Kristin Hildebrand’s insider guide to Portland

The founder of luxury fitness label Wone shares her favourite spots in the Oregon city

Kristin Hildebrand at Portland Japanese Garden
Kristin Hildebrand at Portland Japanese Garden | Image: Parker Fitzgerald

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“I moved to Portland from Los Angeles initially to start working at Nike, where I was creative director for nearly eight years. LA is an entertainment city, so the focus is quite external; you’re constantly going to parties and concentrating on things outside yourself. Portland is the absolute opposite. It is a city that forces you to go inward and really prioritise health and wellness. I travel like crazy and I need to come back to a place where these things are a priority, as well as real and honest.

A mural in the city depicting the Oregon Trail
A mural in the city depicting the Oregon Trail | Image: Getty Images

Part of the focus on wellbeing is because of the weather. It rains a lot. As frustrating as it is sometimes, it’s really cleansing. And we’re forced to take good care of ourselves. So I see a lot of healers and do a lot of meditation. My husband Ryan and I are also very into spas and holistic health centres – there are loads of them popping up here. I like Root and another one called Good IV for its infrared treatments and IV drips. I founded the second West Coast meditation centre in 2013, and one of my guides there went on to create a place called Pause Meditation in Portland. It’s phenomenal.

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The focus on wellness extends to the food scene too. There are so many great restaurants – from farm-to-table to vegan – that it’s hard not to have a good meal here. I love this ramen place called Afuri, which only has a few other locations around the world. They brought it specifically to Portland because the water here is so pure. It has the most amazing gyoza on the planet, and it’s really straightforward and unfussy, and just centred on the food.

Stand Up Comedy sells fashion from a former jeweller’s shop
Stand Up Comedy sells fashion from a former jeweller’s shop | Image: Mindy Byrd for Stand Up Comedy

There are lots of fantastic Thai places here. Langbaan has great food, but it’s this little restaurant and it books out months in advance. The sri klong neua thoon [braised beef with fermented rice, preserved fennel, pomelo and mint] and the desserts are the best. It apparently does cooking classes, but you have to keep your eye out for those. Pok Pok is another great one. It does more of a Chiang Mai noodle. I love the khao soi [curried noodles], as it reminds me of my time in Chiang Mai, during an amazing trip to Thailand and Myanmar with my husband.

The boutique-y Woodlark hotel in the city centre
The boutique-y Woodlark hotel in the city centre

Then, for drinks, it has to be the Driftwood Room for its classic cocktails. It’s tiny but super-chic and has been around – seemingly – forever. For music, Doug Fir Lounge at the Jupiter Hotel is a Portland classic. I saw the singer Banks there for the first time, when Trevor McFedries, her producer and a friend of mine, was introducing her to the world. That’s one night I’ll never forget.

A signature pink box from Voodoo Doughnut
A signature pink box from Voodoo Doughnut

There’s a big brunch culture in Portland. Tasty n Alder is a great spot for breakfast, but it’s always ridiculously packed. When the TV show Portlandia came out a few years ago, one of the episodes was about brunch, where there were ridiculous queues everywhere. Ryan and I avoid brunch: we have kids, so we can’t stand in line for 30 to 45 minutes. But it’s definitely a big scene on the weekend.

The way into Portland’s Old Town
The way into Portland’s Old Town | Image: Getty Images

If you’re in Portland, you must go to Voodoo Doughnut. They come in these pink boxes and are really edgy. There’s even a voodoo-doll variety with a spear through its heart. The other doughnut spot is Blue Star Donuts. It’s opened in Los Angeles now too, but it started out really small here. They’re probably the best I’ve ever had. I love the crème-brûlée doughnut – you get a little dropper and squeeze the crème brûlée into the middle yourself. It’s gourmet and it’s thoughtful; they really take pride in what they’re doing.

Kristin Hildebrand at Portland Japanese Garden
Kristin Hildebrand at Portland Japanese Garden | Image: Parker Fitzgerald

While there are really cute and interesting shops here, they’re not the focus. But the one spot I do recommend is Stand Up Comedy. It’s in a tiny former jewellery store and so it has these big windows for jewellery displays. The woman who runs it is a purist and she really knows her stuff. Her buy is very forward and she collaborates with most of the designers at the shop, so the fashion is really interesting. I always go to her to be introduced to new designers. She’ll have custom pieces, but there’ll only be a couple of them. I also love the magazine Bill that they sell there. It’s dedicated to photography and it’s such a beautiful concept. 

Downtown Portland
Downtown Portland | Image: Getty Images

Powell’s bookstore is another must. It’s the largest privately owned bookstore in the world. It’s huge: you can find anything that you want. It’s got a great energy, and I’m usually introduced to cool stuff because they’ve got a wall dedicated to books that their team is reading.

The Vintages Trailer Resort
The Vintages Trailer Resort

We like to visit Portland Japanese Garden with our kids. It was redone three years ago by Kengo Kuma. When I was working for Nike we got to meet him, and what I remember most was him speaking about the tsunami in Japan in 2011. He said that everything that was built against nature was wiped out and everything that was built with nature survived. From that point on, his work has centred around building with nature. So for the Japanese Garden, he sourced all local materials. His processes are unbelievably intricate and thoughtful. It’s made it such a beautiful place.

Powell’s, the world’s largest privately owned bookshop
Powell’s, the world’s largest privately owned bookshop

When people come into town, I have them stay at the Woodlark hotel. It’s a cute little boutique-y, quiet hotel in the centre of Portland. But when somebody has the time, I recommend the yurts and the glamping that happens here. There are yurts at Beverly Beach. And there’s a vintage-style trailer resort in Dayton, where we sometimes take the kids at the weekend.

Brunch at Tasty n Alder
Brunch at Tasty n Alder | Image: Trent Finlay Photography

One of the most amazing places I’ve ever been is about three to four hours outside Portland. It’s a working ranch called Silvies. It’s in the middle of nowhere, and it’s so ridiculously quiet. The rooms are super-cute – all wood, almost as you would expect a ranch room to be – and you eat with the cowboys, lots of really gamey foods. There’s a golf course too, which has goat caddies – the goats have been trained to haul your clubs for you. It’s bizarre but cool. They have beautiful campfires and there are horses all around you. There are no lights and you’re only allowed to use a flashlight. It’s a lovely experience.

Smith Rock State Park
Smith Rock State Park | Image: New York Times/Redux/Eyevine

Trail running is big here at the moment. There’s so much nature in Portland that when you go for a trail run, it’s like forest bathing. The biggest spot is Forest Park in the middle of the city. But I like to go closer to home, to Tryon Creek state park. This year I plan to get into tree climbing. About half an hour outside Portland there’s a spot called Tree Climbing Planet, where they have classes. They’ve got this one particular tree that they use as a guide. It’s called Pagoda. That’s why I love Portland. You have stuff like this happening everywhere.

A goat caddy at Silvies Valley Ranch
A goat caddy at Silvies Valley Ranch

I still travel down to LA once or twice a week. My business needs to be based in LA, but its philosophical home is Portland. It’s a place for working on yourself. I find that it keeps us thinking ahead in terms of what we’re into and where we’re going.”

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