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Things to do in Portland

Things to do in  Portland

Welcome to Portland

Oregon's largest city, Portland sits at the confluence of two major rivers. The Willamette River runs through the city center, while the Columbia River is north of the city on the border with Washington. Portland is a haven for outdoors enthusiasts, foodies, and beer lovers. It's the ideal base to explore the gorgeous Pacific Northwest scenery, and a reliable tour guide will help you find that frame-worthy photo op. Just an hour away, you’ll find the Columbia River Gorge with its numerous waterfalls (including the iconic Multnomah Falls) and the famous wineries of the Willamette Valley. If you’re up for a workout, do some hiking, paddle-boarding or even white-water rafting. The Oregon coast, another great day trip option, offers miles of public beaches to explore. In Portland itself, join locals on a jog or bike through Forest Park, the largest urban park in America. Stop at Powell's Books to browse the stacks; do a bike tour of the many breweries in the area; or sample a wide variety of international cuisines from the city’s famous food carts. Comedy fans won’t want to miss a tour of the local landmarks that serve as the backdrop for the hit IFC sketch show, “Portlandia.”

Top 15 attractions in Portland

Columbia River Gorge

The Columbia River Gorge, one of the great natural treasures of the Pacific Northwest with its many dramatic waterfalls, channels the mighty Columbia River through the Cascade Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, marking much of the border between Oregon and Washington. The gorge figures in early United States history, as it was here that the Lewis and Clark expedition completed its final stretch in 1805. Today the area is popular with hikers, windsurfers, and wine lovers.More

Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls is Oregon’s tallest waterfall at 620 feet (189 meters) and one of the state’s top natural landmarks. The falls are made up of two waterfalls fed from Larch Mountain and are recognizable for their setting tucked into sheer rock faces. The cascades are made more fairytale-like by the Benson Bridge, which spans the top of the lower falls and provides great photo ops.More

Willamette Valley

A short jaunt southwest from downtown Portland, the Willamette Valley is known by wine lovers worldwide for its delectable pinot noirs, often produced in small batches. This picturesque region is also dotted with tasting rooms and is a popular spot for wine-tasting excursions from Portland.More

Latourell Falls

One of 90 waterfalls along Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge, Latourell Falls are the closest to Portland. Plunging from a height of 249 feet (76 meters, the waterfalls offer dramatic scenery and photo opportunities, while a hiking trail makes it easy to get up close and personal.More

Mt. Hood

Just outside of Portland, Mt. Hood stands at a majestic 11,249 feet (3,429 meters), making it Oregon’s tallest mountain. The dormant volcano often has steam rising from its fumaroles, adding to the serenity of the surrounding vista. Adventure-seekers who opt to climb the mountain all the way to its summit are rewarded with 12 glaciers at the peak—plus stunning views of the Cascade mountain range, and the valleys and cities below.More

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI)

Designed for science fans of all ages, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) features five separate halls, eight hands-on science labs, a real submarine, an OmniMax giant-screen theater, and a planetarium. The museum is a science playground, with 200-plus interactive exhibits covering subjects such as climate change, chemistry, the human body, and technology.More

International Rose Test Garden

Free, outdoors, and centrally located, the International Rose Test Garden is an easy addition to your Portland vacation. Take time to smell some of the 10,000 roses representing 650 species when you stroll through the active test garden, located in Portland’s popular Washington Park.More

Portland Steel Bridge

With more than a dozen bridges spanning the Willamette and Columbia Rivers, Portland is certainly a city of bridges. However, there’s one that stands out; Portland's Steel Bridge is the only telescoping, double-decker truss bridge ever built. You can ride the light rail across, admire its expanse on a cruise, or just stroll along the century-old landmark.More

Pioneer Square

Sometimes called Portland's living room, Pioneer Square lives up to its reputation as a place that's welcoming to all. Though not the most scenic spot in the city, this centrally-located urban hub is surrounded by shops and eateries, and offers easy access to Downtown Portland attractions, whether you're walking or taking public transit.More

Portland Pearl District

Portland’s Pearl District lives up to its evocative title. The small neighborhood in the heart of downtown is packed with local finds, from avant-garde art galleries to craft breweries to fine dining, with many establishments housed in renovated warehouse spaces. Plus, a bike- and pedestrian-friendly trail along the Willamette River accents the Pearl’s waterfront location.More

Powell’s City of Books

Encompassing an entire city block in downtown Portland, Powell’s City of Books is the world’s largest independent new and used bookstore and a top attraction for book lovers visiting the city. Here you’ll find upwards of a million books, including rare finds, first editions, and autographed copies of bestsellers and little-known titles alike, all under one roof.More

Wahkeena Falls

Situated on the Oregon side of the scenic Columbia River Gorge, Wahkeena Falls cascades 242 feet (74 meters) in tiers through lush green forest. It’s one of the most popular waterfalls in the area, not only because of its beauty, but also because getting to it requires only a very short hike.More

Portland Japanese Garden

Dedicated in 1963, the Portland Japanese Garden has long been the spot to join others—both visitors and locals—in a quest for tranquility. Meditate by a waterfall and walk the paths that lead to nine themed garden areas. Don't miss the cultural village, designed by contemporary Japanese architect Kengo Kuma.More

South Park Blocks

South Park Blocks offers respite from Portland's bustling city energy. The verdant green space in the heart of Downtown Portland covers 12 blocks, and runs through Portland State University. You can walk along SW Park Avenue—between Jackson and Salmon Streets—to enjoy a leisurely stroll on this public art-adorned, tree-covered arcade.More

