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tv travel: portlandia

the dream of the '90s is indeed alive in portland.

by: mai lynn miller nguyen

September 25 2013

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"Do you remember the '90s? You know, people were talking about getting piercings and getting tribal tattoos and people were singing about saving the planet and forming bands. There's a place where that idea still exists, as a reality."

Portlandia might not exactly be a real city, but Portland, Oregon is. The Pacific Northwest hotspot is the inspiration for former SNL actor Fred Armisen and Sleater-Kinney riot grrl Carrie Brownstein's hit television series. A mix of affection and ridicule, Portlandia satirizes not only its organic-loving, cooler-than-thou namesake, but hipster hubs everywhere. As soon as the show kicked off with the "Dream of the '90s" musical segment, we were ready to book flights to Portland. Because, duh, we love the '90s. It's hard not to have a place in our bohemian hearts for a city where "young people go to retire" and "all the hot girls wear glasses." While you're waiting for the show's fourth season, pay a visit to these sites filmed and referenced in Portlandia.

Ace Hotel, 1022 SW Stark Street

You've made it to Portland. Where should you stay? Check into the Ace Hotel, the second of the Seattle-born brand's locations. You may recognize the happening lobby from Portlandia's first season, spoofed as the Deuce Hotel in which staff members (played by Brownstein and Armisen) go ballistic on pretentious rock stars. Guests can enjoy the retro photo booth, Stumptown Coffee outlet, and Clyde Common restaurant--and the service comes without temper tantrums.

Voodoo Doughnuts, 22 SW 3rd Avenue

Start the day off with a sugar rush courtesy of a maple bacon bar, a signature at Portland's iconic Voodoo Doughnuts. It's the first stop in season two's scavenger hunt skit, in which Garman, the "little guy" with the helium-infused voice, saves the day. This ain't no Dunkin' Donuts--not only does Voodoo offer wacky toppings like Fruit Loops, Butterfingers, and marshmallows, but animal lovers can choose from an assortment of vegan varieties.

The Pearl District, SW Portland

If you're going to do this tour right, you've got to do it by two wheels. Cyclists in Portland don't mess around, as evidenced by Spyke and his crusade for bicycle rights in the show's pilot. Spyke's route takes him across The Pearl, a polished urban neighborhood filled with sleek cafes, lofts, and yupster families. Follow his tracks and hire a cruiser from one of the city's many bike shops. But tone down the aggression; real Portlanders rarely get so hot under the collar.

Jackpot Records, 3574 SE Hawthorne Boulevard

In Portland, everyone's a DJ. At least, that's what it feels like to Brownstein and Armisen when they're bombarded by gig invitations galore--including from the rocker's mom. Pop into the shop where the skit starts off, Jackpot Records on funky Hawthorne Boulevard, and find plenty of new and used albums for all musical tastes.

Food Carts, all over Portland

Stu's Stews is the fictional food truck run by comedians Jim Gaffigan and Matt Lucas in the winter special episode. Luckily, Portland's celebrated carts serve a lot more appetizing fare than that skit would have you believe. Foodies will revel in the cornucopia of sidewalk dining, especially the pods concentrated along Mississippi, Alberta, and Alder Streets.

Land, 3925 N Mississippi Avenue

If there's one catchphrase to take away from Portlandia, it's, "Put a bird on it!" In this classic first season sketch, Armisen and Brownstein mock twee crafters for placing birds on, well, everything. The charming knickknacks at Land might not be covered in feathered friend imagery, but the boutique served as the scene's location and is the perfect place to pick up souvenirs.

Mint/820, 816 N Russell Street

Andy Samberg may not be a mixologist in real-life Portland (I wish, sigh), but you can still visit the locale of his Portlandia appearance. Mint/820 is one of the city's enduring go-tos for cocktails. Decor is chic yet cozy, with a dramatic S-shaped bar as the centerpiece. And just like Samberg's character oh-so-cutely proclaims, the delicious concoctions at Mint are made with "a little bit of love."

Gilt Club, 306 NW Broadway

A true Portlander wouldn't consume just any type of chicken. While dining, Peter and Nance (played by Armisen and Brownstein) go to extremes to make sure their local, free-range poultry had a happy life before becoming dinner. Skip the fanatical farm inspection and head straight to Gilt Club, a stylish restaurant in Portland's old town focused on sustainable ingredients.

The Waypost, 3120 N Williams Avenue

Best Portlandia guest star ever? That's a tough question, but props go to Chloe Sevigny as whimsical Alexandra in season three. Both Armisen and Brownstein couldn't resist her lovable performance of kitten-like yowls and deadpan vocals at The Waypost. Catch a show at this hideaway in North Portland (NoPo to the locals), a cafe by day and quirky venue by night.

Portlandia Statue, 1120 SW 5th Avenue

Before you end your romp across Portlandia's set locations, pay your respects to the show's muse. Portlandia is the name of a trident-bearing statue--the second largest copper sculpture after the Statue of Liberty--based on an allegorical woman depicted in the city's official seal from the 1800s. This may sound crazy, but the facial resemblance to Brownstein is striking. Just saying...

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