take advantage of during these precious summer months.  Below is a listing of the upcoming events the hostel is taking part in.  We hope you’ll join us for the magic! Event times and details are listed on our activities calendar here.


Free concerts in Washington Park and Couch Park:

washington park concertscouch park

Portland Parks and Recreation offers free concerts in Washington and Couch Parks during the month of August.  The concerts are family-friendly and feature a wide variety of musical styles.  All that’s needed is a blanket and dinner from a nearby food cart to make these events summer standouts!

Music on Main Street:

music on main street

Portland’s Center for Performing Arts presents Music on Main Street  – a free event that happens every Wednesday evening in August next to Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.  “The concerts boast popular local musicians with a diverse collection of music. From funky soul to old-school country, these bands will have you up on your feet and dancing on Main Street.”

Trek in the Park:

 trek in the park cathedral park

Trek in the Park is definitely one of those uniquely Portland events that’s not to be missed.  The show is put on by Atomic Arts, a theater group that acts out a different episode of Star Trek, every summer in the beautiful Cathedral Park.

This summer will be their last performance, and they are taking on  “The Trouble with Tribbles,” arguably one of the most famous Star Trek episodes.  As the Trekkies say, “spend a day in the park, bring a picnic and BOLDLY GO!”


Design the Next Best T-Shirt!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

What’s your favorite t-shirt that you’ve ever bought or received?  What does it look like?  And what makes it such a great t-shirt, anyway?

These are all questions that HI-USA has been asking as we try to design a new t-shirt for our volunteers.  Help us out!!  Design the next best t-shirt and win a $250 cash prize!!


The Renaissance of the Historic Alphabet District ~ Historic Homes Tour

Friday, May 10, 2013

On May 5th, as a benefit for the Northwest Cultural Center and Children’s Theater, our Elliston House was included in the Historic Homes Tour featuring our hostel and private homes in the Northwest Portland neighborhood.

The Elliston, which was built sometime before 1889, was originally located in southwest Portland on SW Park and Alder streets. In its early history it was named “the Comstock” after the owners Martha P.J. Comstock and her husband Croesus. Martha came to Portland in 1845 by wagon train when she was 7 years old.

In 1907, Martha sold the house for $6,250 to Colonel Henry E. Dosch and that same year, Dosch decided to move the house to it’s current location on the corner of NW 18th Avenue and Glisan Street. The cost of moving the entire building was $400, covering the cost of “clipping the interfering wires” and “cutting the building in two parts to facilitate removal”. The house was moved across the city on skids by two oxen.

After Dosch owned the house, it became the Wayward Apartments in the 1910s and the Elliston Apartments in the 1920s. In the 198s, Rick Michaelson bought the Ellision, had it restored, and finally registered with the National Register of Historic Places.

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Now the Elliston is one of four houses that comprise the HI-Northwest Portland Hostel and Guesthouse!


Special thanks to Catherine A. for researching the Elliston’s remarkable history!

Recent Events at the Hostel: Earth Hour and First Thursday

Monday, April 8, 2013

We have had two exciting new events in the last few weeks: Earth Hour blind food tasting and our inaugural First Thursday Art Opening.

Earth Hour is a global event created by the World Wildlife Fund to raise awareness about energy consumption and global warming. Each year, citizens in communities around the world participate in Earth Hour by turning off all non-essential lights and electronics for at least one hour. From the Eiffel Tower to the streets of Beijing, and everywhere in between, lights went out and buildings went dark; a simple act with powerful results.

This year, Earth Hour took place on March 23rd from 8:30-9:30 local time. Following the “darkness” theme, the hostel decided to host a blindfolded food and beer tasting event. With the help of a few volunteers, we chose ten ingredients for the blind tasting competition, and a local brewer brought three different styles of home-brew to sample.  The ten foods were put in closed containers and set out in the main kitchen. As the lights went out, we lit candles and passed out blindfolds. In pairs, guests approached the table and were handed each of the ten foods, one by one, with a toothpick. After each taste, they wrote down a guess on their individual answer sheet. Those who guessed at leaset 8/10 correctly won a Heart In Oregon sticker, and everyone who participated got a “hostels are cool!” sticker. The kitchen was packed with guests eager to give it a shot! Food #6 was the real curveball (dried dates) and elicited a variety of reactions from “EWW” to “I know this taste, but what is it???” to “American food is weird…”. Most people guessed #3 and #8 correctly: sunflower seeds and kiwi. Other ingredients included radish, edamame, feta cheese, green olives, dried mango, and chocolate-covered raisins.

Thanks to all the volunteers who helped but the event together and to all the guests who participated so enthusiastically! It was definitely a hit, and we’re looking forward to doing it again next year!

