Best things to do in Portland Oregon

54 Awesome Things to do in Portland, Oregon

The much-loved Oregon city is famous for its green ethos, progressive ideals, quirky outlook and beautiful natural surroundings. Some love the city for its incredible food, breweries and boutiques, some for its quirky, hipster vibe but most visitors just can’t get enough of amazing Portland. If you want to know how to have the best experience possible on your Northwest city break, here are the best things to do in Portland, Oregon…

1. Hang out at the Pearl District – one of the best places to visit in Portland 

Pearl District Neighborhood Portland

This is one of the most popular districts in Portland and with good reason, the Pearl District is a hip and lively area of the city filled with amazing shopping, lively bars, clubs and eateries housed in mostly cool reclaimed red-brick warehouses. Portland’s warehouse district has been transformed from seedy to swanky over the past couple of decades and it now blends history and high end perfectly.

Expect craft breweries galore, independent boutiques filled with trendy labels, artisan coffee shops and acclaimed restaurants. This area is also fantastic for art lovers with a good handful of galleries showcasing all sorts of art from the ultra-contemporary and photography to glassworks. Also don’t miss Jamison Square’s wading fountain which is popular with families or trying some of the city’s best craft ale at one of the many brewpubs in the areas from the splendid Deschutes Brewery to the more modest Back Pedal Brewing Company.

2. Go for Hipster-Friendly Coffee – one of Portland’s must-do highlights

The famous Stumptown Coffee Roasters in downtown Portland

Portland is famous for two kinds of brews: beer and coffee. The coffee scene is full of innovative baristas that are pioneering top-notch coffee in modern settings. 

Any coffee shop you go to in Portland will probably be good, but there are a few places that are approved by the hipster masses. Cathedral Coffee is famous for its handcrafted brews and delicious bakes. Stumptown Coffee is one of the innovators of the hipster coffee scene nationwide, but you can visit the original in Portland. Finally, Coava Coffee Roasters is one of the relative newcomers but is already carving its own niche with its focus on green coffee.

3. Go for Brunch – a must-do on a Portland break/vacation

Off the Griddle Vegan brunch

Brunch may be the most important meal of the day in Portland. Excellent cafés and restaurants serve up top-notch breakfast foods on weekends (and some even expand their offerings into weekdays). One of the best brunches in Portland is at Jam on Hawthorne, an airy café that specializes in brunch foods, including vegan meals.

Other great places for lunch in Portland are Off the Griddle, a vegetarian brunch place, and Hunnymilk, a prix-fixe cozy brunch place with a rotating menu according to the chef’s inspiration.

4. Explore Old Town/China Town – one of the best places to visit in Portland perfect for sightseeing

China Town Portland Oregon

Old Town Portland Oregon

This is a lively and cultural hub of the city, with a mix of bars, nightclubs, restaurants as well as commercial offices. This historic part of the city, is located by the riverfront (The Willamette River), and is well worth exploring on your trip to Portland.

It’s the location for the very popular Portland Saturday and the famous Voodoo Doughnut shop. Aside from great eateries, interesting shops (this is also a great place to buy Steetware) and a great nightlife scene other highlights of the area include the underground Shanghai Tunnels, Portland Chinatown Museum and the pretty Lan Su Chinese Gardens. 

5. Eat Vegan Food – one of the most awesome (and guilt-free) things do to in Portland

best things to do in Portland - eat vegan food

Portland is famous for its role as an incubator of alternative lifestyles, and that includes veganism. This is one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the country, with top restaurants and cafés churning out all kinds of delicious plant-based meals.

Local innovators include the chef known as Plant-Based Papi, whose physical space is sadly closed but who is still serving up vegan takes on comfort food at the Fortune Club. If you’re looking for a calmer eating experience, try Epif, which serves up vegan South American-inspired cuisine, or Rabbits Café, a modern lunch place.

6. Hire a Bicycle and Explore – one of the best activities in Portland

Cycling in Portland Oregon

Portland is one of the most cyclist-friendly cities in the United States, with plenty of well-developed infrastructure including miles of bike lanes. There are plenty of tour operators in Portland that allow you to rent a bicycle during your visit. You can explore the city with bike lanes that were ranked the best in the nation by Bicycle magazine for many years running.

