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Top 10 Things To See and Do in Portland Oregon [updated 2024]

What are the top 10 things to do in Portland Oregon?

We wanted to know more about Portland Oregon and why it is such a popular destination to visit in the USA.  Jared Hagar from Travel TMI is our guest writer this month and he has shared with us his passion for Portland Oregon in his article ‘Top 10 things to See and Do in Portland’.

Are you looking for self-catering accommodation options? Some of the most beautiful Airbnb’s in Portland will have you returning over and over again to the city just to experience them all.

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Portland Oregon
Portland Oregon

“Keep Portland Weird” is the city’s unofficial motto, and locals relish the command. After all, where else can you drunkenly race shopping carts through city streets and rebel with knitted graffiti? But woven into the weird are ten traditional attractions where straitlaced people can take refuge in Portland, Oregon! I am a huge fan of Portland. To see other insights and things to do in Portland check out my blog at Travel TMI.


Top Things To Do in Portland

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

Conceived as a small community passion project operating out of a house, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry is now a world-renowned, award-winning, interactive science centre on the banks of the Willamette River. A firm favourite among locals and visitors, the complex houses three auditoriums, a large-screen theatre, a planetarium, and hundreds of interactive exhibits that will keep both you and the kids occupied for hours.

After you’ve explored what’s inside, head out to the submarine exhibit. Decommissioned in 1990, the USS Blueback is now a permanent fixture maintained by the museum. Are submarines a claustrophobic nightmare? What are the sleeping quarters like? After a tour of the Blueblack, you’ll be able to answer those questions and more. Movie buffs love to learn that John McTiernan used the submarine in his 1990 hit, “The Hunt for Red October.”

Oregon Zoo

Oregon Zoo
Oregon Zoo

Back in the 1800s, a man named Richard Wright had a drug store on Third and Morrison Streets in downtown Portland. A sailor turned pharmacist and passionate zoophilist, Wright’s seafaring buddies frequently gifted him with specimens from afar. In the early days, Wright set up a display in the back of his store. Eventually, his menagerie outgrew his apothecary animal exhibit, and in 1888, Wright donated the animals to the City of Portland to establish a public zoo.

Today, the Oregon Zoo is nestled in the picturesque Washington Park and is home to approximately 1,955 animals — including elephants, rare sea lions, and tigers— representing 232 species. The Portland-area zoo is revered for its conservation efforts and ethical treatment standards. Currently, individuals from 21 endangered and threatened species comfortably call the zoo home.

Pittock Mansion Portland Oregon

In need of a Downton Abbey fix? Portland’s Pittock Mansion will satisfy the urge. Though, true Downton fans would recognize Pittock as more Skelton Park than Downton Abbey because like Skelton, Pittock Mansion was a high-tech marvel in its day. The Victorian mansion was one of the first to feature intercoms, indirect lighting, and a central vacuum system.

Back in 1909, when newspapermen were the one per cent, Henry Pittock, founder of The Oregonian, built his 46-room dream home on 46 acres in the West Hills of Portland. By 1965, the Pittocks had long since departed, and the City of Portland converted the house into a public museum and park.

Today, both locals and tourists flock to Pittock Mansion on balmy days to enjoy the home’s gardens and views. If you do head over, pack a picnic, and bring binoculars for bird watching.

Portland Japanese Garden

Portland Japanese Garden
Portland Japanese Garden

It’s easy to escape throbbing stress in Portland — just head to the Portland Japanese Garden. Set on 12 acres and divided into eight sections, its aura emanates tranquillity, and its vibe is unmistakably chill.

According to His Excellency Nobuo Matsunaga, a former Japanese ambassador, the Portland Japanese Garden is “the most beautiful and authentic Japanese garden in the world outside of Japan.”

Perfectly landscaped and punctuated with ponds and bridges, the Portland Japanese Garden is where to spend a few hours unwinding. Make sure your camera is fully charged; the picture-taking potential is ripe — especially the spectacular view of Mt. Hood on clear days.

