One of the most-loved areas of Portland, the lively Pearl District is a great place to head to shop, eat or drink. Here reclaimed warehouses have been converted into hip bars, trendy restaurants, artisan coffee shops, independent boutiques, art galleries and craft breweries. From vegan eateries and vintage stores to must-see museums and unique theaters, here are the best things to do in the Pearl District, Portland, Oregon…
1. Visit an Art Gallery – a great Pearl District experience for art lovers
Whether you’ve got a taste for contemporary art or not, we can all come to appreciate a good masterpiece in a traditional setting. If you’re visiting Portland for the first time, exploring some of the best art galleries in the Pearl District is a fascinating way to learn more about the history and culture of the city.
Looking at different pieces of artwork isn’t only a mental exercise that stimulates creativity and positive thoughts, but it also helps a person learn a great deal about world history and geography- a plus for all the nerds out there. The best art galleries to visit in Portugal are:
Blue Sky Gallery: The Blue Sky Gallery is probably the most interesting gallery to visit when arriving in the Pearl District. It is a modern space with contemporary photographic art hung neatly across its pearl white walls with each picture telling stories worth a thousand words. The gallery is a great space for local and international artists to showcase their photographic work, so maybe if you’ve got a knack for photography, put your name down for your work to be considered, at no cost to you!
Foelick Gallery: For those looking for some modern artwork that’s more than just some expressive photography, Forelick Gallery is the place to be. The gallery is an expansive area with various art forms from individual artists who have strong voices and tell a story through their art. Not good with interpreting art? No problem. Just feel free to ask the highly knowledgeable staff at Forelick Gallery with any questions you have and they’ll be happy to answer as long as they’re within their capacity of knowledge.
PDX Contemporary Art: The well-lit vintage building of the PDX Contemporary Art gallery offers an aesthetic backdrop to your sleeky Instagram photos. Visit this place at any time from 10 AM to 5 PM to experience the zest of modern artwork and photography.
2. Visit a cool coffee shop – a must-do Pearl District option for coffee aficionados
Cute coffee shops are the one remarkable feature of Pearl District that makes you want to visit again simply for the mind-numbing aromas and the best-tasting coffee in the world.
Stop by the Barista coffee shop on 13th Avenue in the Pearl District and experience a world completely different from the one you’re used to. This coffeehouse gives you the opportunity to sit out front and watch all of the passersby with a latte in hand.
La Perlita is another great coffeehouse if you’re willing to take your taste buds on an all-time high. The espressos and the baristas at La Perlita are exquisite, and we don’t just say that. The place has a 4.7 rating on Google reviews, which is exceptionally good for a small cafe that sells coffee. Anything you’d be too skeptical to order otherwise, try at La Perlita. You’d be happy you listened to us while you enjoyed the best food at Pearl District.
3. Catch a show at Portland Center Stage – one of the best venues to see the greatest shows in Portland
Where are all the cinema geeks at? This one’s for you. The Portland Center Stage is a historic theater company located on 11th Avenue in Portland featuring two gigantic theaters inside the antique building.
What better way to spend an evening other than watching classical and contemporary theater art and stories brought to life in exceptional ways inside The Armory building? The place has been awarded several times for its award-winning plays such as the Twelfth Night and Sometimes a Great Notion.
4. Enjoy craft beer (10 Barrel Brewing or Deschutes Brewery & Public House) – a cool Pearl District activity that blends original beers and fun times
The Pearl District in Portland also enjoys a rich beer culture that you do not want to miss out on. The best kind of beer is the one that’s been carefully brewed with a thick aroma and a bitter-sweet taste of fruity ales. Just like any other city in America, you need to be 21 or older to legally enjoy a beer in Portland.
You’ll find the best craft beer available at either the 10 Barrel Brewing or the Deschutes Brewery & Public House. Deschutes Brewery offers both takeaway and dine-in options in a small pub downtown. Enjoy gourmet food and the best-tasting beer in Portland at these rich places.
5. Visit Powell’s City of Books – the world’s largest independent bookstore and a must-do when visiting the Pearl District
For all our bibliophiles out there, it is truly a time to rejoice if you’re taking a trip to Portland. Powell’s City of Books is a chain of bookstores lining the streets of Portland.
It claims to be one of the largest bookstores for old and new books in the world. Among an assortment of as many as a million books, you’re likely to find everything- from children’s stories to modern-day literature at the city of books.
6. Go for a healthy vegan meal at Kure or Vtopia – some of the best vegan eateries in the Pearl District
Kure and Vtopia are some of the best places to enjoy a healthy meal after exercise or before starting off your day with a good exploration of a city. Head over to these famous restaurants and order anything from fresh salads to a gluten-free meal for a healthy-eating experience.
The Kure juice bar is especially famous for its refreshing smoothies, coffees, and meal shake, while the Vtopia cheese shop enjoys a reputation for its mouth-watering cashew-based cheeses, salads, and sandwiches.
