Things to do in Portland, OR
Portland is one of the fastest-growing cities on the West Coast, and it's got some of the hippest hangouts around! Portland is known for its nature trails, breweries, specialty coffee, tech companies, indie music scene, and unofficial slogan: "Keep Portland Weird!" In this insider's guide, we'll take you through the best things to do in Portland, Oregon, inside and out.
Top Attractions in Portland, OR
If you need to find fun things to do in Portland this weekend, we're here to help! As residents of Portland know, the city has a unique culinary tradition, and it has some of the best beer and coffee in the country, so food and brew tours are some of the most popular activities around town. We recommend Forktown Food Tours, Lost Plate Food Tours, and Eat Adventures for the foodies among us who want to sample all that Portland has to offer. Some popular lunch spots with low prices include Pine State Biscuits, Por Que No, The Waffle Window, Lardo, and the Grilled Cheese Grill. One of the most unforgettable aspects of Portland cuisine is its food carts. Portland is known nationally for its street food, and you'll find tons of trucks all around the city, most of which are clustered in areas called "pods." Head over to your nearest pod on your own, or book a food truck tour with Food Carts Portland. And to wash it all down, try a beer tasting tour from Brewvana, BeerQuest, or the Portland Brewery Bike Tour. Or check out Third Wave Coffee Tours for a sampling of the best specialty coffee and bakery treats Portland has to offer.
Portland's waterfront area along the Willamette River contains some of the top things to do in Portland, Oregon. Visit beautiful Tom McCall Waterfront Park for more than 30 acres of green space, walking trails, fountains, public art, and bike paths. The park plays host to Portland's weekly Saturday Market, where vendors set up shop to sell their art, gifts, food, jewelry, clothing, and more. The market also features free music performances across a wide variety of genres as well as activity booths for the kids. Every summer, the waterfront hosts the annual Portland Rose Festival, featuring flower displays, fireworks, contests, an art show, foot and boat races, a parade, and lots of other activities. When you're looking for weekend fun on a summer afternoon, head on down and check it out!
Fun in the Great Outdoors
Some of the top things to do in Portland, Oregon center around the region's many trails, forests, and mountain hikes. Within the limits of the city proper, going to Washington Park is one of our absolute favorite things to do outside in Portland. The park has been recognized nationally as an example of the ideal city park. Established in 1871, Washington Park has been an urban oasis for Portlanders for generations. In addition to the beautiful trails, fountains, and sculptures throughout the park, you can also visit the Portland Japanese Garden, Hoyt Arboretum, and International Rose Test Garden on the site. The Japanese Garden was conceived in the 1960s as a symbol of peace and cultural exchange. It has been praised by visiting Japanese dignitaries as the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan. The Hoyt Arboretum was established in 1928 and contains many endangered plant species, 150-foot-tall redwood trees, and 12 miles of hiking trails. And the rose garden showcases more than 650 rose species, as Portland's climate is perfect for rose-growing. You can get a free guided tour of the gardens every day at 1 p.m.
Greater Portland has many other parks and nature trails to enjoy. Some top choices include Forest Park, Milo McIver State Park, Tryon Creek, and Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. If you enjoyed the Japanese Garden, you'll also love Lan Su Chinese Garden and its associated tea shop. The Grotto, located in the suburb of Maywood Park, is one of the more unique outdoor attractions in the area. A serene Catholic shrine surrounded by botanical gardens, The Grotto additionally hosts a Christmas Festival of Lights display each winter.
Downtown and Pearl District
If you're looking to stay a little closer to home, there are plenty of fun things to do in downtown Portland, Oregon. One of the most popular attractions downtown is Pioneer Courthouse Square. Affectionately known as "Portland's living room," Pioneer Square features art and floral displays, vendors and food trucks, two amphitheaters, a visitor center, and more than 300 free events yearly. The square is also the departure point for Portland Walking Tours and the Big Pink Sightseeing Trolley. On Mondays, weather permitting, you'll find the Portland Farmers' Market in the square. The blocks surrounding the square feature some of the most popular shopping locations in the city, with lots of national brands and the eclectic Pioneer Place.
Heading north from the center of downtown, you'll find the Pearl District. There, you'll find some of Portland's more unique shopping experiences, eateries, and thriving nightlife. Powell's Books is a must-see attraction in the Pearl District. Spanning an entire city block, the new and used bookshop contains rare, out-of-print, and autographed volumes as well as bargain books at unbeatable prices. You'll also find fashion boutiques, thrift and consignment shops, and jewelers throughout the neighborhood.
Family-Friendly Fun With Kids
Looking for fun things to do in Portland with kids? Portland is a very family-friendly city. Most of the city's parks are kid-friendly, and many of the nature trails in the area have less-challenging hiking options suitable for young outdoor enthusiasts. Washington Park features three of our favorite family things to do in Portland at the south end of the park, all right next to each other! First, visit the World Forestry Center for museum exhibits, vintage steam train rides, and a tree farm. Then, head over to the Portland Children's Museum to experience interactive exhibits on art, engineering, nature, and local culture. Finally, the Oregon Zoo is very popular with families. Kids and adults alike can enjoy viewing endangered species like elephants, tigers, polar bears, giraffes, and eagles.
