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Portland City Guide

Relaxing & Unwinding in Portland

©2006 Sarah Kim Portland's Japanese Garden is a soothing oasis in the city.

Nothing beats natural beauty for its relaxing powers. Portlanders don't have far to go to get that natural vibe. A walk in the woods, a jog along the river, or a stroll through one of Portland's many beautiful gardens will provide excellent natural scenery.

It all goes back to the "40-Mile Loop," a recreational concept conceived by the city fathers. In 1904, they hired the famous Olmstead Brothers, landscape artists who had followed their father, Frederick Law Olmstead, into the park planning and landscape architecture field. The brothers mapped out a route for hiking and boating that circled the city.

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Today's city planners have stayed faithful to the concept, although the "loop" has grown considerably. At any rate, Portland can still be circled by walking along the Wildwood Trail of Forest Park, canoed along the Columbia Slough, and bicycled along the Springwater Corridor.

Insider's Guide: The Best of Relaxing & Unwinding in Portland

Insider's Guide: The Best of Relaxing & Unwinding in Portland

But if that's a bit too adventurous, there are other ways to unwind. Visit The Grotto (8840 NE Skidmore), whether you're Catholic or not, the cliffside Meditation Chapel, or the garden trails of the 62-acre Catholic shrine and botanical garden.

Hike in Forest Park (NW Skyline and St Helens rds), which encompasses more than 5,000 wooded acres, making it one of the largest wilderness parks within city limits in the United States. It's a great place for hiking, bicycling, and equestrian trails.

Another great way to relax and unwind is some of Portland's many gardens: The Classical Chinese Garden (127 NW 3rd Ave), the Japanese Garden (611 SW Kingston Ave), or the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden (SE 28th Ave and Woodstock Blvd). The latter is at the height of bloom around Mother's Day, but at any other time provides a peaceful walk by ponds busy with water fowl.

If you'd rather be attended to, book a massage at Aequis (419 SW 11th Ave). Your treatment will begin with a soothing foot bath to get you relaxed and really in the mood for your treatment. For a massage with a Hawaiian flavor, try the Kanani Pearl Spa (1111 NW Marshall St), where Hawaiian music and the soothing sound of waterfalls will relax you to the core.

A great vantage point during First Thursday's street art fair is Paragon Restaurant & Bar (1309 NW Hoyt St), at a table on the loading dock. You can dawdle over drinks and dinner and watch the sea of humanity float by.

For another great people-watching spot, grab a table at Riverplace Marina (0315 SW Montgomery St), between Mobil Three-Star Riverplace Hotel and Harborside Restaurant. When you get tired of watching passersby, look at the boats on the river from the South Park Blocks (SW Park from Salmon to Jackson St). Or, relax on a park bench and admire flower gardens and statues at Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park (Naito Pkwy between SW Harrison and NW Glisan sts).

See some places off the beaten path and learn as you go by taking advantage of one of Portland's organized tours. On the next page, we'll offer some suggestions for organized tours.

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