Portland can be a daunting city to date in, but right now it can seem damn near impossible. There are no concerts, no cozy nooks in dimly lit bars. Movie theaters are open, but, let’s be honest, movie dates were a bad idea even before they came with the risk of contracting a fatal disease.
Still, 2020 and its retinue of horrors is no reason to give up on love, fun, or whatever you’re looking for. Just remember that meeting up with anyone new — or going out at all — comes with risks beyond the previous years’, and it’s important to keep yourself safe, healthy, and happy. But for those taking precautions, we have a plethora of options for great dates around town, even ones that won’t be too hard on the wallet. Most of it is now outside.
And if you don’t see anything that you love here, be sure to take a gander at our locals-approved list of super fun things to do around Portland for some more ideas.
Take a hike in Forest Park
Parks are kind of the go-to move for dates these days, what with being outdoors, ability to distance from others, and the fact that we’ve got a ton of them in PDX. In fact we’ve got the largest parks (within the city limits) in the country, so why not take advantage with a leisurely stroll, a woodland run, or a hike with a new, or old, friend? Seriously, Forest Park covers around 5,157 acres with 80 miles of trails. And though we’re moving into the rainy months, the thick canopy of trees keeps the area relatively dry. Besides, you can’t be a true Portlander without a good surplus rain jackets.
Grab dinner at a food cart pod
A huge aspect of Portland’s culinary scene is the amazing food cart options around town, and many of them have weathered the pandemic much better than the brick and mortars. Most neighborhoods have at least one food cart, often organized into pods, so even if you and your date have drastically different tastes in food, you can still both find something. Many of these pods even have covered areas for the rainy months.
Snag cheap drinks at happy hour
It’s the quintessential first date move for a reason. It’s low investment, involves drinking, and you or your date can bail when happy hour is over without it being too awkward or late. Today there are far fewer happy hours as bars struggle to survive against the pandemic and the precautionary restrictions, but there are still some. The modernist Aalto Lounge bumped its trio of HH cocktails up to $4 a piece; the wonderful Kashimiri restaurant Bhuna has rice bowls and a drink for $11, plus some other specials; the rustic Rambler has $6 cocktails, discounted food, and a killer covered patio; and Montavilla’s Observatory has an expanded patio and cheap drink specials. Just remember that even if the drinks and food are cheaper, the workers are still doing just as much work and literally risking their health and lives for it; if you don’t plan on tipping generously and treating them with safety and respect, maybe you shouldn’t be subjecting anyone to a date with you.
Go classic and sip on a latte
Not everyone drinks, and not everyone has time for an evening date. Enter one of the world’s most popular first date options: grabbing a hot, caffeinated drink at one of our many, many cafes, coffee shops, and tea shops around town. The chic, minimalist chain Tea Bar makes hot tea and matcha lattes, Barista employs some of the best latte artists in town, and Never Coffee steams up some unique latte flavors, like the Oregon with hops, dulce de leche, and Jacobsen Salt. Of course, most of these places are closed for dining service and set up with coffee order windows, but that just means you’ll have to take a nice walk with drinks in hand.
Head out on a beer tour
Portland is famous for being a sudsy city for a very good reason. Besides the sheer number of breweries we have, we all also have a plethora of fantastic tap rooms, beer festivals, tours, and brewpubs. Granted, festivals have moved online and tap rooms have closed their bars, but there’s still plenty of outdoor seating at many breweries and taprooms.
Make a day trip to the coast
Once you’re there you can check out the sites in towns like Seaside and Cannon Beach. This is obviously a third or fourth date thing. No one wants to go on a long drive with a stranger.
Check out the Portland Bucket List and tick off a box or two
All over Portland
Finding fun things to do is deceptively difficult — even in a bustling city like this one. So we found around 20 things you absolutely must do before you die (or move!), all of which can still be done even during these challenging (aka horrid) times.
Picnic in a park
For those looking for a more relaxing time than a stroll or run around a big park, why not throw some blankets down and make it a date? Of course, this may not work as well during the rainier times, or the times when we’re covered in a cloud of ash and smoke, but on clear days it’s a great option. Camping supply stores like Andy and Bax and REI often carry water proof blankets, too, to spare you a wet butt. Those looking to picnic on Mt Tabor can even pick up lunch from the lauded Coquine right at its base.
Peruse some records
One quick way to find out more about a new person in your life: judge their taste in music. This is best done by heading to one of Portland’s many independent record shops, like Crossroads Music, Jackpot Records, Music Millennium, and Tomorrow Records. If your date heads straight to the Nu Metal section, run. As usual, smaller businesses are struggling right now, so consider actually buying some vinyl rather than just wandering.
Rent a movie from one of Portland’s best shops
Remember the days when you would have to go rent a movie from a store rather than just finding it on one of the innumerous streaming sites owned by colossal corporations? Movie Madness on SE Belmont is that pinnacle of that store. Today, its memorabilia-lined halls are closed for casual shopping, but it’s transitioned to an online rental store. It’s guaranteed to have films that can’t be found elsewhere, from obscure horror to vintage foreign films. For those looking to stay in it’s a great way to support local businesses and art.Sign up here for our daily PDX email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun Portland has to offer.
Alex Frane has pretty much hit every one of these date options in some form or another at some point. Follow him (or slide into his DMs if you wanna take him out to one of these) at @franiacdrinks.