Things to do in Portland, OR

Get Your Bearings in Portland

By Meagan Shamy
Portland Expert

See & Do

Things to See

Portland has some of the most beautiful gardens and parks in the United States, including the International Rose Test Garden, Japanese garden, Forrest Park, Washington Park and the Grotto. Visiting the Oregon Zoo is a must, as is driving out to the scenic Columbia Gorge area to see Multnomah Falls. Downtown are many art museums, the Portland Children's Museum, and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. Skiing and tubing is only 45 minutes away on Mt. Hood.


Keep an eye on your kids while hiking in the Columbia Gorge area. Many of the trails split.

Hot Tips:

Bring hiking shoes. The hiking opportunities are endless.

Where to Stay

Portland’s best lodging choices are found in its lively downtown area, near Broadway Street or near the airport.  From any of the downtown hotels, you can walk to restaurants, live shows, nightlife, and distinctive shopping options. There’s also a light rail system, bus system, and parking garages. McMenamins offers six unique and funky hotels around the Portland area, but you will need a car to get to some of them.


Book McMenamins hotels early.

What to Eat

One-of-a-kind restaurants can be found all over the city of Portland, including food carts. The Pearl District, Downtown, and NW 23rd street have a variety of restaurants serving every imaginable cuisine. To find a variety of food carts head to Alder and 10th, Stark and 5th or Washington and 3rd. The most popular Portland food cart is Waffle Window.


Many restaurants in downtown stay busy all week. It's always best to make a reservation.

Be Sure to Sample:

Local microbrews and wine, Voodoo Doughnuts, and Moonstruck Chocolates.

Places to Party

No matter what night it is, you can find live music in Portland. Whether it’s a regional band, national touring show, a musical, or orchestra is up to you. Portland also has plays and comedy shows. If you are into sports, you'll want to go see a Trailblazer or Timbers game. Many dance clubs can be found in Chinatown and the Pearl District has some upscale bars.

Hot Tips:

Kells Irish Pub is a popular and fun place to go.

Where to Shop

Portland shopping can range anywhere from designer to re-purposed to used. Known for being environmentally-conscious, it’s no surprise that the city has an abundance of antique shops and consignment shops. Northwest 23rd is a fun shopping street in Portland. It has upscale stores like Pottery Barn and tons of trendy boutiques. The Columbia Gorge Premium outlet mall and the Woodburn outlet mall are both about a 20-minute drive from downtown Portland.


East Vista Ridge tunnel during rush hour. The traffic is always backed up there.

Hot Tips:

There is no sales tax in Oregon.

Best Local Souvenir:

Any locally handcrafted item. Portland's Saturday Market is full of these goodies.



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Things to do in Portland

Portland is known for...

Five of Portland's most unique features and characteristics.

1. The Great Outdoors:

Though Portland has plenty of dense, urban neighborhoods, it is surrounded by the natural splendor of the great Northwest. Mount Hood to the east and Canon Beach to the west are each less than a 90 minute drive. Within the city limits is Forest Park, the nation's largest urban forest. The park has over 100 miles of hiking and bike trails. Many additional parks and rose gardens adorn the town.  

2. Micro-brewed Beer:

With more than 30 craft breweries within the city limits, Portland has more beer makers than any other town in the world. For more than 30 years, Portland has been the vanguard of the craft beer movement. There are ales and largers here for every taste. Breweries includes some nationally known brands, such as Widmere, as well as small brew-pubs with suds known only to locals.   

3. Art:

Portland is home to many artists who have helped create the city's creative, DIY ethos. Numerous galleries throughout downtown and the Northwest Pear District show off local art of all genres and media. New exhibits open on the first Thursday of each month. Visitors have the opportunity to walk through the gallery districts visiting numerous receptions featuring art, wine and music. The Portland Art Museum is one of the nation's 25 biggest, with a permanent collection that includes works ranging from antiquity to Post Modern.   

4. Music:

Portland's music scene may not be as universally recognized as our neighbor's to the north, but since the Kingsmen recorded their famous version of Louie Louie in 1963, Portland has been a consistent force in popular music. The city also claims a world-class symphony orchestra and some of the best jazz clubs on the west coast. Music festivals and outdoor concerts occur constantly during the summer months.     

5. Bicycling:

Bicycling is part of Portland culture. A higher percentage of Portlanders commute to work by bike than in any other American city. With 324 miles of designated bikeways, the city has been engineered for bike-friendliness. A 40 mile loop of mostly off-street, paved trails, allows cyclists to have safe access to many Portland neighborhoods and scenic areas.