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Is Portland Fun? Here's What You Need to Know

By: Swena Kalra

Edited By: Scott Sidders

Updated on November 6, 2023

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From its hipster vibes to its world-renowned craft beer, there's no denying that Portland is a fun city. And what's not to love about a place constantly ranked as one of the most livable cities in the world? But what makes Portland truly special is its people. The locals are some of the friendliest and are always happy to share their favorite spots with visitors. So whether looking for the best coffee shops, breweries, or hiking trails, you'll always find someone willing to give you directions (and maybe even join you for a pint).

Top 10 Attractions & Things To Do in Portland

The following are some of the top things to see and do while in Portland:

1. Visit the International Rose Test Garden

Famous Portland Rose Garden roses in bloom

Portland is a city full of beautiful parks, and Washington Park is home to one of the oldest and most well-known rose gardens in the United States. The International Rose Test Garden was founded in 1917 and features many award-winning roses and lovely garden spaces for visitors to explore. The garden is busiest during the late spring when the roses bloom, but it is worth a visit any time of year. On clear days, visitors can even see Mount Hood from the garden.

Parking can be competitive at the International Rose Test Garden, but many public transit options are available to reach the park. Peninsula Park Rose Garden is another lovely rose garden across the river from downtown Portland. This garden is set in a sunken landscape, and features over 7,000 rose bushes. No matter what time of year you visit Portland, be sure to check out one (or both!) of these beautiful rose gardens.

2. Spend an Afternoon at the Portland Art Museum

Portland Art Museum in Portland, Oregon

This museum is packed with exciting things to see! It has a great collection of Native American art and artifacts, English silver, Asian art, photography, and Northwest art. The Van Gogh Cart with Black Ox is a highlight - it's one of the most famous pieces in the museum. If you're into film or visual arts, you'll also enjoy the Northwest Film Center and the Crumpacker Family Library. And best of all, you can visit for free on the first Thursday of every month! So if you're looking for a fun and educational activity in Portland, this is it.

3. Check out the Oregon Zoo

Rocky Mountain Goat Family at Oregon Zoo in Portland

The Oregon Zoo is a must-see for anyone visiting Portland. Located in Washington Park, it is home to hundreds of different species of animals worldwide. From African lions to Amazon rainforest creatures, there is something for everyone at this zoo. Moreover, the Oregon Zoo is actively involved in conservation programs and research to help protect the local wildlife in the Pacific Northwest. Visitors can take special behind-the-scenes tours to learn more about the zoo's operations and even interact with some of the animals. If you're looking for a fun and educational activity for your family, check out the Oregon Zoo!

4. Tour the Pittock Mansion

Pittock Mansion in Portland, Oregon

The Pittock Mansion is a beautiful historic home in Portland that was built in 1914 by Henry Pittock, the founder of the Oregonian newspaper. Pittock only lived in the home for five years until his death in 1919, but during that time, he made many impressive additions to the home, including a central vacuum system, intercoms, and indirect lighting.

The home is on 46 acres of land and has stunning city views. The mansion was almost demolished in the 1960s, but the community came together to save it. They raised funds to restore the home to its former glory; today, it is one of Portland's most popular tourist attractions. Visitors can tour the home and see the impressive features for themselves. The Pittock Mansion is also known for its beautiful gardens, which are well-maintained and add to the property's charm.

5. Explore Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden

Ferns growing by waterfall at Rhododendron Garden in Portland, Oregon

The Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden in Portland is a beautiful and peaceful place to spend time. The spring blooms are mainly attractive, but the garden is also popular with waterfowl and birdwatchers. The garden features waterfalls, ponds, and coniferous trees. Volunteers can join regular work parties to help maintain the garden. You can also visit the garden in winter for free. This is a great place to enjoy nature and get involved in your community.