Lan Su Chinese Garden Portland

Tucked away behind a meticulously crafted brick wall, on 40,000 manicured square feet in downtown Portland, sits the Lan Su Chinese Garden. A homage to its sister city, Suzhou, China, the garden opened in 2000, and its name means “garden of the awakening orchids.”

Artisans from Suzhou constructed traditional buildings and walkways for the site, and native Chinese plants were imported to amplify the authenticity quotient. Visitors consistently rave about how walking into the garden feels like walking through a magical portal that transports you directly to Ming Dynasty China.

Guests can choose between docent-guided and self-guided tours. Additionally, the venue frequently holds public events, like tea tastings, mahjong tournaments, and tai chi classes, for all to enjoy.

Urban Forest Reserve Portland

Urban Forest Reserve
Urban Forest Reserve

Ten miles outside the city — accessible by car, bike, and public transportation — is the Urban Forest Reserve, aka Forest Park. The largest city-based forest reserve, it’s 5,200 acres of dense foliage are cut by 70 miles of hike and bike trails ranging from easy to extremely difficult. The 30-mile-long Wildwood Trail is the most trafficked because it’s the main pedestrian artery that bypasses the city.

If you’re planning to spend a morning or afternoon in Forest Park, bring binoculars because the area of bird-watching is bodacious.

Powell’s City of Books Portland

Powell's City of Books
Powell’s City of Books

A bibliophile’s Shangri-La, Powell’s City of Books is the largest independent bookstore in the world. Home to over one million new and used tomes for sale, the store also hosts daily readings, signings, and writing workshops.

In the Purple Room, aspiring authors can self-publish a book in the time it takes to make an espresso, and in the Rare Book Room, they can finger through volume after volume of signed works.

It’s tough to walk out of Powell’s empty-handed, so make sure you bring a tote to carry your purchases!

The Children’s Museum Portland

Portland’s Children’s Museum is all about smothering learning in fun. It’s the museum equivalent of broccoli shellacked in Velveeta cheese.

More than your average click-and-feel interactive museum, the Portland Children’s Museum is immersive. There’s a garage that kids can knock around in, a bistro where you can cook meals, and an outdoor adventure section for budding environmentalists.

Wine and Whiskey in Portland

Wine region of Portland Oregon
The wine region of Portland Oregon

There’s nothing more normal than throwing back a few drinks over laughs with genuine friends — and in Portland, there are plenty of places to do just that.

The city is awash in craft beer bars, so take your pick. To mix things up, head to Multnomah Whiskey Library. Pick from over 2,000 options and enjoy the old-school, upper-class vibe. Oenophiles can hop between the 10 wineries, each with a tasting room, inside Portland’s borders.

Explore the Columbia River Gorge and explore the 2nd-highest year-round waterfall in the U.S. Take in amazing views of Mt. Hood and many other waterfalls along the historic Columbia River highway.

Book this tour here

Oregon Historical Society

Did you know that a coin flip determined Portland’s name in 1845? If it had gone the other way, Portland would have been called “Boston.”

You can see the famous coin — the “Portland Penny” — and other artefacts, like 9,000-year-old sandals, at the Oregon Historical Society. The museum has been active for over 100 years and is overflowing with pictures, films, and documents that tell Portland’s story. Moreover, people interested in genealogy can use the facility’s records to track down ancestors from the Oregon area.

An eclectic potpourri of sights and activities, Portland, a Pacific Northwest gem, is one of the best cities in the United States that nobody’s talking about. But when you get to town, hitting every sight on the list isn’t a requirement. We promise you won’t be tested. After all, sightseeing is meant to be fun! So be as picky as you want to be. Just make sure to get out and enjoy Portland! You’ll be thrilled you did.

Bio for Jared

My name is Jared and I have a family of 5. With me, I have a wife, 2 daughters and 1 son. We love to travel but with being a young family we typically do not have lots of cash to do extravagant vacations so we usually have to get creative and do everything we can to travel on a budget. I love to tell stories of my travels and tips for travelling as a family on a budget.

General Travel Information For Visiting Portland Oregon

Where is Portland Oregon

Portland is the largest city in the state of Oregon in the Pacific Northwest of the USA.

Portland Oregon Map

Map of Portland Oregon
Map of Portland Oregon

The airport in Portland Oregon

Portland International Airport (IATA Code PDX) lies 19km northeast of downtown Portland. Portland is a hub for Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air and has direct flights to 7 international destinations.

The MaxLite Rail Service is available from Portland Airport to downtown Portland.

Accommodation Portland Oregon

There is a range of hotels in Portland Oregon to choose from.

Some of the popular Portland Hotels are:

Hilton Portland Downtown – a 4-star hotel located at 921 SW 6th Ave, Portland, OR 97204,

HopCity Tavern offers American gastro-pub cuisine, seven local microbreweries on tap, and twelve Northwestern wines by the glass. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late night. There is a 24-hour fitness centre on-site. Valet parking is also available at the Hilton Portland Downtown.

Latest guest review: Location was the main reason for booking. The bed was very comfortable, and staff was very nice and helpful

The Nines Portland Hotel – a luxury 5-star hotel located at 525 SW Morrison St, Portland, OR 97204

This five-star hotel in Portland, Oregon is located next to Portland’s Pioneer Square. It offers 2 on-site restaurants and free Wi-Fi in every guest room.

Latest Guest Review: I love staying at this hotel. The staff is so friendly and accommodating. Everything is so well kept and the rooms really beautiful. And it seems every time I stay, there is always a pro-team arriving and leaving and I just love how subtle they are about it. so fantastic.

The Bidwell Marriott Hotel – a 4-star hotel located at 520 SW Broadway, Portland, OR 97205

The Bidwell Marriott Portland includes the Mez on Broadway restaurant. It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner with drop off delivery service for in-house guests. For added convenience a business, fitness center and laundry facilities are also available.

Latest Guest Review: Delicious breakfast with great service in the restaurant. Located in a very walkable location. The reception staff friendly, efficient and helpful.

The Crowne Plaza Hotel Portland Convention Centre – a 4-star hotel located at 1441 NE 2nd Ave, Portland, OR 97232.

The Portland Crowne Plaza hotel offers an indoor pool and a sports court. A 24-hour fitness centre and a rental car desk are also available on-site. MAX Light Rail and Streetcar stops in front of the hotel and allows for easy city exploration.

Latest Guest Review: very clean very close to everything easy access to restaurant inside. very quiet. rooms were spacious and big.

Embassy Suites by Hilton at Portland Airport – a 3-star hotel located at 7900 NE 82nd Ave, Portland, OR 97220,

Ideally situated at the entrance of Portland International Airport, this hotel in Portland, Oregon offers convenient services in a prime location near the Columbia River Gorge recreation area. A swimming pool and fitness centre are featured at the property.

Latest guest review: The entire facility was beautiful and clean. Beds were comfortable, room was spacious, and breakfast was fantastic! Staff was also very helpful, friendly, and courteous. Will stay again!



 Flight Deals for Portland Oregon

Find the cheapest flights with Skyscanner who then directs you to the airline’s website with no extra fees to pay.

Bus Travel To Portland Oregon

For the latest bus schedules and ticket costs click here.

Car Rental in Portland Oregon

When we are in need of car rental we use Auto Europe (who have deals all around the world) for more details click here

Portland Oregon Weather

The best time to visit Portland is during the summer months from June to August.

Average temperatures in winter hover around 4 degrees Celsius.

Related Reading:

Fall in Finger Lakes

USA Travel Guide (how to plan a trip to the USA)

Travel Insurance

We recommend taking out travel insurance as soon as you book your flights and pay deposits on any cruises, tours or hotels.


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Thanks for stopping by and welcome to To Travel Too – Australia’s top Baby Boomer lifestyle and travel blog, with an international worldwide audience in mind, run by the married couple, freelance writers and full-time travellers Jane and Duncan Dempster-Smith. Come with us as we explore the world. Our two mantras that we live by are 'chase time not money' and 'age is no barrier when it comes to travel'.

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