Looking for a Portland neighborhood that’s bustling with activity, culture, history, and great restaurants? Spend some time wandering around Old Town Chinatown, Portland. Located on the Willamette River between the Pearl District and Downtown Portland, the Old Town Chinatown neighborhood is one of the coolest places to explore in Oregon’s biggest city.
Take in a show at the Roseland Theater or Dante’s, dive into history at the Japanese American Museum of Portland, or enjoy the natural beauty of Lan Su Chinese Garden. After a long day of exploring, take your pick of dozens of different cuisines and feast into the night.
Not sure where to go in Old Town Chinatown, Portland? Plan your adventure with this complete guide to what to do, where to eat & drink, and where to stay!
What to see & do in Old Town Chinatown
Lan Su Chinese Garden
When you’re in a bustling metropolis like Portland, sometimes you just need to stop and find a peaceful place to reset. And Lan Su Chinese Garden in Old Town Chinatown is just that kind of place. Filled with native Chinese plants, ponds, and decorative stonework, this tranquil garden is a beautiful spot to while away a few hours in Portland, Oregon.
Wander around the water, taking in the rare native species of plant life, sit under the beautifully decorated pagoda, or take out some time to meditate. It’s so calm in the Lan Su Chinese Garden that you’ll almost forget that you’re in the center of the city!
After you’ve explored, pour yourself some well-deserved tea, courtesy of Lan Su Chinese Garden’s expansive gift and tea shop!
Trying to find a cool and affordable place to spend the evening in Old Town Chinatown? Check out a gig or performance at the Roseland Theater. Originally a church, this converted concert space is well-known throughout Portland and hosts a range of concerts.
The Roseland Theater isn’t the city’s biggest concert venue, which is part of its charm. It’s predominantly standing-room only and will let you get up close and personal with your favorite acts. The eclectic calendar of events ranges from well-known artists like Carly Rae Jepsen all the way to local talent and niche acts—no two nights seem to be the same!
Check out the venue’s calendar of events to see who’s playing while you’re in Portland and snag some last-minute tickets!
(NOTE: The drinks at the Roseland Theater are cash-only; make sure you visit an ATM before the show.)
From one Portland live music institution to another, Dante’s is a live entertainment venue and club with a bit of an edge to it. The venue specializes in cabaret, burlesque, and good old-fashioned rock and roll, guaranteeing that a night out at Dante’s is always a good time. With a fully-stocked bar, affordable tickets, and fresh pizzas being slung, you can easily spend your entire evening here.
Dante’s offers a completely different vibe each and every night, with anything from death metal to an electronic cello act to a cabaret performance—and everything in between. If you’re not sure about what awaits, Dante’s occasionally has live streams of their performances on their website.
To find out what’s on while you’re in Old Town Chinatown, click here for Dante’s calendar of events. You can also buy your tickets directly from their website.
Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade and Bar
Looking to burn off a little steam and relive your childhood glories? Warm up your controller technique and get yourself over to Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade and Bar. New high scores and good times await at this quirky Portland favorite!
Spanning two floors in the heart of Old Town Chinatown, Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade and Bar features a barrage of vintage and retro arcade games that are sure to bring out your inner child. In fact, there are over 120 games to choose from! The main difference? The Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade and Bar also offers beer and small plates to “enhance” your gaming skills.
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Have a pint (or three!), challenge your friends to beat your high score, and enjoy a fun and wholesome time. If you time your visit to Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade and Bar just right, you might even get to see a DJ or gaming tournament.
Portland Oregon White Stag Sign
You can’t visit Portland and not visit this landmark icon. Located on the side of a building owned by the University of Oregon is the Portland Oregon White Stag Sign. Illuminated at night, the sign has become an iconic place to visit in Oregon’s largest city for a quick photo.
Erected in 1940, White Stag Sign has been shining across Couch Street for over 80 years. The sign takes the shape of the Oregon state outline, with a majestic leaping stag. The sign itself is lit up from 4 pm until 7 pm during the fall and winter months, so plan your visit accordingly.
This neon landmark is located just across from the Burnside Bridge between Downtown Portland and East Portland. Take note that the area around the White Stag Sign can sometimes feel a little sketchy at night. As its illumination starts in the late afternoon, you might feel better checking it out early, especially if you’re traveling with kiddos in tow.
Portland Chinatown Museum
History and culture are everywhere you look in Portland’s Old Town Chinatown neighborhood. Learn more about the area’s origin story and its locals at the Portland Chinatown Museum.
Dedicated to educating visitors about the Chinese immigrant experience, the Portland Chinatown Museum is a poignant must-visit while you’re in the neighborhood. The museum features stories from those who’ve emigrated here over the years, artifacts, and video installations. It offers an immersive and interactive look at the Chinese immigrant experience in Portland.
It’s worth noting that the Portland Chinatown Museum is only open on Friday to Sunday inclusive, from 11 am until 3 pm; if you’re in town for a weekend, be sure to stop by!
Japanese American Museum of Portland
Despite the name of the neighborhood, Old Town Chinatown has become home to many immigrants, not just from China but from all across Asia over the years. The Japanese American Museum of Portland charts the experiences of Japanese Americans, specifically during the 1940s. This was obviously a time of huge tension and mistreatment of Japanese Americans and one that deserves to be remembered and understood.