Cycling is also one of the best ways to explore Portland’s many large parks and greenways or go even further afield and explore some of the trails leading outside of the city. 

7. PSU Farmer’s Market – a wonderful thing to do for foodies

Best markets in Portland, Oregon

Portland is one of the best cities in the country in terms of farmer’s market culture and this is easily one of the best things to do in Portland. There are farmer’s markets all over the city, but the biggest and most famous is the Portland Farmer’s Market at Portland State University. Every Saturday, hundreds of vendors close off the downtown area around PSU.

Many of the vendors are local farmers who sell fresh produce. Even if you are not looking for the right vegetables for tonight’s dinner, PSU Farmer’s Market is still worth a visit for the stalls selling ready-made food and live music entertaining shoppers.

8. Go Skydiving Indoors at iFly – a fun family free top-rated attraction

Go Skydiving Indoors at iFly

If you want a more adrenaline-driven visit to Portland, then the iFly center is the place to go. This giant center is dedicated to one thing only—indoor skydiving. Experience the exhilarating feeling of flying and defying gravity in a more controlled environment than jumping out of a plane.

iFly is open to groups of all abilities and sizes. Go with a few friends or bring a large group as a teambuilding activity (there are dedicated conference spaces for work groups that come to the center as a teambuilding activity).

9. Go on a Willamette Valley Wine Tour – one of the best places to see near Portland

Willamette Valley Wine Tour - best things to do in Portland

Portland is most famous for its beer culture, but the Willamette Valley and surrounding areas are packed with wineries producing some of the country’s finest wines. Most of the wineries specialize in pinot noir and other cold weather wine varieties.

Several tour operators offer wine tours starting in Portland and go through the best wineries of the Willamette Valley. Enjoy the gorgeous views and the great wines produced by people passionate about their craft. You can also organize a self-guided tour and visit some of the many wineries open for tastings.

10. Watch an Indie Band at the Doug Fir Lounge – a cool non-touristy thing to do in Portland, Oregon

Doug Fir Lounge Portland

The music scene in Portland is one of the most innovative in the country. Local independent artists playing all sorts of genres are supported by the tight-knit network of independent venues and record stores.

One of the best venues to catch a show by a local favorite is the Doug Fir Lounge, a futuristic log cabin-inspired bar. While you’re watching the show, you can order from the elevated diner-inspired menu and sip craft cocktails. When the weather is warmer, be sure to check out the fire pit.

11. Visit Keller Fountain Park – an urban park to explore in Portland

Keller Fountain Park Portland

Keller Fountain Park, right in front of the Keller Auditorium, is a masterpiece of urban landscaping. The centerpiece of the park is the Keller Fountain, a futuristic installation of cubic gorges and cascading water that was inspired by the waterfalls along the Columbia River Gorge. Be sure to check out the installation from all levels, from the bottom where you can see the force of the rushing water, to the top, where you can splash around in the wading pools. 

Come at dusk to see the fountain illuminated with colored lights.

12. Go for a Night Out at the Famous McMenamins Crystal Ballroom Portland – a Portland institution

McMenamins Crystal Ballroom

Portland is packed with bars and clubs that promise a fun night on the town, many of which are owned by the McMenamins company. One of the most famous is the Crystal Ballroom. Once a historic ballroom named Cotillon Hall that hosted dances and dance revivals, the Crystal Ballroom is now a live music venue. Much of the original décor is still there, including the floating dance floor.

The Crystal Ballroom has something for everyone on the event calendar. Musical acts running the gamut from pop to folk to rock tour here, and the occasional spoken word poetry event also happens.

13. Stay a Night at the Heathman Hotel – the hotel made famous by a best selling racy novel

A stay in the Heathman Hotel Portland

Portland is home to many boutique hotels, but only one can claim that it played a role in one of the steamiest movie and book franchises of modern history. The Heathman Hotel is one of the places where Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, the iconic couple from Fifty Shades of Grey, meet, and have a steamy encounter in the elevator.

The hotel has leaned into its association with the famous movie and offers special packages and a themed cocktail. Stay a night to live out your romantic dreams.

