Our Favorite 50 Things to do in Portland:
From food and festivals to hiking and history, here is a list of 50 of our favorite things to do in Portland, Oregon on a daily basis. Without further ado, let’s jump into the list (in no particular order)…
- Stroll through the gardens! There are many, including the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden (May), International Rose Test Garden, Portland Japanese Garden, Lan Su Chinese Garden, The Grotto and more.
- The Portland Saturday Market features local arts, crafts, music and more year-round. According to their website it’s the largest, continually operating open-air arts and crafts market in the country.
- Forest Park has more than 80 trails in 5,200 acres, all within Portland, and is one of America’s largest urban parks. We recommend taking the short hike to the Witches Castle.
- If you want the full experience of Portland’s public transportation system, hike the 4T Trail – this urban trek utilizes all public transit besides the bus, which can easily be added. This route also includes the Portland Aerial Tram, where on a clear day you can see all the mountains, making it a great place to take visitors. For more information, check out our blog post about Urban Hiking in Portland – 4T trail.
- Eat a delicious burger, Portland has tons of them. Some local favorites include PDX Sliders, Killer Burger, Foster Burger, and Little Big Burger, but this list hardly scratches the surface – Check out my list of the Best Burgers in Portland for more. They are delicious!
- Admire the structures – There are 14 bridges in Portland spanning the Willamette River. Some of the coolest bridges include the new Tilikum Crossing and the architecturally beautiful St. Johns Bridge.
- Eat at a food cart, Portland is known for them! There are pods and carts all over the place! Here is a map of the best food trucks in Portland to help you!
- Portland is also home to the world’s smallest park, Mill Ends Park!
- Visit an extinct cinder cone (volcano) within the city limits, Portland has two: Mt. Tabor and Rocky Butte.
- Visit a cool themed bar like the Bible Club, Multnomah Whiskey Library, Hale Pale and many, many more! One great thing about Portland bars is that they all must serve, by law, some sort of food.
- Go to a show – there’s always a show or music somewhere in Portland, and there’s plenty of cool venues to catch them at, like the Hollywood Theatre, Aladdin Theater, McMenamins Crystal Ballroom, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Wonder Ballroom, Mississippi Studios, The Mission, and more. You’ll find plenty of free concerts and festivals throughout the summer in Portland’s many parks too.
- Booze ‘fests! Beer ‘fests, cider fest, distillery tastings, Bourbon & Bacon Fest, wine ‘fests, ALL the ‘fests!
- Happy Hour – Portland crushes happy hour, it’s kind of a thing here (like brunch). Too many to list, but plenty of suggestions online.
- Brunch is a big deal in Portland. Bottomless mimosas with mixers beyond the traditional OJ, infamous Bloody Mary bars and some of the best food. It feels like every bar and restaurant offers brunch these days.
- It’s not necessary but we hope you like to drink if you’re visiting, as Portland is home of many breweries, bottle shops, wineries, distilleries or cideries. Portland ranks 8th in the US for breweries per capita, i.e., nine for every 50,000 people.
- The Pittock Mansion is a historic house museum. You can pay to tour the inside of the mansion, or just climb up there to take in the killer views of the city for free.
- If someone else’s trash is your treasure, Portland has you covered with many antique, resale and thrift stores.
- E-scooters! Portland has razor-style and seated scoots, and the 10-year-old inside of us really enjoys riding them!
- McMenamins is a local chain of pubs, breweries, hotels, music venues, and theater pubs throughout Oregon and Washington.The best locations are in old historic buildings and properties, and two of the coolest are in Portland: The Edgefield and Kennedy School. There’s just something really neat about a place that has several bars and restaurants, and where you can order a drink and carry it around the whole property.
- Eat a donut. Likely you’ve heard of Voodoo, which is fine, it’s more about the experience and kitsch than the donuts themselves. If you’re looking for delicious donuts then visit Pip’s Original on NE Fremont. Blue Star, or the ‘Salt and Straw” of donuts, is alright too. I’ve also heard that Safeway has killer donuts!
- Movie theaters with booze and food service! Maybe this is normal in Portland, but not where we grew up. This should really be a thing everywhere.
