Portland, Oregon is one of America’s jewels. Situated at the base of Mount Hood in the Pacific Northwest, it’s a magnet for creative musicians, a shopping hub, and full of surprises for anyone who visits.
Spend time finding out why Portland acquired its nickname “the Rose City” by attending the International Test Rose Garden or the annual Rose Parade. Or visit a different music venue every night, finding out about new bands and checking out touring acts as they pass through.
Great food is always easy to come by in Portland. After you’ve shopped at Washington Square or downtown boutiques, check out restaurants on Burnside Street like the French fare at Le Pigeon, soul food at Screen Door, or Spanish tapas at Ole Ole. Then wash it all down with some of Oregon’s infamous craft ales at superb bars like the Beermongers (1125 SE Division St).
From shoppers and sports fans to music lovers and hikers, Portland is a wonderful destination to explore.
Portland is famous for its bohemian culture centered around art and music. Whatever time of year you visit, you can listen to superb indie bands at venues like Valentine’s (232 SW Ankeny St) and Aladdin’s Theater (3017 SE Milwaukie Ave) while Holocene (1001 SE Morrison Street) is the place to head after the gig for all-night DJ sets.
Portland doesn’t have a sales tax, which means one thing only: plenty of shopping bargains. Head to chain stores like Macy’s at Washington Square Mall or window shop in the Downtown district at independent boutiques like Radish Underground (414 SW 10th Ave).
Portland isn’t just for indie rockers and shopping fans. It’s also Oregon’s sporting center. Home to an NBA franchise (the Trail Blazers), a successful Major League Soccer team (the Timbers) and an NHL team (the Winterhawks), sports fans can take their pick.
When you stand in downtown Portland, it’s hard to miss the soaring majesty of Mount Hood, a sample of the kind of beautiful scenery you will find not far from the city center. Take a rental car to coastal beauty spots like Seaside and Cannon Beach or head inland to Multnomah Falls to watch the Columbia River crash its way towards the sea.
Portland is known as the Rose City, and with good reason. The cultural highlight of the city’s calendar is the Rose Festival, which takes place at the Rose Test Garden (400 SW Kingston Ave). In the summer, the gardens play host to 7,000 rose varieties, creating an astonishingly beautiful sight.
If you want to catch an NBA game during your stay, simply head to the Moda Center to watch the Trail Blazers. But if there aren’t any basketball games during your vacation, there are plenty of other sporting venues to check out. For instance, head to Providence Park to see the Timbers play Major League Soccer or the Thorns in the Women’s Soccer League.
Every summer, the people of Portland work hard on their soapbox designs and put them to the test in Mt Tabor Park during the PDX Soap Box Derby. If you visit in mid-August, join the crowds for a unique sporting contest that isn’t just a race, but also a great community party.
Few American cities have a brewing tradition like Portland and local brewers like HUB, Breakside, Occidental, and Widmer Brothers regularly scoop up national awards. Find out how it’s done by joining the brewery tours organized by Brewvana every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Portland is a famously musical city and every day there are opportunities to hear world-class acts. Head to the city in July to see the Waterfront Blues Festival in Tom McCall Park or check the schedules at local venues like the Doug Fir Lounge (830 E Burnside St) and Wonder Ballroom (128 NE Russell St).
Oregon has some jaw-dropping coastline and mountain trails to explore. Drive to nearby Cannon Beach, which has stunning rock formations, rent a fishing boat in Astoria or hike to nearby beauty spots like Opal Pool. The trailhead is just two hours from downtown Portland, so anyone with a rental car can drive up and then hit the path.
If you want to tour the beaches of Oregon or hike in the hills, summer is the best time to go. Between July and September, Portland is also a hive of cultural activity, with the Waterfront Blues Festival, the PDX Soap Box Derby, and the Oregon Brewers’ Festival. However, don’t rule out a winter trip. The weather can get pretty chilly in Portland from late November until March but there’s a lively Holiday Ale Fest in Pioneer Courthouse Square and the Oregon Convention Center hosts a massive festive market in December, so a Christmas break could be ideal.
Most visitors to Portland will arrive at Portland International Airport, which is around 9 miles northeast of the center of town. The best way to reach downtown Portland from the airport is to catch the MAX light rail service which takes half an hour and costs $2.50. The last MAX train leaves at 11:49 p.m. daily, so any late arrivals will need to take a cab. Expect to pay around $30 for a taxi to central districts.
Portland’s Union Station is on the Amtrak network, so there are good rail connections to other parts of the country. The Cascades service connects Portland to Seattle and Vancouver. The Coast Starlight links the city to San Francisco and Los Angeles, while visitors from Chicago and cities to the east can take the Empire Builder. All of them stop at Union Station, which is ten minutes’ walk north of the city center.
Reaching Portland by road is simple if you are coming from Seattle to the north or California to the south. Simply take Interstate 5. I-84 runs into the city as well, and allows drivers to get to Portland from cities like Denver, Boise, and Salt Lake City.
