Sunday, June 10, 2012

Seattle vs. Portland: It's Not a Competition!

So which city do you  think is cooler, hipper, more evolved, more "it"? Seattle or Portland?

Local media peeps in Seattle and Portland throw out comparisons like this often and then trot out examples (Portland has better food carts! Seattle has better clubs! and so it goes...).

This sort of thing always, I admit, catches my eye.  But it also drives me a little crazy.

I like to think I have a  balanced perspective on these two great cities.  I was born in Seattle, moved to greater Portland as a toddler and lived there through high school, then returned to Seattle for college and have lived here most of my adult life.  I travel to Portland regularly to visit family and friends. 

So Portland still feels like home to me. Just like Seattle.

I've observed, with amusement and sometimes annoyance, these two progressive cities nitpick at each other over the years.  The relationship is sort of like siblings, with Seattle the big sister/brother not so interested in its little sib, Portland. Portland has seemed to carry a chip on its shoulder for not getting enough attention.

While in recent years Portland has shot ahead of Seattle in cachet in the national media (think Portlandia for starters), it still seems to feel the need to best Seattle. On the other hand, now Seattle finally pays more attention and tries to align itself with Portland's cool (like lumping itself into the Portlandia ethos.)

Portland's lovely riverfront along the Willamette River

In a recent edition of the Oregonian, snippets from two articles cracked me up (and inspired this blog post):

Portland is No. 7, down three spots from last year on the latest American Fitness Index. But it's still one spot ahead of Seattle, at No. 8.....


A new ranking of public parks puts Portland in sixth place...but ahead of 34 cities, including Seattle...

 And in the Seattle Times:

Though lovable IFC sketch comedy show "Portlandia" is all about the quirky inhabitants of our neighbor to the south, co-creators Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen's live performance Wednesday at the Showbox at the Market put Seattle in the spotlight. Our own quirky residents got plenty of time to shine, too.

Like I said, sibling rivalry.

Which brings me to what this is all about:  Each city has it's own wonderful, quirky fabulousness. I'll list a few, but I'd love to hear your input as well.

Sailing on Seattle's Elliott Bay

The multitude of off-the-wall activities
“People seriously invest in non-serious activities here,” says my friend Matt, lifelong Portland resident. Portland has the under-the-radar Zoobomb bicycle race, and an insane adult soapbox derby, among others. Seattle's Fremont Solstice Parade brings out artsy free spirits (and nudists) from all corners of the city.

Preview party for the 2011 Ice Queen's Solstice Parade attire

Vibrant neighborhoods
Tourists might flock to downtown Portland and Seattle, but locals know it's in the neighborhoods where the heart and soul of these cities lie, such as Georgetown, Ballard, Fremont, Queen Anne, Capitol Hill/First Hill, Alki/Admiral/Alaska Junction, Phinney Ridge/Greenwood, the International District in Seattle, and Hawthorne, Hollywood, Sellwood, the Pearl, Goose Hollow, Mississippi, and  Northwest Portland in Portland.

Greenwood Arts Walk

Amazing public transportation
Portland's MAX light rail and street cars make the city accessible and are one of the best ways to tour the city. In Seattle, nothing beats riding a Washington State Ferry across Puget Sound. And then there are the bicycle trails....

Portland streetcar

The food culture
Portland and Seattle have been drawing young chefs from around the U.S. who are inspired by our superb bounty of local ingredients and affordability for starting restaurants (compared to L.A., Chicago, or New York).  Portland's food carts started a national trend. In Seattle, beyond the famous Pike Place Market (NOT Pike's Market), the neighborhood farmer's markets are thriving. The Ballard Farmer's Market is the best party in the city every Sunday.

Seattle's Ballard Farmer's Market every Sunday, year-round

So how about you? What uniquely Portland or Seattle events/attitudes/places stand out for you? What draws or keep you here? Or what has driven you away?


Anne said...

