Find Art, Culture and Sensational Shopping in Milwaukie

Small businesses dedicated to equity thrive in this walkable community.
August 1, 2022

Milwaukie was originally named after Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but this city just south of Portland has its own, entirely Oregon history. Fusing a small-town vibe with big-city culture, it’s also a great place to visit. Easily accessible by car, light rail, foot or bicycle, Milwaukie brims with public art, a bustling farmers market with over 70 vendors, and independent businesses creating everything from custom tea blends to quirky paint-by-numbers kits.

Similar to many cities around Oregon, the City of Milwaukie is dedicated to rectifying its part in Oregon’s discriminatory past and fostering an environment that is welcoming and encouraging for everyone. During your visit to Milwaukie, you can enjoy the sights while also supporting the local community by visiting small businesses that are giving back, focusing on equity and inclusion as well as celebrating diverse cultures.

An aerial view of a city on a river
Milwaukie (Photo courtesy of Oregon's Mt. Hood Territory)

Looking to the Past to Enrich the Future

In 2020 the city unveiled the new Milwaukie Mural by artist Jeremy Okai Davis in Water Tower Park. The mural highlights and celebrates three important residents of Milwaukie: Ah Bing, Dorothy Hadley and Hurtis Hadley. Ah Bing was an orchard foreman who cultivated the popular Bing cherry in Milwaukie in the 1870s, a time in Oregon when anti-Asian sentiments against Chinese laborers ran rampant. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 prevented him from returning to Oregon after visiting family in China.  

Dorothy and Hurtis Hadley purchased Milwaukie Pastry Kitchen in 1977, making it the first Black-owned bakery in the state during a time when Oregon’s Black population was less than 1% (it is now about 6%). Hurtis Hadley recognized that their first year of operation was the hardest as many of their white neighbors did not welcome or want “an accomplished Black couple in their midst, or Black people at all in the mostly white town.” 

The Milwaukie Mural is not only a beautiful addition to the city’s public art, but also a reminder of the contributions made by its Black, Asian and other historically exploited communities. Milwaukie resides on the ancestral lands of the Clackamas, Molalla, Kalapuya, and many other tribes and bands that comprise the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. The city is currently writing a new plan to reverse the code and zoning laws that have disenfranchised BIPOC communities for almost a century, the first of many steps to rectifying past injustices.

A person stands behind a stand of strawberries
Milwaukie Farmers Market (Photo courtesy of Oregon's Mt. Hood Territory)

Shop For Produce, Groceries and Gifts

If you happen to visit Milwaukie on a Sunday between May and October, you’ll find the downtown area lined with local vendors and food carts for the Milwaukie Farmers Market, a perfect start to your morning on foot in Milwaukie. Crowned as the longest-running Sunday farmers market in Oregon, the market draws over 70 vendors each week. Pick up a few items from local vendors like Hot Mama Salsa, which specializes in fresh salsas and jarred hot sauces that draw on its founder’s Mexican heritage; Dank Fish, which offers smoked and canned Native-caught Columbia River salmon; or Zoe Ann’s Cheesecakes, a Black-owned business that offers classic flavors like vanilla bean and strawberry as well as unique seasonals like peach cobbler.

An elle crée paint-by-numbers kit

Elle Crée is a flagship Milwaukie business that designs and makes eco-friendly paint-by-number kits. This woman-owned company also donates 5% of net profits to local organizations focused on social causes. Sets include cute kid-friendly designs, portraits of modern changemakers like Ketanji Brown Jackson and Greta Thunberg, and intricate floral designs so customers of any age can enjoy painting from home or on the go. Shop online, then pick up curbside at their new warehouse in Milwaukie. 

Overhead view of plates of food and tea on a table
Cloud Pine Tea + Culture (Photo by Jayme Fay Photography)

Dine, Move and Sip

When you want to sit down and eat, BIPOC and LGBTQIA2S+-owned Ovation Bistro & Bar serves one of Milwaukie’s best brunches in an environment welcoming to all. Fuel up with French-inspired dishes like oeufs au bénédicte, a francophile riff on eggs benedict featuring poached eggs, French ham, brioche rounds, and hollandaise sauce. Or choose one of many vegetarian dishes, like ratatouille salad. Exhibits by local artists mean you can feed your eyes as well as your appetite. 

To get your body moving post-brunch, swing by Elk Rock Yoga, a yoga studio that teaches judgment-free classes and promotes being healthy at any size. Fawn Williams, owner and director, is heavily involved in community efforts to make the city more equitable and inclusive, like offering studio scholarships for BIPOC practitioners and $5 community classes to give more people access to fitness. 

Wind down from yoga with a stop at Cloud Pine Tea + Culture, a teahouse and restaurant that offers traditional Chinese tea ceremonies, cultural classes and live music. Owner Emily Lau is an award-winning musician and tea master, expertly combining both into an experience the community can enjoy. Whether you come for a live tea ceremony or pop in during an artist performance, you’ll want to grab one (or three) of their dim sum dishes and desserts to round out the night.

About The

Kay Kingsman
Kay Kingsman is a travel blogger based in Portland and the voice behind The Awkward Traveller blog. When she’s not recounting her hilariously embarrassing adventures abroad, Kingsman uses her platform to provide tips and information to make travel more accessible and attainable. She’s featured in Forbes, Buzzfeed and Dame Traveler.

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