Here in Seattle we love Portland like we love a rambunctious little brother. A few hours south on I-5, the Pink City seems to excel in ways our own metropolis doesn’t – with central gardens, quirky old mansions, and aggressively eccentric traditions. We’ve rounded up the best bucket list attractions and other off-the-beaten-path favorites.
10 popular things to do in Portland
One of the largest city-owned wilderness areas in the country: a 5,100-acre blanket of fir trees that is home to some 80 miles of trails and more than 60 native species of mammals and 100 species of birds, all within walking distance of a city. of more than 500,000 people. Try entering the Audubon Sanctuary to walk through a ruined stone house and a 242-foot fir tree.
Portland Farmers Market
It has five locations, but the flagship Saturday Market at Portland State University showcases the city at its best. Shop for produce — like a rare Catalan onion almost never seen in the U.S. — and fresh entrees, like grilled peaches topped with crumbled cheese and blueberries. Shop hungry.
Oregon Historical Society Museum
Exhibits inside the Downtown History Collections range from a pickup truck to a recreated MAX car, as well as artifacts from the Oregon Trail (the famous wagon road, not the game). Temporary exhibitions explore local phenomena, such as Pendleton Woolen Mills or skiers from Oregon.
International Rose Test Garden
They don’t call this Rose City for nothing – the flower terraces in this giant garden inside Washington Park represent pure, official strains of the flower, strictly controlled but casually beautiful. A giant grassy amphitheater sits among some 10,000 roses, and pocket gardens, like the one dedicated to flowers mentioned in Shakespeare, wait to be found behind hedges.
Nobody actually calls it the Museum of Science and Industry of Oregon (“OMSI,” pronounced OHM-zee, it’s a lot funnier to say), but nearly every visitor stops with the toys hands-on scientists in the old turbine hall, planetarium, giant theater or retired combat submarine that once played in The Hunt for Red October.
Henry and Georgiana Pittock went from wagon train pioneers to Portland city stalwarts, at one point owning the Oregonian Weekly and organize local philanthropy. Their large home overlooking the city from Forest Park features Turkish, English and French features, as well as a hydro shower with horizontal jets and a toe temperature tester.
Powell’s City of Books
A Portland landmark, Powell’s is known by far as the nation’s largest independent new and used book store. This bibliophile’s fever dream takes up an entire city block and is three stories high – less a shop and more a cathedral for the hardcover book, with plenty of Portland-branded socks, newspapers and doodles for sale, too.
You can do it all at the central outpost of this 24-hour grungy, bespoke dessert emporium: people watch, clog your arteries with a Cap’n Crunch donut, get legally married (doughnuts included!). And while the after-hours queues fill with everyone from innocent-eyed strangers to glassy-eyed truck drivers and purple-haired teenagers, there’s always the voodoo doll-shaped treat. to sting in frustration before eating.
Portland Museum of Art
Located on the South Park Blocks, a kind of long, narrow pedestrian street that runs through the city center, the City Art Museum has over a century of history and an extensive collection of Northwestern art. and Native Americans. Exterior sculptures surround the large modernist building.
The Northwest’s oldest zoo welcomes 1.6 million visitors a year, but that doesn’t mean it’s resting on its laurels: a new aviary has been opened to house California condors and improved habitat for elephants claims to be the largest indoor elephant house in the world. . Choose a favorite animal or two – polar bears, lions – as the zoo is too big to accommodate in one visit; the Penguinarium, home to one of the most endangered penguin species, is probably the most fun to say aloud.
7 less popular things to do in Portland
Pine Street Market
From maca and goji berry smoothies at Kure to Wurst fries at Olympia Provisions and Wiz Bang sundae bar at Salt and Straw, the downtown upstart market is a food hall that could rival Pike’s Market. Square. Opened in May 2016, Portland’s first high-end food court set a citywide trend. It’s about first-rate people-watching; think Confidential kitchen meets Portlandia. For help, see Portland Monthly Food critic Karen Brooks’ Pine Street cheat sheet.
Craft beer isn’t always micro. Take to the glittering Slabtown location of Portland’s award-winning beer sanctuary: three floors, including a rooftop bar, of soapy heaven, plus a Hop Lab reputation for experimental quaffs reserved for home.
Portland Japanese Garden
In the wooded hills above downtown, Washington Park’s famous Japanese garden was upgraded in the late 2010s, unveiling a stunning $33.5 million upgrade from star architect Kengo Kuma, designer of the national stadium for the Tokyo Olympics. (Downtown, Kuma also led a breezy revamp of the beloved Shizuku farm fresh spot.)
Pendleton Woolen Mills
For over 150 years, Pendleton has cornered the classic western clothing market. Further raising the profile of this Oregon family business: collaborations with Star Wars, Marvel and the National Parks Service. Although based in northeast Oregon, the company has a 3,000 square foot flagship store in downtown Portland on Park Avenue West. Remember, no sales tax.
A short walk south of Union Station, the circa 1881 Society building once served as a refuge for passing sailors. Bunkhouse accommodations channel that past into this artfully minimalist new iteration. A street-level cafe/cocktail bar offers local roasts and spirits; a top-floor terrace offers sweeping views of Portland’s Old Town neighborhood.
Iconic in the mid-2010s, “Wild Feminist” t-shirts popped up everywhere – on Evan Rachel Wood, at Coachella, front and center of a Pantsuit Nation flash mob. It’s classic Wildfang, the tomboy-inspired line from Portland designer Emma McIlroy, who also makes iconic clothes in bold patterns; the downtown flagship does personalized style appointments.
The City of Bridges has gained a magnificent landmark with its brand new span, the car-free, white-cabled Tilikum Crossing of the southern waterfront. From downtown, take the Portland Light Rail across the bridge to OMSI, then Eastbank Esplanade and loop back to East Burnside.
Composite Image: ARTYOORAN Photos (Powell’s), Agave Photo Studio (Voodoo), Jess Kraft (Old Town) / Shutterstock.com; Ameen Fahmy (Rose), Everett McIntire (Oregon Sign), Uday Mittal (Mt. Hood), Wesley McLachlen (Painting) / Unsplash.com