I think the attitude of Portland came from the fact that it is an older city but was surpassed in size when the Alaska Gold Rush caused Seattle to be a boom town, plus the fact that Seattle is a salt water port and consequently easier for shipping. It was still prevalent when we moved to Portland in 1960 as several 12 year old kids said to me "we don't like Seattle," which completely surprised me as I had no negative feelings about Portland.
However that was 50 years ago and I think now both cities are more cosmopolitan. I appreciate the natural beauty with the water and mountains of both and the independent spirit of their residents. I am sitting here on a sunny beautiful day enjoying the trilling of the birds and the beauty of the greenery and simply will say "Huzzah for the Pacific Northwest!"

Jill said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Marie said...

I agree--great post, Jill. You are so well suited to write this, having grown up in Portland yet now living in Seattle.

Don't forget the nude bicycle race and the red dress event in Portland--those are a couple of other stand-out Portland traditions.

One of my favorite things about Seattle and Portland is the abundance of water everywhere! I love the fact that both cities downtowns are near water and bridges.

I also love the casual lifestyles, abundance of free or inexpensive events, progressive politics and "live and let live" attitudes (e.g., an unfortunate example of that is Portland's mayor Sam Adams!), and love of the outdoors.

We are all so proud of our cities and our outdoors...and as a hometown Portlander who went to college in the Puget Sound, I love both cities!!

Dave Wenning said...

Great post, beautiful photos. Everyone who grows up in western Washington feels like a Seattlite. Lived there as a U-Dub student and came to love it even more. Maybe Seattle is finally getting it's act together with the transportation system. I hope it's not too late. For 30 years, they preferred to build stadiums. Then tear down stadiums and build new stadiums. They went off the rails, so to speak. But I would live there again in a heartbeat. Always enjoy your Seattle posts and this one is one of the best. Great to read about Portland too. Oregon and Washington have so much in common.

Eric G. said...

I've enjoyed many trips to Seattle, but three complaints about it are: 1) traffic, 2) weather (even worse than Portland's), and 3) things seem to cost more there than they do in Portland.

Unfortunately for Portland, people were stupid enough to vote down the Delta Dome in 1964, which meant no professional baseball and no professional football. Since Seattle didn't make the same terrible decision, that's a huge plus for that big city to the north.

jill said...

Hey Anne, Huzzah, now that's a term I don't hear much, but it fits.

Thanks Marie, so you've got a bit of the bi-state thing going too. Yes, the water is key, my dad, though, who was a Seattlite until he moved us to Oregon, always said he missed the water (Puget Sound, Lake WA) when living in Oregon.

Dave, I agree with you on the stadiums...thanks for the comment!

Eric, ha, of course you would know about the Delta Dome vote. I don't remember that! Yea, traffic is pretty awful in Seattle area.

Mary said...

Nice job Jill! I love Seattle better but I certainly love to visit Portland and Portland is probably more evolved than Seattle in a lot of ways.

Anonymous said...

Tom says: I've been accused of being a closeted Cougar. I've never been accused of being a Duck. Oregon is my favorite place in the world. Oh my memories of the wonderful, lazy, intense, family oriented vacations so far away (circa 1950's). My mother grew up in Eastern Oregon and my Grandma, Aunts and Uncles never left Oregon (Portland, Hermiston, Umatilla, Pendleton). I always knew people in Oregon had more fun....don't they?

karen gerstenberger said...

Jill, thank you for leaving your comment on my posting about Bob. I'm so sorry about his passing. He was my brother's best friend for so many years and it still seems impossible to me that he's not with us.

Thank you for your kind words about Katie, and for reminding me where/how we met. That seems so many lifetimes ago! Are you by any chance related to Victoria Irwin?

As you could probably tell, I left CS, as well - most of my family has also taken this step.

Your blog is lovely and interesting. I can see that we have a common love of the NW, and many of the same activities, places, etc. Again, thank you for stopping by! Blessings to you.