- Eat ice cream. Everyone recommends Salt and Straw, and for good reason, the standing flavors are amazing and the monthly rotating menu is kooky and creative, keeping us coming back for more. For instance, during Thanksgiving they have a salted caramel flavor made with rendered turkey skin, WHAT?! (It’s actually kinda good.) Ruby Jewel and What’s the Scoop are great too.
- As Seen on TV – Eat at a restaurant featured on TV, there’s plenty to choose from! We love Country Cat and Pine State Biscuits. There’s everything from fine dining to food carts to feed your craving.
- Visit a local coffee shop. We had no idea what we were missing in terms of quality and complexity in our coffee until we moved to Portland – Seattle isn’t the only place with great coffee! Many shops roast their own beans. Our personal neighborhood favorite is Rose City Coffee, but Stumptown and Heart got us hooked.
- Portland has great local grocery stores, including New Seasons, Zupans, and the Sheridan Fruit Company to name a few.
- Pretty much every neighborhood in Portland and every suburb has farmers markets from May through October.
- Day trip to Southern Oregon to Jacksonville – Read: 24 Hours in Jacksonsville, Oregon
- Portland has a beloved heard of goats! The Belmont Goats (14 goats, and one hen) don’t live on Belmont anymore, or in Lents, but have relocated to North Portland. Portlanders love their farm animals, in fact you’ll find goats and chickens in literally every neighborhood. Woodstock is home to a giant turtle, and ‘famous’ therapy llamas live right over the border in Washington.
- The Springwater Corridor Trail is a multi-use, largely paved section of a 40-mile loop system that connects a number of parks from Boring (an actual name of a town) into the city. It’s great for running, cycling, e-scooters and rollerblades.
- Run or Walk a Race: Portland is a running town and there is a race, or several, every weekend. One of the most famous is the Hood To Coast Relay, a 199-mile race split amongst 12 runners who make their way from the top of Mt. Hood to the Oregon Coast. A St. Patrick’s Day favorite, the Portland Shamrock Run is the state’s largest running and walking event.
- The infamous World Naked Bike Ride – if you’re lucky enough to visit on the right weekend in June, you can witness thousands of naked people riding bikes through the city.
- Visit a cannabis dispensary or a club, because you can! If it’s your first time in a legal dispensary prepare to have your mind blown. It’s real life, welcome to Oregon!
- In Portland golf is a year-round activity. There’s plenty of public courses and even a championship club, Pumpkin Ridge, for the real golfers. For those lacking actual golf skills, try out Top Golf or the indoor glow-in-the-dark pirate mini golf course.
- Portland’s largest art event, Last Thursdays on Alberta (NE Alberta St. from 15th to 30th avenues) is a street fair that showcases local music, art, and food on the last Thursdays in June, July and August.
- The city is filled with tons of Instagrammable murals and street art – Here are the 10 Most Instagrammable Spots in Portland.
- Portland is divided into four sections by the Willamette River and Burnside St., creating the NE, NW, SE and SW, along with the random “NoPo” or Fifth Quadrant, North Portland. Within these five sections are 95 unique neighborhoods to explore! Here’s a few to get you started: the Pearl District, Sellwood-Moreland, Hawthorne, Belmont, Alberta Arts District, Hollywood, Old Town Chinatown, Woodstock, South Waterfront, Ladd’s Addition, St. Johns, Lents, Sunnyside and Mt. Tabor.
- If you’re feeling nostalgic, strap on some roller skates, play in the arcade or ride carnival rides at Oaks Bottom Amusement Park in Sellwood.
- It seems that Portland has a museum for everything, including the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry (OMSI), Portland Art Museum, Museum of Contemporary Craft, The Hat Museum, Zymoglyphic Museum, Oregon Historical Museum, Children’s Museum, Portland Puppet Museum, and Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals. There is even a museum dedicated to freaking vacuums.
- Go hunting for the best desserts in Portland – they are also delicious!
- The Portland International Raceway, or PIR, is located in the North Portland neighborhood of Kenton. Events there range from bicycle races to car shows, drag racing, sports cars and motorcycle road racing, motocross, IndyCars, GT Cars and more. If you’re really feeling wild there’s options to put your own car on the track to race.
