12 Top Things to Do in Portland, Oregon

Portland, Oregon

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Portland is Oregon's biggest city and an attractive place for both natives and visitors, packed with all kinds of fun things to see and do. The unique character and planning of each district have earned urban Portland both national and international acclaim. It is one of the world's most environmentally-friendly cities, with green spaces and clean and convenient public transportation that serve as a shining example ​of a progressive and vibrant city.

You'll find Portland has everything from interesting parks and museums to the largest independent bookstore in the United States, as well as the country's biggest continuously operating open-air crafts market. The City of Roses offers something for every traveler.

01 of 12

Walk Around Washington Park and the Oregon Zoo

Washington Park and Zoo Railway's Zooliner

Steve Morgan / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 

4001 SW Canyon Rd, Portland, OR 97221-2705, USA
+1 503-226-1561

Washington Park is a large complex of attractions, including the popular Oregon Zoo, the International Rose Test Garden, the World Forestry Center Discovery Museum, the Portland Japanese Garden, the Portland Children's Museum, and the Hoyt Arboretum. At the Oregon Zoo, you'll have a chance to see critters from around the world and from the Northwest. Washington Park, west of downtown, is a great place to enjoy spending time outdoors with friends and family.

02 of 12

Delve Into the Past at Oregon Historical Society Museum

Exterior of the Oregon Historical Society

Steve Morgan / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 

1200 SW Park Ave, Portland, OR 97205-2483, USA
+1 503-222-1741

Learn all about Oregon's history and beyond at this downtown museum. Exhibits range widely, covering everything from Portland General Electric photographs to Oregon Ballet Theatre to the Beatles. The museum has special events and exhibits coming and going throughout the year, so each visit is a unique experience. The Oregon Historical Society Museum Store is fun for Oregon-related books, housewares, historic photos, and plenty of other items.

03 of 12

Read at Powell's City of Books

Powell's City of Books in Portland Oregon

GarysFRP / Getty Images

1005 W Burnside St, Portland, OR 97209-3114, USA
+1 800-878-7323

Powell's City of Books, a downtown Portland landmark found in the Pearl District, was established in 1971. Covering a whole block of the city, it is the biggest new-and-used bookstore in the world, with about 1 million books on hand. There are four additional locations in the Portland area. Powell's provides customers with maps so that they can avoid getting lost among the nooks and crannies. Bibliophiles will relish spending a few hours browsing through the dozens of major book categories. World Cup Coffee provides refreshment to renew your energy and continue perusing Powell's color-coded rooms.

04 of 12

Get Some Handicrafts at Portland Saturday Market

Portland Saturday Market

Treybunn2 / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

2 SW Naito Pkwy, Portland, OR 97204, USA
+1 503-222-6072

The Portland Saturday Market, located in Waterfront Park and Ankeny Plaza in historic Old Town, has been going strong since 1974—it is one of the city's main tourist draws. Open Saturdays and Sundays each year from March through Christmas Eve, the event is free to attend and the largest continuously operating open-air crafts market in the U.S. You'll find a tempting array of handcrafted items, as well as food, entertainment, and lively people-watching. From July through October, the first Sunday of each month there are free activities for kids like science fairs, puppet shows, art activities, and more.

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05 of 12

Experience Portland Art Museum

Upward angle of Portland Art Museum

TripSavvy / Chris VR 

1219 SW Park Ave, Portland, OR 97205, USA
+1 503-226-2811

The Portland Art Museum is one of the finest and oldest art museums in the West. The museum offers a world-class permanent collection of European, American, Native American, modern and contemporary, Northwest, and Asian art, along with graphic arts, silver, and photographs. Regular events and tours are offered. The Portland Art Museum is located on SW Park Avenue downtown, across from the Oregon Historical Society Museum.

06 of 12

Visit Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park

Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland

gregobagel / Getty Images

98 SW Naito Pkwy, Portland, OR 97204, USA
+1 503-823-7529

Parks and public plazas occupy several of downtown Portland's city blocks. The largest of these green spaces is the Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park, which stretches for 22 blocks along the Willamette River. Always a beautiful place worth visiting, the park hosts a number of festivals and events throughout the summer. All year you'll see people jogging, skateboarding, and playing basketball. Hiking and biking trails, the Battleship Oregon Memorial built in 1956, fountains and public art, and scenic resting spots are just a few of the many reasons to visit this urban jewel.

07 of 12

Learn at Oregon Museum of Science & Industry (OMSI)

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

 Marcin Wichary / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

1945 SE Water Ave, Portland, OR 97214-3356, USA
+1 503-797-4000

This hands-on science museum is fun for children, families, and anyone who is curious about the world around them. Around 200 interactive exhibits and six labs educate the public about chemistry, life science, and earth science. OMSI facilities also include a movie theater, a science store, a riverfront restaurant with local ingredients, and a Planetarium. Special events and exhibitions are held throughout the year.

08 of 12

Party at Pioneer Courthouse Square

Pioneer Courthouse Square

TripSavvy / Chris VR 

701 SW 6th Ave, Portland, OR 97205, USA
+1 503-223-1613

Since 1984, the city's major urban plaza has been the Pioneer Courthouse Square. The bricks that pave the entire city block include almost 80,000 inscribed with the names of Portland citizens in the "city’s living room." The money earned from these brick sales financed the construction of the park space, including two amphitheaters, a fountain, and whimsical art and structures. The site hosts various food carts and more than 300 special events throughout the year, such as parades, beer festivals, live music, wellness seminars, and the Festival of Flowers.

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09 of 12

Relax at Lan Su Chinese Garden

Lan Su Chinese Garden

 Jonathan Miske / Flickr / CC by SA 2.0

239 NW Everett St, Portland, OR 97209, USA
+1 503-228-8131

Portland worked with its Chinese sister city, Suzhou, to create a Classical Chinese Garden. This walled garden is authentic and one of the largest Suzhou-style garden outside of China, providing an oasis in the urban environment as well as a chance to learn about Chinese history and culture.

For some relaxing activities, check out the summer music series Jazz in the Garden, the two-story teahouse for some snacks and tea, and the Garden Shop for household and garden items.

10 of 12

Enjoy Portland's Many Hiking Trails

Hiking with backpack, walking in Oneonta Gorge

Nikolas_jkd / Getty Images

You don't have to leave the city to explore the forest or watch wildlife in a natural setting. The Portland area is home to thousands of acres of parks, nature preserves, and wildlife refuges. You can hike for miles (or just stroll a short way) through dense green forests, extinct volcanoes, along rushing creeks, and around lively wetlands, stopping for a picnic or to catch a lovely view.

11 of 12

Have a Blast at Oaks Amusement Park

Ride at The Oaks Amusement Park

The Oaks Amusement Park

Bring the kids to Oaks Amusement Park—about four miles south of Portland—for everything from mini-golf to roller skating and numerous rides. Adventurers will like the Adrenaline Peak roller coaster and the Scrambler ride, among others. Don't miss the games, roller skating rink, go-karts, and gift shop.

12 of 12

Discover the Shanghai Tunnels

Entrance to the Shanghai tunnels

Bex Walton / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

History buffs may want to learn about the darker side of Portland's past: The Shanghai trade from 1850 through 1941 in Old Town-Chinatown. Maritime traders sneaked slaves in through underground tunnels known as the Portland Underground; these prisoners were kept in unjust conditions. Historians on a variety of tours guide you through underground holding cells, trapdoors, and other artifacts.

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Top Things to Do in Portland, Oregon