14. Go Vintage/Thrift Store Shopping – a must-do Portland activity 

Vintage store Portland, Oregon

Portland is one of the best cities in the United States to go vintage shopping. The sustainably minded fashionistas in the city mean that there is always plenty of clothing to pick through at the many vintage shops. 

Portland has over 40 vintage shops dedicated to clothing, décor, and more. Visit a specialty shop such as Xtabay, which specializes in fancy party dresses, or go for a more traditional thrift shopping experience and pick through the racks at House of Vintage. 

15. Check out St. John’s Bridge – a beauty spot and a great place to watch sunsets

St. Johns Bridge views Portland Oregon

The iconic arches of St. John’s Bridge are one of the most famous photo opportunities in Portland. This steel suspension bridge spans the Willamette River in North Portland. It was the largest suspension bridge west of the Mississippi River at the time of construction.

The iconic gothic-inspired towers of the bridge are so famous that they even inspired the name of the surrounding neighborhood, Cathedral Park. The bridge has a walkway where you can go and get a view of Mount Hood, but one of the best views is from the park at the base of the bridge, where you can get a photo of the famous green arches. Be sure to check out the neighborhood around the bridge as well.

16. Eat food From the Famous Portland Food Carts – a Portland top 10 thing do! 

Best Portland Food Carts

Portland is famous for its food scene, but some of the best food is happening not in its restaurants but on its streets. The food cart and food truck movement in Portland is bustling and well. Instead of wandering the streets in search of good food carts, you can visit one of the many pods throughout the city, or outdoor areas around which food carts tend to cluster. 

Some of the best food cart pods are in downtown Portland where busy locals get lunch on weekdays, such as the Fifth Avenue and Pioneer Courthouse Square pods. The Third Avenue pod is worth a visit for Stretch the Noodle alone, a food cart selling hand-stretched noodles. 

17. Have a Drink at the Multnomah Whiskey Library – put this on your Portland to-do list

Multnomah Whiskey Library Portland

The Multnomah Whiskey Library is a must-visit bar in Portland for anyone who is serious about their spirits. The bar has an extensive selection of whiskeys that you can sample on their own or in cocktails. Such an extensive selection can do a number on anyone, so be sure to pair it with a meal from the upscale menu.

The Multnomah Whiskey Library is technically a members-only establishment, but visitors can buy a one-day Hall Pass.

18. Catch a Show at the Revolution Hall – one of the top things to do in the city

Revolution Hall Portland

Revolution Hall has come a long way from its origin as a high school auditorium. Hosted in a historic building that was built as a school in 1924, the venue retains its gorgeous architecture, but once the musicians start playing, your attention will be drawn to the stage. Revolution Hall hosts diverse acts, from folk music to stand-up comedy.

Be sure to check out the rooftop patio and the bars. Easily one of the most awesome things to do in the city! 

19. Visit the Portland Japanese Garden – a wonderful beauty spot in the city

Washington Park Portland Oregon

The Portland Japanese Garden, nestled in Washington Park, tops the list of green spaces in Portland that you have to visit. The Garden contains eight separate garden styles inspired by different styles of Japanese gardening (the authenticity of the space has been praised by a former Ambassador of Japan). Locals love to come to see the garden change with the seasons.

Wandering freely around the garden is the best way to see it. However, there are a few must-visit spots such as the authentic tea house, the Zen Buddhism-inspired Sand and Stone Garden, and Flat Garden’s pavilion.

20. Go for a River Cruise – a great way to spend an afternoon in Portland

Go for a River Cruise Portland Oregon

One of the best ways to see Portland is from the water. The Willamette River meanders through Portland, and a sail along the river is the best way to check out the skyline and see the evolution of the city from industrial powerhouse to cultural capital.

There are several tour operators offering river cruises, such as Portland Spirit. Go for a simple river cruise or book a tour with dinner and entertainment in the evening for a romantic experience like no other in Portland.

21. Take a Photo Under the White Stag and Keep Portland Weird Signs

Portland Sign

Keep Portland Weird Sign

What’s a trip without a few good photo opportunities? Luckily, Portland is packed with excellent photo ops. One of the most famous is the White Stag, a light-up neon sign in downtown Portland with a white stag leaping over the city name and state outline. This is a great photo opportunity in the day, and at night when the sign lights up.

