Best Things To Do in Portland, OR
If you're looking to pub crawl, try the excellent bars and breweries. If you travel in June, take part in the annual Portland Rose Festival at the Tom McCall Waterfront Park or stop by the International Rose Test Garden to see why Portland is known as the City of Roses. For sightseeing, rent a bike and tour the storefronts in the St. Johns neighborhood. To catch up on your reading, try Powell's City Books. In the winter, the area is an ideal ski and winter sports destination, especially around Mount Hood.
Updated August 30, 2018
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Many critics, travelers and locals agree that of all of Portland's parks (and they are numerous), Washington Park is perhaps the best. Home to such notable landscaping feats as the Portland Japanese Garden and the International Rose Test Garden, as well as the World Forestry Center, Hoyt Arboretum and several memorials dedicated to pivotal points in Oregon's history.
There are also family-friendly attractions like the Oregon Zoo and Portland Children's Museum along with a large playground, soccer fields, tennis courts and an archery range. Just make sure you save plenty of time for a leisurely stroll down one of the many shady paths, which are often decorated with flower displays and fountains.
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Not until you visit these sprawling gardens will you fully understand the reasoning behind one of Portland's nicknames, the City of Roses. Established in 1917 by the American Rose Society, it began as a sanctuary for European grown hybrid roses during World War I and is now the oldest official continuously operated public rose test garden in the United States.
Home to more than 10,000 roses, the site also offers the special Shakespeare Garden, which is filled with roses that are named after the characters in William Shakespeare's plays. To get a peek at smaller versions of your favorite roses, check out the Miniature Rose Garden. The award-winning roses are found in the aptly named Gold Award garden. If you have your heart set on seeing the roses in full bloom, plan an early summer visit.
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When the hustle and bustle of Portland start to get the best of you, you can seek out the Zen-like tranquility at the Japanese Garden within Washington Park.
The 12-acre Portland Japanese Garden is made up of eight separate gardens that represent different styles of traditional Japanese gardening techniques. All of the gardens feature essential elements like stone, water and plants that come from influences of the Shinto, Buddhist and Taoist philosophies, creating a unique, serene environment where visitors feel they are becoming a part of nature. The garden also features the Kashintei Tea House, where visitors can take part in a traditional tea ceremony. If you're visiting in late March, don't miss the chance to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom.
- #4View all Photos#4 in Portland, ORParks and Gardens, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDParks and Gardens, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
Occupying an entire city block, the Lan Su Chinese Garden is among some of the only authentic Chinese gardens in the country. Modeled after China's Ming dynasty gardens, the Lan Su Chinese Garden aims at being a place where people can escape the hustle of everyday life and connect with nature. In addition to featuring plants and trees native to China as well as an 8,000 square feet lake, the garden also hosts a variety of Chinese cultural events, ranging from tai chi to tea tastings.
Many recent visitors said that despite the long lines, the gardens were a highlight of their trip to Portland, describing the space as "tranquil," "stunning" and an "urban oasis." They also highly recommended taking the guided tour, saying it added context to the beautiful and serene setting. Tours are included in the admission price and offered daily at noon and 1 p.m.
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Whether or not you're an avid reader, Powell's City of Books is worth checking out. It occupies a square city block and rises three stories high; in fact, this bookstore is so large that exploring it actually requires a map.
While you wander through the stacks, keep in mind that you are tracing the footsteps of great writers, many of which have scrawled their signatures on one of the building's pillars. You might also schedule your visit to coincide with a reading, as the book shop hosts events nearly every day totaling more than 500 author visits a year.
- #6View all Photos#6 in Portland, ORMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
Whether you need to keep the kids entertained for a few hours or just need a way to spend a rainy day, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry is the place to go. This interactive museum (referred to by residents as the OMSI) makes learning fun with five halls and eight labs filled with hands-on exhibits devoted to physics, chemistry, paleontology, and more. Other interactive offerings include a science playground specifically designed for young children. Recent visitors said that the museum is fun and educational for all members of the family, though some do gripe about the price of admission. If you've got kids in tow, past visitors said you'll want to spend several hours here.
