Portland, Oregon

If It Ain't Broke...


Portland's Clarklewis     Photo: Leah Nash

VOTES: 685 (3.1%)

A long time ago in a city far, far awry, men reveled in preposterous mustaches, women brandished victory gardens of armpit hair, and the citizenry took an unyielding position against an urban plan that, like so many across the country, would have run a freeway roughshod over a host of lush, peaceful old neighborhoods. This was Portland back in 1974, a sublime tableau of mountains, rivers, rainforest, and ocean serving as backdrop to these courageous stands.

Staying Power: Today, local hair fashions may look like the revenge of '74, but Portland itself has evolved. That crucial defeat of some wannabe Robert Moses snowballed, slowly transforming the city into a paragon of alternative transportation, its transit dollars funneled toward infrastructure projects like the ever-expanding MAX light-rail system, biodiesel buses, streetcars, an aerial tram, a suburb-serving commuter rail, and a 330-mile bike-route network set to double in size by 2030. The neighborhoods work more like Old World villages, the parks are plentiful (more than 300), and the streets are incredibly friendly to pedestrians and cyclists. Economy-wise, Portland was recently recognized by Kiplinger's as a comeback city for its growth in the software and clean-tech industries, adding gobs of jobs in what has been a tough market. Rain (and more rain) or shine, this place is hard to beat.

Playgrounds: The Pacific Northwest is like a little New Zealand. Looming behind downtown are the squat, verdant Tualatin Mountains, home to 5,100-acre Forest Park. Throw in nearby Mount Hood, with its year-round snowsports, and the Willamette and Columbia rivers, and you start to get the idea.

The Voters Speak: "The Columbia Gorge, Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams, the Cascades, the Coast Range, Smith Rock—all within a few hours' drive from downtown." "Great beer, coffee, and food carts everywhere." "Ski powder in the morning, sleep on the beach that night!"

From Outside Magazine, Oct 2011 Get the Latest Issue

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