The Top 11 Things to Do in Portland, Oregon

Dusk shot of Portland Oregon neon sign, city
••• David Papazian/Getty Images

As one of the Northwest’s largest cities, Portland is filled with things to do. More than that than, this trendy city does a superb job at covering all the bases. Want to have an outdoorsy adventure? Portland is all about outdoor adventure. Want to enjoy some shopping? Portland has shopping centers galore. Want to eat some of the best food on the West Coast? Oh yeah, it’s got that too.

Whatever the reason you came to Portland may be, get out and explore.

  • 01 of 11

    Explore Downtown

    Downtown Portland
    ••• TerenceLeezy/Getty Images

    Downtown Portland is an eclectic mix of artsy and upscale, quirky and approachable. It’s not so large that you can’t explore on foot or by hopping aboard the MAX light rail, but there’s enough to see and do that you can easily fill a day wandering around between shopping areas, parks, restaurants, craft breweries and more. Spend some time at Pioneer Square, stop at Powell’s Books and see if you can manage to get out of there in under an hour (probably not), have a doughnut, explore the food trucks, duck into a gallery or visit the Lan Su Chinese Garden.

  • 02 of 11

    Shop in Nob Hill

    Nob Hill is a cute and low-key shopping district located along NW 23rd Avenue. It’s not far from downtown, but the easiest way to get there is by catching the MAX. Where downtown is busy, Nob Hill is quieter and more relaxed. Shops are mostly local with a few chains mixed in, and restaurants are pleasantly varied and tasty. Don’t miss some ice cream at Salt & Straw or a pastry at Ken’s Artisan Bakery. You’ll also find spas and salons along the way, if you want to make a day of your time in this district. Washington Park is also not far away and the entrance is walkable from Nob Hill.

  • 03 of 11

    Eat Voodoo Doughnuts

    Specialty doughnuts on a tray.
    ••• Jordan Siemens/Getty Images

    Voodoo Doughnuts is a legendary Portland stop, famous for its unique doughnut favors, including raspberry-filled voodoo dolls, peach fritters, doughnuts topped with things like Fruit Loops and Captain Crunch, and bacon maple bars. Of course, this is Portland and right across the street from Voodoo is a giant mural that proclaims “Keep Portland Weird” so Voodoo has to do their best to help out. To that order, you’ll also find doughnuts like the Gay Bar (a white frosted bar with the colors of the rainbow on top) and the Maple Blazer Blunt (a doughnut that looks like a giant blunt).  

  • 04 of 11

    Visit Powell’s Books

    Powell's Books Portland
    ••• penjelly

    Powell’s is the world’s largest indie bookstore. Take on step inside and you won’t doubt it. The store is huge! You can find maps of what topics are located where, but it’s more fun to give yourself time to wander. Browse the books and gift items while you sip on a coffee from the cafe near the entrance.

    Continue to 5 of 11 below.
  • 05 of 11

    People Watch at Pioneer Courthouse Square

    Pioneer Courthouse Square
    ••• Design Pics / Craig Tuttle/Getty Images

    They call it Portland’s living room for a reason. Pioneer Courthouse Square is located in downtown Portland’s very heart and it’s the perfect place to kick back for a while. Get a coffee and sit and people watch, or catch one of the many happenings that take place in the square. Events that take place here include everything from farmers markets to live music to various festivals.

  • 06 of 11

    Wander Washington Park

    Autumn Red Tree by Garden Gate
    ••• John McAnulty/Getty Images

    Portland has no shortage of parks, but if you only visit one, visit Washington Park — a spectacular 410-acre urban greenspace filled not only with miles and miles of trails, but also with some of the city’s best attractions. Enter the park at 24th and Burnside and expect a bit of climb if you’re on foot as the elevation ranges from about 200 feet to 800 feet within park bounds. You’ll find 15 miles of trails through the park overall, including some that connect this park to Forest Park, if 15 miles of trails is just not enough. You’ll also find the Rose Test Garden, which is the oldest, continuously operating rose garden in the country, and Hoyt Arboretum — both great spots for photographers. The Oregon Zoo and Portland Japanese Garden are also both within the park, and both are worth a visit.

  • 07 of 11

    Stroll Tom McCall Waterfront Park and the Saturday Market

    USA, Oregon, Portland, skyline and Tom McCall Waterfront Park
    ••• Rich Iwasaki/Getty Images

    Any day of the week, a stroll along the pathways of Tom McCall Waterfront Park is lovely. The park is long and skinny and follows along with the Willamette River. Views of Portland’s bridges greet you as you stand along the walkways and few sights are more “Portland” than this. The park is also home to a number of events, chief of which is the Saturday Market. From March through December on both Saturday and Sundays, the market fills the park with food vendors, artists and crafters, and live music.

  • 08 of 11

    Go Shopping

    If you’re from elsewhere in Oregon, shopping in Portland may or may not be as thrilling for you as it is for those from out of state. Why? Because Portland (and Oregon in general) has tax-free shopping! Whether you’re buying a sweater or a big-screen TV, there’s just something special about tax missing from the final purchase. Downtown Portland and its surrounding areas are all great for shoppers. Wander through galleries and shops on NW 23rd Street, through Pioneer Place mall in downtown, or go for the gold at the very large Lloyd Center just northeast of downtown.

    Continue to 9 of 11 below.
  • 09 of 11

    Eat Your Heart Out

    Foodtrucks.
    ••• Grant Faint/Getty Images

    Portland is an amazing food city. While not always known for highbrow cuisine like New York City or LA, Portland is known for fresh, local foods in just about every style and cuisine you could imagine. Breakfast and brunch are popular meals here so don’t miss an early morning meal at Mother’s Bistro or Besaw’s (or explore any other number of breakfast joints…there are many and it’s tough to go wrong). For lunch or dinner, sure, you could go fancy, but one of the highlights of the local food scene are Portland’s food trucks. You’ll find them in groups here and there called pods, but the biggest pod takes up an entire block between SW 9th and 10th between Alder and Washington. Show up hungry.

  • 10 of 11

    Visit a Museum

    Omsi blueback submarine in the willamette river; portland, oregon, united states of america
    ••• Craig Tuttle/Getty Images

    Portland is not known as a museum city, but it does have a few museums worth a visit. Portland Art Museum and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (better known as OMSI) are the two most popular museums in town. If you enjoy art and film, the art museum is obviously the finer choice, but OMSI gets more buzz for families. The museum is huge and features hands-on activities by the dozens, a planetarium, a theater with a massive screen, and special exhibits make regular appearances. It’s a hit with kids, but even adults who enjoy some scientific fun will get a kick out of OMSI.

  • 11 of 11

    Take the Portland Aerial Tram

    Portland Aerial Tram
    ••• Gary Braasch/Getty Images

    Part public transport and part attraction, the Portland Aerial Tram travels between the South Waterfront an Marquam Hill, and climbs an impressive 500 feet during its journey. At the top, you’ll find views of downtown, Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens on clear days.