Best Things to Do in Portland, Oregon

Ready to launch the ultimate Oregon road trip? Start by exploring all the best things to do in Portland. Oregon’s largest city, Portland has garnered a reputation as one of the quirkiest cities in the USA. (And as its motto “Keep Portland Weird” hints, the city embraces its eccentricity!)

As you explore the top tourist attractions in Portland, you’ll filter into world-class museums, parks, and boutique shops. The city’s culinary scene is also among the most innovative on West Coast. On the streets of Portland, you’ll sniff out toothsome food trucks, coffee houses, restaurants, and craft breweries. No matter your food & drink preferences, you’ll satisfy all your cravings in this Pacific Northwest metropolis.

Got time to plan out what to do in Portland? Settle in with this complete guide to the best places to visit in Portland, Oregon.

Best places to visit in Portland

Portland International Rose Test Garden

Ever wondered about Portland’s nickname “City of Roses”? Set the record straight with a visit to the lovely Portland International Rose Test Garden.

Located in sprawling Washington Park, the 4.5-acre rose garden is one of the coolest places to see in Portland. Even if you’re only visiting Portland in one day, it’s a must-see!

International Rose Garden

Strolling through the garden, you’re greeted by 550 varieties of roses strewn among over 10,000 plants. You’ll also dazzle at scenic views over Mount Hood and Downtown Portland.

The International Rose Test Garden is open all year round. To see the roses at their finest, try to visit between May and September. The rose bloom usually hits its peak in June.

Forest Park

Portland is famous for its greenery. For a peaceful escape from the urban tangle, don’t miss out on visiting Forest Park. Draped over Northwest Portland, the over 5,000-acre park is one of the biggest urban forests in the world.

Forest Park

Forest Park is crisscrossed by more than 70 miles of trails, crawling northwest from the city. On a time-crunch, set your feet to the Lower Macleay Trail or Wildwood Trail. The two hiking trails are the most easily accessible from the Portland city center.

On your hike along the Wildwood Trail, look out for the Witch’s Castle. Although its origin as a ranger’s station strips away its eerie mystique, the small stone cottage is one of the coolest things to see in Portland.

Covered in moss, the Witch’s Cottage feels ripped out of a Brothers Grimm fairytale. Give it a gander for some of the city’s most interesting photo ops.

Pittock Mansion

Sitting along the Wildwood Trail south of Forest Park, Pittock Mansion is one of Portland’s must-see attractions. The striking French Renaissance-style mansion dates back to 1914.

Pittock Mansion

Pittock Mansion comprises 46 rooms spread across 16,000 square feet. If you’ve got the time, book yourself on a tour of the property to marvel at its period furnishings and artwork.

Even if you don’t enter the home, its West Hills location is a great place to explore. Take a walk behind the property to enjoy central Portland’s most scenic vistas. On a clear day, you can even see as far as Mount Hood, 70 miles to the east.

Washington Park

Can’t find time to explore Portland’s green fringes? The lovely Washington Park is a wonderful consolation prize. Just 20 minutes from downtown via light rail, the 400-acre city park is easily accessible with public transportation.

Washington Park

Washington Park comprises 15 miles of trails and is home to several top Portland attractions & fun activities. If you’re visiting Portland with kids, set aside a couple hours to roam around the Oregon Zoo. The 64-acre zoo is home to more than 1,800 animals spanning 230 species.

Portland Japanese Garden

Got time while visiting Washington Park? Move to the park’s northern fringes to check out the Portland Japanese Garden. Even in a city famous for its parks, this urban oasis is a standout and one of the top points of interest in Portland.

Portland Japanese Garden

To many, the public garden represents the finest Japanese landscape outside of Japan. In the 5.5-acre garden, you’ll meander over bridges & streams and past perfectly manicured gardens.

Slow down with a sip of matcha at the on-site authentic Japanese teahouse, Umami Café.

Pioneer Courthouse Square

Nicknamed Portland’s living room, Pioneer Courthouse Square is the heart of Downtown Portland. The urban park is a favorite gathering spot for Portlanders to take a load off during the day.

Pioneer Courthouse Square is a popular spot to chill throughout the year. The square is at its most exciting, though, during the festival seasons as hundreds of events roll in.

Pioneer Courthouse Square

Visiting in December? Try to jam in an evening at Holiday Ale Festival, celebrating some of Oregon’s finest craft beers.