Some more of our favorite things to do in with kids in Portland include the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry (OMSI), located just across Marquam Bridge from downtown. In addition to regular exhibit space, the museum includes a planetarium, IMAX theater, interactive labs, and a motion simulator ride. Docked on the river outside the museum, the USS Blueback submarine offers daily tours and overnight programs. Just down the road from the science museum, visit the Oregon Rail Heritage Center. Kids love to see the locomotive exhibits and take a ride on the Oregon Pacific Railroad! In the southern part of the city, Oaks Park is another excellent choice for family-friendly fun. Kids and adults alike can enjoy thrill rides, carnival games, mini-golf, and roller-skating! If sports are your family's thing, catch a Portland Trail Blazers basketball game at Moda Center, join the Portland Timbers for a soccer match at Providence Park, or catch a motor race at Portland International Raceway.
Romantic Nightlife for Couples
Looking for romantic things to do in Portland with your date tonight? Portland has an active nightlife, particularly in the downtown, Old Town, and Pearl District neighborhoods. Couples looking for fun things to do in Portland at night should try some of the city's eclectic performing arts venues. Fans of live music should check out Doug Fir Lounge, Revolution Hall, McMenamins Crystal Ballroom, and The Know. Those looking for live theater will love The Armory, Artists' Repertory Theatre, and Keller Auditorium. Portland is also home to a number of unique movie theater experiences, such as the historic Hollywood Theatre, the Living Room Theaters, and the Art Deco Laurelhurst Theater.
On the first Thursday of each month in the Pearl District, the neighborhood's many small art galleries open late for the First Thursdays gallery walk. And there are lots more fun and uniquely Portland things to do around town, too. At Ground Kontrol, try dozens of vintage arcade games and pinball tables. Go to Karaoke From Hell to try your hand at karaoke in front of a live band. Catch a roller derby match with the Rose City Rollers, or try unique bakery treats 24 hours a day at Voodoo Doughnut. Bar-lovers will enjoy the wide variety of niche bars around Portland, such the Doctor Who-themed Tardis Room, circus-themed Funhouse Lounge, and 1920s speakeasy-style Bible Club.
Free Things to Do This Weekend
There are many free things to do in Portland, Oregon, for those on a budget. One of our favorite free activities in Portland is checking out its brewery tours. Portland is a mecca for lovers of microbrews everywhere, and many of the city's breweries offer tours free of charge! Some of our top recommendations include BridgePort Brewing Company, Hopworks Urban Brewery, and Portland Brewing Company. Many of the city's museums and galleries hold free days, and the Wells Fargo History Museum and Historic Belmont Firehouse are always free. Give them a try this weekend!
Some of our favorite free activities are also some of the infamous weird things to do in Portland, Oregon. See the smallest park in the world at Mill Ends Park on Taylor Street. Take a trip to the Stark's Vacuum Museum to see vacuum cleaners dating all the way back to 1905. Or take a free Secrets of Portlandia Tour to hear insider tips on the weirdest and wackiest things Portland has to offer.
Indoor Activities for a Rainy Day
Looking for things to do in Portland on a rainy day? Don't despair! There's no shortage of fun indoor activities for days when the rainy Pacific Northwest weather just won't cooperate. For the athletes among us, try rock-climbing at Planet Granite or ice-skating at Lloyd Center Ice Rink. Lloyd Center is also a great destination for indoor shopping, as is Washington Square.
History- and art-lovers know that rainy days are the best time to explore museums. Indeed, museums are some of our favorite sources of indoor things to do in Portland. Art-lovers should take advantage of the Portland Art Museum, Blue Sky museum of photography, and Museum of Contemporary Craft. History buffs will find a wide variety of history museums all around the city and its suburbs. Some of our favorites include the Oregon Historical Society, Pittock Mansion, Oregon Maritime Museum, Portland Police Museum, and Oregon Jewish Museum. For some of Portland's more unusual museum experiences, explore the Freakybuttrue Pecularium and Museum, Kidd's Toy Museum, Hat Museum, and Zymoglyphic Museum.
Those looking for day trips will be pleased to learn that there are a lot of things to do around Portland in the greater Northern Oregon area. Perhaps the most famous destination for nature-lovers in Oregon is Mount Hood and its corresponding national forest. Encompassing more than 300,000 acres, the Mt. Hood National Forest is a fantastic destination for hiking, camping, skiing and snowboarding, fishing, hunting, horseback riding, and cycling. There are eight designated wilderness areas within the forest, as well as the gorgeous Columbia River Gorge and Multnomah Falls.
The Willamette Valley is another popular area not far from Portland. The valley is mostly known as Oregon's wine country, with many vineyards and wineries around the region to tour and taste. We recommend booking a tour with companies like Wildwood Adventures, A Great Oregon Wine Tour, or Backcountry Wine Tours. Or you can book a private tasting at one of the area's highest-rated vineyards, like Adelsheim Vineyard, Archery Summit, or Argyle Winery. Other drivable attractions from Portland to consider include the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, surfing and whale-watching on the coast in Astoria, Fort Stevens State Park and the nearby Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, and historic Fort Vancouver in Vancouver, Washington.