- There’s many ways to enjoy the Willamette River that divides Portland. Rent a small boat, kayak, or paddleboard, visit one of the swimming beaches under a few of the bridges, enjoy a Portland Spirit river cruise or the BrewBarge pedal-powered booze cruise!
- The Oregon Zoo was founded in1888 with one bear, and today houses around 2,500 animals on 64 acres. We can thank that 1880’s pharmacy owner who took in all the sailor’s random animals, including the “she-grizzly,” for starting it all!
- Portlanders are passionate about their local sports teams. It’s BLAZER NATION! This city has so much love for their NBA team, the Portland Trail Blazers, and also for the MLS soccer team, the Portland Timbers (RCTID!). The Portland Thorns are the local National Women’s Soccer League team. The city is also home to a junior ice hockey team, the Winterhawks, and baseball teams including the Pickles (collegiate wood-bat) and Hillsboro Hops (minor league baseball). Though technically not in Portland, we must mention the U of O Ducks and OSU Beavers because the fandom is REAL folks; Oregonians love their local college football, and it’s really pretty endearing.
- Laugh your ass off at one of the many Comedy Clubs or Open-Mic Nights in Portland.
- Portland is known for its strip clubs, so if that’s your thing, when in Rome? There’s plenty of lists online to help you choose where to visit. Though we haven’t been there, we’ve heard good things about the one that serves cheap steaks.
- You can find some cool displays around Portland during the holidays. If you enjoy Christmas lights and holiday cheer, make sure to check out Peacock Lane, The Grotto, or Zoo Lights. During Halloween, the Davis Graveyard is an awesome yard display created by a local family and their neighbors.
- The Shanghai Tunnels, or Portland Underground, is a network of tunnels linking basements of local bars and restaurants to the river. It’s said that men used to be “shanghaiied” through these tunnels and shipped off to be used as slave laborers. Today you can visit these spooky historic tunnels in downtown Portland by walking tours.
- Sauvie Island, located 10 miles north of Portland and is about the size of Manhattan, is the largest island along the Columbia River. It features a designated wildlife area, hiking trails, several you-pick farms that offer seasonal activities like corn mazes, concerts, wine tasting and more. Its five public beaches are popular among Portlanders in the summer months, and there’s even a UFO on the clothing-optional Collins Beach.
- Portland is home to a 20-foot fountain filled with 2,800 pounds of cascading chocolate! It’s like Willy Wonka meets Multnomah Falls at the Candy Basket in East Portland. But this chocolate is for looks only, no eating!
- Portland has a Troll Bridge, literally. Just on the outskirts of the city you can find an old train trestle bridge covered with trolls. Don’t forgot to pay the troll toll and add one to the bridge when you visit.
These are our favorite things to do in Portland! If you’re fortunate enough to visit Portland and you have the time, and a license, we would also suggest renting a car for a quick day trip!
One of the best things about living here is the easy access to nature. Within 30 minutes, drive along the waterfall alley in the Columbia River Gorge, designated as a National Scenic Area. The Pacific Ocean is a measly 90-minute drive from the city; a straight shot on HWY 26 takes you directly to one of the most iconic and photographed sites along the Oregon Coast, the haystack rock at Cannon Beach, made famous in “The Goonies” movie!
What other suggestions do you have for Portland?
What are your favorite things to do in Portland this weekend?
Bob and Nicole in the house! Currently living the dream in Portland, Oregon, with our cat sons, Purrito, ten, and Luigi, three, but originally both from Upstate New York (Go Bills!).
We have a passion for adventure, seizing all opportunities to see or experience something new! In our downtime we especially love road-trips around the Pacific Northwest, often exploring the great outdoors, but also intrigued with the quirky and lesser-known oddities we find along the way.
Fun facts about Bob: Diehard Buffalo Bills fan who hates melted cheese and wearing shoes. A literal viking with a stellar red beard, but is not actually a ginger. If he could eat only one thing for the rest of his life it would be hamburgers.
Fun facts about Nicole: Self-proclaimed crazy cat lady with a wicked sweet tooth, particularly for cookies. Creative and crafty DIY project-er, with lots of ideas and mostly unfinished projects. Amateur runner who loves the outdoors, including camping and hiking, especially to waterfalls (Pisces!).