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The 6 Best Museums in Portland
Explore these museums to get a flavor of Portland and the Pacific Northwest.
You'll find compelling artwork from many periods at the Portland Art Museum.(Courtesy of the Portland Art Museum)
Whether you're looking for your muse or to be amused, Portland, Oregon, is full of museums that will satisfy any interest.
"We have so many museums," says Michael Rowland, chief concierge at The Benson Hotel. "If [visitors] want a day of museums, we can take care of them.”
What might be trickier is narrowing down your itinerary. So to learn which museums are the best in town, U.S. News reached out to local experts for recommendations. Here are their six favorites.
Portland Art Museum
Portland Art Museum(Courtesy of the Portland Art Museum)
You can start your museum experience by visiting the Portland Art Museum, the oldest museum in the Pacific Northwest.
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“The Portland Art Museum possesses an amazing collection of artwork from throughout the ages,” says Marcus Hibdon, director of communications and public relations at Travel Portland, the city's tourism organization. “Be sure to stop by the Native American art center, which highlights artifacts from the days before the state was settled by pioneers who traveled across the Oregon Trail. Visiting exhibitions are always worth seeing. And be sure to stop by the museum gift shop for an eclectic array of mementos.”
The Portland Art Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with extended hours until 8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. Admission is $19.99 for adults, $16.99 for seniors and college students, and free for children 17 and younger.
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Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry(Courtesy of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry)
The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, or OMSI as the locals call it, is everything a science museum should be and an excellent stop for anyone, regardless of age. Its five halls boast more than 200 interactive exhibits at any given time, and the museum’s eight labs provide plenty of opportunities for hands-on learning.
“OMSI is the best one. It really is,” says Alex Dawes, general manager at the Embassy Suites Portland – Downtown. “Whether you're 3 years old or 93 years old, there's something to do.”
The museum houses a planetarium and four-story-tall movie theater. Its decommissioned USS Blueback submarine is moored in the Willamette River behind the museum. Hibdon says, “Older visitors may recognize the vessel from its appearance in the film ‘The Hunt for Red October,’ starring Sean Connery.”
OMSI is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Museum admission is $14 for adults, $10.75 for seniors 63 and older, and $9.75 for youths 3 to 13. Additional charges apply for the theater, planetarium and submarine exhibits.
Oregon Historical Society
Just across from the Portland Art Museum, the three-floor Oregon Historical Society details the city’s and state’s past with its large permanent collection and visiting exhibitions. The permanent exhibits "Oregon My Oregon" and "Oregon Voices" trace the state’s history from before its founding to the modern day.
“It’s for the nerdier of the crowd, but the Oregon Historical Society does a fantastic job,” says Andy L. Welsh, front office manager at the Hotel deLuxe. “That is a really fun one. They have a great group of volunteers. You can go and find the right one and bend their ear for a couple of hours.”
The Oregon Historical Society is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Museum admission is $11 for adults, $9 for seniors 60 and older and college students with an ID, and $5 for youths 6 to 18. Admission is free for children 5 and younger.
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Oregon Maritime Museum
Oregon Maritime Museum(Dan Butler)
The Oregon Maritime Museum is housed in an operating stern-wheeler boat moored on the Willamette River in downtown Portland. The city, which is about 100 miles from the Pacific Ocean, has been and continues to be a major West Coast seaport. While you tour the historic vessel, you can learn about the region's connection to the water and its role building World War II Liberty cargo ships.
The Oregon Maritime Museum is open Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Museum admission is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors 62 and older, $4 for students 13 to 18 with an ID, and $3 for youths 6 to 12.
World Forestry Center's Discovery Museum
World Forestry Center(Courtesy of the World Forestry Center)
The World Forestry Center's Discovery Museum is dedicated to educating visitors about environmental stewardship of local and global forests. Get a primer on forests on the first floor, and then go up a level to learn about how people interact with forests worldwide.
The center is located in Portland’s Washington Park, and several popular hiking trails are nearby. During the warm-weather months, the World Forestry Center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., but it's closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays after Labor Day. Museum admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors 62 and older, $5 for youths 3 to 18, and free for younger children.
The Freakybuttrue Peculiarium and Museum
It's not your typical museum. At The Freakybuttrue Peculiarium and Museum, you'll see oddball exhibits on topics like aliens, Bigfoot and science fiction B-movies. It even has an ice cream counter that features sundaes topped with live bugs.
The Peculiarium is open Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Museum admission is $5 per person, regardless of age, though “dogs and decent costumes get in free,” according to its website.
To experience more of what Portland has to offer, check out the U.S. News Travel guide.
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