The other iconic piece of Portland signage is the “Keep Portland Weird” mural behind Dante’s nightclub. The popular slogan is found on bumper stickers and signs across Portland and celebrates the city’s individuality and counterculture vibe. This mural is just one of the more obvious expressions of the spirit.

22. Go for a Stroll in Tom McCall Waterfront Park – a popular place to hangout in Portland

Tom McCall Waterfront Park Portland

Portland is a city that has worked hard toward reclaiming its green areas and public spaces from the concrete jungle. One such example is Tom McCall Waterfront Park, which stretches along the Willamette River in downtown Portland. Once the site of Harbor Drive, a freeway that cut through the city, since 1978 the park has been a favorite for Portlanders and visitors alike.

Tom McCall Waterfront Park is a great place to go for a walk or cycle through the liveliest parts of Portland. It’s also the site of the city’s fireworks displays for holidays.

23. Alberta Art District – one of the best places to explore in the city

Alberta Street Portland Oregon

Located in the quirky NorthEast of Portland this is a fun and creative area of the city famous for its independent shopping, live music, great eateries including some fantastic brunch spots and awesome art murals! 

You’ll find the district on NE Alberta Street, and the area stretches around 1.5 miles, from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to NE 33rd Avenue. Enjoy tapas at the Urdanitarestaurant, cocktails at Knockback, go for coffee at Barista, shop for vintage clothes at Zig Zag Wanderer, pick up some cool gifts have a Citizen Ruth and then take a wander around the colorful murals. 

24. Powell’s City of Books – a famous must-see attraction in Portland

Powell's City of Books Portland Oregon

This place is a famous Portland attraction and it’s also one of the largest independent bookstores. No less than nine color-coded rooms are home to more than an eye-watering 3,500 different sections, offering something for everyone’s interest. 

They also offer out-of-print and hard-to-find titles as well as a very well-attended series of readings. Easily a must-see attraction in Portland, Oregon.

25. Check out at the Yo! Store (and the other beautiful boutique stores)

The Yo Store Portland Oregon

Portland is full of beautiful and independent stores and one of the best is The Yo! Store is a Women’s, Kids and Lifestyle shop. They offer chic, cute and wonderful modern products most of which are small-batch goods you can’t find anywhere else not mass-produced items. 

Expect gorgeous ceramics, Portland-made skincare, accessories, art books, homewares, European-made children’s clothing and vintage dresses. Other great boutiques to explore in the city include Amelia, Sloan Boutique, Sweet Jayne and Wanderlust store.

26. Gerding Theater At The Armory – a fun activity to do in Portland

Gerding Theater At The Armory

Housed in the historical armory at the convergence of many districts Gerding Theatre At The Armory is a must-visit for anyone who likes to see old buildings put to good use. The fabulous repurposing of the building is a perfect example of the ingenuity and genuine trailblazing attitude of the city in general.

The Renovations were carefully carried out in the early noughties with four things in mind: History, Theatre, Sustainability, and Community, and the Armory now forms an important part of the swanky Pearl District. 

27. Hawthorne Boulevard – a great area to sightsee and explore in Portland

Hawthorne District Portland

The Hawthorne is a bold, colorful artsy gem that still manages to be sincere. It’s absolutely amazing for shopping, especially for Vintage clothes and furniture. Try the cavernous House of Vintage or the fabulous Avant Garden Vintage, two emporiums which stand out amidst all the other fantastic little storefronts.

You’ll find vibrant street art, food trucks and gorgeous veggie cuisine. For a real gastro treat in a quirky setting head to JAM on Hawthorne or for veggie soul food try Cup&Saucer, a local favorite. For beer and the big screen you can’t miss the amazing Bagdad Theater and Pub, an Art Deco wonder transformed into a hip hang out for ale and movie buffs! You’ll find books, boutiques and fantastic cocktails..

for the latter Deadshot serves astonishingly good craft cocktails whilst innovative Straightaway serves some beauties from a can! As if this isn’t enough to be going along with, Hawthorne is nestled on the slopes of Mount Tabor, Portland’s inactive volcano, and there are numerous trails for cyclists and hikers that will take you straight up into gorgeous nature! Literally the best of both worlds!