7. Visit Jamison Square – a beautiful city park where you can enjoy picnics and splash areas
Jamison Square is a tourist attraction in Portland. It was one of the first parks to be established in the Pearl District neighborhood. Take a morning walk through the vast grounds of the park or visit the attraction for some great outdoor pictures.
Either way, the Jamison Square park is a great picnic spot for some fun in the sun and a place to relax under the cool breeze of Portland.
8. Have drinks at Eco Trust – a spot where you can enjoy amazing drinks in an eco-friendly way
Eco Trust is an organization working towards preserving a climate-smart future. Visit the Ecotrust building to learn about the amazing things the organization is doing in contributing towards their cause, and have a drink at the building and enjoy their Mexican cuisine.
Make sure to get involved in some way possible with the organization. This place especially offers a great learning curve for environmentalists and eco-conscious people.
9. Hang out at Tanner Springs park – an urban park that offers wonderful views
Tanner Springs Park is a small city in Portland fed by the waters from Tanner creek. Tanner Springs Park is a part of what we now call the Pearl District and is a great spot to revisit nature and enjoy the pond ecosystem.
The park is just two blocks away from Jamison square so while you’re at it, make sure you visit the place for yet another mesmerizing experience.
10. Go for a Gluten-Free Pizza at HotLips Pizza – a pizzeria that offers exotic and delicious pizzas
It is no surprise that the benefits of a gluten-free diet are many. Not only is a gluten-free meal light and easy on your digestive tract, but it also promotes healthy glowy skin. And who doesn’t want to look their absolute best while on vacation?
While most gluten-free meals are boring to the taste buds, the gluten-free pizzas at Hotlips Pizza in Portland are a popular feast for vegans and non-vegans alike. In addition to being gluten-free, the pizzas at HotLips are also vegan and whole-wheat for a complete vegetarian experience. The place also serves great-tasting wine, real-fruit sodas, and whole pies that are also vegan.
11. Explore the vintage stores – a great activity to do in the Pearl District
If you’re looking for things to get your loved one back at home, explore the vintage stores at Pearl District. These vintage stores have great collectables and apparel items ranging from a few bucks to a good thousand dollars as well.
Try out a few pieces of vintage clothing as an expression of your tourist spirit in Portland, or simply go window shopping for an equally amazing experience.
12. Shop for vinyl records – a fun Pearl District pastime for music lovers
Another great gift idea would be to shop for vinyl records and CDs for a music fanatic. These are easily the most thoughtful gifts anyone would give to a person who has a thing for music or vinyl records.
Visit My Vinyl Underground at Portland which is an indie-pop record shop selling an assortment of all things vinyl.
13. Browse some interesting independent shops (CULT, Hello from Portland, Portland Gear, Porch Light) – a must-try Pearl District experience where you will find unique souvenirs
While we’re on the shopping subject, you may want to check out some other independent shops in Portland that cannot be found elsewhere. Some popular shops at Pearl District are:
- CULT: Cult is a vast souvenir shop housing everything from precious collectables to unique gifts for your significant other. You’re sure to find something for everyone on your friend list here.
- Hello from Portland: This is another souvenir shop with incredible clothing designs and apparel items.
- Portland gear: Portland Gear is a clothing store in Portland that specifically sells hip merchant and custom-tailored Portland-themed apparel, accessories, and souvenir items for friends and family. The brand is unique to Portland only.
- PorchLight: Porchlight is a unique shop selling antique items, unique furniture and decor pieces, statement jewelry, apothecary items, and much more.
14. Watch a musical at Gerding Theater at the Armory – home of Portland Center Stage that brings the community together
We all miss high school, don’t we? If you’re looking to revisit that high school musical experience, visit the Gerding Theater at The Amory building and watch a good musical.
Annually, the theater produces eleven to twelve original plays that are all-time hits among theater lovers. If you’re lucky enough, you may be able to watch their most popular play or musical at the time of your visit.
15. Visit the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education – this large museum is a must-see place in the Pearl District
Jewish or not, it’s always a good idea to expand your mind and learn about other people’s beliefs, culture, history and more. The Oregon Jewish Museum provides an opportunity to learn about Jewish history and beliefs and explore the famous Holocaust exhibition at the Museum.
These exhibitions provide direct insight into the lives of the Jews during World War 2 and it’s a very eye-opening experience to say the least. If you’re in Portland and you’re wanting to learn more about the Jewish culture or the Holocaust, this is a museum that simply cannot be missed.
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Beth was born under a wandering star, with drama in her veins and ink in her pen. After stints studying theatre in Dublin and Utrecht she used her creative streak to see as much of the world as she could on as little money. She toured Italian Schools with a children’s theatre troop, lived as an au-pair in both Rome and Washington DC, explored the British countryside, worked her way through much of Europe, Salsa danced in Cuba and road tripped down America’s west coast where she discovered her spiritual home; Portland, Oregon. In between adventures she resides peacefully with her family, cats and ukulele.