Portland, OR Travel Guide

USA  #5 in Best Places to Visit in Oregon
Credit

Courtesy of Photo by Matt Payne of Durango, Colorado/Getty Images

3-day Itinerary in Portland, OR

Explore the best things to do in Paris in 3 days based on recommendations from local experts.

Day 1

  • 1
    #5
    Powell's City of Books
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    #5 in Portland, OR
    Shopping, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Shopping, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    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.

    Book lovers who visit Portland say the unique store is part of what makes the city so special. And they say the knowledgeable and polite staff is the icing on the cake of this great book shop.  

    Although there are several locations, the main Powell's City of Books is located in the Pearl District on West Burnside Street and is open every day from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. If you're interested in taking a tour of the hallowed bookshop, visit on a summer weekday and schedule a tour in advance by emailing the store. For more information about the store and the books housed there, check out Powell's City of Books' website.

    ...Read More »
    10 minutes by car
  • 2
    #1
    Washington Park
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    #1 in Portland, OR
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    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. 

    Recent visitors said even with all the attractions, the park never feels crowded and gives visitors the perfect opportunity to experience nature in the middle of the city.

    Washington Park is located in the Southwest Portland, between West Burnside Street and U.S. Highway 26. You can pay to park or take advantage of several public transit options. TriMet's Blue and Red MAX Light Rail lines serve the Washington Park MAX station. From May to September, the park offers a seasonal free shuttle that stops at all of the park's major attractions. If you're coming to the park via light rail or bus, you can catch the shuttle on the plaza level of the Washington Park station.

    Washington Park is open every day from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., and while entry is free, specific attractions within the park may charge admission. For more information check out the Explore Washington Park website, the nonprofit that maintains the park. 

    ...Read More »
    5-20 minute walk
  • 3
    #2
    International Rose Test Garden
    View all Photos
    #2 in Portland, OR
    Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    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.

    If navigating the nearly 5-acre park seems overwhelming, volunteers lead daily free tours at 1 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day weekend. Meet the guide at the Rose Garden store 10 minutes prior. Recent visitors were awed at the beauty of the gardens and at the price for enjoying the gardens (free!).

    The garden is open from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. You can drive to Washington Park, though parking can be tricky (especially in the summer) and expensive. You can view the parking availability within the park online. TriMet bus No. 63 offers service to the garden and connects to the MAX stations at Oregon Zoo and Providence Park. You can also take the Red or Blue line MAX train to the Washington Park stop (the zoo) and then take a free Explore Washington Park shuttle to the garden. For more information, visit the Portland Parks and Recreation website.

    ...Read More »
    5-10 minute walk
  • 4
    #3
    Portland Japanese Garden
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    #3 in Portland, OR
    Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    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.

    Recent visitors described the garden as tranquil, serene and beautiful. They also suggested pairing a trip to the International Rose Test Garden with a visit here as both gardens are within walking distance of each other in Washington Park. Though reviewers raved about the Japanese Garden's peaceful atmosphere, they did gripe about the entrance fee.

    You can learn more specifics about the eight gardens located here during the free guided tours. The Japanese Garden is located in the northern section of Washington Park, west of downtown Portland. You can drive to the park, though parking can be tricky (especially in the summer) and expensive. You can view the parking availability within the park online. TriMet bus No. 63 offers service to the garden and connects to the MAX stations at Oregon Zoo and Providence Park. You can also take the Red or Blue line MAX train to the Washington Park stop (the zoo) and then take a free Explore Washington Park shuttle to the garden.

    Unlike other gardens within Washington Park, there is an admission fee. Admission costs $16.95 for adults, $11.50 for youths ages 6 to 17 and is free for kids ages 5 and younger. (If you don't want to pay to see a garden, the International Rose Test Garden next door offers a free alternative). Hours vary by season, but generally, the garden is open Monday from noon to 4 or 7 p.m. and Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 or 7 p.m. For more information, check out the Japanese Garden website.

    ...Read More »
    5-10 minutes by car
  • 5
    #8
    Pittock Mansion
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    #8 in Portland, OR
    Historic Homes/Mansions, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Historic Homes/Mansions, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    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. 

    Even if you're not interested in exploring the house (or paying the entrance fee), consider taking a stroll around the spectacular grounds for free. Recent visitors said the mansion sits on a steep hill above downtown Portland and offers some of the best views of the city. What's more, the grounds surrounding Pittock Mansion are a public park open daily through 9 p.m. The woods behind the mansion are a part of Forest Park, offering a variety of hiking trails.