28. The Alphabet District – one of the coolest and best places to hangout in Portland

Alphabet District portland

This district in NW Portland encompasses the historical area of Nob Hill and the up-and-coming industrial area of Slabtown. Its name comes from the fact that the streets run in alphabetical order from Burnside Street and ending at York Street. It’s the perfect neighborhood to stroll around and soak up the vibes and vintage architecture. Nob Hill is full of gorgeous turn-of-the-century buildings and upscale cafes and boutiques. Many of the area’s best restaurants are situated inside the beautiful Victorian homes giving them a classy intimate atmosphere. Paley’s Place is a great example of this, serving fresh locally sourced organic food that leans towards French and Italian, complimented by an excellent wine list.

Perhaps the best-loved local eatery is The Ringside SteakHouse, think dark polished wood and old-fashioned elegance and you’re on the right track. Slabtown is more modern glamour as the old industrial area has been transformed with lots of new developments, breweries, eateries, and shopping. Besaw’s is one of the city’s oldest restaurants and relocated here from a few blocks away in 2015. Both areas have some fantastic food trucks too! The Farmer and The Beast is a Burger Lovers dream and Bing Mi serves up unusual Northern Chinese Jianbing. Also check out The Hammer and Stitch Brewing company for great food and craft beers! 

29. Freakybuttrue Peculiarium – one of the fun things to do in Portland for adults 

Freakybuttrue Peculiarium Portland

This Curiosity Shop-cum-Museum of strangeness perfectly encapsulates Portland’s motto ‘Keep Portland Weird’.  Opened in 1967 by Talmadge Elwood, a Portland explorer with a penchant for peculiar things, it now houses a collection of freaky stuff ranging from a nightmare doll’s house to a red-eyed Krampus and plenty of other selfie worthy sights.

The shop sells all kinds of weird and wonderful objects presided over by a giant Bigfoot statue… and the biggest (and grossest) draw? Fresh Chocolate chip bug cookies with a sprinkle of edible scorpions!! The space also doubles as a gallery showing unusual work by local artists… only in Portland is all I can say!

30. Voodoo Donuts & Ankeny Alley – a famous must-see in Portland

Voodoo Doughnut Portland

Voodoo Donuts landmark store on the corner of Ankeny Alley in downtown Portland pulls the crowds with their delicious sugary treats. Donuts slathered in all manner of unusual toppings and in an array of quirky shapes including, of course, the original voodoo doll! The iconic pink boxes can be spotted all over the city in the hands of tourists and locals alike.

I myself was defeated by a peach melba donut the size of my head, but it would be a crime to miss this place whilst you’re visiting! Handily it is open 24 hours and it sits on the corner of a great little car-free stretch along one block of SW Ankeny St, where Portland’s party crowd enjoy outdoor drinking under a canopy of fairy lights.

There are some great places to eat and drink whatever your tipple, from microbrews to cocktails and coffee at Fuse. For seafood lovers Dan & Louis Oyster Bar has been a firm favorite for over 50 years. There are also great spots for brunch and sushi and a prohibition-era speakeasy at District. Of course, you must get a selfie by the iconic ‘Keep Portland Weird’ sign. 

31. Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden – a tranquil oasis in the city

Crystal Springs Garden Portland

This gorgeous volunteer-run garden is situated in Woodstock, South East Portland. Visitors can experience 9 acres of explosive colours and rare and beautiful blooms.

A gorgeous peaceful oasis to retreat from the city bustle for an hour or two, completely accessible and open all year round but the best time to catch the rhododendrons in full flower is the spring and summer months, with an early blooms festival in April. 

32. Go Brewery Hopping – a fun activity in Portland

Go Brewery Hopping Portland

Portland is one of the best places in the country to experience the national craze for local microbrews. Since the 1980s, the city has been pushing the edge of the craft beer movement, and the over 70 breweries within city limits (one of the highest counts in the world) show no signs of stopping. 

You can take an official brewery tour by one of the city’s many operators (including a pedal bike tour), or make a tour of your own by hitting up some of the city’s most famous names. Check out town stalwarts such as Lucky Labrador, newer favorites such as Breakside Brewery, or duck into a random brewery and wait to be surprised.