6. Go for a Walk in Forest Park

Forest Park, Portland, Oregon

Forest Park provides a natural escape from Portland's urban environment. The park is home to over 5,000 acres of Northwest forest and 80 miles of hiking and walking trails. You can access the park by car, bike, or public transportation. The 30-mile Wildwood Trail is a popular choice for exploring the park, as it connects with other trails around the city. The Maple Trail Loop is another excellent option, highlighting some of the park's tallest trees. It's also possible to hike to the Pittock Mansion from lower Macleay Park. Whether you're looking for a nature fix or a challenging hike, Forest Park is worth a visit.

7. Sample Local Craft Beer at one of Portland's many Breweries

Deschutes brewery and restaurant in downtown Portland

Portland is known for its craft beer scene, with many breweries. Some of the most popular include Deschutes Brewery, Cascade Brewing Barrel House, and Breakside Brewery. If you're looking to sample a variety of local beers, consider going on a brewery tour. Several companies offer tours of Portland's breweries, which typically last around three hours. You'll get to try several different types of beer and learn about the brewing process. This is a great activity for beer lovers visiting Portland.

8. Grab Some Local Produce at the Portland Farmers Market

vegetables available for sale at a Portland, Oregon farmer's market

Portland is known for its many farmer's markets, which offer fresh produce, baked goods, and hot coffee. The most popular of these markets is the Portland State University Farmers Market, which operates year-round. This market is known for its wide variety of vendors and offerings, including live music and cooking demos. The market is also a great place to find locally-sourced produce and goods. You can also find similar markets throughout the city, which operate during the summer months. These markets are a great way to support local businesses and farmers while accessing fresh, quality produce.

9. Visit the Japanese Garden

Japanese Garden With Streaming Waterfalls in Portland, Oregon

Portland's Japanese Garden is a beautiful, serene 12-acre attraction located in Washington Park. The garden was designed as a place for Portlanders to find peace and relaxation and foster cultural ties between Oregon and Japan. Today, the garden remains a popular destination for visitors seeking a unique experience. Garden areas include the Flat Garden, the Strolling Pond Garden, and the Tea Garden, which features a traditional teahouse. The garden also hosts various events, such as cultural demonstrations, lecture series, and mindfulness tours. Visitors can also enjoy refreshments at the Umami Café, which offers tea and Japanese-style finger foods.

10. Take in the scenery at Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Multnomah Falls Columbia River Gorge Oregon

The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is a breathtaking area of over 100,000 acres that offers visitors stunning views of the river and lush landscapes. The site is a popular destination for day trips from Portland, OR. It is home to numerous waterfalls, including Multnomah Falls (the tallest in the state), Oneonta Gorge, and Latourell Falls. Visitors can also enjoy hiking, camping, and picnicking in the state park or drive along the river to take in all the scenery. You're sure to have a blast exploring all of these natural wonders!

Top 4 Day Trip Ideas from Portland

This city has so much to offer its visitors, from its lively downtown area to its many parks and gardens. If you're looking to explore beyond Portland, consider taking a day trip to one of these nearby destinations:

1. Oregon Coast Tour from Portland

Panoramic Shot of Cannon Beach, Oregon

The Oregon Coast Tour from Portland is a great way to explore the rocky coastline and all it offers. The tour travels along the scenic Pacific Coastal Highway, stopping in charming beach towns and enjoying beautiful coastal views. You'll also have the opportunity to visit Ecola and Oswald West State Parks, where you can admire the geological wonders and wind-swept beaches. This small-group tour is the perfect way to spend a day exploring Oregon's stunning coastline.


2. Mt Hood Day Trip

Trillium Lake and Mount Hood Oregon USA

The Mt Hood Day Trip from Portland is a great way to see some of the most beautiful areas of Oregon. The tour begins with a guided visit to Multnomah Falls, one of the most iconic locations in the state. Then, continue to Timberline Lodge, a historic lodge that offers stunning views of Mount Hood. After lunch in Hood River, the tour travels along the Historic Columbia River Highway and Rowena Crest for more breathtaking views. The small group size of this tour ensures a more personalized experience.

3. Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls Tour

Multnomah falls in Columbia River Gorge, Oregon, USA

The Columbia River Gorge is a must-see destination for anyone visiting the Pacific Northwest. This tour takes visitors to some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the area, the dramatic basalt lava flows, and the Bonneville Dam. The oldest scenic highway in the US is perfect for sightseeing, and this tour provides the ideal introduction for first-time visitors to the area.

The first stop on tour is Multnomah Falls, where you can see the magnificent falls and the historic lodge. Next, you'll visit several more waterfalls along the Columbia River Gorge. Then, we'll be off to see "Herman," the sturgeon at the Bonneville Fish Hatchery. This live, fully narrated tour is led by knowledgeable and friendly guides who will ensure you have a great experience. With a maximum of 12 people per tour, you'll enjoy an intimate setting while learning all about this amazing area.

4. Willamette Valley Wine Tour

Aerial View of Vineyards in the Willamette Valley

The Willamette Valley Wine Tour will take you through some of the most beautiful vineyards in Oregon. You'll get to try some of the best wines the valley offers, including pinots, chardonnays, and rieslings. The tour is perfect for wine enthusiasts of all levels and includes a country-style wine lunch at one of the wineries. This is an excellent opportunity to learn about wine grape production and taste some of the finest wines in Oregon.

Top 3 Places To Stay in Portland

The Hawthorne Bridge over the Willamette river, Portland Oregon

You'll need to decide where to stay when planning your trip to Portland. There are many great hotels and motels in the city, but these three stand out as the best of the best.

1. Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront

Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront is a hotel located in the city center of Portland, Oregon. The hotel is situated across from the Willamette River and offers guests bright and refined rooms with flat-screen TVs, Wi-Fi, and coffee makers. Guests who book club-level quarters will have access to a private lounge that provides complimentary breakfast and snacks. The hotel also features a 24-hour gym, restaurant, bar, and over 44,000 square feet of meeting and event space. The Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront is the perfect place to stay for business or pleasure. With its convenient location near the Willamette River, the hotel offers easy access to many of Portland's top attractions.

2. Monarch Hotel & Conference Center

The Monarch Hotel & Conference Center is excellent for business travelers and those who need to host events. The hotel offers a variety of event spaces and a business center, so it's perfect for those who need to get work done while on the road. The hotel is also close to the Clackamas Town Center, making it easy to grab a bite to eat or do some shopping. The rooms are comfortable and feature all your needed amenities, including flat-screen TVs and pillow-top mattresses. You can also take advantage of room service if you don't feel like leaving your room. And when you're ready to relax, the hotel has a seasonal outdoor pool. The Monarch Hotel & Conference Center makes traveling easy and stress-free.

3. The Society Hotel

The Society Hotel is a hip hotel located in the heart of Portland, Oregon. Originally built as a boarding house for sailors in 1881, the hotel has been restored to its former glory and now provides guests with a unique experience. The airy rooms and suites are decorated with historical artifacts and offer free Wi-Fi, while shared hostel-style rooms provide bunk beds and communal bathrooms. Private rooms with shared bathrooms are also available, and upgraded suites add sofas and private bathrooms. The hotel features a chic lobby cafe, a bar, and a roof deck with views of downtown Portland and the Willamette River. Laundry facilities are also available for guests' convenience.

Final Thoughts

Portland Before Sunrise

So, is Portland fun? The answer is definitely yes! There are many great things to do and see in this vibrant city. Whether you're interested in nature, wine, history, or just good old-fashioned fun, Portland has something for everyone. And with so many excellent hotels and restaurants to choose from, you're sure to have a wonderful time on your trip. Regardless of what activities you get up to, we would like to wish you all the best on your trip! Remember to take lots of pictures, have fun and take care!

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