Portland Art Museum

Situated in the tree-lined Park Blocks neighborhood of downtown Portland, Oregon, the Portland Art Museum is known for its large archives of Native American and First Nations artifacts as well as its exemplary collections of art from around the world. Here you’ll find everything from Van Gogh and Monet paintings to calligraphy from pre–Han Dynasty China.More

Trip ideas

How to Spend 1 Day in Portland

How to Spend 1 Day in Portland

How to Spend 2 Days in Portland

How to Spend 2 Days in Portland

Wine Tasting in the Willamette Valley

Wine Tasting in the Willamette Valley

Top activities in Portland

Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls and Mt Hood Tour from Portland
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Oregon Coast Day Trip: Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock
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Mt Hood Day Trip from Portland to Multnomah Falls and Hood River
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Willamette Valley Character Winery Tour
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Oregon Coast Tour from Portland

Oregon Coast Tour from Portland

Willamette Valley Wine-Tasting Tour from Portland
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Full-Day Mt Hood Waterfall Tour with Lunch and Wine Tasting
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2-hour Champagne Brunch Cruise

2-hour Champagne Brunch Cruise

Discover Portland Half-Day Small-Group City Tour
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Portland Afternoon City Tour

Portland Afternoon City Tour

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All about Portland

When to visit

Portlanders love outdoor activities, and with summer temperatures at a comfortable high of around 80°F (26.6°C), it’s the perfect time to take advantage of the city’s outdoor markets, street fairs, and gardens. Plus, it’s the main season of the Portland Rose Festival. For budget-seeking travelers, winter brings lower hotel rates, but also a higher chance of rain.

Getting around

Although Portland can be hilly, it’s generally bike-friendly, with tons of bike lanes and relatively low speed limits, making visiting by bicycle a popular option. The public transit system, TriMet, is also excellent, with buses and an extensive light rail network, known as the MAX, that connects the airport and many of Portland’s suburban areas with the city center. Rental cars are also a great option, particularly if you want to get out and explore the surrounding forests.

Traveler tips

For epic views of the city, take a ride on the Portland Aerial Tram, which connects the South Waterfront neighborhood near downtown with the hillside Oregon Health and Sciences University. Although the tram is primarily used for commuting by employees, students, and patients at OHSU, it’s also a great way to get familiar with the city.

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A local’s pocket guide to Portland

Margot Bigg

Margot is one of the few Portlanders who was born and (mostly) raised in the city. Although she’s lived all over the world, she now calls Portland home again.

The first thing you should do in Portland is...

plan out where you’re going to eat. There are way too many fantastic dining spots, so having a good plan (or going on a food-tasting tour) is an absolute must.

A perfect Saturday in Portland...

involves an early breakfast on SE Hawthorne Boulevard, followed by a hike in the nearby Columbia Gorge. Come back in the afternoon to visit the Portland Japanese Garden and spend the evening at one of the town's countless music venues.

One touristy thing that lives up to the hype is...

Powell’s City of Books. It’s the world’s largest independent new-and-used bookstore—taking up a full city block—but it’s well organized, making it a delightful place to spend a few hours getting lost amongst the stacks.

To discover the "real" Portland...

While some might argue that the “real” Portland is no longer, you’ll find some of that old-school vibe if you venture away from the center—St. Johns in North Portland and Multnomah Village in Southwest Portland are good places to start.

For the best view of the city...

head up to Washington Park’s International Rose Test Garden, where—on a clear day—you can see not only the downtown skyline, but also Mt. Hood in the background.

One thing people get wrong...

is assuming that Portland is constantly in a state of riot. While people in the city are politically and socially engaged, it’s not as dangerous—or as wild—as it’s often portrayed.

People Also Ask

What are some things Portland is known for?

Portland is known for its food and beer scenes, coffeeshops, and easy access to many of Oregon’s most celebrated outdoor attractions, from the waterfalls of the Columbia Gorge to the forested Oregon coast. Although Portland gets plenty of rain, it’s also famously bike-friendly, with lots of designated bike lanes.

How do I spend a day in Portland?

With one day in Portland, split your time between downtown and Washington Park. Spend the morning downtown, shopping, sampling donuts, and searching for a title at massive Powell’s Books. In the afternoon, head to Washington Park, home to the Oregon Zoo, Portland Japanese Garden, and International Rose Test Garden.

What is the number 1 attraction in Oregon?

While Portland gets more visitors than anywhere else in Oregon, the state’s number-one attraction is Crater Lake National Park, home to the deepest lake in the United States. It’s the only national park in Oregon and a popular spot for hiking, camping, and taking scenic drives in summer.

What do people in Portland do for fun?

Portlanders are an outdoorsy bunch, and hiking is one of the most popular activities among locals, especially in the warmer months. Other popular activities include attending live music and theater performances and going out to sports games—Portland’s basketball team (Trail Blazers) and soccer team (Timbers) have solid local fan bases.

Is Portland worth visiting?

Yes. Portland is worth visiting. It’s a great city for dining out, with tons of restaurants and food carts, not to mention wineries and breweries. Outdoorsy folks will find no shortage of gardens and hiking trails within the city limits and plenty of forestland a short drive away.

What do locals do in Portland?

Portland locals spend a lot of time outdoors, skiing and snowboarding in the winter months and hiking and camping in the warmer season. Going out to eat is also a common pastime in the city; despite its smaller size, Portland has a ton of restaurants.


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