33. Portland Art Museum – one of the top-rated attractions in the city 

Portland Art Museum

Portland Art Museum is one of the oldest galleries in the country and houses a robust and beautifully curated collection of art that spans many centuries and nations.

There is an amazing collection of Japanese prints and American impressionist art as well as modern contemporary, graphic and Native American masterpieces. There are some fantastic artworks in the permanent collection which are perfectly complemented by visiting exhibitions a must-see for art lovers!

34. Hoyt Arboretum – a public park home to one of the most varied collections of tree species in the United States

Hoyt Arboretum Portland

A beautiful living museum showcasing some amazing rare and ancient species of tree including Redwoods and other unusual conifers.

Just two miles from downtown it’s a great place to take a break, stroll the well-maintained trails and learn all about the trees, plants and wildlife on show or to enjoy a bike ride beneath the restful branches.

35. Visit the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry – a top rated attraction in the city

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

Portland is full of excellent museums, and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry is one of the best. This interactive science center and popular Portland tourist attraction, brings STEM to the masses, making it a hit with kids and curious adults. Exhibits such as an authentic naval submarine, interactive labs, and the Turbine Hall that shakes are a hit with visitors of all ages.

On a visit to OMSI, don’t miss the outdoor exhibits or a show at the planetarium. If you are looking for more elevated entertainment, check out the After Dark series, which pairs science talks with beer and wine for 21+ adults.

36. Columbia River Gorge – a beautiful place to explore on a Portland vacation

Columbia River Gorge Oregon

Just a short drive from downtown Portland you’ll find the spectacular Columbia River Gorge literally brimming with beautiful waterfalls, scenic viewpoints and clifftop vistas, not to mention the wonderful wildlife and river beaches. If you’re a seasoned hiker I suggest the 12-mile eagle creek to tunnel falls hike, which will take you through some of the most spectacular scenery the area has to offer; multiple waterfalls, picturesque bridges and unusual rock formations abound. Well worth the trip!

37. Pittock Mansion – one of the most loved attractions in Portland which also offers great views of Mount Hood

Pittock Mansion Portland

One of the most popular and best-rated attractions in Portland, this beautiful renaissance style mansion was built by the Prominent Pittock family at the turn of the century and then purchased and lovingly restored by the city in the ’60s. Its stunning fairytale-spired architecture has inspired many filmmakers to use it as a location and its numerous ghost stories are a huge draw for lovers of the supernatural.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the mansion are the glorious views over Portland. As it sits poised atop the West hills at 1000 feet it offers wonderful vistas over the city and beyond to Mount Hood, Mount St Helens and the dormant slopes of Mount Rainier. A hikers paradise, an architectural dream and an amazing place to take in the sunrise/sunset!

38. Portland Saturday Market – one of the best places to explore in the city

Portland Saturday Market

Portland Saturday Market in the Old Chinatown district, close to Ankeny Alley is recorded as the largest open air arts and crafts market in the country and is an absolute dream for people who like unusual artisan things. It was set up in the 70’s as an arts collective and has steadily grown over the decades to the fabulous event it is today.

Grab some delicious homemade food and stroll around the plethora of boutique stalls showcasing one-of-a-kind handcrafted clothes, jewellery, homeware and artworks by local artists and makers. 

39. Mississippi Neighbourhood – a charming, colorful and trendy place to explore in Portland

Black Wagon Portland Oregon

This historic north Portland is a brilliant place to head and immerse yourself in a vibrant eclectic mix of eateries and bars including Prost Marketplace, the perfect spot to start your exploration of the Portland Food Pod scene! 

You’ll also find great bars and breweries and some exceptional quirky shops such as Sunlan Lighting, the street’s oldest business and the wonderful Pistils Nursery, Mississippi Records…a vinyl lovers dream and Black Wagon…a high-end boutique famously used in Portlandia for the hilarious ‘put a bird on it’ sketch! 

