Portland, Oregon, USA: 15 Amazing Things to Do and See

Portland 14

Updated On: April 29, 2024 by   Courtney AugelloCourtney Augello

Located in the lush Pacific Northwest region of the United States, Portland, Oregon, captivates visitors with its unique blend of natural beauty, vibrant culture, and eclectic charm. Renowned for its lush green landscapes, thriving art scene, and culinary delights, Portland is a mesmerising destination to explore.

Portland 14
Portland is located in the Pacific Northwest.

Portland’s atmosphere and attractions embrace the charm and allure of this remarkable city. To help you plan the best holiday, we’ve explored the enchanting tourist attractions and showcased the highlights that make the city a must-visit destination.

Portland 7
The city was founded in 1845.

Historical Background

Founding and Early Development

Portland, Oregon, has a rich historical background that dates back to its founding in 1845. The city owes its origin to a clearing along the Willamette River, where two pioneers, Asa Lovejoy and Francis W. Pettygrove, decided to establish a town.

Unable to agree on the city’s name, the two held a now-famous coil toss. Pettygrove won and named it after his hometown of Portland, Maine. This marked the beginning of a settlement that would later thrive.

Portland 11
The Oregon Trail sparked the development of the city.

Influence of the Oregon Trail and Lewis and Clark Expedition

The Oregon Trail, a historic route used by pioneers migrating westward during the 19th century, played a pivotal role in the development of Portland. The city served as the final stop along the trail, attracting settlers seeking new opportunities and a better life.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition, which explored the western territory in the early 1800s, also contributed to Portland’s growth by establishing a presence in the region and sparking interest in its potential.

Growth and Transformation of Portland Over the Years

Portland experienced significant growth and transformation throughout its history. In the late 19th century, the city became a major port and transportation hub, facilitating trade and connecting the Pacific Northwest to the rest of the country.

The arrival of the transcontinental railroad further fueled Portland’s development, bringing an influx of people and goods to the region.

In the early 20th century, Portland witnessed economic diversification, with industries such as timber, shipping, and manufacturing contributing to its prosperity. However, like many American cities, Portland faced challenges during the Great Depression, which led to a period of stagnation and unemployment.

Portland 6
Portland is a leading city in sustainability.

In recent decades, Portland has undergone a remarkable transformation, reinventing itself as a centre of innovation, sustainability, and creativity. The city embraced urban planning initiatives that prioritised public transportation, bike-friendly infrastructure, and green spaces.

Portland’s commitment to sustainability earned it a reputation as a leader in eco-consciousness and earned accolades such as the “Greenest City in America.”

Today, Portland is known for its vibrant cultural scene, thriving art community, and entrepreneurial spirit. Its unique blend of natural beauty, culinary delights, and progressive values continue attracting visitors and residents alike.

The city’s history of growth, adaptation, and reinvention has shaped its identity as a forward-thinking destination that cherishes its past while embracing the future.

Portland 4
The Tualatin Mountains border the city.

Natural Beauty and Outdoor Activities

Portland’s Geography

Situated in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, Portland is nestled in the Willamette Valley, bordered by the Willamette River to the east and the Tualatin Mountains to the west.

Its strategic location offers a diverse natural landscape, with proximity to both the coast and the Cascade Range. This geography provides a backdrop for a wide array of outdoor activities and stunning scenery.

Forest Park

One of the crown jewels of Portland’s natural beauty is Forest Park, an expansive urban forest covering over 5,000 acres. With more than 80 miles of trails, Forest Park offers an oasis of lush greenery within the city limits.

Hikers can explore the park’s diverse ecosystems, including old-growth forests, creeks, and wildlife habitats. Popular trails such as Wildwood Trail and Lower Macleay Trail provide enchanting experiences for nature enthusiasts and hikers of all levels.

Portland 12
Many locals enjoy water sports and activities.

The Columbia River Gorge and Multnomah Falls

Located just a short drive from Portland, the Columbia River Gorge is a breathtaking natural wonder. Carved by the mighty Columbia River, this scenic area boasts dramatic cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and picturesque vistas.

Multnomah Falls, the most famous waterfall in the region, stands at an impressive height of 620 feet and offers a spectacular sight for visitors. Hiking trails in the area, such as Eagle Creek Trail, offer opportunities to explore the stunning gorge and its many waterfalls.

Washington Park

Washington Park is a beloved urban park in Portland, renowned for its enchanting beauty and diverse attractions. Within the park, visitors can explore the International Rose Test Garden, which features over 10,000 rose bushes and offers a fragrant and colourful spectacle during the blooming season.

