There are plenty of words which could be used to describe Portland, weird, wonderful, eco, progressive, cool…the list goes on and on. This is one of the most unique cities in the USA if not the world.
After staying here I fell majorly for its charms and here are the reasons why I think you should visit Portland, Oregon…
Its Eco Credentials
Portland is a fiercely green city with strong opinions on waste reduction and sustainability.
From its obsession with recycling and locally sourced food, to its array of creative outlets for reused, preloved, and repurposed goods, you can enjoy most aspects of city life with a clear conscience.
Portlanders have a very independent spirit and that’s reflected in almost everything about the city; from street style to shopping to eating and heading out on the town.
It’s the perfect city for people who feel a little alternative, who like to push boundaries and be creative, there is no other place like it. Whether it’s Voodoo Donuts, Vintage Clothes or Vegan diets, Portland caters for everyone ‘unusual’.
The Cultural Scene
Portland embraces culture and is open-minded to all, just look at how Portlanders turned out for the BLM protests.
From fine art to street art, from fine dining to food carts and amazing places like Bagdad Theatre. Portland’s cultural scene is rich and relentlessly trailblazing, culture vultures will have a field day! And don’t get me started on the books……..
The Food Carts
We aren’t talking about the odd greasy spoon in a van here, the Portland food cart scene is a movement unto itself!
You will find cuisine of every kind at a quality usually reserved for restaurants, from Taco’s to fine Italian dining, it’s all there and it’s on wheels!
Portland’s event calendar is packed year-round with amazing festivals, there’s music spanning all kinds of genres, a colorful Chinese New Year celebration, a stunning Winter Lights festival that sees the city sights illuminated in creative interactive light installations.
You’ve got several film festivals, the wonderful ValenTango dance event, the joyous Big Float, and the beautiful Rose festival. Whatever time of year you visit, there’ll be something going on!
In my experience, Portland folk are friendly, political, socially and environmentally conscious and great conversationalists. Of course, I can’t speak for all of them but I found it an absolute pleasure of a city to be in when I was there, largely because of the undercurrent of good-natured activism.
Here’s a city where it seems like folk are principled without being judgemental and questioning without being cynical. It’s great for people watching too!
There’s some marvelously eccentric styling going on!
The Hipster Neighbourhoods
I was spoiled, I grew up near London in the early 90’s before everything got very mainstream, I am no stranger to hip. Portland is up there rivalling many of the bigger cities in my opinion.
Crammed into its fairly modest borders are numerous hip districts, Pearl District, Hawthorne, Nob Hill, Burnside … the list goes on.
Put on your plus fours, grow your mustache and don your finest vintage brogues… it won’t be hard for you to find your people here!
The Vintage & Retro Shops
When I first wandered down Hawthorne and stumbled into House of Vintage I thought I had died and gone to heaven. From there it just got better and better as I explored the plethora of vintage and thrift stores that the city has to offer.
Each brings something unique, be that volume of stock, imaginative repurposing, history, and prestige or local artistry. The quality and choice of vintage in Portland is staggering!
In this city you can’t move for microbrews, craft ale enthusiasts are doing themselves a grave disservice if they don’t come and take advantage of Portland’s fermentation frenzy!
For a hazy IPA head to Old Town Brewing, go Deutsch in Occidental or get really creative at Great Notion.
Honestly whatever your tipple there’ll be someone making an excellent version of it! Plan a microbrewery tour so you don’t miss out!
The Vegan Food
Having lived in various places that tend to look at you like you have two heads when you mention the word ‘ vegetarian’ it’s so refreshing to visit somewhere that pushes the boundaries with really innovative and prolific Vegan eats!
You can eat everything from vegan cheese toasties at Ditto, through dim sum, Middle Eastern, and fine vegan dining at Farm Spirit. It’s so far from the days of a dried-out nut roast that it’s not even comparable.
Veggies and Vegans, undo your top button, pack the elasticized waistbands, you are going to eat and eat and eat some more!
The Coffee Shops
Portland coffee shops are among the best in the country and coffee snobs will find no end of cosy nooks and crannies to sit and enjoy a perfect single-origin or impeccably made flat white.
There’s an impressive 80 coffee roasters within the city limits, ranging from small independents like the colourful Never Lab to compact gourmet chains like Stumptown or overtly fairtrade-minded Heart, you’ll never fit them all into one visit but you may keep going back for more!
The parks, gardens and other green spaces
Portlanders love their green spaces and they look after them accordingly!
There is a stupendous 10,000 acres of parks and nature within the city limits including Forest Park, one of the largest municipal parks in the whole of the U.S, also the smallest park in the world; Mill End Park, which clocks in at 452 square inches!
There’s the Japanese Gardens, The Portland International Rose Test Garden, the wonderful esplanade, there’s Fountain Parks, Butterfly Parks, and numerous natural areas. You can enjoy the best of both worlds with ease and there’s no need to travel further than a couple of blocks!
Hiking and Biking
For fresh air enthusiasts and bike fiends, Portland is a dream. Whether it’s pedalling through the city on the fantastically planned and maintained cycle paths or heading for the beautiful Wildwood in Forest Park there’s plenty of scope for activity right under your nose.
For the more adventurous it’s easy to get out into the wilds along the Columbia River Gorge or up to Mount Tabor Park.
I highly recommend heading to the outstanding Oregon Coastline and the iconic Haystack Rock too! Pack your walking boots and your waterproofs and enjoy Portland’s unique opportunities for getting active in the outdoors!
Portland is chock full of amazing venues like the converted baptist church Mississippi Studios, dive bar-cum-punk treasure The Know or the cool contemporary Doug Fir Lounge with its fire pits and cavernous wooden interior.
It isn’t just live music where Portland shines either!
It’s a record collector’s dream with amazing stores like Crossroads, Little Axe, and Music Millennium. Furthermore, if you prefer to be on the stage instead of looking at it there are some fantastic music shops too!
Artichoke for folk instruments, Revival Drums for percussion, and Mothership Music for just about anything else that plucks strums or blows!
Portland has some of the coolest hotels around! Especially if you enjoy something a bit different! You can stay in an old school with themed rooms and its own brewery at Kennedy’s, a tiny house on wheels at the cozy ‘Caravan’, or soak up some hip retro-chic at Jupiter.
Or perhaps try the cool yet affordable Ace or the plush, kitschy and historical McMenamins Crystal Ballroom. Whatever you fancy you’ll find the perfect place to lay your head in this awesome and unique city!
We also have posts on…
- Best time to visit Portland
- How to get around Portland
- Best boat rental companies in Portland
- Is Portland safe
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.