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Grand Prix Portland: A City Guide! (A Nut Draw Special Report)

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This week I'm departing from the charts and graphs a bit to bring you something a little different, yet familiar. You may have read Doug Linn’s amazing guide to navigating and enjoying Columbus Ohio at the recent GP and would like to see something similar about the upcoming GP Portland on Sept 10-12th. Please then come with me on a similar journey whose structure has been lifted whole sale from Doug’s extraordinary efforts, but that lacks most of Doug’s charm and thoughtfulness. As a resident of a town called Puyallup WA (near Tacoma) and having been born in Seattle, the 3-4 hour drive into Portland OR isn’t something I can be bothered with all that often and my introverted nature has deprived me accumulating the personal knowledge required for trailblazing the Portland hotspots. I will instead be relying on some web sites, knowledge of Portlandonians I’m friends with, and a host of misleading anecdotes. Still interested in what I have to say after such a ringing personal endorsement? I thought so, please read on.

The Lay of the Land

Portland is located in northwestern Oregon pretty much smack on the Washington/Oregon border. It's laid out in quadrants with the east/west division being the Willamette River which runs mostly parallel with I-5 and the north/south bisection being Burnside Street/Burnside Bridge. Be thankful that the Oregon Convention Center is on the east side of the river because as we all know the west is plagued by the turf war between Riff with his gang the Jets and Bernardo and his Sharks. I don’t know about you, but there’s no way I could walk hunched over and snapping in unison while toting a trade binder for long enough to get to the Arby’s unscathed.

[iframe http://maps.google.com/maps?q=oregon+convention+center&hl=en&cd=1&ei=Hc9YTOOHIqb6tgPT7aBJ&sig2=XiGGwis0Dj3BXz8ml23G2Q&sll=44.666189,-122.308281&sspn=2.068934,4.209791&ie=UTF8&view=map&cid=6993232033891072479&ved=0CFEQpQY&hq=oregon+convention+center&hnear=&ll=45.528245,-122.661645&spn=0.006295,0.006295&output=embed 100% 600px]View Larger Map

How To Get There

Once in the city you’ll find a very accessible public transportation system with light rail (MAX), street cars and busses which shuffle the little ants about to the interesting bits of the city. Those traveling in from Portland International Airport will have a short 15-20 minute drive to the event. Please note that there is a direct light rail MAX line from the airport to the convention center taking about 32 minutes (take the MAX “red line.” It runs from 4:45am to 11:58pm leaving every 15 minutes and is about $2.35). For those who like to keep contact with strangers to a minimum in exchange for being able to afford fewer side events, taxi and shuttle services are also available for $25-$45. There is a large MAX “free zone” which runs from several blocks east of the convention center to deep into the gang war territory on the west side. A strategically located hotel could afford you virtually free transportation while in the city. Those who want to venture outside of the free zone can do so for very little. Anyone driving in from the North or South will most likely be on I-5 (if you get to Mexico or Canada turn around, you’ve gone too far) and will have a hard time missing the otherwise useless pair of glass spires of said convention center.

[iframe http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=embed&hl=en&geocode=&q=oregon+convention+center&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=54.269804,79.013672&ie=UTF8&hq=oregon+convention+center&hnear=&ll=45.528245,-122.661645&spn=0.071946,0.071946&layer=c&cbll=45.528648,-122.665101&panoid=7eh4KpA-MRCRQ70j_hMaJw&cbp=12,78.34,,0,-4.31&output=svembed 100% 600px]View Larger Map

If you’re coming in from the east it will likely be on I-84/US 30 right up until you pass the convention center and move onto I-5 for a better look at those spires. Anyone coming from the west by ground transportation either already knows how to get there or doesn’t understand which direction is west.
“Portland, Oregon! -- Green, Clean, Friendly, Hip, Urbane. Come to the City of Roses and compete at Grand Prix-Portland. Grand Prix-Portland is a fantastic opportunity for competitive and casual Magic players alike,” said Tim Shields of Cascade Games. Cascade Games is the wonderful PTO who will be hosting GP Portland and from whom I received much of the information herein. It’s also important to note that Portland is very bicycle friendly. The city is virtually littered with bike racks, with some being available at the convention center, and also on the light rail and busses. We have our fair share of crazy drivers up here (we blame it on people emigrating from California) so there are bike lanes on most bridges and major roads.

Where To Stay

Our benevolent PTO Tim Shields has arranged for a block of rooms for intrepid Magic goers at the Courtyard Marriott Downtown at Lloyd Center located a very convenient 3 blocks from the convention center for $89 a night (must be intrepid to qualify*). Click this link or call with the Group Rate Code “MPXS” to reserve your room (800-321-2211 or 503-234-3200). This is a great deal since it’s such a good place to stay and about $60 off. At press time there were still plenty of rooms available, and we know you’ll love the accommodations. There are also another 10+ different places to stay within 5 blocks of the event and many times that within the MAX free zone and beyond. I’ll be at the Courtyard Marriot listed under the name Garruk Wildspeaker, so please send the gift baskets there.