Even if you miss out on visiting during the festive season, the square hosts pop-up concerts throughout the year. Slide over on Tuesday or Thursday around noon to catch one of its free lunchtime concerts.

Portland Art Museum

Obsessed with art? Carve out an hour or two to peruse the Portland Art Museum. Located in the center of Downtown Portland’s cultural district, the museum is one of the top places to see in Portland for art lovers.

The collection at Portland Art Museum covers everything from prints to paintings to photographs. Artists featured span the entire globe. You’ll spot works from Asian, European, and American artists.

Portland Art Museum

The museum’s main focus is its collection of Northwest and Pacific Coast Native American art. The extraordinary collection includes both paintings and artifacts like masks and canoe carvings.

Admission to the Portland Art Museum is $20 for adults. Children under 17 can visit for free.

5th Avenue Food Cart Pod

Among traveling foodies, Portland is famous for its food trucks. And if you’re roaming around downtown, one of the best introductions to the city’s food pod scene is at the 5th Avenue Food Cart Pod.

Food Trucks in Downtown Portland

Located southeast of SW 5th Ave and SW Oak St, these food carts are among the best places to eat in Portland. The focus here is international food with a Northwest twist. Prepare your tastebuds for everything from Korean & Thai to Mexican & Middle Eastern.

Hit up Korean Twist for some of the city’s tastiest bulgogi or spicy pork. For Mexican, La Jarochita is a local favorite.

Old Town Chinatown

One of Portland’s coolest neighborhoods, Old Town Chinatown is a wonderful place to while away an afternoon or an evening. Unsurprisingly, the historic district is Portland’s oldest area. It gives visitors a glimpse of the city’s frontier town roots.

Old Town/Chinatown

While exploring Old Town Chinatown, save time for a tour of the Shanghai Tunnels. Dating back to the 1850s, the infamous series of tunnels creep below the streets of Old Town. Little remains of the Shanghai Tunnels, but hearing its lore makes for interesting conversations. (Even if the historical accuracy is questionable.)

Lan Su Garden

Of all the attractions in Portland’s Old Town Chinatown, none charms more than Lan Su Garden. At the garden, you’ll stroll over bridges & walkways past pavilions set to a backdrop of native Chinese flora.

Lan Su Chinese Garden in Old Town Chinatown

Cap off your visit to Lan Su Garden with tea at the nearby Red Robe Tea House. The authentic Chinese tea house serves tea in a traditional Gong Fu style. You can also sate your appetite with its delicious Cantonese and American-Chinese fusion cuisine.

Tom McCall Waterfront Park

Need a break from downtown? Catch a breather at Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Swathed on the western bank of the Willamette River, the riverside park is a favorite Portland sightseeing hotspot.

Walk along the Waterfront Park Trail to enjoy views over the Williamette River. On the way, you’ll stroll past several top points of interest, including the Oregon Maritime Museum.

Tom McCall Waterfront Park

Tom McCall Waterfront Park is at its most beautiful in spring. During Portland’s cherry blossom season, the parkland becomes blanketed with delicate pink blooms.

Between March and December, the waterfront park also hosts the Portland Saturday Market. It’s one of the largest recurring arts & crafts markets in the United States.

Looking for a taste of Portland’s infinite weirdness? Walk across the Burnside Bridge from McCall Waterfront Park to Southeast Portland. The district is chock-loaded with cool brewpubs, coffee shops, and art galleries.

Pearl District

No area in the city center turns more heads than the Pearl District. Once a run-down warehouse district, the neighborhood is now one of the coolest places to shop & eat in Portland.

The streets of Pearl District are jammed with boutique shops, galleries, cafes, restaurants, and brewpubs. By day, you can explore its art galleries in better sips of craft coffee. In the evening, the neighborhood bursts with some of the city’s best nightlife options.

Barista Coffee in Pearl District

Craft beer lovers will find nirvana at the Deschutes Brewery & Public House. The popular bistro offers a wealth of seasonal and experimental taps to satisfy the tastes of any beer drinker.

With its two dozen taps & delicious pub fare, the nearby Backwoods Brewing Company is another fantastic choice.

Salt & Straw

Unabashed ice cream lover? We guarantee that you’ve never tasted ice cream quite like Salt & Straw! Located in Nob Hill in Northwest District, the legendary Portland ice cream parlor is a game-changer for fans of the creamy treat.

