Portland day trip: Old Town Chinatown

A mix of old and new makes this Riverside neighborhood a funky-fun place to spend the day
Lucy Burningham

Why go in March: The cherry trees are blooming in a neighborhood showing signs of renewal, just like the season.

Street scene: A mix of divey Chinese lunch spots and new restaurants, mod art galleries, and century-old brick buildings.

Dress code: Skinny jeans and gold Nikes.

Neighborhood mascot: The pair of golden lions flanking an ornate gate on N.W. 4th Avenue at W. Burnside Street.

Local cause: To re-erect the Hung Far Low sign, a Chinatown icon.

Old hot spot: Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade (511 N.W. Couch St.), a cave of pinball and Ms. Pac-Man.

New hot spot: The Davis Street Tavern ($$$; closed Sun; 500 N.W. Davis St.; 503/505-5050), with juicy lamb burgers.

Eco-chain: seven planet (412 N.W. Couch) is an all-green general store that’s popping ​ up around the Northwest―and is packed with stuff like bottle openers made from old bike parts.

Flower power: Now is prime time for fragrant daphne plants and plum trees at the Lan Su Chinese Garden ($8.50; 239 N.W. Everett St.).

Next: What to see and where to go

  

1. Pretty in pink: Take a walk through Waterfront Park, where 75 cherry trees are in full bloom―and the ginormous open-air Portland Saturday Market starts up this month. The expanded market location makes it better than ever. Expect more steaming bowls of pho, hand-stitched skirts, and photography. Sat–Sun; S.W. Ankeny St. and S.W. Naito Pkwy.

2. Hot plate: When Ping opened last year, it drew diners from around the city―and the world―to this oft-overlooked neighborhood. The open kitchen pumps out peppery pork broths, noodle dishes, steamed buns, and skewered meats for a small-plates menu that traipses across Asia. The bar mixes concoctions of fruity drinking vinegars, shochu, and sake. $$$; closed Sun; 102 N.W. 4th Ave.

3. Preferred mode of transport: No, the Pdx Pedicabs are not just for tourists. Hop on for a pedal-powered, pre­-recorded audio tour. Drivers pull you from architectural to cultural sites as each is mentioned, adding fun details as you go. Ask for a spin down cherry blossom row. Hail or call ahead. From $15; 503/828-9888.

4. Nikes like you’ve never seen: The Compound Gallery has got to have the most colorful collection of sneakers this side of Tokyo. Plus Japanese collectible figurines, offbeat art books, and an impressive selection of design magazines that even Powell’s Books doesn’t carry. ​107 N.W. 5th Ave.

5. Take it home: Pick up a stash of local Tao of Tea loose-leaf teas at the Tower of Cosmic Reflections Teahouse, located in the Lan Su Chinese Garden; it offers about 50 variations on smoky, woody, tropical, or nutty. The staff can tell you everything you’ve ever wanted to know about picking seasons, smoking and drying methods, and modes of steeping. Need just the right teapot? Check out the gorgeous selection. 239 N.W. Everett St.; 503/224-8455.

Next: More spots to smell the flowers around Oregon

  

Tulips in Woodburn: Rows of cheery, bobbing tulip blooms at Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm (33814 S. Meridian Rd.) make this family-run farm feel more Dutch than Willamette Valley. Buy cut flowers or order fall bulbs during the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival (Mar 25–Apr 25; $10 per vehicle).

Daffodils in Junction City: This small town honors the sunny yellow flowers that pop up along ​ 7 miles of Ferguson Road. The wild daffodils lead up to the Long Tom Grange, headquarters for the annual Daffodil Drive Festival. Expect live music, cinnamon rolls, classic cars, and quilts. Mar 20–21; 541/998-2828.

Spring bulbs in Coos Bay:  Salt air mixes with all sorts of spring blooms at Shore Acres State Park, which includes a traditional English garden clinging to the sandstone cliffs on the southern Oregon coast. Wander among rhododendrons and azaleas, tulips, and daffodils―then follow a short trail to secluded Simpson Beach. $5 per vehicle; 89039 Cape Arago Hwy.

Crocus in Silverton: On the 80 acres of the Oregon Garden, gravel and paved paths snake through themed gardens and water features. This month, look for blooming crocus, hebe, iris, and fuzzy-tipped black ​ pussy willow. $7, $5 ages 8–17; ​ 879 W. Main St.