40. Visit The Grotto – a must see place in Portland

The Grotto, is a Catholic outdoor shrine and sanctuary

For all of Portland’s reputation as a hedonistic, beer-obsessed town that is too cool for school, one of the most interesting things to do in the city is visit a Catholic sanctuary. The National Sanctuary of our Sorrowful Mother, colloquially known as The Grotto, is an outdoor sanctuary built on and around a cliff. 

The legend goes that The Grotto was built by a local priest to fulfill a promise to the Virgin Mary when she miraculously healed his family. Even if you are not a believer, you can enjoy the stunning beauty of the site and the views of the city.

41. Visit the International Rose Test Garden – considered to be the city’s best hidden gem

The International Rose Test Garden

Portland is full of beautiful parks and gardens, and the International Rose Test Garden, located in Washington Park, is one of the best. This garden collects rose cultivars from around the world to study their growing conditions and preserve them. It contains over 650 varieties of rose bushes and thousands of plants.

The best time to visit is during the growing season, with the peak coming in June.

42. Hang Out at the Pioneer Courthouse Square – a great hangout in the city

Pioneer Courthouse Square Portland

Pioneer Courthouse Square, also known as Portland’s living room, is a public space sprawling across an entire city block in downtown Portland. Come to check out the warm brick architecture, the pod of food carts, or one of the hundreds of events that the city puts on yearly.

However, the best thing to do in the square is just to relax and people watch. Locals come here to enjoy their lunch breaks and relax so it’s one of the best places to get a slice of local life.

43. Visit Washington Park – one of the most beautiful places to visit in Portland

Washington Park Portland

Washington Park is a sprawling green space right near the center of Portland. With over 458 hectares of space, there is plenty to occupy you if all you want to do is walk around the hillside trails. 

However, Washington Park is packed with activities if you want to do more than just hike. The International Rose Test Garden, the Japanese Garden, Hoyt Arboretum, and more are all within its boundaries. The Park also has sports fields and an archery range for fun with the whole family.

44. Take a Day Trip to Mount Hood – a great day out on your Portland vacation

Mount Hood Oregon

One of the best things that you can do in Portland, Oregon is actually leave it and explore the surrounding countryside. The Cascade Mountains, including Mount Hood and other potentially active volcanoes, are just a short drive away from the city.

You can organize your own day trip to Mount Hood or join an organized tour, including a private flight if you are feeling adventurous. Hike the many trails crisscrossing the mountain and get to the very top for some spectacular views. Or you can enjoy nearly year-round skiing, camping, and other outdoor recreation activities.

45. Take a Ride on the Portland Aerial Tram and the Portland Streetcar – the best way to sightsee in the city

Portland Aerial Tram Oregon

Portland Streetcar Oregon

Sometimes, the journey matters more than the destination, and that axiom applies to the Portland aerial tram and streetcar. The aerial tram is a cable car that connects the South Waterfront district and the OHSU campus. Locals use it as a popular commuter route, but tourists use it because of the spectacular aerial view of Portland.

Be sure to check out the other gem of the Portland public transportation system, the Portland Streetcar. The Streetcar is one of the best ways to get around Portland and one of the few operational tram systems in the United States.

46. Forest Park – one of the largest urban natural areas within the city

Forest Park Portland Oregon

Stretching a full 7 miles along the foothills of the Tualatin Mountains that overlook Northwest Portland, Forest Park has over 80 miles of trails and forest roads and is the biggest urban park in the state and one of the biggest in the country, it also has a ‘ ‘witches castle’. Grab your boots and hike through gorgeous canopies of trees and spot some amazing wildlife.

Many mammals call Forest Park home including elk, porcupine, bobcats, mountain beaver, weasels and bats, bald eagles, owls and woodpeckers, so wildlife fanatics will have a field day!

47. Explore the Nob Hill Neighborhood – one of the best spots to visit in Portland

Nob Hill Portland Oregon

The one in San Francisco may be more famous, but Portland has its own Nob Hill Neighborhood. Nob Hill, also known as Northwest Portland, is famous for its gorgeous Victorian homes. You can walk through the neighborhood and admire their historical facades.

Many of the Victorians are still residences, but some have been turned into boutiques, bars, and restaurants. Check out the artsy businesses that make Nob Hill unique, such as fine dining institution St. Jack.

