Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Portland Trip during Spring Break

We decided to drive down to Portland during spring break to take the kids to see the Zoo, Aquarium, and do a bit of tax-free shopping. This transcript details the things we did and some advise for those of you wanting to do the same.

First of all, use Expedia.ca instead of Priceline.com when booking your hotels because you can choose to pay for board and lodging in your local currency instead of paying fees at the hotel in US Currency. I find that you save a little bit from not having to pay conversions fees especially if you don't have a US credit card. Secondly, the drive from BC to Portland is 5 hours long so split it up into two to make sure your kids get to rest up. Trust me, it's worth it. And finally, make sure you have a fully inflated spare tire available just in case. As you will find out later on in this blog, it helped get us back on track.

Ramada Tukwilla
This hotel was a welcome surprise. It was very affordable at $100/night and was a very comfortable stay. There was continental breakfast the next day and parking was free. We also had a river view room which was an extra bonus. The other primary reason we stayed in Tukwilla is of course to have easy access to Jollibee, Chow King, and Seafood City inside Westfield Southcenter Mall.
(15901 W Valley Hwy, Tukwila, WA 98188 | ramadatukwila@gmail.com | 1-425-226-1812)

Courtyard by Marriott Portland City Center
This was a very classy hotel, in downtown Portland, central to Tri MET transit systems, with restaurant in the lobby, and valet parking.

On our first day, we headed east to the Chinatown part of town and would advise anyone with kids to stay clear of that area. It was dirty, grungy, with many strip bars in corners, and homeless people on the sidewalks. Head south instead to some of the nicer restaurants, Pioneer Place Mall and plaza.

The great thing about staying downtown is that you have easy access to transit system if you wanted to go to the Zoo (5 minutes away) and/or Clakamas Town Center (30+ minutes away) for your fill of tax-free shopping.

If you drove in, there are a few cheaper parking lots a block away from the hotel for $8/day or you could have valet parking take care of it for $30/day. I would still recommend valet parking, even if we had a flat tire on the last day of our stay as the valet parking attendant drops off our car. I had to replace the tires with a spare and drive to a close by Firestone shop to get the flat fixed. The Customer Service Manager went out of her way to help me fix the flat, involving the restaurant manager when I couldn't nudge the wheels off and providing a full refund of $20 for the tire repair. On top of that, she also gave me a full refund for our 2-day valet parking charges of $60 as a token of their good will. Appreciated that a lot and would definitely stay here again.
(550 SW Oak Street | Portland, Oregon 97204 | 1-503-505-5000 | http://www.myfavoritecourtyard.com )

Portland Aquarium
We went to the aquarium the first day and were pleasantly surprised at how small it was compared to the Seattle or Vancouver aquariums. They did have a decent variety and they even let us use two fingers to touch specific marine life. This sign below "Gently Touch with Only 2 Fingers" was posted throughout and I thought it was a perfect title for a rom-com movie.

This little stingray was trying to climb out of its pool. If not for the signs above, I would have helped it.

Go and check it out for yourself as it is quite interesting to see. We were able to complete seeing all the exhibits in an hour and had time after to go to a McDonalds and WalMart across the street for some food shopping.
(16323 SE McLoughlin Blvd, Milwaukie, OR 97267 | 1 503-303-4721 | http://www.portlandaquarium.net)

Portland Zoo
We took the Tri MAX transit from downtown and that took about 5 minutes, at $5 per adult and $3+ for kids, good for a day pass. Taking transit also had the bonus incentive of getting us $1 off entrance fees at the zoo as long as you show them transit tickets as proof. The rhinos and baby elephant name Lily were the only ones we missed seeing up close because there was some construction going on for the elephant habitat at that time.

We did get great shots of these majestic felines.

And was specially excited to see this tiger blocking our trail. Good thing he was well fed. :)

All in all, it was a solid experience and was comparable to the Vancouver Zoo in Aldergrove, BC or the Woodland Zoo in Seattle.
(4001 SW Canyon Rd, Portland, OR 97221 | 1-503-226-1561 | http://www.oregonzoo.org)

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