The Japanese Garden, considered one of the most authentic outside of Japan, provides a serene and tranquil setting with traditional architecture, meticulously manicured gardens and serene ponds.

Additionally, the Hoyt Arboretum and the Portland Children’s Museum are popular attractions within Washington Park.

Portland 5
Portland is known for its alternative culture.

Outdoor Recreational Activities Around Portland

Beyond the parks and natural wonders, Portland offers a plethora of outdoor recreational activities. Cyclists can take advantage of the city’s extensive network of bike lanes and paths, including the Springwater Corridor and the scenic Banks-Vernonia State Trail.

The Willamette River provides opportunities for kayaking, paddleboarding, and boating, while nearby Mount Hood offers skiing, snowboarding, and hiking trails for outdoor enthusiasts.

For those seeking adventure, the Oregon Coast is within a few hours’ drive, allowing visitors to explore stunning beaches, tide pools, and coastal trails.

Cultural and Artistic Scene

Hub for Creativity and Alternative Culture

Portland has gained a well-deserved reputation as a vibrant hub for creativity and alternative culture.

The city embraces individuality and encourages artistic expression, fostering a thriving community of artists, musicians, writers, and performers. Its inclusive and progressive atmosphere has attracted creative individuals from various backgrounds, resulting in a diverse and dynamic cultural scene.

Portland 9
Graffiti is commonly seen throughout the city.

The Portland Art Museum and its Collections

The Portland Art Museum stands as a cultural landmark in the city, showcasing a remarkable collection of artworks spanning different periods and styles.

The museum houses an extensive array of pieces, including works by renowned artists such as Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, and Warhol. With its permanent and rotating exhibitions, the Portland Art Museum offers visitors a chance to immerse themselves in galleries full of artistic expression and cultural exploration.

Powell’s City of Books

A must-visit destination for book lovers, Powell’s City of Books is a Portland institution and the largest independent bookstore globally. Occupying an entire city block, Powell’s boasts a vast collection of new and used books, covering a wide range of genres and subjects.

It offers a labyrinthine experience as visitors navigate through its colour-coded rooms, getting lost in the stacks and discovering literary treasures. Powell’s is not just a bookstore but a beloved gathering place for literary events, author readings, and discussions.

Performing Arts Venues and Theatres

Portland boasts a vibrant performing arts scene, with numerous venues and theatres offering a diverse range of shows and performances. The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, a beautifully restored historic theatre, hosts symphony concerts, Broadway shows, and other large-scale performances.

Portland 3
Powell’s City of Books is the world’s largest independent bookstore.

The Keller Auditorium showcases touring Broadway productions, dance performances, and opera. For more intimate experiences, venues such as the Aladdin Theater and the Doug Fir Lounge provide stages for live music performances by local and touring artists across genres.

Street Art and Graffiti Culture

Portland’s streets and neighbourhoods are adorned with vibrant street art and graffiti, showcasing the city’s urban creativity and rebellious spirit. From large-scale murals to intricate stencil work, Portland’s street art scene is both visually captivating and thought-provoking.

The city embraces street art as a form of expression and recognises its role in shaping the urban landscape. Popular areas for street art exploration include the Alberta Arts District, Division/Clinton neighbourhood, and the Central Eastside Industrial District.

Culinary Delights and Craft Breweries

Top Foodie Destination

Portland has garnered a well-deserved reputation as a foodie destination, drawing culinary enthusiasts from around the world. The city’s vibrant and diverse culinary scene has gained recognition for its emphasis on high-quality ingredients, innovative techniques, and a spirit of experimentation.

From upscale restaurants to casual eateries, Portland offers a range of dining experiences that cater to different tastes and budgets.

Portland 10
There are many great restaurants in the city.

Food Cart Culture

One of the unique culinary features of Portland is its thriving food cart culture. Throughout the city, clusters of food carts can be found, offering an incredible array of cuisines from around the globe.

These carts are often run by talented chefs and entrepreneurs who bring their culinary expertise to the streets, serving up delicious and affordable meals. This food cart culture allows residents and visitors to sample a wide variety of dishes, from Korean barbecue and Thai street food to gourmet burgers and vegan delights.

In addition to food carts, Portland boasts an abundance of diverse culinary options. The city is known for its focus on locally sourced ingredients, with farm-to-table restaurants that showcase the region’s bountiful produce, meats, and seafood.

Whether it’s fine dining establishments, neighbourhood bistros or hole-in-the-wall eateries, Portland’s culinary landscape offers something for every palate.

Portland 2
Portland has an excellent craft beer scene.

