Top 15 Best Festivals and Events in Portland

The hip Northwest city is home is known for its love of arts, culture, fun and community and there’s no better way to combine all of these than a festival. Portland has a calendar full of events and festivals dotted throughout the year, so there’s always something to celebrate. Here are some of the best festivals and events in Portland, Oregon…

What’s going on in Portland/what’s happening in Portland…

1. Portland Rose Festival – a festival that brings the community together for over a century

Portland Rose Festival - Oregon

One of the most popular festivals in Portland is the Portland Rose Festival. With Portland itself known as the City of Roses, this really is the festival for the city. Now in its 114th year, from that first festival in 1907 this event has grown to become a highlight of the year.

The festival begins on Memorial Day weekend and lasts for around three weeks, including the Grand Floral Parade, Starlight Parade, carnival rides, concerts, huge firework displays and dragon boat races. It’s a three week-long celebration of fun, with something for everyone. The city gets busy during the festival, so book accommodation early if you want to experience one of the best Portland festivals.

2. Portland World Naked Bike Ride – a famous global event that protests against oil dependency

Portland World Naked Bike Ride - Oregon

Part of a bigger global event but very much a Portland tradition, June sees the appearance of what is probably the strangest Portland event of them all. Thousands of bike riders take to the streets naked and ride around Portland as part of the global protest against oil dependency. In fact, the event in Portland is consistently the biggest in the world during this global protest.

Roads are closed for safety, allowing the naked riders to safely spin their way around Portland, complete with body paint, bike decorations and more to create a truly unique experience.

3. The Vegan Beer & Food Festival – one of Portland’s newest and coolest festivals 

The Vegan Beer & Food Festival

First hosted in Portland in 2015 but an event that had previously brought in thousands of vegan food enthusiasts in Los Angeles, it features over 50 vegan food vendors and more than 100 varieties of vegan beer to sample and enjoy.

Held at the Zidell Yards on the South Waterfront, to go with the food and beer you will find live music and performers, the perfect way to spend a summer Saturday in July.

4. Portland Winter Light Festival – a beautiful festival that transforms Portland into a city of lights 

Portland Winter Light Festival - Oregon

Relatively new to the calendar as an event first appearing in 2016, this fantastic Portland festival is completely free to enjoy and includes a range of light-based art installations, musical performances, a lantern parade, several live events around the city and educational speakers discussing ideas connected to the theme of the year.

It takes place in the second week of February, with the art pieces distributed around the city, and has grown to include not just the focus art exhibits but pop-up light displays in store windows and unusual places too. A walk around the city becomes an adventure in art and light, with something new around each corner. Music and performers provide entertainment along the way, creating a unique experience that transforms Portland for the duration of the event.

5. Chinese New Year at Lan Su Chinese Garden – a perfect event to explore China’s rich culture

Chinese New Year at Lan Su Chinese Garden - Oregon

Chinese New Year is always a time of celebration, but it takes on a new sense of wonder and beauty at the Lan Su Chinese Garden. Taking place for two weeks around the Chinese New Year, in February, this event in Portland sees the already beautiful garden dressed in wonderful, vivid red hanging lanterns, making it a spectacular view at night.

In addition, cultural displays and an audio tour give insight into the garden, while scavenger hunts and other events provide fun for all the family. Make a wish at the traditional Chinese wishing tree and take in the delights of the garden teahouse with food and beverages available. A great evening out to enjoy this wonderful event in Portland.

6. Portland International Film Festival – a festival that supports artists both local and worldwide

Portland International Film Festival - Oregon

A week-long celebration of storytelling from local artists and the best from around the world in this multimedia extravaganza. With over 100 film premieres are held at the event every year, which takes place in early March.

If you love film, you want to hear and see stories told in unique ways, this Portland festival has something for everyone. First held in 1977, it has become the biggest of such events held in Oregon, and with its promotion of local talent and international artists, has a reputation for finding true gems every year.

7. Portland Greek Festival – an iconic event nominated as an Oregon heritage tradition

Portland Greek Festival - Oregon

Held every year in October, the Portland Greek Festival is hosted at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral. A Portland family event, you can see traditional Greek folk dancing performances, cooking demonstrations and try a wide range of gourmet imports. The largest regular Greek festival on the west coast, it’s a fun time for all the family.

Don’t leave without visiting the Agora, the Greek marketplace set up for the festival. Here you can find a whole range of imported merchandise, including jewelry, flokati rugs, clothing, cookbooks and more.

