Here are 25 of my favorite things to do in Portland.
Whether you’re entertaining or just need to explore a little more of this awesome city, this list of things to do in Portland should keep you busy for awhile. They are in no particular order.
Powell’s is the worlds largest independent bookstore. So the biggest small one I guess. It’s huge, it’s in the structure of an old parking garage, and has a great coffee shop to read books and sip a latte. Go here. One the corner of SW 10th and W Burnside. Open till 11pm everyday!
5.5 acres of manicured gardens with 5 Japanese style sub-gardens. This place is very peaceful and beautiful. It’s a great stroll and offers a nice view over downtown Portland at the Garden pavilion. They regularly have events from different artists in the gardens. Check the website for more info.
Downtown Art Museum-
It’s the oldest art museum on the west coast, and the seventh oldest in the US. The permanent collection has over 42,000 pieces. There is always a major traveling exhibit on show.
Voodoo or Blue Star Donuts-
Voodoo is the shop that really put Portland on the map for donuts. They put bacon on a maple bar, got plugged on the travel show, and bamm, instant huge lines around the block. BlueStar however, is newer and took the artisan-local-ingredients-approach to making donuts. Think “Blueberry Bourbon Basil”. It’s been a huge success as well with 5 stores in Portland, 2 in LA, and 7 in Tokyo.
The Portland Science and Technology Museum is perfect for kids with a variety of hands-on exhibits. They also have the after-dark events for adults which basically adds beer and food to the exhibits. They regularly have rotating exhibits that are worth the entrance fees alone.
Portland’s Zoo has a few things I haven’t seen at other zoos. A very good elephant exhibit, an anaconda, a Northwest exhibit with back bears, condors, & cougars, and a pretty good primate section with a cool orangutan.
Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden-
As the name implies, this is a garden full of Rhododendrons. It’s also located right on the crystal springs lake, offering nice views, a couple walking trials and good bird watching. It’a a relaxing spot to sit and take in the view over the lake with the golf course in the back ground. Also look for the infamous nutria or coypu rodents here.
International Rose Test Garden-
A huge rose garden with more rose varieties than you could ever imagine existed. My favorite is the wing ding variety. The Shakespeare garden is one of my favorite spots to sit and take in all the flora and roses. Here is the entire list of roses so you can check them off as you walk around. -List of roses here-
The Pittock Mansion is a French Renaissance-style château in the hills behind downtown Portland. It was original built and owned by one of Portland’s elite, Henry Pittock. He owned the Oregonian newspaper a long time ago. You can go inside and visit the intricate and detailed interior for 8 dollars. The grounds are open to the public for free, and offers on of the best views over all of Portland.
SE Hawthorne Street(Between 25th and 40th)
SE Hawthorne street has a very diverse collection of shops. The area is known for some of the more colorful residents in Portland. Come for the vintage clothing stores, local coffee shops, and tattoo parlors. Definitely check out the Baghdad theater, and the adult soap box derby (if your visiting in August).
Pearl District (and 3 NW parks)-
The Pearl District is one of Portland’s most dense, walk-able, and livable neighborhoods. There are many art galleries, restaurants, bars, and local shops to keep someone occupied for a good while. One of the best things about the pearl are three awesome parks along NW 10th avenue. Start at Jamison Square and head north 2 more blocks to Tanner Springs Park, and just 1 more block north you’ll end up at the fields park.
The Portlandia Statue is the second largest copper statue in the US. She would be 50 ft tall if she was standing up. The statue is located in an odd spot on the front of the Portland Building on SW 5th, but is still impressive to see. If you go into the Portland building and up to the mezzanine level there is a little history on the statue, and a life size replica of the statue face.
The grotto is an outdoor Catholic shrine and walking path in NE Portland. Even if your not into religion, this place is worth checking out just for the meditation room. The meditation room is a quite space with huge floor to ceiling windows that looks north over the Columbia river. If you visit in December you can check out the festival of lights.
The Saturday market, which also is open on Sundays now, is a outdoor market where you can buy goods made by local artists. Everything from wood home decor, to local board games, to glass jewelry, you’ll be able to find your local gifts from Portland here. The Market is located on SW Naito right near the Burnside bridge. March 1st through New Years Eve.