Craft Beer Scene

Portland is a paradise for beer enthusiasts, boasting a thriving craft beer scene and a multitude of breweries. The city is home to a staggering number of microbreweries and brewpubs, offering an impressive selection of craft beers brewed with passion and creativity.

From hop-forward IPAs to rich stouts and experimental sour ales, beer lovers can explore a vast range of flavours and styles. Portland’s craft breweries have gained international recognition, and the city has been dubbed “Beervana” for its dedication to quality brews and a supportive community of beer enthusiasts.

Farm-to-table, Local, and Sustainable Practices

Portland has been at the forefront of the farm-to-table movement and sustainable food practices. The city prides itself on supporting local farmers, ranchers, and fishermen, emphasising the use of fresh, seasonal, and locally sourced ingredients.

Many restaurants in Portland have established direct relationships with local producers, ensuring a close connection between the food on the plate and its origins. This commitment to sustainable and ethical food practices extends to farmers’ markets, where residents and chefs can access fresh produce, artisanal products, and locally-made ingredients.

Furthermore, Portland’s dedication to sustainability goes beyond just sourcing ingredients. Many restaurants and cafes prioritise eco-friendly practices, such as composting, reducing food waste, and using environmentally friendly packaging.

Portland 8
Portland’s neighbourhoods are full of attractions to discover.

This emphasis on local and sustainable food practices not only contributes to the city’s culinary reputation but also aligns with Portland’s broader commitment to environmental stewardship.

Unique Neighborhoods and Shopping

The Different Neighbourhoods of Portland

Portland is a city known for its distinct neighbourhoods, each offering its own unique charm and character. Exploring these neighbourhoods allows visitors to experience the city’s diverse culture and discover hidden gems.

From the vibrant downtown area to the eclectic enclaves scattered throughout, neighbourhoods like the Pearl District, Hawthorne Boulevard, and the Alberta Arts District showcase the vibrant spirit of Portland.

Pearl District

Once an industrial area, the Pearl District has transformed into a trendy neighbourhood renowned for its art galleries, boutiques, and upscale eateries. This revitalised district showcases beautifully restored warehouses and lofts, creating a hip and artistic atmosphere.

Art lovers will find themselves immersed in a wealth of galleries featuring contemporary art, sculptures, and photography. The First Thursday Art Walk, held monthly, attracts locals and visitors alike, providing an opportunity to explore the neighbourhood’s vibrant arts scene.

Portland 13
There are tons of music and record shops throughout the city.

Hawthorne Boulevard

Hawthorne Boulevard is a vibrant and quirky neighbourhood that exudes a bohemian atmosphere. Lined with independent shops, vintage stores, and unique boutiques, this bustling street offers a treasure trove of eclectic shopping experiences.

Visitors can find everything from retro clothing and vinyl records to speciality tea shops and antique stores. The neighbourhood is also known for its vibrant food scene, with a variety of restaurants, cafes, and food carts offering diverse cuisines to satisfy any craving.

The Alberta Arts District

The Alberta Arts District is a haven for artists, creatives, and art enthusiasts. This culturally diverse neighbourhood is bursting with artistic expression and creativity. Galleries, studios, and public art installations abound, showcasing a wide range of artistic styles and mediums.

Visitors can explore the galleries, attend art openings, and engage with local artists. The district also hosts the popular Last Thursday street fair, where artists, performers, and food vendors gather to create a lively and festive atmosphere.

Saturday Market

Portland’s Saturday Market, located along the waterfront, is a bustling open-air market that highlights the city’s unique and independent spirit. This lively market features a wide array of vendors offering handmade crafts, jewellery, clothing, and artwork.

Visitors can browse through the stalls, interact with local artisans, and find one-of-a-kind treasures. The market also showcases a diverse selection of food carts, live music performances, and entertainment, creating a vibrant and engaging atmosphere.

Portland 1
Portland is a stunning west coast destination.

Portland is a Great City to Visit

Portland, Oregon, stands is a wonderful destination with a plethora of tourist attractions that cater to a wide range of interests. From its rich historical background to its natural beauty and outdoor activities, the city offers a wealth of opportunities for exploration and adventure.

Portland’s appeal as a tourist destination lies in its attractions, natural beauty, cultural richness, culinary delights, and alternative culture that define its identity. It is a city that captivates tourists with its charm and provides a memorable experience.

Whether you explore the city’s history, wander in nature, admire artistic expressions, try culinary delights, or discover unique neighbourhoods, Portland will provide an unforgettable journey of exploration and discovery.

If you’re looking for destinations in the Pacific Northwest, check out these 20 Things to Do and See in Seattle.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *