What to do in Portland, Oregon

With gorgeous scenery, some of the best coffee shops in the country, weird festivals, and crazy fun sites, it's time for Portland to join the list of top American tourist destinations. Check out just some of the things Portland has to offer.


The number one thing almost every vacationer does is a shop so if you're looking at Portland, you should know that the city has absolutely no sales tax. Because of this and the many shopping districts, the city is a veritable mecca for enthusiastic shoppers. Some of the better shopping districts include Northwest/Nob Hill where you can stroll the Victorian residential streets and shop major retailers and specialty boutiques, Downtown which is the heart and soul of the city's retail shopping, and the Pearl District which has stores like the world's largest independent bookstore, Powell's City of Books. The major store spans an entire city block and has over 1.5 million titles of new, used, and rare books. You can also find excellent shopping at the Lloyd Center, the state's largest mall, and the 811 Building, an independent mall of sorts that speaks to Portland's personality.

Parks and Gardens:

The City of Roses is replete with professional gardens, botanical gardens, conservatories, and arboretums for the public to explore and appreciate the beauty of nature. Some of the best include the Portland Japanese Garden, one of the nation's most famous and beautiful, and the Lan Su Chinese Garden, both of which are entirely designed to capture the spirit of the respective country's gardening philosophies and techniques. As the City of Roses, you can't miss the International Rose Test Garden, a free attraction that started out as a safe haven of sorts for hybrid European roses during WWI, boasting over 10,000 roses on the grounds. The fact that this gorgeous garden is located in Washington Park should only increase your chances of making your way through the rose lines walkways and beautiful park scenery.

Outdoor Activities:

Portland, like its sister city Seattle, is one of the greenest cities in the nation for its ecologically friendly policies and philosophy toward appreciating nature. As such, Portland has an incredible amount of outdoor activities that are both fascinating and amazing for you and non-harmful to the natural landscape. Some of the most beautiful waterfalls are located in and around Portland like Punchbowl Falls 45 minutes outside the city or the 90 or so falls located in the Columbia River Gorge. Utilizing its position on the Pacific, Portland is a great place to kayak or canoe on the open ocean or in the bay, getting you great views of the Cascade mountain range and the Portland skyline. Speaking of mountains, Mount St. Helens is only 50 miles northeast of the city and viewable from one of Portland's most popular outdoor attractions, The Grotto, a Catholic sanctuary located on 62 acres of wooded land. You can see a marble replica of Michelangelo's Pieta carved into the cliff face and take the elevator up to the top of the peak to see amazing views of Mt. St. Helens and the Cascades. For more outdoor fun, Portland has year-round cycling activities, marathons, and other sporting events as well as Forest Park, an area perfect for hiking, biking, picnicking and relaxing among nature.

Art and Culture: 

Portland is one of the trendiest, youthful cities in the country not only for its eco-friendly attitude or weirdness factor but for its fun cultural activities that go beyond history into the world of art. The Portland Art Museum has to be at the top of this list for its campus of art galleries, exhibitions, and displays. Film collections, outdoor sculpture displays, historic interiors, and exhibitions from museums all over the world make the Portland Art Museum a major contender when it comes to the best art galleries in America. Pittock Mansion, moreover, is one of the city's oldest surviving mansions with interior furnishings dating back to the 17th-19th centuries, preserved to tell the story of Portland's origins as a logging town. The mansion is open for tours and is a beautiful example of history, art, and architecture combining to form a majestic creation.

"Keep Portland Weird":

The unofficial motto of Portland is "Keep Portland Weird" and its people take it seriously as a daily inspiration. Portland certainly is a little weird but in that quirky fun way that everyone loves to at least watch from afar until they're comfortable enough to join in. With events both year-round and seasonal, strange museums capturing the city's weirdness, and crazy fun sites that make you understand the hit show Portlandia just a little more. Check out the year-round karaoke events like Ground Kontrol's Rock Band Tuesdays or seasonal fun such as the Faux Film Festival, the Bearded Lady Competition, or the Quiet Music Festival which, yes, is a real thing and not just a Portlandia sketch. If you're not here during the right times, museums like Stark's Vacuum Museum, the Faux Museum, and the Freakybuttrue Peculiarium are open year-round to show off their strangeness. Portland also proudly upholds their unique history with supposedly haunted ghost tours, the deliciously delectable Voodoo Doughnut shop (which isn't haunted but very tasty), and crazy festivals like the World Naked Bike Ride and Zoobombers during which cyclists ride children's bikes or handmade creations through the city every Sunday night.