Lose the car keys. In Portland, it's more fun to glide through town on an electric streetcar. It stops within blocks of just about everywhere you want to be in the urban west side.
The city already had its MAX (Metropolitan Area Express) light-rail system when the Portland Streetcar debuted in 2001. But while MAX speeds passengers from the city center to the suburbs and even the Portland airport on 44 miles of track, the streetcar loops at a more human pace along a 6-mile circuit from Northwest 23rd Avenue, through the Pearl District, into downtown, to the South Park Blocks and Portland State University campus and, since March, the burgeoning RiverPlace district.
Start our streetcar tour at the N.W. 23rd stop, the route's westernmost point, just before it doubles back toward downtown.
Northwest: Nob Hill and the Pearl
N.W. 23rd Ave. and Marshall St. Before you hop on at the stop here, walk south on 23rd, pausing first at Twenty-Third Avenue Books (1015 N.W. 23rd; 503/224-5097), one of the city's best small, independent bookstores, to plunge into the heart of Nob Hill, with its fine restaurants, funky cafes, and head-to-toe boutiques. Check out the earrings at Dazzle (704 N.W. 23rd; 503/224-1294) and the designer footwear at Zelda's Shoe Bar (633 N.W. 23rd; 503/226-0363).