48. Visit Ota Tofu – the oldest tofu company in America

Ota Tofu Portland

Tofu is associated with young hippies and vegetarians, but it is an important staple of Japanese and other East Asian cuisines. Nowhere is this more evident than Ota Tofu, the country’s oldest tofu shop and manufacturer.

Established in 1911 by members of Portland’s once-thriving Japanese community, Ota Tofu supplies tofu to many of the city’s vegetarian and vegan restaurants (while veganism is a relatively new fad elsewhere in the country, in Portland it’s been part of the counterculture scene for decades).

Today you can visit the Ota Tofu shop and get locally made tofu yourself.

49. Go for a picnic at Cathedral Park – a great spot popular with visitors

Cathedral Park - Portland - Oregon

Cathedral Park, which is nestled under the trellis of St. John’s Bridge, is one of Portland’s most picturesque parks. Many couples come here to take their wedding photos near the bridge’s Gothic arches and along the riverbanks. One of the best ways to enjoy the park is to pack a picnic and settle in for a leisurely afternoon watching the water and the people go by.

The park has picnic tables, but you can also bring your own blanket. Luckily, you won’t have to go far to get picnic supplies as the St. John’s Farmer’s Market is nearby.

50. Hang Out at the Hipster-Friendly Ace Hotel – a popular hotel in Portland

Ace hotel Portland

The Ace Hotel in downtown Portland is a must-visit, even if you’re staying elsewhere. The sleek, modern hotel in the downtown Pearl District is where the city’s cool kids in residence and those who are visiting often spend their time.

Shop the expertly designed merchandise in the hotel shop, kick back in the modernistic lobby, or indulge in happy hour at Clyde Common lobby bar. The hotel even has an outpost of Stumptown Café, the originators of Portland’s hipster coffee scene.

51. Check out Distillery Row – one of the best destinations in the city

Distillery Row Portland Oregon

Portland is a town that takes its alcohol seriously. Besides the many craft brews and wine bars serving vintages from the nearby Willamette Valley, the city boasts a number of distilleries making spirits within city limits. Many of these distilleries are clustered together in Distillery Row.

Check out the different distilleries making everything from aquavit to whiskey to bottled cocktails at special tasting rooms. If you want to get more in-depth about the distillation process, you can also tour the distilleries and see if there are classes currently being offered.

52. Visit the Lan Su Chinese Garden – one of Portland’s greatest treasures

Lan Su Chinese Garden Portland

While the Japanese Garden may be more famous, Portland also boasts a Chinese Garden. Lan Su was built by artisans from Suzhou following Ming Dynasty design principles. Feel like Chinese royalty as you stroll through the covered walkways, colonnades, and bridges, stopping to observe the koi fish and the landscaping that uses traditional Chinese and local plants.

When you want to rest your feet, be sure to stop by the in-garden teahouse for a contemplative cup with a view. During the Chinese New Year, the atmosphere is anything but restful as the garden comes alive with plenty of cultural events.

53. Play a Game – for those looking for fun and geeky activities

Ground Kontrol Portland Oregon

Awaken your inner child by playing some games while out and about in Portland. Whether you’re into old-school video games, board games, or other ways to have fun, Portland has plenty of places to indulge your nostalgia.

One of the best places to game in Portland is Ground Kontrol, a bar that also has classic arcade machines. Play pinball and Pac-Man while enjoying the best local brews. If you prefer your games to be a bit more analog, check out Pips & Bounce, a bar that also has ping-pong tables. 

54. Shanghai Tunnels – a famous city attraction

Portland's Shanghai Tunnels

Literally explore Portland’s historic underbelly by taking a walking tour of The Shanghai tunnels. Situated beneath Old Chinatown is a network of tunnels said to be used between the mid 19th and Mid 20th century to move and export goods via the river.

If legend is to be believed then many of these goods were not legal, with chilling tales of prostitution, forced slavery and trafficking surrounding the now partially ruined tunnels. Not to mention secret prison cells, opium dens and illegal gambling establishments. To hear the intriguing and gruesome stories for yourself try a tour with SinCity, if nothing else you will certainly be entertained! 

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'd 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 cat and ukulele amid the misty valleys and rolling hills of beautiful South Wales.

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