Portland, OR Travel Guide

USA  #5 in Best Places to Visit in Oregon
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Courtesy of Photo by Matt Payne of Durango, Colorado/Getty Images

Portland, OR Area Map

Neighborhoods

Portland lies just south of the Washington state border at the meeting of the Willamette and Columbia rivers. The city's organized layout and accessible public transportation make it one of the most tourist-friendly cities in the United States. Portland consists of five geographical sections: North (N), Northeast (NE), Southeast (SE), Southwest (SW) and Northwest (NW). Keep in mind that downtown Portland addresses are found in the SW quadrant. Streets are named according to their section (i.e. NW 23 Ave). In the Northwest you'll find Forest Park, one of the largest forested parks in the country, and an excellent park for hiking or jogging. The nearby Tryon Creek State Park, just 5 miles south of the city, also provides relaxing outdoor activities.

Portland's downtown lies in the center of the city's grid, primarily in the SW section just west of the Willamette River. Most of the city's commercial and high-rise properties stand in the downtown area. Downtown sites of interest include Pioneer Courthouse Square, a 40,000-square-foot public square known as "Portland's living room." The square is home to several public art exhibits throughout the year and dozens of free spring and summer concerts. The Tom McCall Waterfront Park, on the banks of the Willamette, hosts numerous events, including the annual Oregon Brewers Festival and Pride Portland. The downtown area is also home to the Portland Art Museum and the Oregon Historical Society. Just north of Portland's downtown area is the University of Portland, which also sits along the river.

Portland's Chinatown is in the NW district, as is the Old Town Historic District, which has transformed from an area of seedy back alleys to a prime nightlife locale. This area is home to the city's vibrant gay and lesbian scene. West of Chinatown in NW is the trendy, upscale Pearl District, where you'll find many of the city's art galleries and top hotels. On the first Thursday of every month, the Pearl District hosts a popular art crawl. It's also home to Powell's City of Books, a Portland landmark.

Immediately west of the Pearl District is the similarly trendy Nob Hill neighborhood, a dense area of Victorian-style homes and new condominiums. NW 21st and NW 23rd streets brim with expensive boutiques, shops and restaurants and have been dubbed "trendy-first" and "trendy-third" or just "uptown."

The Lloyd District, just east of the Willamette and mainly in NE Portland, is primarily a commercial region. Attractions include the Lloyd Center Mall, the Oregon Convention Center and the Moda Center, home to the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers. Also in the NE district is the popular arts district on Alberta Street, which hosts events like Last Thursday (in response to Pearl District's First Thursdays event), in which galleries are open late on the last Thursday of each month.

North of the Lloyd District is where you'll find the Mississippi/Williams neighborhood. Home to boutiques, breweries and trendy restaurants, this area is a must if you've come to Portland in search of good food and tasty brews. Alternative lodging, such as Airbnb rentals, is more prevalent here than top hotels.

This southeastern area across the river from downtown Portland is a great place to stay if you're looking for a more local experience. Division Street, in particular, is a foodie enclave home to a handful of the city's most celebrated eateries, including Pok Pok and Bollywood Theater. Plus, the area hosts a collection of boutique shops, local cafes and plenty of casual restaurants. Though it's devoid of the same high-rise hotels found in downtown Portland, it does boast a high concentration of vacation rentals. Because it's filled with more locals than tourists, you'll find significantly fewer panhandlers here.

If you're planning on traveling outside the city, you won't be disappointed by the area's natural wonders. Visible from the city (on clear days) are peaks of three mountainous volcanoes: Mount St. Helens, Mount Tabor and Mount Hood, all of which have parks and recreational sites. Many of the nearby mountains serve as great slopes for skiers, according to past visitors. The Portland area is also a hot spot for wine aficionados. The Willamette Valley – considered one of the world's best wine vacations – sits within a 40-minute drive south of the city and is home to more than 250 wineries, towns and lush farmland. Plus, if you don't have your own set of wheels, there are a variety of tours that depart from Portland to the valley.

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