Planning the ultimate road trip through the Pacific Northwest? Be sure to carve out at least one day in Portland, Oregon. As its motto “Keep Portland Weird” hints, Oregon’s biggest city offers plenty of surprises for travellers.
Even if you only pluck out 24 hours in Portland, all the city’s quirks come to the fore. You’ll fuel your morning with freshly roasted coffee in hip cafes. You’ll wander through blissful parks and historic gardens. Among Portland’s food trucks and restaurants, you’ll discover the West Coast’s most varied food scene. To top it all off, you’ll cap your 1-day Portland itinerary sipping local craft beers in hip breweries.
Not sure where to go in Portland in one day? Squeeze the most out of your visit with this complete 24-hour Portland travel plan.
Where to go in Portland in one day: A complete 1-day itinerary
Fuel up on craft coffee in Downtown Portland
Start your one day in Portland in search of the city’s famous gourmet coffee. Portland is well-known for its undying love of java. And as you roam the streets of Downtown Portland, craft roasters and trendy coffee shops are never far away.
For the classic Portland roastery experience, check out Stumptown Coffee Roasters. With several locations spread around the city, they’re a local favourite.
On this Portland itinerary, the Stumptown Coffee Roasters on SW Harvey Milk Street is the most convenient location. Grab a cup of their fresh-roasted fair-trade coffee and a snack to fuel up for the day.
Another popular option is Case Study Coffee Roasters on SW 10th Avenue. This micro-roaster & cafe delights coffee connoisseurs with its superb craft coffee and baked goods.
Unleash your inner bookworm at Powell’s City of Books
Got coffee surging through your veins? Continue your first 24 hours in Portland by venturing north to peruse Powell’s City of Books. This massive bookstore spans an entire city block at the northern edge of Downtown Portland. With its over 4 million books, the independent shop is one of the world’s largest bookstores.
Take your time exploring the store’s extensive collection of books. No matter your interests, you’ll find a book to match at this iconic shop!
Marvel at the Lan Su Chinese Garden in Old Town Chinatown
From Powell’s City of Books, it’s an 11-minute walk to Lan Su Chinese Garden. Located in the heart of Old Town Chinatown, this relaxing garden is a serene escape from Portland’s streets.
Over 90% of the flora at Lan Su Chinese Garden is native to China. Within the walled botanical garden, you’ll uncover Chinese water plants, trees, bamboo, and orchids. The plants are set to a striking background of covered walkways, bridges, and pavilions.
Once you’ve roamed the garden, spend a little time exploring the streets of Old Town Chinatown. Keep on the lookout for the famed Portland Oregon White Stag Sign. First lit in 1940, the historical landmark neon sign is best seen from Burnside Bridge, spanning the Willamette River.
Craving a sugar rush? Wait out the perpetual lineup at Voodoo Doughnut. Located on SW 3rd Avenue, this famous local bakeshop serves up creative & colourful doughnuts in a quirky setting. For sweet tooths, their gooey goodness can’t be beat!
Enjoy views over the Willamette River at Tom McCall Waterfront Park
From Old Town Chinatown, detour east to the Willamette River. Chill out to river views on a short stroll through Tom McCall Waterfront Park. The popular park stretches out over a mile along the riverbank on the eastern edge of the downtown. It’s a fantastic place to catch a breath of fresh air on your Portland sightseeing adventure.
If you’re lucky enough to be visiting in spring, Tom McCall Waterfront Park is one of the best places in Portland to spot cherry blossoms.
Visiting on a Saturday or Sunday between March and the end of December? Be sure to pop into the renowned Portland Saturday Market. The market is one of the largest recurring arts & crafts shows in the United States.
Every week at the Saturday Market, over 250 vendors peddle their wares to a background of live music. It’s a fun & festive atmosphere that can’t be missed. (NOTE: The fair is set to reopen on April 17th, 2021, on Saturdays only.)
Chow down at the 5th Avenue Food Cart Pod
When you hit the Battleship Oregon Memorial, walk back into downtown via SW Oak Street. Five blocks west, you’ll stumble on the 5th Avenue Food Cart Pod. This eclectic collection of food trucks is one of the finest in Portland’s epic food scene.
At the 5th Avenue Food Cart Pod, international street food dishes dominate. Choose between inspired Korean, Thai, Mexican, and Egyptian. Whatever you decide on, you won’t be disappointed.
Check out Pioneer Courthouse Square
From the food trucks, it’s a 5-minute walk to Pioneer Courthouse Square. Known as “Portland’s Living Room,” the vibrant urban park is the city’s most visited attraction.
Pioneer Courthouse Square hosts about 300 events a year in its 40,000-square-foot space. It’s especially busy in the festive season as events like the Holiday Ale Festival roll in.
Relax your legs for a few minutes among its distinctive red bricks. If you’re visiting in the summer on a Tuesday or Thursday, you might even catch one of its free lunchtime concerts.
Meander around Washington Park
After chillin’ in the square, walk to the Galleria/SW 10th Ave Westbound light rail station. Hop onto the MAX Blue Line or MAX Red Line. Relax and enjoy the 20-minute public transportation ride to Washington Park. The leafy 400-acre park is one of the finest green spaces in the city. It’s a fantastic place to experience the city’s green reputation on your tour of Portland in one day.
From the Washington Park MAX Station, it’s a scenic 35-minute walk (or 8-minute taxi ride) to the Portland Japanese Garden. The 5.5-acre garden is one of the most highly-touted Japanese gardens outside of Japan.
