Known for its friendly residents, amazing food, and rural atmosphere, Portland is an excellent vacation destination. It is also known for its interesting and fun attractions, which make every day in Portland a brand-new adventure.
As a result, the city has become a popular place for visitors and new residents settling down. It draws more and more tourists each year, which makes time precious on any trip to the area.
Keep reading to discover our list of all the best Portland attractions and things to do in the city, as well as things to avoid while you’re there.
Things to Do in Portland, Oregon
Shop at the World’s Largest Independent Bookstore
1005 W Burnside St, Portland, OR 97209, United States
Often considered one of the world’s best bookstores, Powell’s Books (fondly nicknamed Powell’s City of Books) offers both used and new titles for visitors to enjoy. It is the world’s biggest independent bookstore, with four floors housing nearly a million books.
While that may sound overwhelming to some visitors, the bookstore offers a map to guide you along your way. Powells can get busy quickly, so be sure to arrive early if you’d like to avoid the crowds.
One section of the bookstore, dubbed the Gold Room, houses some of the rarest books in the area.
Visit the World’s Smallest Park
56 SW Taylor St, Portland, OR 97204, United States
Named the smallest park in the world by the Guinness World Book of Records in 1971, Mill Ends Park stretches across a mere two square feet. It is a local treasure and is beloved by residents for its “weirdness” and charm.
This tiny park is home to a tree, which was once stolen and returned in 2013. It is also the site of many small installations and public artworks, such as the staged protest which formed part of Occupy Portland.
If you’re looking for a truly quirky experience, be sure to stop by Mill Ends Park on your next trip to Portland, Oregon. It offers a great photo opportunity and can easily fit into your daily itinerary as it doesn’t take up much time.
Take in a Jazz Festival at Cathedral Park
6635 N Baltimore Ave, Portland, OR 97203, United States
One of the best things to do in Portland is to visit the annual Jazz Festival at Cathedral Park. The festival is held over a weekend every summer and is completely free. It plays host to a variety of talented jazz musicians and is a great spot for a picnic.
The festival is open to guests of all ages and visitors are encouraged to bring their own chairs and refreshments. This is an excellent activity if you’re a lover of good music and looking for a laid-back way to spend a few days in Portland, Oregon.
Stop by the Oregon Zoo
4001 SW Canyon Rd, Portland, OR 97221, United States
Located in Washington Park, the Oregon Zoo was founded in 1888 and stretches over sixty-four acres of land. If you’re looking for a fun place to spend a day with the family, the Oregon Zoo is ideal.
Here, visitors can expect to see a wide variety of wild animals, including red pandas, elephants, polar bears, monkeys, otters, seals, penguins, and alligators. There is also a carousel and a train that runs through the entire park.
Visitors can stop for lunch at one of the several dining options the zoo has to offer and browse for souvenirs at the gift shop.
Portland Art Museum
1219 SW Park Ave, Portland, OR 97205, United States
Located in Downtown Portland, the museum stretches across over one hundred thousand square feet. It is home to more than forty-two thousand works of art and was founded in the late 1800s. It is the oldest museum in the Pacific Northwest and is world-renowned for its exceptional collection.
Visitors can expect to see artwork from indigenous cultures and old masters like Botticelli, as well as multimedia exhibitions with a wide range of art forms.
The museum is open from Wednesdays to Sundays and tickets cost between seventeen and twenty USD.
Another museum well worth seeing on any trip to Portland is the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.
Visit the Rose Garden
400 SW Kingston Ave, Portland, OR 97205, United States
Because the local climate and weather conditions are ideal for growing roses, Portland is often fondly dubbed “The City of Roses”.
If you’re visiting Washington Park, be sure to stop by its exceptionally beautiful International Rose Test Garden. This rose garden is the oldest and biggest of its kind in the United States.
It was created in 1915 to preserve roses that were endangered by the First World War and has since grown to become one of the most stunning attractions in the country. The garden plays host to over six hundred and fifty rose varieties, with over ten thousand bushes.
The Portland Rose Garden is entirely free to enter, making it a great afternoon activity if you’re on a budget. The best time to visit is between May and October when the roses are blooming.
Portland is often considered one of the most bike-friendly cities in the U.S., with over three hundred and fifty bicycle lanes to be enjoyed.
Frequent visitors and locals agree that cycling in Portland is a safe and fun way to explore the city. Many residents bike to work, which means you won’t be cycling alone.
There is also the option of renting one of the BIKETOWN bicycles. Some of the best places to go biking in Portland are the Tilikum Crossing Bridge and the Willamette River, where visitors get to see why Portland is so often referred to as the Bridge City.
If you’re visiting during the springtime, be sure to go biking in Waterfront Park to see the cherry blossoms.
Enjoy the Forest Park Hiking Trails
Portland, OR 97231, United States
Portland’s Forest Park spans across over five thousand two hundred acres and is home to more than seventy exquisite hiking trails. It is one of America’s biggest urban forests and makes for a great place to go exploring.
Home to towering trees and lush greenery, it is easy to get lost in the fresh, green environment and forget that you’re in a city. This is an excellent attraction for any nature lover looking to unwind.
Some of the best trails include the Ridge Trail, the Wildwood Trail that runs between Forest Park and Washington Park, and Lower MacLeay which leads to the Stone House.
Have a Picnic
Portland is a beautiful city with some stunning views. While it may not offer much of a skyline, it does include a bustling Downtown and mountains that are a true sight to behold.
Having a picnic is a great way to spend an afternoon, and the city is home to several viewpoints to choose from. Some of the best include Council Crest and Mt. Tabor.
Council Crest reaches a staggering one thousand and seventy-three feet, making it the highest point in Portland. It offers beautiful views, especially at sunset, and visitors can expect to see Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams, and Mount Hood. Be sure to visit on a clear day.
Mt. Tabor Park is also a nice spot to enjoy a sunset picnic. This large park has 360-degree views, covers an extinct volcano, and is home to a playground and some tennis courts.
Buy Groceries from a Farmers Market
If you’re looking for a way to support small businesses, or simply want to buy some fresh, local produce, be sure to stop by one of the farmer’s markets scattered around Portland. Visiting one of these makes for a great weekend activity.
A local market is also one of the best places to mingle with locals and buy farm fresh ingredients if you plan on making your own meals.
Try the Coffee
Portland is consistently considered one of the top three cities to have coffee in America – and with good reason. It offers some of the best coffee in the world.
Frequent visitors and locals recommend stopping by some of the smaller cafés while visiting Portland. Some of the best places to get coffee in the city include:
Stumptown Coffee (Ace Hotel)
Stumptown Coffee is considered a classic and local gem. This iconic coffee shop has locations all over the country, and with its exceptional quality and great atmosphere, it’s easy to see why it is so well-loved.
Coava Coffee Roasters
The Coava coffee is made from beans roasted in-house and is well-known across Portland. The café specializes in espresso and pour-overs, making it an excellent place to visit if you’re looking for a hearty cup of java.
While the baristas don’t make latte art, they are some of the friendliest people in the city and are always willing to share their knowledge on the coffee of the day.
Spella began its life as a food cart but has since grown to become a local favorite. It offers an Italian-inspired atmosphere with old-fashioned charm and masterful coffee.
The café prides itself on its impeccable bean roasting, and one of the signature coffees is the cappuccino. Additionally, visitors can enjoy affogato – a delicious mixture of ice cream and espresso. It is the best in the city.
Heart Coffee is known by locals for its excellent coffee and stunning interior design. The café was started by a couple who roasted their own beans and has since become a successful business.
The bustling café is an excellent place to get some work done, have team meetings, or simply relax and watch as people go by. Even the simplest of drinks are bound to please any customer. Be sure to stop by Heart Coffee on your next trip to Portland.
Go on a Brew Tour
One of the things Portland is known for is its beer brewing. It’s especially popular for its craft beer and IPAs. The city is home to a wide variety of breweries, any one of which is sure to delight its visitors. Here are some of our favorites:
Breakside Brewing is an award-winning brewery that is a favorite among locals. Among its many prestigious awards and accolades is a Gold Medal, won at the Great American Beer Festival.
