Chances are, if you’re even the slightest bit familiar with Portland, you’ve heard of the Hawthorne District. This bustling neighborhood’s claims to fame include – but are certainly not limited to! – a vibrant nightlife scene, unique shopping experiences, and cool restaurants serving some truly delicious food.
Below, we’ll round up some of the best reasons why this eclectic area should be top of your to-visit list on your next trip to Portland, whether you’re there for work or play. And, if you happen to live in Portland but have never had the pleasure of experiencing Hawthorne’s delights – do yourself a favor and head there ASAP!
Did you know that Hawthorne Boulevard was named after one Dr J. C. Hawthorne, a co-founder of Oregon’s first dedicated mental hospital?
Located in Southeast Portland, on SE Hawthorne Boulevard, Hawthorne is easily reached by car. Start by taking the Hawthorne Bridge from Downtown Portland. Leave the Interstate 5 highway at exit 300B, and keep left until you hit Belmont Street. Then, turn right at 11th Avenue, continue until you reach Hawthorne Boulevard, and it’s one more quick left to your destination! All in all, the trip should only take you around 10 minutes.
Bus connections are frequent, too – just hop on the 14, which goes directly from Downtown to Hawthorne.
To get the authentic Hawthorne experience, though, you have to go on foot. The neighborhood is incredibly walkable, and you might well miss out on some of its best sights – like the spectacular street art hiding around many corners – if you use four wheels to zip through it! Exercize attention, patience, and a desire to explore, and Hawthorne will give you ample reward.
Until recently, there was only one place to stay in the Hawthorne District – literally! The quirky Portland Hostel has, sadly, closed down due to complications arising from the global pandemic; but don’t let that stop you from paying the nifty neighborhood a visit. Check out these exceptional alternative accommodations, all of which are within 1.5 miles of Hawthorne.
- Bluebird Guesthouse (3517 SE Division St). With modern rooms and a cozy atmosphere, the Bluebird is a firm favorite among Portland visitors (just look at the Hotels.com reviews!). As well as free toiletries, an inclusive breakfast, and laundry facilities, the guesthouse features garden seating, a terrace, and even its own library! Free parking is available if you’re coming by car.
- Evermore Guesthouse (3860 Clinton St). A stunning vintage property that’s also achieved star status with Portland passers-by, the Evermore has a variety of elegant rooms to suit all budgets. There’s also a shared kitchen, several guestrooms, and a stylish-yet-comfortable dining area.
- Laurelhurst Historic Dougan Suites (110 NE Cesar E Chavez Blvd). If you’re looking for something a little more luxurious, you’ll find it at Laurelhurst. Each of their fantastic suites feels like a home-away-from-home, with complimentary cookware, a microwave and stovetop, and connecting/adjoining rooms available if you’re traveling with a larger group and want some privacy. Laurelhurst is great for families, too, with in-room childcare options – and it’s pet-friendly!
Best stuff to see and do
Now that we’ve gotten the practical stuff out of the way, it’s time to move on to what you really want to know: the most exciting experiences on offer in the Hawthorne District!
- Bagdad Theater and Pub (3702 SE Hawthorne Blvd). Part of the iconic McMenamins chain of pubs, the Bagdad serves up freshly-made pizzas and another fantastic fare alongside knock-out movie nights at incredibly affordable prices. It’s been a staple of the Hawthorne area for decades and is sure to continue charming audiences for years to come.
- Mount Tabor (SE 60th Ave and Salmon St). You might not expect Portland to be popular with hikers; but you probably didn’t anticipate an (extinct) volcano within the city’s boundaries, either! Offering stunning panoramic views of Downtown Portland from its top, Mount Tabor can be reached by various walking trails. The surrounding National Park is also a great place to relax.
- Powell’s Books on Hawthorne (3723 SE Hawthorne Blvd). A smaller but no less impressive branch of the Pearl District’s original Powell’s City of Books, this laid-back bookstore is home to over 20,000 new and used reads. Spanning three large rooms, you’re sure to want to spend hours here searching for that perfect paperback!
- People-watching. Last but not least comes a classic pastime, suited both to sunny-day strolls and sitting down in one of Hawthorne’s many excellent cafés and restaurants. Hawthorne is known as a haven for artsy folk, hipsters, and the like; and the outdoor area at the Bagdad is one of the best people-watching spots!
Best places to eat
All that exploring made you hungry? Read on for a selection of the best eateries in Hawthorne!
