Places To Pause In Portland

Please don't call it "Puddle-town." There's more to Port-land than its 37 inches of annual rainfall. From a famed rose garden to the 24-hour Church of Elvis, Portland offers a wide variety of entertainment.

The International Rose Test Gar-den, where more than 500 varieties of roses bloom, is the source for Portland's preferred nickname, "The City of Roses." This free garden was established in 1917 and is the oldest of its kind in the nation. Nestled in Washington Park over the Willamette River, the 4.5 acre garden offers a beautiful view of downtown and its guardians: Mount Hood and the volcanic Mount St. Helens.

After sampling the roses' fragrances, turn west into the Orient. Portland's Japanese Garden is reportedly the most authentic outside of Japan. The 5.5 acre garden offers a tea house, a pavilion and five garden styles. But don't forget your wallet; they charge admission.

Heading back downtown, don't forget to stop and pay homage to the King. That's Elvis, of course. At the Church of Elvis, you can take part in a wedding, confession, catechism or sermon and even have your picture taken with the legend himself. Uh Hunh.

To return to the Oregon Convention Center from downtown, don't take a taxi - hop a cable car instead. You'll think you're in San Francisco as you tool back to the Lloyd District for free. Four trolleys run every half hour.

Getting There From Here Of course, trolleys are not Portland's sole means of transportation. Taxis, shuttles, limousines and buses are available for the 20-minute commute from Portland International Airport to downtown.

In the city, the Metropolitan Area Express light rail line can carry you along a 15-mile course from downtown, through Old Town, across the Willamette River on the Steel Bridge or east to Mount Hood. Trains run every seven minutes during rush hour and every fifteen minutes at other times. MAX's perk: Fareless Square. This 300-block area where bus and rail are free is bordered on the west and south by Interstate 405 and on the north by Hoyt Street.

Don't let all this accessibility cut down on your exercise, though. Remember, Portland is considered to be one of the nation's most walkable cities - short blocks, pedestrian-level eye-catchers and parks. Of interest to the pedestrian: Forest Park, the nation's largest forested municipal park and Mill Ends Park, which, at 24 inches, is the world's smallest dedicated park. So, don your Nikes and take a stroll.

For The Kids Portland is family-friendly. Kids will get a kick out of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, which is located a short hop on Interstate 5 southbound. Here, the family can enjoy six exhibit halls filled with hands-on activities, astronomy and laser light shows. Across the Willam-ette River in the southwest section, The Children's Museum also offers hands-on exhibits and activities. Fin-ally, don't miss the Metro Washington Park Zoo.

Bottoms Up What's a trip to Portland without sampling some fine brew? Known as the microbrew capital of the world, Portland has more microbreweries, brew pubs and brewery outlets than any other city in the nation. You have 37 outlets to choose from, but don't miss BridgePort Brewing Co. Inc., Oregon's oldest microbrewery, and Widmer Gasthaus, where you can sample "America's original Hefeweizen," a popular light-bodied, lemon-flavored wheat bier.

If you arrive in town a little early, you can participate in Horst Mager's Rheinlander Oktoberfest, which runs September 19 to 22 in Oaks Amusement Park. Cheers!

Good Grub At the end of a long day of sessions and exhibiting, you won't have to travel far to sample a taste of Portland. Jamie's Great Hamburgers, The Republic Cafe, Alexis, Azteca Mexican Restaurant and The Grille are reasonably-priced and located close to the convention center. For finer dining, try Fibber McGee's Eatery and Grog or Salty's on the Columbia.

The Shopping Scene Oregon has no sales tax. Need we say more? Close to the convention center is Lloyd Center and The Galleria. Factory outlets are peppered both within and just outside the city. Since Portland is the hometown of Nike Inc., take advantage of Nike Portland Factory Store, close to the convention center on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. If you're staying the weekend, check out the Portland Saturday Market (also open Sunday), the nation's largest continuously-operating, open-air market for handcrafted goods.

Day Trips Sick of the city? Head south 100 miles through the Willamette Valley wine country. If you don't want to drive, you can always catch a hot-air balloon ride over the vineyards and partake of a complimentary champagne brunch after you touch down.

Or, travel 200 miles west to the beach. Coastal highway 101 northbound will take you past Seaside and the "End of the Trail Monument" marking the westward end of the Lewis and Clark expedition. South-bound 101 will take you drive Ecola State Park and Haystack Rock, one of the world's tallest monoliths and a great "photo op."

Afterthoughts Before you bid farewell to the City of Roses, pose for a picture with Portlandia, the nation's second-largest hammered copper statue. (New York's Statue of Liberty has her beat.)

And don't leave the city without mingling with the Portlanders themselves in "Portland's living room" - Pioneer Courthouse Square. Here, you can get insider tips on what to do and where to go as you stroll past the amphitheater and fountain or stand at the base of the 25-foot tall weather machine that spews mist and, amid a blast of trumpets, predicts the rest of the day's weather at noon.

No matter what the weather machine says, however, remember they don't call Portland "Puddle-town" for nothing. Better bring your umbrella ... just in case.