Another favorite among Portlanders is Stormbreaker, known for its great outdoor seating, delicious ciders, and top-quality IPAs. After being founded in 2013, it has grown to include two locations. Be sure to try their signature nachos when you stop by Stormbreaker for a cold brew.
Culmination Brewing is well-known in Portland and offers some of the best-executed and most-innovative beers in the city. It was founded in 2015 and focuses on creating a welcoming, laid-back atmosphere for the community around it. This is an excellent place to sit back and enjoy the scenery.
When this brewery opened in Portland, it was highly anticipated. It brews some of the best-known beers in Oregon, such as the Mirror Pond Pale Ale, and the menu is made from a constantly rotating variety of seasonal and local ingredients.
Visitors can expect popular beers such as the Carina Peach Sour Ale, the Starburst IPA, and the Capella Porter. They also offer more experimental options that differ between seasons.
Migration Brewing was started by a group of four passionate friends in 2018 and offers a welcoming space, delicious beer, and great pub food. Some of the favorite brews include the Pilsner and the IPAs.
The brewery also has twenty different beers on tap, including stouts, ambers, barrel-aged beers, and sours. No matter what you decide to have, we’re sure you won’t be disappointed.
Visit America’s Second Largest Copper Statue
Portland, OR 97204, United States
The Portlandia statue is nearly thirty-five feet high and is only bested by New York’s Statue of Liberty. The sculpture was commissioned by the City of Portland and created by Raymond Kaskey to resemble the Portland seal. The face of the statue was sculpted to resemble his wife.
At first, the sculpture was created in sections in Washington D.C. before being shipped, piece by piece, in a boat to Portland. There it was assembled and installed in 1985. To this day it still stands on the Portland Building, and it is a magnificent sight to behold.
While it is not allowed for photographs of the sculpture to be used for commercial purposes, it did feature in the 2011 comedy series “Portlandia”.
Find the Simpsons streets
Something that many people may not know, is that Matt Groening, creator of the popular animated series “The Simpsons”, grew up in this city. As a result, many of the Simpsons characters were named after streets in Northwest Portland.
If you’re looking for a truly unique and budget-friendly activity, you can spend the afternoon on a self-guided tour of Portland to try and find all these streets.
Portland is considered the city with the best pizza in the entire country – not even bested by New York! To the dismay of many Portland residents, this city’s pizza could no longer be kept a secret.
Portland offers everything from traditional New York-style pizzas to deep-dish Chicago-style pies and artisanal wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas. There’s something for every pizza lover and the city is a great vacation destination for foodies.
Here are some of our favorite pizza places:
New York-style Pizza: Apizza Scholls
Considered a Portland institution, Apizza Scholls was founded in 2005 and has been serving locals and visitors alike for many years. There are two quaint dining areas, and the restaurant gets busy quickly, so be sure to reserve a table well in advance if you’d like to sample everything this excellent pizzeria has to offer.
The oven-cooked pizzas are large and masterfully curated to include great toppings and arrive quickly. Some of the best pizzas to enjoy here are the classic pepperoni and the garlicky New York White.
Neapolitan Pizza: Ken’s Artisan Pizza
Founded by the best baker in Portland, Ken Forkish, Ken’s Artisan Pizza has won the James Beard Award twice for its excellent Italian-inspired pies. The pizzas are made using a blend of yeast and sourdough, creating a soft and bubbly crust that is to die for. They are baked in a wood-fired oven and topped with delicious local ingredients.
Every item on the menu is well worth trying, and some of the best options include the Brooklyn and the Fennel Sausage pizzas. Visitors can also try some of the signature cocktails on offer.
Deep-dish Pizza: Ranch PDX
If you’re looking to try some of the best deep-dish pizzas you’ve ever had, be sure to stop by Ranch PDX on your next trip to Portland. Each of the four locations offers hearty pizzas with excellent toppings. They are also known for their homemade ranch, hence the name.
There is a wide variety to choose from, but some of the best pizzas on the menu include the Number Four and the classic pepperoni pizzas.
Read more about the best Pizza in Portland, here!
Have Drinks at the Departure Rooftop Bar
525 SW Morrison St 15th Floor 15th Floor, Portland, OR 97204, United States
If your idea of fun is enjoying cocktails with a group of friends on a warm summer evening, then the Departure rooftop bar may be the place for you.
Located in the heart of Downtown Portland, Departure is an excellent place to spend time with friends, relax, and get some stunning views of the city.
Portland City Grill is another great restaurant that offers scenic views. It is located on the top floor of The Big Pink Building – Portland’s tallest structure. Be sure to visit during Happy Hour for some great deals, or just before sunset when the restaurant hasn’t become crowded yet.
Buy Food from a Food Cart
Portland is often referred to as a foodie city, and with its wide range of dining options, it more than lives up to the title. The Portland food scene is unpretentious, and visitors and locals alike can enjoy some excellent food without the need for dressing up.
This is especially true for the various food carts scattered over the city.
These food trucks are a local favorite, with many workers stopping there for lunch or breakfast on their way to work.
Some of the best food cart pods can be found at:
- Fifth Avenue
- Hawthorne Asylum
- Prost Marketplace
- Third Avenue
Take a Stroll on NW 23rd Avenue
Northwest Portland (or NW Portland) is a gorgeous residential neighborhood that is lined with trees and full to the brim with great restaurants and charming shops. Many permanent residents opt to live in NW Portland for its walkability, charming atmosphere, and easy access to attractions, entertainment, parks, and grocery stores.
One of the best ways to explore the area, and a favorite activity among visiting tourists, is wandering down 23rd Avenue on foot. Often referred to as “Trendy Third”, this street is popular among shoppers and offers a variety of things to do.
Another great place to visit while in the neighborhood is Ken’s Bakery. The bakery is famous for its delicious, freshly-baked goods that draw visitors and locals with their amazing smells.
Opened in 2001, Ken’s Bakery has been operating for over two decades, with long lines of people waiting to purchase something delicious every weekend. It offers a cozy atmosphere and crowd favorites like the Oregon Croissant, the goat cheese and leek croissant, a variety of seasonal fruit tarts, and pastries.
Be sure to stop at Papa Hayden for a slice of cake if you’re looking for somewhere to satiate your sweet tooth. And, if you’re looking for some pizza while you’re in the area, you can visit Life of Pie Pizza during their happy hour.
Ride the Portland Aerial Tram
2-16 SW Campus Dr, Portland, OR 97239, United States
The Portland Aerial Tram opened in 2007 to great fanfare. It was originally built to serve as transport between the South waterfront and the Oregon Health and Science University’s main campus on Marquam Hill.
The OHSU is the largest employer, and there are up to twenty thousand people who visit it every day. As a result, the two-lane road leading down the hill to the University became congested often. This led to accidents and other problems, all of which were solved by the Tram.
The city of Portland and its key stakeholders agreed to alleviate the demand on road infrastructure by constructing a tram, making Portland one of the few American cities with aerial trams.
The tram was designed according to strict Swiss aerial tramway standards. It offers breathtaking views of Mount Hood, the world’s third most climbed mountain, and the South waterfront.
Visitors can also make use of the tram and a bus to visit the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area – an excellent spot for hiking or nature enthusiasts.
Take a Selfie at the Keep Portland Weird sign
22 SW 3rd Ave, Portland, OR 97204, USA
One of the most famous sites in Portland is the “Keep Portland Weird” sign.
The motto is rumored to have been borrowed originally from Austin, Texas, in 2003. However, it has since become synonymous with the atmosphere of the city and some residents consider it a call to action. The slogan can be seen used on T-shirts, posters, bumper stickers, and murals throughout the city.
Many people who visit Portland opt for visiting this sign first, and it is considered an iconic attraction. It is a must-see on any visit to this city.
Visit Pittock Mansion
3229 NW Pittock Dr, Portland, OR 97210, United States
If you’re a history buff, one of the most fun things to do in Portland is to take a tour of Pittock Mansion. Located on top of West Hills and stretching across sixteen thousand square feet, this gorgeous French Renaissance-style building is an amazing sight to behold.
The mansion is home to forty-six ornate rooms and is open for tours. It is also home to an elevator that is still operational today.
During these tours, visitors can learn more about the original owners of the mansion and take a look at some authentic furniture from the time period. It is an excellent way to learn more about Portland’s history.
If you’re visiting the mansion during the holiday season, you can expect elaborate decorations and many Christmas trees.
For visitors on a tight schedule, there is also the option of skipping the house tour and simply enjoying the overlook behind the building. Here you can take in some stunning views of Downtown Portland. This overlook is often considered the city’s best viewpoint.
Visit the Witch’s Castle
Lower Macleay Trail, Portland, OR 97210, United States
The Witch’s Castle, or simply the Macleay Stone Building, is a mossy, abandoned structure in the middle of the forest known for its haunting past. Whether it is fact or fiction, the story of the Witch’s Castle is similar to Romeo and Juliet, with a love-stricken daughter and an angry father accused of murder. It makes for a truly unique experience when hiking to the old, beautiful building.
Whether you believe the haunting tale or not, this building is considered an iconic part of Portland and a must-see on any visit to this interesting city. It is also ideal for nature lovers and hiking enthusiasts.
Explore the Alberta Arts District
The Alberta Arts District is a bustling Portland neighborhood that draws countless visitors and locals every day. It is home to everything from charming local shops and great restaurants to cute boutiques and stunning murals. It’s a great area for exploring or mingling with Portland locals.
One of the signature spots is the Kennedy School, a school that was converted into a local hangout and bar.
If you’re visiting during the summer months, be sure to walk along Northeast Alberta Street for the Last Thursday Art Walk. Here, local artists, performers, vendors, and musicians share their craft.
Portland Restaurants to try
One of the best places to stop for brunch while you’re in the area is Proud Mary Coffee. It hails originally from Australia but has since spread to other places, including Portland.
There is also Pine State Biscuits, a local staple and one of the best places to stop for a meal. Be sure to try their signature plain biscuits and The Reggie – a crowd favorite.
If you’re looking for some Indian cuisine while visiting the area, make your way to Bollywood Theater. This is a hip eatery with a great atmosphere that is perfect for spending time with friends.
And, if you’re in the mood for some adult-friendly fun, finish a long day of exploring at Great Notion Brewery. It offers some sensational brews.
Have a Seasonal Scoop at Salt & Straw
2035 NE Alberta St, Portland, OR 97211, United States
Opened in 2011, Salt and Straw has a devoted cult following and upon sampling some of their ice creams, it’s easy to see why. They offer some of the most delicious ice creams in the city, with unusual and innovative flavors and made from local ingredients.
The parlor first opened in Northwest Portland but has since become so popular, it now boasts four different locations across Portland, as well as locations in six other American cities.
One of the best flavors is honey lavender, but many frequent visitors suggest also trying the strangest flavor on the menu. You won’t be disappointed!
Visit the Portland Japanese Garden
611 SW Kingston Ave, Portland, OR 97205, United States
Considered one of the most authentic Japanese gardens in the U.S., the Portland Japanese Garden opened in the late 60s and is well worth adding to any Portland itinerary. It comes highly recommended for first-timers, and when you walk through it that will come as no surprise.
The garden is well-maintained and includes some waterfalls, a small pond, and moss-covered paths that are perfect for exploring. It offers a welcome respite from the bustling city and is a great way to relax if you’re feeling overwhelmed after a long day of sightseeing.
Visitors can stop by the cozy Umami Café for some fresh tea or matcha, or get transported to the tranquility and fascinating culture of Japan while walking among the lush greenery.
Visit Tom McCall Waterfront Park
98 SW Naito Pkwy, Portland, OR 97204, United States
Named after the city’s revered governor, the Tom McCall Waterfront Park is a popular lunch spot among locals, and at any given time you can expect to see people walking, biking, or riding skateboards. It is also the perfect place for a romantic stroll with your significant other.
Here, visitors can also find the Oregon Maritime Museum. It is a great waterfront attraction for families traveling with kids or visiting tourists who are fond of history.
If you’re visiting the area over a weekend, be sure to stop by the Portland Saturday Market for some souvenir shopping or browse the local handicrafts.