- Jam on Hawthorne (2239 SE Hawthorne Blvd). It’s worth getting up a little earlier and forgoing the hotel offering to head to this creative café. Jam specializes in superb breakfast foods, including biscuits and gravy, pancakes, and eggs benedict. Its walls are decorated with a variety of colorful artworks – a feast for the eyes as well as the soul!
- Por Que No (4635 SE Hawthorne Blvd). Stylized ¿Por Qué No?, this marvelous little taqueria is sure to have you asking “why not?”. If you’re not feeling the wraps, try their Bryan’s Bowl: a full meal packed with meat or veggies, rice, salsa, guac, queso fresco, and a choice of tortillas or corn chips.
- Harlow (3632 SE Hawthorne Blvd). Vegetarians, vegans, and meat-lovers rejoice! Harlow may focus its foodie energy on gluten-free, plant-based meals, but their sumptuous scrambles, bowls, quesadillas, and smoothies have mass appeal.
Best boutiques and stores
Time for some retail therapy! Whether you’re searching for your next statement piece, on the hunt for funky gifts, or chasing a truly unique browsing experience, these Hawthorne stores are guaranteed to deliver.
- Imelda’s and Louie’s (3426 SE Hawthorne Blvd). Filled with big-name brands like Blundstone, Vans, and Birkenstock, Imelda’s and Louie’s are sanctuaries for anyone who loves shoes, or needs a new pair in a pinch! They also stock a range of hats, scarves, and jewelry.
- Red Light Clothing Exchange (3590 SE Hawthorne Blvd). It’s impossible to miss Red Light’s distinctive scarlet storefront. The largest independent clothing store in Portland, they carry hundreds of vintage pieces, from the stylish, to the seldom-seen, to the outright strange. You can sell things from your own closet that you no longer wear, too!
- Presents of Mind (3633 SE Hawthorne Blvd). A veritable wonderland of unique accessories, apparel, greeting cards, and more! Want to bring back a souvenir of your time in Portland? A fun, celebrity-themed candle for a friend’s Christmas gift? A thoughtful surprise for an upcoming baby shower? You’re sure to find it at Presents of Mind.
- Asylum gift shop (3713 SE Hawthorne Blvd). Filled with fun gifts, refurbished mid-century furniture, and some totally exclusive items, this colorful store is well worth a visit – or two, or three. Asylum is best enjoyed spontaneously; but if you want to scout out their current stock before you go, head to Portland Craigslist and enter “ASYLUM”.
Best nightlife spots
Whether you want to sip a swanky cocktail or kick back with a beer in a friendly local pub, Hawthorne’s got you covered.
- Backstage Bar at the Bagdad Pub (3702 SE Hawthorne Blvd). Featuring seven-storey-high ceilings, a 130-year-old bar salvaged from a previous Downtown district hangout, and a huge, colorful mural, Backstage is an amalgamation of decades of character. Enjoy craft beers, play a round or two of pool, or relax and watch the football matches, screened on game day.
- Sapphire Hotel (5008 SE Hawthorne Blvd). A sultry cocktail bar complete with mood lighting, the Sapphire is an ideal spot to gather with friends, impress your date, or take a solitary evening sojourn. Whatever your wish, the Sapphire – and the ghosts of its past patrons – will welcome you with open arms.
- Bar of the Gods (4801 SE Hawthorne Blvd). Old-school vibes abound at this local favorite watering-hole. They pride themselves on offering “good folk and good times” – and their twist on classic drinks, pinball machines, and hedonistic Greek temple theme successfully cement that promise.
- Portland Cider House (3638 SE Hawthorne Blvd). With 28 ciders on tap, the Cider House stocks all their own craft beverages, as well as a selection of curated guest ciders. All the drinks at this rustic joint are gluten-free; and, if you order one of their (super-affordable!) flights, their friendly staff will help you pick out five to suit your tastes.
Now you know how to get to Hawthorne, the best places to stay, and where you just have to visit when you’re there. We hope you’ve found this article both enjoyable and useful!
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Beth was born under a wandering star, with drama in her veins and ink in her pen. After stints studying theatre in Dublin and Utrecht she used her creative streak to see as much of the world as she could on as little money. She toured Italian Schools with a children’s theatre troop, lived as an au-pair in both Rome and Washington DC, explored the British countryside, worked her way through much of Europe, Salsa danced in Cuba and road tripped down America’s west coast where she discovered her spiritual home; Portland, Oregon. In between adventures she resides peacefully with her family, cats and ukulele.