Seattle and Portland will always be closely linked in my mind. Whenever one of them comes up in conversation the other is sure to follow. I decided to compare them side by side.
Seattle and Portland are much more similar than they are different.
They both have a solid music scene.
Both have world class beer.
Both pride themselves on their uniqueness.
On the flip side, they do have recognizable differences, but most of these differences I attribute to population density. Seattle and Portland are comparable in size at 142.5 square miles and 145 sq mi respectively, but Seattle has a little less than double the population of Portland, 3,060,000 vs 1,850,000. So in addition to being able to sit at the big kids table during thanksgiving, Seattle has a few more “big city” attractions – monuments, museums, and professional sports teams.
I don’t mean to slight Portland. The Trail Blazers (basketball) and Timbers (soccer) have their own dedicated fan base, and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) is one of my favorites. But in Seattle the Seahawk’s “12th man” flag is more common than the state flag, and besides the Golden Gate Bridge, the Space Needle is the most recognizable monument on the West Coast.
That being said, after spending four days in each city my interest for living in either has tipped from Seattle to Portland.
I met people from Seattle throughout my trip and they rarely forgot to mention how many people are moving into the city and how much more difficult the housing market is getting. My cousin Kyle, who lives in the Seattle suburb Ballard, echoed this feeling. Specifically, they would mention the influx of tech employees. The situation seems similar to what I heard in Austin, Texas. Companies attract young professionals by locating their offices in hip cities. It makes complete sense to me, but I suspect that the rate at which newcomers are acquired can outrun the group’s ability to retain its character. With regard to me moving up to Seattle, I sense that I’m a little behind the curve.
Other than that, Seattle rocks, and most of my swing in favoritism is owed to how awesome Portland showed itself to be.
I’ve been to Portland a few times before, but this was the first time I did any significant exploring by myself.
Portland’s unofficial slogan is “Keep Portland Weird.” At first bluff I’m usually not super convinced by people who announce how unique they are, but after taking the time to wander around the streets, parks, and people, I was charmed. As per usual, I did all the touristy things first – I visited Voodoo Donuts, Powell’s Bookstore, and the Rogue brewpub. But the second day I took a passive approach by playing out my “Day in the life of a cultured city writer” fantasy. I set up in a coffee shop in the Knob Hill area for a few hours, and then biked down to the riverfront park to read. I had a perfect time.
There is an interesting homeless person demographic in Portland.
A significant percentage appear to be between 18 and 30 years old. I brought it up to the friend I was staying with, and he said “Portland is the place where young people go to retire.”
Also, There are plenty of outdoor attractions within an hour of Portland. On my third day I drove out around Mt. Hood and back through the Columbia River Gorge on the historic Highway 30.