Formerly called the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center, or JAMO for short, the museum is located at 411 NW Flanders Street. It operates on the same hours as the Portland Chinatown Museum: Friday to Sunday inclusive, from 11 am until 3 pm.
Traveling with kiddos in tow? The Japanese American Museum of Portland is free for children who are 11 and under. It’s an intimate museum that is full of important knowledge, artifacts, and experiences!
Tom McCall Waterfront Park
If you need some much-needed fresh air and outdoor recreation time, lace up your sneakers and walk over to the Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Spanning 36.59 acres along the Willamette River, Tom McCall Waterfront Park is a beloved spot by locals and tourists alike.
As the Tom McCall Waterfront Park stands on the border of Nihomachi, otherwise known as Japantown, you can also find the Japanese American Historical Plaza at the north end of the park. The plaza is characterized by its glorious cherry blossoms. They were planted in remembrance of the Japanese Americans who were forced into camps during World War II. It’s a peaceful and striking place to spend some time.
Look out over the river, take a walk, run or cycle along the many trails and paths, or just find a bench and enjoy a delicious lunch from one of the neighboring eateries.
Star Theater and Starlight Lounge
Often with events and live music venues, the more intimate, the better. And that’s exactly the vibe of the Star Theater and Starlight Lounge. Located on 6th Avenue, around the corner from the Grand Kontrol Classic Arcade and Bar, the venue is known for its entertainment and delicious cocktails.
Housed inside an old renovated theater, the Star Theater and Starlight Lounge offers an intoxicatingly old-world atmosphere. Take in a show, kick back with a drink, or enjoy one of their famous movie nights. Complete with a patio space, the venue will let you get some fresh air and enjoy some fries before heading back in for more entertainment.
If you want to see what’s on when you’re in Portland, peruse the calendar of events and book tickets here.
Where to eat & drink
It’s true what they say about eating in Portland. Somehow, the city has everything you can think of—and a whole lot of cuisines and food combinations that you’d never even dream of.
Starting off your day with a doughnut is a sugar-filled delight. Join the queue at Voodoo Doughnut (yes, there’s always a queue!) and stock up on a variety of weird and wacky flavors, all with unique designs.
If you’re looking for a slower, more traditional start to the day, visit The Society Cafe. Located inside the Society Hotel, the cafe serves locally-made fresh pastries and Portland-centric coffee. It offers a relaxing and stylish atmosphere that lets you start your day off right.
Want to taste authentic Moroccan cuisine in a beautifully decorated, bright establishment? Check out the family-run and owned Kasbah Moroccan Cafe. The restaurant is open for brunch and lunch from 11 am to 2 pm and reopens later for dinner service. Here, you can enjoy classic Moroccan cuisine, from tagines to shakshouka. Wash it all down with traditional Moroccan tea or coffee.
If you’re wanting a no-frills taste of Japan, grab a seat at the classic sushi conveyor belt at SUSHI ICHIBAN. With a standard sushi bar set up, affordable prices (especially during their happy hour), and a central location along Broadway, SUSHI ICHIBAN is a hit for lunch or for dinner.
Portland is filled with great spots that seamlessly turn from friendly daytime joints to cozy evenings. Fuse Bar on 3rd Avenue in Old Town Chinatown is one of the best, serving tasty coffee during the day and mixing up toothsome cocktails later on. With live music events taking place frequently, it’s a chill spot to welcome the evening.
Looking for a cool underground spot with tasty food and imported beers? Find a table at the Shanghai Tunnel Bar and soak up the dive bar-style atmosphere over a pint and a huge bowl of noodles. While away the night on the pinball machines and enjoy the music. The Shanghai Tunnell Bar is the perfect, unpretentious spot in the heart of the Old Town Chinatown neighborhood.
If you want something altogether more spooky, get your thrills at Raven’s Manor, Portland’s haunted-themed bar. With supernatural decor and potent cocktails, it’ll present a creepy night that’ll be a lasting memory. If you like flavored beers, Raven’s Manor offers a pumpkin beer that you simply need to try!
Where to stay
A sleek and modern-looking hotel that could easily be someone’s exclusive townhouse, The Society Hotel is ideally located just 450 yards from the tranquil Lan Su Chinese Gardens. Inside, you can start your day right at the gorgeous The Society Cafe, complete with fresh, flaky pastries and locally-sourced coffee.
Looking for more cozy decor? Book yourself a room at The Hoxton, Portland. With its clean, comfy rooms infused with homey touches, you’ll feel relaxed and refreshed, ready to hit the city. Spend the evening in the hotel bar, a hive of activity where you can chill, drink, eat, or work with ease, and in well-designed surroundings.
If you need something a little more opulent, check into The Benson Portland, Curio Collection by Hilton. With the huge crystal chandeliers and Italian marble floors, you’ll instantly feel like you’ve arrived and are ready to be pampered. Featuring spacious, modern rooms with clean design, this hotel has all the amenities you’d expect from a Curio Collection hotel.