For only $10-15 you can enjoy a 2.5 hour walking tour of a myriad of Portland neighborhoods to learn the history, architecture, and how it fits into the culture of today’s Portlandia. Two different MeetUp walking tours are now available after an amicable split.
Tom’s Uniquely Portland Tours have been taking groups since late 2010. Positively Portland Walking Tours is the new kid on the block led by architectural history expert Eric Wheeler who formerly assisted with Tom’s tours. Both are organized as MeetUp groups. To join in, RSVP to the Meet-Up group and pay the fee in cash to the group leader. The walking tours are long in duration but typically cover only 1 to 2 miles, with many stops to learn about the features and history of a neighborhood.
The inaugural Positively Portland Walking Tour was the Ladd’s Addition walking tour. Eric Wheeler has a background in real estate assessment and history. His knowledge and love of architectural styles and themes are woven throughout his presentation. While he is a relative newcomer to Portland, he delves deep into the history and is able to answer almost any question.
Eric has an excellent lecturing style, I was fascinated with learning about how the neighborhood developed, who lived there and why. While his forte is architecture, there is plenty of information and themes on culture in times past as well as present day. Positively Portland Tours cost $15. Our group size was small at 6, allowing for more interaction with our tour leader. Eric has a large portfolio of tours to offer and is excited to go to new and different neighborhoods and neighboring towns such as Hillsboro and Forest Grove. I enjoyed the first tour so much that I signed up for the next two as soon as they were announced – Lair Hill and Produce Row.
I took Tom’s Uniquely Portland History and Highlights of the Pearl Walking Tour Tom is away with a group in Mexico and so our tour was led by long-time Portland native John Martin. It was a large group, with over 30 on the RSVP and 27 showing up for the tour. I’ve walked through the Pearl too many times to count, but I still learned quite a bit from the tour. It was not as deep with information as Eric’s tour, yet it was well-paced and I learned something new every few minutes. We stopped for the chance to buy ice cream and to shop at Made Here PDX. There was a further chance for a restroom stop at the Gerding Theater.
Tom’s Uniquely Portland Tours cost $10, and group sizes range from 6 to about 30. They have fun themed tours and tours that take you to destination events as well as historical/cultural tours. They also have tours outside of the Portland area to Seattle and Mexico.
Both of these tours are perfect for not only Portland newbies but also those who have lived here their entire lives. Be a tourist in your own backyard.
Other basics: bring water and dress for slow walking outdoors. We were never more than a couple of blocks from the restroom at our starting point for the Ladd’s Addition tour. On the Pearl District tour, we stopped in a couple of places where using the restroom was possible. The tours are not designed to be handicap accessible.
Each tour ended with an invitation to sit down for coffee or another beverage and enjoy meeting each other. It’s a great way connect with the city and make new friends.