Portland, Oregon—really, the entire state of Oregon and, on a larger scale, the entire Pacific Northwest—is mind-bogglingly beautiful. Majestic mountains, lush greenery, bursting blooms and flowers of all kinds—these dot the landscape and make Portland the best place in the country to call home. And this is without considering the brilliant architecture and synthetic art work that add man’s finger prints to the charm and natural personality of the city.

    There are numerous ways to soak in this beauty. Bicycling, hiking, jogging and walking are some of the healthier options. Driving and simply sitting in one of its myriad parks are another. But what about a new view? A new perspective? How about a view from above?

    Full disclosure: I am terrified of heights. I was perfectly content to view Portland from the ground, but, my wife is quite persuasive and she challenged me to try something different.

    “Ride the tram” she said.

    Seven years ago, the city of Portland built the Portland Aerial Tram. The Portland Aerial Tram travels above “The City of Roses on a cable stretching a full 3,300 linear feet end to end, providing passengers with views impossible to get anywhere else as it travels from its terminal in the city to the Kohler Pavilion on OHSU’s campus.” While the initial intent was to transport doctors, patients and their families, the tram quickly became a prime tourist attraction and, far from being an eyesore, a delight and source of amusement for Portlanders. It’s been here seven years. Maybe lucky seven is the right time for me to give the tram a try.

    Riding the Portland Aerial Tram was an adrenaline-charged way for me to enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the city without the inherent risks of hang gliding, hot air ballooning, free base jumping, and other adrenaline junky activities. While my journey on the Tram was still a little scary, it was also exhilarating, breath-taking, and awe inspiring. At five hundred feet above the ground, suspended by a powerful cable in a large aerial car and at a leisurely twenty-two miles per hour, I was able to drink in the city as I never had before. And, after my ride atop the city, I sat on a large observation deck. It was truly inspiring and I couldn’t wait for my trek back on the Tram, or for a return visit with the kids (after all, kids six and under get a free ride!)

    The Portland Aerial Tram is an example of both form and function. It serves a greater good for the area by providing efficient transportation between two important medical facilities while also presenting views that can only otherwise be had if you were blessed with wings. For non-hospital personnel and patients, it’s only eight bucks round trip and well worth it. Have your camera ready, and be prepared to drop your jaw.

    Public Tram rides board at 3303 SW Bond Avenue weekdays from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Saturday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1-5. It is closed on all major holidays. Group tours are available as well.

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