Portland ranks alongside Great Barrier Reef, space as one of top places to visit in 2014

Thanks to the holidays and a little vacation stretch in there, I’ve been away from my blog for a few weeks — for those of you who follow this space regularly and anxiously await new material, I apologize for the wait.

What provided me the motivation to post again is what always seems to prod me into blog activity: Another national publication ranking Portland as a top destination for one thing or another. A tip of the hat here goes out to my colleague, Lisa Haberzettl, who brought this latest one to my attention.

Unless you’ve been living in a proverbial box over the last few years, you know that appearing on a national — or even international — ranking or list isn’t an unusual occurrence for Maine’s largest city.

Since 2009, Portland has been touted by one magazine or another for having some of the country’s best beer, best coffee, healthiest women (and men), best farmers markets, best drivers, best restaurantshippest downtown and best brunches. It’s one of the top cities in America to raise a familyfind a jobstart a second careerprotect the environment, find eligible women and be gay, as these publications have trumpeted — and I’ve subsequently blogged.

Among those singing Portland’s praises have been Travel + Leisure magazine, Forbes, Outside, Parenting, Draft, Women’s Health and Bon Appetit.

Portland, pretty in the winter. (BDN file photo by Troy R. Bennett)

Portland, pretty in the winter. (BDN file photo by Troy R. Bennett)

The latest is this: Business Insider is ranking Portland among the top 14 places for tourists to visit in 2014.

So how does a northeastern city of less than 70,000 people make its way into a list that includes bigger or perhaps more obvious tourist destinations like Hong Kong, Tokyo and the Great Barrier Reef of Australia? Business Insider zeroed right in on Portland, specifically, while using other spots on its list for the entire countries of Brazil (which is hosting the freaking World Cup), Botswana and Iceland, among others.

Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in an image from the 2013 Warner Bros. movie "Gravity" (MCT)

Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in an image from the 2013 Warner Bros. movie “Gravity” (MCT)

Heck, even space — yes, space — was included as a bonus 15th top place to visit in the new year. (Apparently, the folks at Business Insider did not see the movie “Gravity.”)

Here’s what that publication wrote about Maine’s biggest berg:

America’s other Portland has been gaining a reputation as a funky low-key destination that prizes quality food and cutting-edge art.

More and more talented chefs have been flocking to the coastal New England city, opening upscale restaurants like Fore Street and Petite Jacqueline. But there’s also great casual fare, like tacos, burgers, and cupcakes from food trucks, and of course tons of lobster.

Meanwhile, the city’s art scene is thriving. That’s to be expected, since it’s home to dozens of edgy galleries and artist collaboratives, the Maine College of Art, and the Portland Museum of Art, located in the heart of the Arts District. Visit in the beginning of the month to experience a First Friday Art Walk, when artists display their works on the streets and musicians and performance artists entertain the crowds.

Visitors will have no shortage of hotel options, as the city is expecting to open 500 new rooms in the next two years. Until then, stay in a quaint inn like the Pomegranate Inn, which features fireplaces in the rooms and cool art exhibits that change regularly.

And while there’s plenty going on here year-round, the best time to visit is undoubtedly during the summer.
If you’re curious, the full list of 14 places — which are in no particular order, as far as I can tell — also includes Cuba, Bangkok, Tel Aviv, Croatia, Austin (Tex.), Nicaragua and Berlin.
After discussing this list further with coworkers, specifically how it is Portland bested space as a top place to travel in 2014 (space was only an honorable mention, of sorts), we came to the conclusion that in addition to being more affordable (tickets on the new space-bound Virgin Galactic will cost $250,000 apiece), Portland has better coffee and beer spots than space does. And oxygen. Portland also has oxygen.
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Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.