The calming Japanese Garden is crisscrossed by walking paths and streams. From its lovely surroundings, you’ll even catch beautiful views towards Mt. Hood.
A few minutes east of the garden lies one of Portland’s other favourite city parks, the International Rose Test Garden. The 4.5-acre garden was founded in 1917. It’s home to over 10,000 plants, spanning 550 varieties of roses.
The International Rose Test Garden is open year-round. To see the roses at their finest, try to catch them between May and September.
Enjoy a delicious meal in Nob Hill
Once you’ve explored the gardens, lace up your walking shoes. Embark on a 20-minute walk to Nob Hill to push on with your tour of Portland in 24 hours. Located in the city’s northwest, Nob Hill is one of Portland’s coolest neighbourhoods.
The streets of Nob Hill are jammed with Victorian architecture, hiding boutiques, restaurants, and cafés behind their façades. Much of the district’s action hums along NW 23rd Avenue and NW 21st Avenue.
Nob Hill is one of the darlings of the city’s culinary scene. For inspired Pacific Northwest cuisine, check out Paley’s Place Bistro & Bar. The popular bistro is the brainchild of award-winning chef Vitaly Paley. It serves a unique French-West Coast fusion in an upscale atmosphere.
Or enjoy happy hour cocktails with New American pub fare at the 23Hoyt. Dishes like seared wild sea scallops paired with Oregon craft beer show off the gastropub’s Northwestern roots.
Indulge your sweet tooth at Salt & Straw
Craving a sweet dessert? Pop in for a lick of artisanal ice cream at Salt & Straw on NW 23rd. The venerable parlour is one of the city’s most popular ice cream shops.
With flavours like honey lavender and olive oil, Salt & Straw doesn’t shy away from Portland’s quirky reputation.
Cap off the night with craft beers in the Pearl District
From the heart of Nob Hill, it’s a 15-minute walk or 5-minute drive to the Pearl District. Located north of downtown, the former warehouse district is now one of the city’s most stylish neighbourhoods.
By day, Pearl District is a fantastic place to go shopping. Its streets are chock-loaded with a wide variety of cool fashion boutiques, outdoor outfitters, and art galleries.
Visiting at night is a different story. In the evening, Pearl District really hits its stride. As the lights dip below the city, its sidewalks shine with admired eateries, bars, and brewpubs. It’s one of the best areas in the city for a fun night out on the town.
The neighbourhood is home to some of Portland’s best craft breweries and brewpubs. For classic Northwest style, settle in at the Deschutes Brewery & Public House. With staples, seasonal, and experimental brews on the menu, there’s something to suit all beer lovers.
Just up the street, the nearby Backwoods Brewing Company is another top-notch choice. Besides their selection of almost two dozen beers on-tap, the brewpub serves delicious contemporary pub food.
Where to stay with 24 hours in Portland
For first-time visitors, the best areas to stay in Portland lie in & around the city centre. Narrow your Portland hotel search to Downtown, Pearl District, Northwest/Nob Hill, and Old Town Chinatown.
Located in Pearl District, this excellent hotel charms with its spacious contemporary rooms. Staying here, you’ll enjoy extra amenities like a 24-hour fitness centre and free WiFi.
To explore the wilderness of Northwest District, look no further than this colourful hotel. The rooms are self-catering with a full kitchenette. It’s a mere mile away from Washington Park.
Shunning Portland’s hipster reputation, this luxury hotel adds a dash of elegance to the city’s hotel scene. You’ll love the dark rich colours and sophisticated European-inspired decor.
More Portland itinerary ideas
Need more proof that Portland is one of the greenest cities in America? Venture west of the downtown to the massive Forest Park. At over 5,000 acres, the park comprises one of the world’s largest urban forests.
Forest Park is one of the most picturesque parks in Portland. While exploring, keep on the lookout for the eerie Witch’s Castle. The small stone cottage is accessible via the Wildwood Trail, one of Portland’s best hiking trails.
Portland Art Museum
Art lovers with an extra in the city should carve out time for the Portland Art Museum. The museum features a large variety of Asian, American, and Native American art.
Admission to the Portland Art Museum is $20 for adults and free for children under 17.
Columbia River Gorge
Located just east of town, visiting the Columbia River Gorge is one of the best Portland day trips. The gorge stretches between Portland and the Deschutes River.
To see the gorge at its most beautiful, spend a day driving along the Historic Columbia River Highway. Take your time to explore its hiking trails, including the popular Wahkeena Falls Loop Trail. Visiting the string of waterfalls along the Columbia River is one of the city’s most memorable outdoor experiences.
When to visit Portland
The best time to visit Portland is from June to August. During the summer months, the weather in Portland is at its best. You’ll enjoy warm temperatures and the year’s driest conditions. A bonus of visiting in summer is that the City of Roses will be in full bloom.
Late fall to early spring is the wettest time of year in Portland. With the dearth of tourists between November and May, you’ll score the best deals on flights and accommodations.
How to get to Portland
Portland is served by Portland International Airport (PDX). The airport is located 6 miles (10 km) northeast of the city centre. Several major airlines fly into PDX from international & US destinations, including:
- Alaska Airlines
- Delta Air Lines
- Horizon Air
- Southwest Airlines
- United Airlines
Portland is well-connected by road to cities in Oregon, Washington, California, and Idaho. Popular road routes and estimated driving times include:
- Seattle, WA (2h57m)
- Eugene, OR (1h39m)
- Bend, OR (3h17m)
- Boise, ID (6h39m)
- Redding, CA (6h31m)