Yes, we’re all about traveling with kids, but let’s face it: sometimes, Mom and Dad need to get away…solo. If you’re looking for a parents-only getaway in the Northwest, it’s hard to beat Oregon. Not to toot my home state’s horn too loudly, but we do have it all: nature and outdoors pursuits, wineries and farm-to-fork restaurants, and city sophistication. If you’re ready to get away, pick a date, and enjoy any of the following Oregon getaways…without the kids.
Hint: couples getaways make for great holiday gifts to a spouse!
We were lucky enough to experience Hood River, Oregon while on a LifeCycle Adventures customized cycle tour through the Columbia River Gorge. If the idea of biking along scenic byways past fruit stands in the shadow of Mt. Hood appeals to you, I recommend booking a tour. But you can experience Hood River via a short drive from Portland, too.
Where to stay:
We called the Villa Columbia home. This B&B is situated at the edge of downtown Hood River, overlooking the impressive Columbia. From the patios, watch kite boarders ‘surf’ the waves of the river, or just relax in the cozy living room of this beautiful home. If you’re cycling or paddle boarding during your stay, the villa has a full downstairs storage area for your gear, and our suite had a large jacuzzi tub and great views.
Breakfast at Villa Columbia is artfully created and served by owner Bobba, who is inspired by her Eastern European roots in her cooking (though she tells us she does not use recipes…fresh, local ingredients are all that’s needed). During our stay, we ate yogurt and granola topped with local berries and melon, then a savory crepe filled with local heirloom tomatoes, avocado, and feta cheeses.
Where to eat:
You cannot go wrong with a stroll through downtown Hood River…any restaurant you choose will be great. If you’re looking for a brewery, we had a nice casual meal overlooking the river at Full Sail Brewery, where we sampled flights of beer that paired well with artisan burgers and good old fashioned fries.
For a more intimate dinner, check out the 6th Street Bistro, which also serves a lighter lunch on its patio and in the upstairs bar area. The salads are excellent, as are the beers and ciders on tap. Speaking of which, if cider is your thing, stop by Fox Tail Cider en route to Hood River, where over 10 local ciders are on tap. You can get a flight here as well (for as little as $7) or pick one to sip while pursuing their fruit stand.
What to do:
No trip to Hood River would be complete without a drive along the Fruit Loop. This network of fruit stands and orchards span across the Columbia River Gorge, and are open for business from spring through fall. Pick up a Fruit Loop map (available just about anywhere in town) and head out for a day of fruit sampling, picnicking, and generally having a leisurely time of it.
If you’re up for something more strenuous, take a walk or bike ride along the Historic Columbia River Highway. This pedestrian and cycling-only road was once the main thoroughfare along the Gorge, and is now the perfect route for cyclists, runners, and walkers looking for great views of the river and Gorge. If walking, we recommend the hike from the parking area at Mark O. Hatfield Trailhead (west) to the first observation area along the river. If cycling, it’s possible to do the whole highway to the tiny town of Mosier in about an hour (then an hour back).
Willamette wine country:
If your idea of a perfect parent getaway involves a winery or two, head to the Willamette Valley. Meander through the towns of Newberg and Dundee, tasting wines throughout any afternoon (though weekends are best), then end up in McMinnville for the night.
Where to stay:
Hands down, you must stay at A’ Tuscan Estate. We’re not always sold on B&Bs, but a vacation without the kids is a good opportunity to try one. You won’t be disappointed with A’ Tuscan Estate. Located about five blocks from the downtown streets, this property is actually a pair of homes. We stayed in the smaller Craftsman home, where we had the entire downstairs floor. We had use of a full kitchen, living space, dining area, bedroom, and bathroom, plus access to an outdoor garden and sitting area. We didn’t need this much room, but had we so chosen, we could have made dinner in with ingredients from a farmer’s market instead of eating out. A nice touch.
Be ready to be wowed in the mornings, while enjoying breakfast made by owner Jacques, who has a long and storied career in the culinary arts. Jacques served us a decadent quiche, homemade pastries, and local fruit, and told us guests must stay at his property for 17 nights before the breakfast menu will be repeated.
Note: if a B&B just isn’t your thing, we highly recommend the boutique hotel Allison Inn, located nearby.
Where to eat:
When not being pampered by Jacques, head downtown in McMinnville to eat at La Rambla, a Spanish cuisine establishment with a great vibe. La Rambla is casual but intimate, which to me, means romantic without being stuffy. There’s a great bar at La Rambla, an extensive wine list, and great tapas. Before deciding, however, it’s a good idea to check the ‘board’ a block away at Thistle, the local farm-to-fork offering. Thistle’s chalk board menu is constantly revolving…during our stay, we preferred the offerings at La Rambla, but it could have just as easily gone the other way.
