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 city’s top tourist attractions, you’ll filter into world-class museums, boutique shops, and parks loaded with outdoor activities. The city’s culinary scene is also among the most innovative on the West Coast. On the streets of Portland, you’ll sniff out toothsome food trucks, coffee houses, restaurants, bars, 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? Settle in with this complete guide to the best places to visit in Portland, Oregon!

Best places to visit in Portland, OR

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, admiring the display of beautiful roses in bloom is a must.

International Rose Garden

Strolling through the test 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 and a must-visit for nature lovers.

Forest Park

Forest Park is crisscrossed by more than 70 miles of trails, crawling northwest from the city. For time-crunched exploration, set your feet on 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.

Or, if you’d rather pedal your way through Forest Park, grab your bike and cycle along the popular Leif Erickson Drive. At 12 miles out and back, this hiking, walking, and biking trail isn’t exactly easy. Brave the challenges to enjoy this peaceful environment removed from big city life.

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, built by American pioneer and business magnate Henry Pittock, 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 on one of its tours, its West Hills location is a great place to explore. Take a walk behind the property to enjoy central Portland’s most scenic skyline vistas. On a clear day, the view extends as far as Mount Hood, 70 miles to the east.

Washington Park

Can’t find time to explore Portland’s green fringes? Lovely Washington Park is a wonderful consolation prize! Just 20 minutes from downtown via light rail, the 400-acre city park is easily accessible by public transportation and is one of the city’s finest nature escapes.

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. Sprawling across 64 acres, the Oregon Zoo is home to more than 1,800 animals spanning 230 species.

Or, to experience the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest at its finest, slide over to the Hoyt Arboretum. Spread out over 189 acres on a forest ridge in the Tualatin Mountains, this top-notch outdoor attraction is a superb natural escape from the buzz of the city.

Hoyt Arboretum

Hikers will love traipsing along the Hoyt Arboretum’s 12 miles of hiking trails, weaving through 2,300 species of trees spanning six different continents.

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 is 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 and streams and past perfectly manicured gardens fringes by rocks and trees.

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, flanked by the city’s landmark courthouse building, 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

Need ideas for visiting during the holidays? In November, the square holds its famous Christmas tree lighting celebration. Visit to watch the 75-foot tree set ablaze in holiday colors. In December, try to jam in an evening at the 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. Check the events calendar on the square’s official site to see what’s up.

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 city’s top places to see for art lovers.

The collection at Portland Art Museum covers everything from prints to paintings to photographs. Artists featured in the exhibits 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.

Visiting on a Saturday? Make a quick detour south to check out the Portland Farmers Market at PSU. Taking place every week at the Portland State University campus, the year-round market is a local favorite. The space offers something for everyone, with over 100 vendors peddling everything from fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat to plenty of ready-made food for brunch.

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 and a fixture of the city’s food scene. 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 food, La Jarochita is a local favorite.

Old Town Chinatown

One of Portland’s coolest areas and neighborhoods, Old Town Chinatown is a wonderful place to while away an afternoon or an evening. Unsurprisingly, the historic district is the city’s oldest area, filled with beautiful buildings that give visitors a glimpse of the city’s frontier town roots.

Old Town/Chinatown

While exploring Old Town Chinatown, history buffs should 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 of its stories is questionable.)

Back at street level, the historic storefronts hide a variety of eateries, cafes, coffee shops, and bars. To indulge your sweet tooth, endure the perpetual lines at Voodoo Doughnut for a toothsome treat, or dig into the city’s coffee culture with a relaxing beverage at Floyd’s Old Town Coffee and Tea.

Voodoo Doughnut

If cocktails are more your jam, bring your dancing shoes and friends and hit up the Dixie Tavern. The rock-and-roll-themed nightclub is a favorite setting for Old Town evening hijinks.

Music fans might be better served with an evening at the Star Theater and Starlight LoungeDante’s, or the Roseland Theater, a handful of Portland’s most popular live music venues.

