Portland

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What distinguishes Portland from the rest of America's cityscapes? Or for that matter, from the rest of the world's urban destinations? In a Northwest nutshell: everything. For some, it's the wealth of cultural offerings and never-ending culinary choices; for others, it's Portland's proximity to the ocean and mountains, or simply the beauty of having all these attributes in one place.

Strolling through downtown or in one of Portland's numerous neighborhoods, you discover an unmistakable vibrancy to this city—one that is created by the clean air, the wealth of trees, and a blend of historic and modern architecture. Portland's various nicknames—Rose City, Bridgetown, Beervana, Brewtopia—tell its story in a nutshell as well.

Portland has a thriving cultural community, with ballet, opera, symphonies, theatre, and art exhibitions both minor and major in scope. Portland also has long been considered a hub for indie music. Hundreds of bands flock to become part of the creative flow of alternative, jazz, blues, and rock that dominate the nightclub scene seven nights a week. Factor in an outrageous number of independent brewpubs and coffee shops—with snowboarding, windsurfing, or camping within an hour's drive—and it's easy to see why so many young people take advantage of Portland's eclectic indoor and outdoor offerings.

For people on a slower pace, there are strolls through never-ending parks, dimmed dining rooms for savoring innovative regional cuisine, and gorgeous cruises along the Willamette River aboard the Portland Spirit. Families can explore first-rate museums and parks, including the Children's Museum, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, and Oaks Park. At most libraries, parks, and recreational facilities, expect to find hands-on activities, music, story times, plays, and special performances for children. Many restaurants in and around Portland are family-friendly, and with immediate access to the MAX light rail and streetcars, toting kids around is easy.