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First Thursday is a monthly art walk that takes place in Portland’s Pearl District. Galleries stay open late to display their newest exhibits and (if you’re lucky) offer complimentary beverages and light snacks. The featured artist is often available to talk about his or her work and answer questions.

This month, the hostel hosted its inaugural First Thursday Art Opening, featuring bright, vivid paintings of Portland by local artist Michael Feliz.

NW Portland Hostel First Thursday

Michael Feliz Outdoor Market NW Portland Hostel

The First Thursday event was a huge success with between 80 to 100 attendees between 6 and 9 pm. Feliz was able to present his work to different groups that came through, and Jim and Britta (the hostel co-founders) were there to answer questions about the hostel and give tours. Wine and light snacks were available, as well as postcards of the paintings. Special thanks to Michael, his family, Jim and Britta for putting it all together!

Feliz’s work will be on display until August 2013. First Thursday receptions will be held at the Northwest Portland International Hostel in April, August, and December.

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First Thursday Art Opening at Northwest Portland Hostel

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Northwest Portland International Hostel kicks off our inaugural First Thursday reception on April 4th from 6:00-9:00 pm. On display is a collection of vibrant paintings by local artist, Michael J. Feliz. His work gives classic Portland landmarks an uniquely whimsical quality with his use of vivid, multidimensional colors and perspectives. From the historic northwest neighborhood, to Pioneer Square, and the outdoor markets, his paintings illustrate the essential Portland cityscape for both locals and international travelers to enjoy. Small prints and postcards of the originals will be available for purchase, and the hostel will provide complimentary wine tasting and treats. Tours of the hostel will also be available.

NW Portland Hostel First Thursday

Outdoor Market – Michael Feliz.  Northwest Portland Hostel First Thursday Exhibit 

From Michael:

I was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to Miami, Florida with my family at the age of 5. It was there that I began to develop my passion for art and had the privilege to attend the New World School of the Arts. After graduating I moved to Columbus, Ohio and attended the Columbus College of Art and Design obtaining my Bachelors of Fine Art. After graduation I decided to move to Portland Oregon to continue pursuing my career in the arts. I have been in Portland for a year and a half now.

This is the first project I have ever felt totally immersed in. Not just with  the amount of time spent painting them, but also the desire to experience Portland through each of the locations that I was painting. The locations were chosen  with Jim Kennett. Jim and I really wanted to choose locations that were iconic and captured the movement and vibrancy of the city. Being a new transplant to the city, I wanted to portray the excitement and uniqueness that Portland possesses. The city has a very magical feel to it, almost dream like– my goal was to translate that on canvas and hopefully people feel the same way when seeing them.

I am currently working on a new series that will be displayed at that Riverplace Athletic Club in Southwest Portland in the near future. For those interested, my art can be found at

Feliz’s work will be on display until August 2013. First Thursday receptions will be held at the Northwest Portland International Hostel in April, August, and December.

Pioneer Courthouse Square- Michael Feliz. For NW Portland Hostel First Thursday Exhibit

Pioneer Courthouse Square- Michael Feliz. Northwest Portland Hostel First Thursday Exhibit

Downtown Waterfront- Michael Feliz. For NW Portland Hostel First Thursday Exhibit

Downtown Waterfront- Michael Feliz. Northwest Portland Hostel First Thursday Exhibit

Washington Park- Michael Feliz. For NW Portland Hostel First Thursday Exhibit

Washington Park- Michael Feliz. Northwest Portland Hostel First Thursday Exhibit

Celebrating Love and Romance with Cookies…Lots of Them

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The sweet smell of sugar cookies filled the hostel on Thursday evening as Caroline baked up a storm.  The counter was stacked high with cookies shaped like big hearts and little hearts, Xs and Os (which turned into amorphous blobs), four colors of frosting, and a variety of sprinkles. The hostel had turned into Cupid’s cookie factory.

It was a great turnout. Guests, staff members, and volunteers all participated in the decorating, and by the end, we had mounds of pink, red, and lavender cookies. It was impossible not to feel the love on Valentine’s day—the love of sugar and childhood frosting art.

Check out the photos!

Valentine’s Day Fun at HI-Portland Northwest

Monday, February 4, 2013


It’s a silly holiday, Valentine’s Day, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun.  For those travelers who left their sweethearts at home for a work trip, grand adventure, or big move away from home, we have a place for you this February 14th.

Last year, we decorated sugar cookies and made handmade cards to send to loved ones back home. This year, we will have another cookie decorating party, and afterward, once heart shaped treats are properly frosted and sugared, we will head out to Ground Kontrol for Free Play Night. Check out their website for more info on all the vintage video games, pinball, and live DJs.

Don’t be lonely this Valentine’s Day. Come join the fun with other hostelers from around the world!