White Stag Sign

Before setting out on your evening plans, be sure to snap the requisite picture of the Portland Oregon White Stag Sign, one of the city’s most iconic landmarks.

Lan Su Garden

None of the attractions in Old Town Chinatown charms more than Lan Su Garden. Designed to mimic the gardens in the Chinese city of Suzhou during the Ming Dynasty, this landmark is a must-see for anyone looking for tranquility in the heart of Oregon’s state capital.

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 on your tour 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.

Continue south along the riverfront walkways and keep your eyes peeled for Mill Ends Park, the “world’s smallest urban park,” and Salmon Street Springs, one of the city’s most famous fountains. Featuring 185 jets spraying in distinct computer-generated patterns, the fountain is most impressive in the evening under the faint glow of its water lights.

Tom McCall Waterfront Park

Tom McCall Waterfront Park is at its most beautiful in spring. During the cherry blossom season, the atmosphere is chock-loaded with charm as the parkland’s cherry trees become blanketed in delicate pink blooms. 

Between March and December, the waterfront park also hosts the Portland Saturday Market, one of the largest recurring arts & crafts markets in the United States. Time your visit with this weekly market to pick up a variety of unique items, like jewelry, craft, or souvenirs for everyone back home!

Waterfront Park is also the venue for the annual Portland Rose Festival. The famous festival celebrates the city’s horticultural heritage with a series of special events, including parades and a dragon boating race on the Willamette River. Most curious, however, is the Golden Rose Ski Classic, a rare summer skiing event held during the festival at Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood.

Looking for a taste of Portland’s infinite weirdness? Walk across the Willamette River on the Burnside Bridge from McCall Waterfront Park to Southeast Portland. The district is one of the city’s most interesting locations, chock-loaded with cool brewpubs, coffee shops, and art galleries. You’ll even find a handful of top attractions like the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, home to a cool planetarium and the USS Blueback Submarine.

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 the Pearl District are jammed with boutique shops, galleries, cafes, restaurants, bars, and brewpubs. By day, you can explore its art galleries in between sips of craft coffee. In the evening, the neighborhood bursts with some of the city’s best nightlife options, from quaint wine bars to craft breweries.

Barista Coffee in Pearl District

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

With its two dozen taps and a menu of delicious pub snacks, the nearby Backwoods Brewing Company is one of Portland’s best breweries and another fantastic lunch destination for craft beer connoisseurs.

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 tourists and residents alike 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. For book-loving locals and tourists alike, browsing the gargantuan collection is one of the city’s most memorable experiences and a must on list of fun things to do in Portland, OR.

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! Here, you could easily spend half a day filling your suitcase with great book deals.

For an experience like anything you’ve ever experienced, squeeze in a visit to Powell’s Rare Book Room. Spread out over 1,000 square feet, the Rare Book Room is the most elegant area in the store. It’s chock-loaded with warm lighting, dark wood accents, and a spectacular collection of rare, first-edition, and antiquarian books.

Pro tip: 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 for your wine-tasting adventure 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 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 in summer, one of the best times of the year to visit Portland, 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.

Von Ebert Brewing + Kitchen

Portland is no stranger to craft beer. Grab a refreshing pint at one of the city’s most impeccable craft breweries with a trip to Von Ebert Brewing + Kitchen. Located in the Pearl District, this top-notch independent craft brewery & restaurant fuses traditional brewing with experimental, inspired by the uniqueness of the Pacific Northwest. 

Sip on award-winning craft beer favorites like Volatile Substance IPA or more traditional brews like the Cold Pale Pils or Vienna Lager. Pair your craft beer tasting experience with Von Ebert Brewing + Kitchen’s elevated pub fare. Gobble down delicious food options like their vegetarian-approved shroom pie pizza or the meaty smoked brisket sandwich.

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 is 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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