Sometimes when I travel to other places in the U.S. I tend to discount it, thinking that because I’m not leaving the United States it’s not “real travel.” But when I went to Austin a few months ago and fell so completely in love with it, I started to realize just how silly that is. And I felt that way again this past weekend while in Hood River. There are so many great places in the U.S. that I’ve never been to, and just because I’m not crossing any international borders to get there doesn’t make it less of a travel worthy experience. Hood River was no exception.
We flew into Portland airport Thursday afternoon, and from there we met up with Gretchen and Derek (two of our best friends, who you may remember as the reason we went to Austin), hopped into a rental car, and drove the hour north to Hood River. The drive was less than an hour, but it felt much shorter because we were so enchanted by the views. Every direction you looked you were met with some sort of outdoor stunner, from snow covered peaks to waterfalls to fields full of wildflowers and lavender. The natural beauty of the area was breathtaking.
Chris and Rachel’s wedding was Saturday and it was insanely beautiful. I’ve been to a lot of weddings, and their venue was easily one of the most stunning wedding venues I have ever seen. Pictures to come, but in the meantime, here’s a rundown of our Hood River mini-vacation:
We decided to forgo the usual hotel room and instead the four of us rented this condo right in the heart of downtown Hood River. It could not have been more perfect. The location was great, we had a balcony that overlooked the gorge, and the condo was more than big enough for the four of us (granted, coming from our tiny SF apartment, that’s not hard). As far as other accommodations go, Hood River is super small, so there are not a whole lot of hotels right downtown, but most of the wedding guests stayed at the Hood River Hotel. Located directly across from our condo was Villa Columbia B&B, which looked like a good option as well.
The best meal we had was at Apple Valley BBQ in Parkdale, about half hour away from Hood River. I don’t eat a lot of meat, so when I do, I want it to be good, and oh man, this was GOOD. Sooooo good. The ribs fell off the bone and the pulled pork was just to die for, and the BBQ sauce was so delicious that if we were checking a bag I would have brought home ten bottles of it. We also ate at Big Horse Brew Pub. The food was nothing spectacular but it was worth it for the views and ambiance. For breakfast, the breakfast sandwiches at Knead Bakery were a fantastic quick morning bite.
For such a small place, there are a shocking amount of pubs, bars, and wineries. My personal favorite was the wine bar Pines 1852, which we went to on Thursday night and was full of “cotton heads” and “white hairs” as Derek and Kevin so lovingly described them. Lots of old people dancing. I loved it. As did Gretchen, and the two of us tore it up on the old people dance floor. Pfriem Brewery was right on the gorge and had a really cool warehouse vibe. The welcome party was held at Springhouse Cellars, yet another really cool and beautiful outdoor venue. Double Mountain Brewery had some great beer (and the food looked good as well!). Waucoma Club was our late night spot two nights in a row.
Things To Do
On Friday we drove the fruit loop, a 35-mile drive that took you through wineries, farms, orchards, and more. Our first stop was Mt. Hood winery, a winery so stunning you felt like you were in a movie. I hate to say it, but it almost put those in Napa and Sonoma to shame.
From there we stopped at a few farms and orchards, including Draper Girls, where we attempted to pick cherries but quickly realized that this was much more fun in theory than reality. We made a quick and rather unsuccessful stop to Foothills Alpaca farm, and ended our day at Hood River Lavender Farm.
On Saturday we attempted to find a place to go swimming, which took us to Mosier Swimming Hole. Once we realized that you pretty much had to hike down a small but extremely steep cliff to get to it, we decided to do something a little less adventurous and instead hung out at the easily accessible and far less terrifying Koberg Beach.
This is easy: Rent a car. While you can walk to bars and restaurants, you’ll need a car if you want to do any sort of exploring. Which you’ll want to do.
On Sunday we spent most of the day in Portland. After being told by multiple people that I “HAD TO GO TO VOODOO DOUGHNUTS” I decided that I had to go to voodoo doughnuts and forced everyone else to come with me. And so we went. And waited in line for 30 minutes. And then proceeded to buy far more donuts than was necessary. And then felt insanely sick and gross after eating the said donuts.
And the thing is… I feel like I am going to get scorned for saying this… they were just okay. They were good, don’t get me wrong, but… I’ve had better donuts. Dynamo Donuts in SF puts them to shame, in my opinion. Perhaps I am just a doughnut snob? (also – is it donut or doughnut? so confusing!)
Later in the day we had lunch in the Pearl District, wandered around the Alphabet District, and had drinks on Alberta street. It was a nice day, but I’m glad most of our time was spent in Hood River. It was just a great little place.
Have you ever been to Hood River?