8. Waterfront Blues Festival – an annual Portland event perfect for fans of blues music

Waterfront Blues Festival Portland

One of the most well-known of musical events in Portland, the Waterfront Blues Festival is held at the Tom McCall Waterfront Park. The first festival was held in 1987, and has grown into a true celebration of America, held for four days over Independence Day weekend in July.

Artists that have appeared include the Steve Miller Band, Booker T, Robert Plant and more, alongside up and coming bands from Portland and further afield. It’s a great opportunity to sit back by the water, relax in the sun and enjoy great music.

9. Flicks on the Bricks – a free event where you can enjoy classic movies in an outdoor movie theater 

Flicks on the Bricks - Oregon

Held in July and August, Flicks on the Bricks is an outdoor event that transforms Pioneer Courthouse Square into a giant, open air movie theater. Each Friday for 5 weeks you can enjoy free evening entertainment, including live pre-movie entertainment, with a variety of dining options available.

If you visit, take your own low back chair, beanbag or other cushions, and then sit back and enjoy great movies in a unique setting. For movie lovers and anyone that likes the communal approach to enjoying entertainment, this is a unique Portland event not to be missed.

10. The Cinco de Mayo Fiesta – a three days spring event to explore Mexico’s history 

The Cinco de Mayo Fiesta - Oregon

Coinciding with the traditional Mexican celebration of Cinco de Maya, the Portland fiesta has been an annual Portland event for over 30 years. In that time, it has become one of the largest multicultural celebrations that is held in Oregon, featuring 3 days of music, dance, carnival rides, even an amateur boxing tournament.

A Portland family festival, you can expect wonderful live performers on the main stage, an artisan village with traditional Mexican crafts and incredible food and drink offered by local business at stands around the event.

11. Portland International Beer Festival – one of the most famous festivals in Portland

Portland International Beer Festival - Oregon

First held in 2001, this 3-day Portland beer festival is held in late June every year, first at North Park Blocks, but in later years and things grew, is now located at Holladay Park. With over 200 beers on offer from a total of 16 countries, if you are a beer connoisseur, this is where you belong.

But its more than that, with a range of events to make things fun, including a pie jousting tournament, BBQ pits and gourmet cheese vendors and live music throughout the event. If you love to try beers you wouldn’t normally encounter, this is a great Portland festival to visit.

12. Top Down: Rooftop Cinema – a perfect place for a date or to enjoy quality time with family and friendsTop Down Rooftop Cinema - Oregon

Another fantastic Portland movie festival, as the name suggests this event is an open-air movie theater on the roof of Portland State University. It runs Thursday to Sunday at the end of July, and shows a different movie each night, along with other entertainment to make it an unforgettable evening.

With live music, entertainment and fancy dress, you can enjoy a summer evening under the stars and a fantastic movie at the same time.

13. Portland Queer Film Festival – a festival where you can explore the LGBTQ+ cinema

Portland Queer Film Festival - Oregon

Another Portland movie event, this time providing a showcase of international LGBTQ+ cinema. Held at the historic Cinema 21 theater, which has been providing a venue for the best movies since 1925, the films selected for this event all have a shared relevance to the LGBTQ+ community.

You can purchase a festival pass to gain access to showings of all the movies, or but tickets for individual movies you wish to see. With an emphasis on community and fun, it’s a great place to sample new movies.

14. Portland Marathon – as the name suggests this marathon is one of the longest-running consecutive ones in the country

Portland Marathon - Oregon

Taking place on the first Sunday of October every year, the marathon includes the full marathon race itself as well as a half marathon. Whether you are planning on competing in either race or just spectating, it’s a great day down by the riverside.

The start and finish are at Tom McCall Waterfront Park, with the course itself crossing the river several times, making it a picturesque experience for all. A great Portland running event, with over 10,000 runners on the day, plenty of food and drink vendors and live entertainment around the course, its perfect for runners and spectators alike.

15. Festival of Balloons – one of the best and most fun events within the Portland metropolitan area

Best Festivals and Events in Portland

A celebration of hot air balloons to support local non-profit organizations in the Tigard community which is part of the Portland metropolitan area. Families and friends gather to watch around 20 beautiful balloons take off in the pre-dawn hours (although this is weather dependent). 

Then afterwards take a wander around the craft and vendors which will also be there serving food and drinks and then check out carnival rides and games which just add to the fun. 

Also, expect other great events such as Night Glow on Friday and Saturday nights (weather permitting); the Rogue Beer Garden, Live Music on the Main Stage and the Festival of Cars too! 

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