What to do:
You’re in wine country, so the #1 activity during your weekend away will be wine tasting. (Yes, it’s a hard life.) Pinot Noir is the variety of choice here, and you’ll find the best offerings in Dundee, Newberg, and McMinnville. We headed out to the Chehalem Mountains region of the valley, where we could hit Adelsheim, known regionally for their pinot, then Bergstrom (right up the street). Each have a very different feel: at Adelseim, you’ll get detailed tasting notes at a sleek granite bar, and at Bergstrom, you can sit on the patio overlooking the vineyards and chat and laugh with friends.
If you’re just not sure where to go, I recommend hiring Grape Escape for the day. These guys know Willamette wine, and will take couples around the valley, making stops at suggested wineries (or your picks). We had a great day with Grape Escape, and can’t wait to do it again.
Living in Oregon, we enjoy many Portland weekend getaways. Most of the time, we experience Portland with kids, but every once in a while, we need to get away solo. Our ideal Portland Oregon getaway…without the kids…looks a bit like this:
Where to stay:
When it comes to boutique hotels in Portland, everyone has their favorites. We are admitted fans of Kimpton Hotels, so our picks for a quintessential Portland experience with or without the kids include RiverPlace, Hotel Vintage Plaza, and Hotel Monaco Portland, all of which have been reviewed on Pit Stops for Kids.
On our most recent visit, we crashed at Hotel Monaco (our ultimate fave), in a king premiere suite. For the first half hour or so after checking in, we just basked in the luxury of it, from the jacuzzi tub to the plush robes to the sitting room area with downtown views. I adore Hotel Monaco’s high ceilings, quirky decor, and fun furniture.
We came to our senses in time to remember Hotel Monaco’s happy hour downstairs, and got ourselves a glass of Oregon pinot on the house, then played a game of giant Janga. Yes, that’s a thing. The Hotel Monaco lobby is more like a living room, with drinks set out, comfy sofas and a fireplace, and usually, a resident dog.
I love the mini bar offerings in Hotel Monaco rooms (and the ample mini fridge space for those dinner leftovers) and the doormen and front desk staff are exceptionally helpful with directions and reservations. Every time I’m here, I truly feel welcomed back and pampered…a feeling that’s rarer and rarer in travel.
In the mornings, I like to exercise at Hotel Monaco (the exercise room is on the 9th floor, so there’s no need to traipse through the lobby while sweaty), then grab Starbucks coffee or hot chocolate with all the fixings in the lobby. There’s coffee in the room, too, of course, as well as wifi. Just become a Kimpton member to access wifi for free…easy peasy!
Parking at Hotel Monaco is a valet affair, but reasonably priced for the city. If you drive a hybrid car, expect to pay half rate! We recommend leaving your car with the valet and taking MAX or walking through downtown Portland…no need to hassle with it again.
Where to eat:
We’ve rounded up a number of fun happy hour spots in the city. You can’t go wrong with any of the above, but should you not want to leave your hotel, the Red Star Tavern is attached to Hotel Monaco. They have a good happy hour menu of small plates, and inventive cocktails. Their bar is lively but chill, and couples can as easily cozy up in a booth instead up belly up to the bar.
Interested in comfort food? Check out Mother’s Bistro, located at . Mother’s is our go-to pick for soups, mac and cheese, and other wintery weather fare when Portland is experiencing its signature drizzle, and has a killer brunch on Sunday mornings (it will be crowded!).
Prefer to eat on the go? We love Portland food trucks! Located in designated pods around the downtown sector of the city, food truck fare ranges from gourmet pasta dishes to inventive burgers to ramen noodles. Grab something and eat it along the Willamette, on a bench overlooking the water.
What to do:
We love walking or hiking through Portland parks or enjoying a leisurely browse through Powell’s. This cavernous bookstore takes up an entire city block, and includes a coffee shop. You’ll need a map to navigate it all (available at the entrances) and without the kids in tow, you can expect to be there a while.
If you hit Portland during a weekend from spring through fall, the Portland Saturday Market is a must. Located under the Burnside Bridge, this outdoor market and street faire will keep you busy all day. Stroll through the stalls, people-watch, and sample local produce and artisan foods. Tip: start here, then spend your late afternoon at Powell’s.
On sunny days, a walk through Portland’s Pearl District or a drive out of the city through the Columbia Gorge can be a great day trip. Head out I-84 and stop at Multnomah Falls, then detour onto the historic river highway. After all, you’re in no rush!