Portland Farmers Markets-
There are over 40 farmers markets happening all over Portland. The most popular one to visit is located at Portland state University (PSU). The PSU market is the “flag-ship” farmers market in Portland. Here you’ll find all your local fruits and veggies, as well as local food artisans, and some chef demonstrations. If you want to see where the cities best chefs get some of that amazing fresh produce, this is one of the best things to do in Portland. Open 8:30 – 2pm on Saturdays.
Tom McCall Waterfront Park-
The Waterfront Park is a large 36 acre park sitting on the west-side of the Willamette river in downtown Portland. This used to be a large free-way type road, but in 1974 Portland decided to make it into a little bit of green space. It’s a great place to walk on any given day and has a great path that connects around to the other side of the river. If you want a good 3 mile jog with some good views and good people watching this is the spot to do it.
Portland Chinese Gardens-
The Chinese gardens in the Old town / Chinatown district of Portland are a walled off city-block (about 45,000 square feet), with a open air manicured Chinese-style garden inside. The Chinese gardens are one of the many relaxing things to do in Portland. There is a tea-court on the north-side where you can have traditional Chinese tea and relax while overlooking the garden space.
Forest Park Portland-
If you feel like getting out into the woods of what basically looks like the middle of the Cascade range, go for a hike in Forest Park. The municipal park is the largest in Portland and one of the largest city parks in the US. You can really feel like your miles away from the city while still being within city limits. Forest park is one of the great hiking things to do in Portland. Start at the trail-head at NW 29th Ave & Upshur St for a good introduction.
First-Thursday Portland (Art Walk in Pearl District)-
During the first Thursdays of every month from March through December, NW 13th between NW Davis and NW Johnson, is closed to car traffic and turns into a street fair with music, art, and some food. Participating art vendors show off their works, some of it for sale. The galleries around the area are usually open and free for the afternoon as well.
Portland Last-Thursday Street Fair on (NE Alberta)-
The last Thursday Street Fair is held every month between May and October on NE Alberta between NE 15th and 30th Ave’s. If you’re looking for artistic things to do in Portland, head to last Thursday on NE Alberta. This monthly event has grown to be one of the largest art events in Portland, taking up 15 blocks. Last Thursday is a community grown event promoting local artists, musicians, and performers. This is a good community event and place to get out and see a lot of everything Portland all at once. The larger street events are seasonal and only run June, July, & August.
NW 21st & NW 23rd Aves-
The areas on NW 21st and NW 23rd between W Burnside and NW Thurman, is a great area to take in some of Portland’s great shopping. It has a lot of boutique shops, fine dining, home decor shops, and specialty ice cream shops. It is also know as Nob-Hill, or the alphabet district.
Antique Malls in Sellwood-
If you like antiques, some of the biggest and best stores for all things old and nostalgic, can be found in the SE Portland neighborhood of Sellwood. The neighborhood is very walk-able and the antique stores are relatively close together. If you’re thinking Portland might be a good spot for thrift shopping, you’re right. Thrift store shopping is one of the more unique things to do in Portland. Start your pickin’ at Stars. Located on the corner of SE 17th and SE Milwaukee. From there follow SE 17th north and you’ll find half a dozen more stores to rummage through.
The 4T trail is a route that combines the Train, Tram, Trolley, and Trail. You ride the MAX, use the Street Car, take the arial tram, and hike to council crest park. It will take about 4 hours, with 2.5 miles of walking. Buy a $5 all-day pass through one of the Max or Street car stops, and then buy a tram ticket for $5. This is a very good way to explore some interesting corners of the city, and take in some great views too!
If you like basketball, this is a good town to be in. The Blazers won the championship a loooong time ago in 1977. Even though it’s been awhile since we’ve seen some glory, this town has some of the best fans in the NBA. Buy tickets online, at the box office, or try your luck with some of the scalpers out front of the Moda Center.
Kennedy Soaking Pool-
If you haven’t been to a McMenanmins Property, the Kennedy School is a great place for an introduction. The Kennedy School is an old 1915 elementary school converted into an eclectic hotel, bar, event space, cigar lounge, movie theater, and soaking pool all wrapped up into one unique spot to spend the day. The soaking pool uses chlorinated saltwater. Apparently this makes it more buoyant. Spend the day soaking, then grab a beer, see a show, maybe a movie, get some food, oh and might as well just spend the night too. The soaking pool is one of the more local things to do in Portland. General public over age 18 welcome daily, 10 a.m. ’til 8 p.m.
There are of course many more things to do in Portland other than just these 25 things. Hopefully this gets you started.