    You'll find the mansion west of downtown, just north of Washington Park. Parking is free. The mansion is also serviced by TriMet bus No. 20 Burnside/Stark to Beaverton TC. From the bus stop, you'll have to a walk a half-mile uphill to the mansion. The Pittock Mansion is open every day, but hours vary by season. Generally, the mansion is open from 10 a.m. to 4 or 5 p.m. daily. Note that the mansion is closed the entire month of January. Admission costs $11 for adults, $8 for kids ages 6 to 18 and is free for children 5 and younger; discounts are also available for senior citizens and students. For more information on hours and special events at the mansion, visit the attraction's website

    ...Read More »
    15-20 minutes by car
  • 6
    #9
    Forest Park
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    #9 in Portland, OR
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    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.

    Forest Park is located north of the Washington Park area and is open daily from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.; access is free. Visit the Portland Parks & Recreation website for more details.

    ...Read More »

Day 2

  • 1
    #4
    Lan Su Chinese Garden
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    #4 in Portland, OR
    Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    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.

    Nestled in Portland's Old Town/Chinatown district – just north of the downtown area – the Lan Su Chinese Gardens opens its doors to the public every day at 10 a.m. From mid-October to mid-March it closes at 4 p.m.; from mid-March to mid-October it remains open until 7 p.m. Admission costs $10 for adults, $7 for kids ages 6 to 18 and is free for kids 5 and younger. Family passes for two adults and two children are available for $28. Two MAX stations are within walking distance of the garden and several bus lines, including 1, 4, 5, 8, 10, 16, 33, 40 and 77 stop near the garden. For more information, visit the garden's website.

    ...Read More »
    10 minute walk
  • 2
    Shopping, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Shopping, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Read More »

    5 minute walk
  • 3
    #10
    Tom McCall Waterfront Park
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    #10 in Portland, OR
    Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    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.

    Visitors to the park say it's a perfect place to relax on a sunny day, though they also note that among the crowds of joggers and bicyclists, there are also a healthy amount of homeless that congregate here.

    The park is free to enjoy and is open every day from 5 a.m. to midnight. There are several MAX Blue and Red line stations within walking distance of the park. For more information on what to do here, check out the Portland Parks & Recreation website

    ...Read More »
    5-10 minutes by car; 15-25 minute walk
  • 4
    #6
    Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
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    #6 in Portland, OR
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    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.

    The OMSI sits on the east bank of the Willamette River across from the southern edge of the waterfront park. The museum is open daily, though hours vary by season and certain attractions like the submarine. Admission costs $14.50 for adults and $9.75 for children, and entry to the IMAX, the planetarium and the submarine cost extra; combo passes are available. Parking is an additional $5. Public transportation near the museum is available. The OMSI/SE Water Ave Station connects with MAX, bus and Portland Streetcar lines. For more information, check out the OMSI website.

    ...Read More »

Day 3

  • 1
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    You're bound to find yourself in Pioneer Courthouse Square at some point during your visit. This plaza marks the intersection of Portland's shopping, business and cultural districts, meaning that it is often used as a meeting point for residents and visitors alike. Here you'll find a variety of shops and the Portland Visitor's Center, as well as a few food carts offering supplies for picnics.

    While you're in Pioneer Courthouse Square, don't miss your chance to see the "weather machine," which predicts rain or shine every day at noon. Two other must-see attractions in this area are the waterfall fountain outside the visitors center and Pioneer Courthouse, which is the oldest public building in the Pacific Northwest. Travelers say it's a public meeting place that's usually quiet unless there's an event going on. 

    Pioneer Courthouse Square also hosts a variety of special events, such as concerts and farmers markets. For more information, check out the Pioneer Courthouse Square website.

    ...Read More »
    5 minute walk
  • 2
    #7
    Portland Art Museum
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    #7 in Portland, OR
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    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).

    The Portland Art Museum is located in the heart of downtown Portland. The TriMet Bus Mall sits three blocks away as does the SW 6th & Madison MAX station. The A Loop streetcar also stops at the museum. You can visit the museum Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (the museum stays open until 8 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays); admission costs $20 for adults; $17 for students and seniors and is free for kids ages 17 and younger. The museum offers free admission on the first Thursday of every month from 5 to 8 p.m. For more information, check out the Portland Art Museum's website.

    ...Read More »
    2.5 to 3 hours by car
  • 3
    #11
    Mount Hood
    View all Photos
    #11 in Portland, OR
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Skiing
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Skiing
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    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.

    Mount Hood is located about 90 minutes east of downtown Portland along Highway 26. Depending on when you visit, you can participate in several different types of group activities, from rafting trips to climbing lessons. For more information, visit the Travel Portland website.

    ...Read More »

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