Salt & Straw

You can get vanilla and chocolate ice cream anywhere. Where Salt & Straw surprises is with unique flavors like honey lavender and strawberry honey balsamic. If you’ve ever needed proof of how innovative Portland’s culinary scene is, this is it.

Laurelhurst Park

As if you didn’t have enough parks to fill your Portland travel plan, let’s add one more to the mix. Located in Southeast Portland, Laurelhurst Park is worth a quick stop if you’re in the neighborhood.

When it was completed in 1909, Laurelhurst Park held the title of the West Coast’s most beautiful city park. With its long history, the park crept onto the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.

Laurelhurst Park

Although its glory days have long passed, Laurelhurst Park is still worthwhile for a breath of fresh air. The 31-acre park offers several walking paths along with sporting facilities. The greenery and centerpiece pond add a relaxing ambiance to the visit.

Thanks to its off-leash dog area, Laurelhurst Park also makes for a good stop if you’re traveling through Oregon with your pooches.

Word of warning: the park is known for its homeless encampments. Although incidents are rare, avoid the area around Cesar Chavez Blvd and SE Oak St just to be safe.

Powell’s City of Books

Book lovers will be in heaven exploring the gigantic Powell’s City of Books. This massive independent bookshop spans an entire city block at the northern edge of downtown.

Powell's City of Books

Powell’s City of Books is touted as the largest new & used bookstore in the world. And with over 4 million titles in stock, it doesn’t seem like a stretch!

You could easily spend half a day filling your suitcase with great book deals. Grab a gourmet coffee at the on-site cafe to break up your shopping experience.

Willamette Valley

For wine lovers, no Portland travel experience is complete without visiting the Willamette Valley. Often called Oregon Wine Country, the 150-mile-long valley stretches south of the Portland city limits to Eugene.

The Willamette Valley is famed for its over 500 wineries, producing some of the world’s best Pinot Noir. Many of the wine-growers also pair their spectacular wines with delightful farm-to-table cuisine.

Vineyards in Willamette Valley

With the vast selection, choosing among the best wineries in Willamette Valley can be a challenge. For a quick day trip to the valley, check out the Stoller Family Estate. Built on over 400 acres on the Dundee Hills, the popular winery & vineyard offers one of the best wine-tasting rooms in the United States.

The Stoller Family Estate is less than an hour’s drive southwest of central Portland.

Columbia River Gorge

Got time to tackle one of the best Portland day trips? Head due east to explore the Columbia River Gorge. The canyon winds about 80 miles from Portland to Deschutes River with the mighty Columbia River as its spine.

Columbia River Gorge

With its scenic vistas, the Columbia River Gorge unleashes some of Oregon’s finest natural scenery. Follow the Historic Columbia River Highway to catch some of the scenic area’s most spectacular sights.

If you’re tight on time, embark on a quick hike on the Wahkeena Falls Loop Trail. The 5-mile hiking trail careens past six beautiful waterfalls, including Multnomah Falls.

Alberta Arts District

Centered around Alberta Street in Northeast Portland, the Alberta Arts District is a must-see for arts & culture lovers. Once a crime-ridden area, the neighborhood shed in its rough-and-tumble reputation in the 1990s. Today, it’s a hotbed of youthful cultural activity and a fun spot to while away a few hours.

The Alberta Arts District teems with art galleries, street art, and boutiques. Roaming its streets, you’ll also stumble upon great restaurants, food carts, brewpubs, and cafés.

If you’re visiting Portland in summer, try to time your visit with the district’s Last Thursday Art Walk. The spirited & fun street fair takes place on the last Thursday of the month.

Best places to stay in Portland for sightseeing

For travelers, the best places to stay in Portland are Downtown and the Pearl District. The city center is home to the city’s best hotels and close to the top points of interest. If you’re traveling on a budget, Southeast Portland offers cheaper accommodation prices at the expense of centrality.

The Mark Spencer Hotel

The Mark Spencer Hotel

Located in the hip Pearl District, this hotel offers spacious & excellent value rooms. You’ll enjoy extra amenities like free WiFi and a 24-hour fitness center.

Inn at Northrup Station

Inn at Northrup Station

If hiking is high on your list, base yourself at this colorful hotel in Northwest Portland. The suites here are fully equipped with kitchenettes for a self-catering stay.

The Benson

The Benson, a Coast Hotel

This luxury hotel ditches the city’s hipster reputation for unmatched elegance. The sophisticated Euro-inspired decor is a head-turner.

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