Bus is a popular way to reach Portland and the following bus companies offer connections to the city:
Greyhound – run buses into the bus station at 550 NW 6th Ave from cities like Spokane, Seattle and Sacramento.
Bolt Bus – stop at 647 SW Salmon and link Portland to Seattle, Vancouver, and Eugene.
Central Oregon Breeze – stop at 62995 Plateau Drive St and link the city to destinations in central Oregon.
If you are looking for a luxury stay in a prosperous neighborhood, check out Nob Hill hotels like the Silver Cloud Inn (2426 NW Vaughn St) or the Inn at Northrup Station (2025 NW Northrup St). In the Downtown District, there’s the Hotel Monaco (506 SW Washington St) and the Westin (750 SW Alder St) which is an efficient, comfortable business hotel. You can stay in 1920s style accommodation at the Heathman (1001 SW Broadway) or opt for something more modest like the Portland Hawthorne Hostel (3031 SE Hawthorne Blvd), a converted home in the Sunnyside area.
Northeast Portland – One of the most exciting parts of town, Northeast Portland is where you will find the Rose Garden basketball arena (400 SW Rose Park Rd), home to the Trail Blazers, along with the Alberta Arts District, the best place in town to go for restaurants, small galleries, clothes stores, and craft markets. Diverse and friendly, this is a great neighborhood for younger travelers and couples.
Downtown – The business hub of Portland, Downtown, isn’t all about making money. Attractively laid out with fountains and plazas aplenty, Portland’s Downtown is a cultural center, thanks to music venues like the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. It’s also a great place to shop, with shoe stores like Zelda’s Shoe Bar (717 SW Alder St), jewelry makers, farmers’ markets, and men’s apparel stores like Steven Alan (1029 SW Stark St).
Pearl District – The most dynamic part of town, the Pearl District has been revolutionized in recent years, becoming a bohemian, artistic neighborhood packed with cafes, restaurants, and cultural venues. There are brewpubs like the Bridgeport (1313 NW Marshall), great Mediterranean food at Bluehour (250 NW 13th Ave), and plenty of places to catch live music, like the jazz at Jimmy Mak’s (221 NW 10th Ave).
Portland is one of the easiest American cities to get around. Many people choose to rent bikes, and the city has published a handy map of all of the cycling routes to guide visitors. However, if you don’t have the energy to pedal, there are light rail, streetcar, and bus services all over town. Single tickets on the TriMet public transit system cost $2.50 and day passes are $5, while 7 day passes will cost you just $26.
Taxi rates are the same everywhere in Portland. When you enter the cab, the meter drop is $2.50. After that, taxis cost $2.90 per mile and $1 for every extra passenger. Uber operates in the city as well, with a base rate of $1.25 for UberX vehicles and then $1.15 for every mile after that.
Portland is fairly easy to navigate by car, with a simple grid system. However, locals tend to advise against driving into town as parking is scarce. Metered parking costs $2 per hour and enforcement is strict. That’s why it makes more sense to park your car outside the center and use public transport. The city center is also walkable, with compact neighborhoods.
One of the great things about Portland is shopping. It’s the largest city in America without a sales tax, so in many cases shoppers will make big savings on their purchases. Head to Washington Square (9585 SW Washington Square Rd) if you are after fashion items. You’ll find familiar chains like Macy’s and J.C. Penney at Oregon’s largest shopping mall. If you love to read, free an afternoon to browse at Powell’s City of Books (1005 W Burnside S), which houses over a million titles. For bohemian fashions, art, and crafts items, head to Hawthorne District where you can shop at boutiques like Communion (3556 SE Hawthorne Blvd) and find retro-bargains at the House of Vintage (3315 SE Hawthorne Blvd).
Portland is nowhere near as expensive as New York or San Francisco, but groceries tend to be slightly more costly than elsewhere in the U.S. For example, you’ll pay around $3.20 for 12 eggs, around $2.40 for a large beer and about $25 for an affordable meal. There are plenty of supermarkets in the center of town, with major chains like Safeway or Trader Joe’s as well as local institutions like Zupan’s (2340 W Burnside St) and New Seasons (3445 N Williams Ave).
Everywhere you turn in Portland you’ll find great cafes, bakeries, and restaurants serving food from across the world. Fast food lovers will enjoy the burgers at Cheesesteaks & Burgers (701 SW Sixth Ave) while the vegetarian breakfasts at Equinox (830 N Shaver St) are an excellent way to start the day. In the Pearl District, Byways Café (1212 NW Glisan St) serves up American favorites in a lovingly recreated 1950s diner while back in Downtown Portland Papa Haydn (701 NW 23rd Av) is the best place to go for decadent desserts. After dining, why not venture into some of Portland’s brewery pubs? The city is famed for its craft beers that use locally grown Cascade hops and bars like Belmont Station (4520 SE Stark) or Rogue Ales Public House (1339 NW Flanders St) are the perfect places to sample them.