What To Do

Daytime
The Oregon Zoo is pretty fantastic, and as with many places in the Northwest there is near an unlimited amount of outdoor activities to tax the atrophied muscles of even the most dedicated Magic players. I think Tim put it best... “Bike/Kayak/Hike/Windsurf/Ski/Camp: Oregon is home to the great outdoors. Bike and kayak rentals are available a short distance from the Grand Prix venue. Hiking is possible within city limits (Portland’s Forest Park alone boasts 75 miles of wooded hiking trails). Excellent windsurfing is an hour’s drive away at Hood River, skiing is less than an hour’s drive away at Mt Hood, and camping is available throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington at state and national parks. If you plan to extend your trip to Oregon beyond the three days of the Grand Prix, you may want to take in some of these outdoor adventures.” Also keep in mind that there is no sales tax in Oregon so it’s finally time to stock up on carry-on items and vehicles.

Nighttime
All of the above can unsafely be enjoyed at night as well as boozing it up at some of the best places in the country. (I can’t confirm they are the best because I don’t drink and am not well travelled, but take my word for it anyway). Tim says, “Drink: Portland is a mother city for US microbrews. Portland’s oldest microbrewery, BridgePort, is located in the Pearl District. If you want to develop your own pub crawl, add in stops at Portland Brewing Company’s Taproom, Widmer Brothers Gasthaus and/or any of the pubs operated by the McMenamin Brothers.” Among the other top rated establishments we have the Bonfire Lounge located next to Stark Naked Pizza. Hopworks Urban Brewery and Basta’s Trattoria. A really great online tool for configuring your nightlife while in Portland is barflymag.com. There you will be able to navigate the hieroglyphics selection system and sculpt the perfect night.

Food and Drink

Quiet Speculation has managed to put together a couple of food deals for our readers. Any of the Magic players and fans can saunter about a block and a half north of the event to the Burgerville for a 10% discount during your visit to the city (just say you are from the Magic Grand Prix).

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See the Spire? Click for larger map.

If burgers aren't your thing, travel 2 blocks east to the already well priced J Cafe who is offering a 10% discount to Quiet Speculation readers proudly mumbling the phrase "Magic Grand Prix." While they are traditionally open only on the weekdays, they may also be open during our busy event.

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View Larger Map

Some of the other tasty but frugal Portland options include Meat Cheese Bread said to have great breakfasts under $6, Gravy with large portioned meals featuring gravy, and some of the best sandwhich’s in the city can be had at Bunk Sandwiches for about $8. Of course all of those establishments were chosen to highlight because of their names.

Quick Hits and Side Attractions

If you’ve come into town dragging the slightly disapproving significant other it’s possible that they aren’t as enthusiastic about the spectacle of card slinging that you are and you might need to suggest some other activities. As mentioned above there is The Oregon Zoo, you could take in some indie film screenings at the Northwest Film Center, a trip to the Portland Art Museum and more parks and landmarks then you can target a Doom Blade with.

Getting Your Final Preparations Ready

Between the information above and your other independent research you should have by now worked out your transportation, lodgings and meal plans. No need to bring cards with you on this trip since it’s a mostly sealed event (yep, the Friday grinders are also sealed.) There are side events though that are infinite Standard, infinite Extended, infinite Legacy, and infinite Vintage so it might not hurt to bring the cardboard (in addition to infinite booster drafts, infinite minimasters, the usual Sunday PTQ and 10 confirmed artists). Check out the Cascade Games site for all the details.

TRADITIONAL BONUS SECTION ON PARKING

If you’re not lodging close enough to walk to the event or in the MAX “free zone”, there is an onsite parking garage with a maximum daily rate of $9. When selecting an offsite parking lot, keep in mind that the GP is being held in the northeast corner of the building lined up between Pacific St and Oregon St on Martin Luther King Jr Blvd.

Event Venue

I hope to see you all out at GP Portland, please come by and say hello. I'll be there in the capacity of a judge on the 10th, playing in the main event on the 11th, and probably judging again on the 12th.

Chris McNutt

* Need not be intrepid.

Chris McNutt

Born in Seattle, Washington, Chris McNutt has been playing and collecting Magic: The Gathering since Unlimited Edition. As an active player, tournament organizer and judge he regularly scrubs out of Pro Tour Qualifiers but inexplicably cleans up at the local draft tables. When not net decking Chris is either busy working as an Information Technology Sales Rep or spending time with his family. Other non-magical pastimes include playing guitar and an unhealthy number of video games. Cursed with an undying love of generating spreadsheets purely for “fun”, he’ll be crunching the numbers each week in order to serve up delicious data burritos to the salivating, hungry readers of Quiet Speculation.

View More By Chris McNutt

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8 thoughts on “Grand Prix Portland: A City Guide! (A Nut Draw Special Report)

  1. If you want to real standard competition come to rivals fantasy games 315 E main st hillsboro or about 15 miles west of portland easily accesible on the max train see you there

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