And if you're a movie buff, you'll want to make your way to the museum's USS Blueback submarine, which was used to film "The Hunt for Red October," and is the most modern U.S. submarine on public display in the country. When you've exhausted the exhibits, take in a show at the IMAX theater or marvel at the stars at the Harry C. Kendall Planetarium. There's also a riverfront eatery on-site that serves healthy sandwiches and salads.
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As the oldest art museum in the Pacific Northwest, the Portland Art Museum set the bar high for its followers. It is home to Oregon's most prestigious collection, including works from the European masters, Japanese screen prints and contemporary American pieces. There is also a sculpture garden and an area devoted to photography. But the museum's Native American gallery – which houses more than 5,000 ancient and modern objects from more than 200 different tribes – is not to be missed.
Recent travelers admit that they got lost in the art at this Portland museum, which is easy to do since the large collection fills three connected buildings. Because the museum is somewhat of a maze to navigate, some travelers recommend figuring out which exhibits you're interested in ahead of time so you know exactly where to go in the museum before arriving (gallery maps can be found online).
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The 16,000-square-foot Pittock Mansion is one of Portland's few historic attractions and definitely one of the most unique. Commissioned in 1912 by Henry Pittock – the owner of The Oregonian newspaper – and designed after the French Renaissance style, this 23-room mansion contains a Turkish smoking room, a library, a music room, and two sleeping porches, among other features.
Guided tours of the mansion are included in the price of admission, allowing you to learn how the wealthy lived here in Portland. But you'll need to call the mansion to check on the availability of the volunteer tour guides. Also, stop by the gift shop, which sells handcrafted items made by local vendors. You can also take a self-guided tour during visiting hours; maps are available at the front entrance and interpretive panels are stationed throughout the mansion.
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If you're looking to spend some time outside but aren't willing to make the trek to Mount Hood, Forest Park is the place to go. With more than 5,000 acres, it's one of the largest urban parks in America.
Among the park's features is the 30-mile Wildwood Trail, which is part of the region's 40-mile Loop system connecting pedestrian and trail routes along the Columbia River to Gresham, through southeast Portland, along the Willamette Greenway, and back to the Marquam Trail in southwest Portland. To find a trailhead, check out Forest Park Conservancy's online maps. And if you're an avid bird-watcher, make sure to spend stop at the Portland Audubon Society, which offers a variety of activities especially for birders, including the Wildlife Care Center, which houses educational birds of prey. Recent travelers remarked on how close Forest Park was to the city, but how far into the wilderness it felt. They also remarked on the variety of hikes for all levels.
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Named for a former Oregonian governor, this 30-acre park stretches alongside the Willamette River in downtown Portland and provides some of the best views of the city's skyline. Because of its prime location, it hosts many of Portland's special events – including the ever-popular Oregon Brewers Festival and the Portland Rose Festival.
But even when the city isn't celebrating, there's plenty to do here. Locals congregate for afternoon strolls or picnics and families cool off on hot days at the Salmon Street Springs fountain. The park is also home to some historic monuments like the Founders Stone, Japanese American Historical Plaza and the Police Memorial. The Portland Saturday Market is held within the park every weekend from March to Christmas Eve. If you're in need of a bite to eat, head to Pine Street Market – a food hall with that sits at the northern end of the park on at Second Avenue and Pine Street.
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Towering over the Portland skyline is Mount Hood, the region's prime skiing area. When the snow begins to fall, grab your gear and head east, where numerous powdery downhill and cross-country trails await. Test your skills on the expert slopes at Mt. Hood Skibowl or conquer your vertigo at the Timberline Lodge, which sits at 6,000 feet. You can also spend the night here if you plan on enjoying the slopes for more than a day.
Planning a summer getaway? Never fear: Mount Hood offers summer skiing as well, not to mention plenty of opportunities to hike and mountain bike. Mount Hood's main summer attraction is the Mt. Hood Adventure Park at Skibowl, which features hiking and biking trails, as well as numerous other warm-weather activities.
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