During the spring, Portland plays host to some of the most stunning cherry blossoms in the world, gifted to the city in 1990 by the Japanese Grain Importers Association. There are over a hundred Akebono cherry trees dotted along the waterfront, and they are a stunning sight to behold while you visit the park.
Take Stroll on Mississippi Avenue
Mississippi Avenue has become synonymous with Portland’s quirky atmosphere and is a must-visit on any trip to this bustling city.
The area is great for exploring, with many local shops and colorful storefronts to enjoy. There is also a wide variety of restaurants, food carts, and breweries. If you’re fond of greenery, be sure to stop by the beautiful plant nursery.
Or, if you’re looking for some entertainment, you can buy some tickets for a live music show at Mississippi Studios.
Restaurants to Try
One of the best places in the area to stop for some creative cuisine is Prost Marketplace. The food cart offers delicious meals, such as the signature Matt’s BBQ, and is located next to a German brewery, making it an ideal place to stop for a cold one after a long day.
The pod is also home to a tent, lighting, and picnic tables so that visitors and locals alike can enjoy what it has to offer regardless of the weather.
Another excellent brewery in the area is Stormbreaker Brewing, offering delicious brews and traditional pub fare. One of the best dishes to try here is the nachos.
And, if you’re a fan of tacos, be sure to stop by the ¿Por Qué No? Taqueria. It offers the very best guacamole in Portland and can get busy as a result. There is a wide variety of drinks and cocktails to choose from, all of which are discounted when it’s Happy Hour. Or, why not stop by on Taco Tuesday for something delicious from their discounted taco menu?
Finish the day with a sweet treat from Meadow: Salt, Chocolate, and Bitters. This charming little shop has a finely curated selection of delicious chocolates from all over the world.
Explore the Pearl District
The Pearl District is a trendy industrial area with stunning red brick buildings and towering high-rise buildings. The once-neglected neighborhood is a local favorite and a great area to explore, with various independent boutiques, charming galleries, cozy bars, and modern cafes dotting its cobblestone streets.
While it was originally used for loading docks and factories, the area has since been reinvented to become something well worth visiting. What were once warehouses have since been converted into spacious condos that are filled with light.
Attractions to Avoid in Portland
Voodoo Donuts is well-known for its quirky toppings and pink boxes. While it can be a fun activity for first-time visitors, keep in mind that it gets crowded quickly. Additionally, many Portland residents agree that there are places that serve much better donuts in the city, such as Pip’s Original Donuts and Chai, Doe Donuts (for vegan visitors), and Blue Star Donuts.
The Portland Spirit
Founded in the early 1990s, the Portland Spirit consists of a small fleet of boats that take tourists on trips in Portland’s waters. However, many frequent travelers and locals agree that the boats seem worn, the beverages are overpriced, and the food served on deck is nothing to write home about.
As a result, many visitors don’t make use of the Portland Spirit more than once, as it isn’t considered value for money. The city is home to a wide variety of activities to enjoy, so you’re bound to have a full Portland itinerary even without the Portland Spirit.
Ice Skating at Lloyd Center
Ice skating at Lloyd Center could be fun for families with kids who have some extra time to kill. However, if you’re visiting on a tight schedule, we would suggest giving it a miss and opting for something more worthwhile.
The mall itself is old and run-down and doesn’t offer much well worth seeing.
If you’re sensitive to the sight of homeless encampments, Chinatown may be an area to avoid on your trip to Portland.
It can be a fun experience and offers great attractions like the Lan Su Chinese Garden, but many visitors return from a trip to Chinatown feeling distraught after seeing how abandoned and run-down it is.
The area has also become known for being unsafe, especially at nighttime. Opt instead for simply driving by the area to take a peek at the beautiful gate before heading to a safer neighborhood.
Shanghai Tunnels Tour
While some visitors enjoy the Shanghai Tunnel tour for its mix of the historical and paranormal, history buffs may leave the tour feeling disappointed.
The tour costs fifteen USD per person, and consists of three staged rooms under a bar. It lasts for around an hour and a half but offers very little factual information or educational value. If you’re traveling on a tight budget or schedule, we’d suggest visiting one of the other attractions listed above, instead.