Your Trip to Portland, Oregon: The Complete Guide

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Call it the City of Roses, Stumptown, Portlandia, Bridgetown, PDX, Beervana, P-Town, or Rip City. Portland, Oregon has more than its fair share of nicknames. And it’s got an abundance of top-notch parks, museums, restaurants, and live music venues too. Read on for our complete Portland visitor’s guide, and learn the best places to eat, imbibe, stay, shop, and hang out in this vibrant Pacific Northwest city.

Planning Your Trip

Best Time to Visit: The good news is that Portland’s climate is mild year-round. The bad news? It rains a lot from November through the spring, and even into June (so if you’re visiting during those months, be sure to pack a raincoat). Spring is still a beautiful time to visit, though, especially in March and April when the cherry trees lining Tom McCall Waterfront Park downtown are in bloom. For practically guaranteed sunshine, however, plan your trip during Portland’s blissful summer months or early fall when humidity is low, and the skies are blue.

Getting Around: Portland’s TriMet public transportation system offers the MAX light rail, bus, and streetcar options. It’s also a very easy city to navigate by bike or rental car. There are also plenty of other inexpensive transportation options for getting around town, including Radio Cab and other taxi companies, Uber, Lyft, and share programs for cars, bikes, and scooters.

Travel Tip: Portland is one of the country’s best cities for great cheap eats. Visit one of hundreds of food carts around the city for amazing value. The city also has an amazing happy hour culture—many restaurants offer happy hour specials twice a day around 5 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Things to Do

Portland is a destination for everyone from foodies to hikers and bikers, live music fans, shopping fanatics, and history buffs. It’s also home to a number of professional sports teams, including the Portland Trail Blazers basketball team, Portland Timbers soccer club, minor league baseball team Hillsboro Hops, The Portland Winterhawks hockey team, and the Rose City Rollers, an all-female roller derby squad. Here are the can’t-miss activities in PDX.

  • Greenspaces: when it comes to parks, Portland has an embarrassment of riches—you can hike a dormant volcano in the middle of the city at Mt. Tabor, visit the International Rose Test Garden to experience the color and fragrance of 10,000 roses, hike Forest Park, the country’s largest urban greenspace, and stroll the Portland Japanese Garden — considered to be the most authentic outside of Japan. (TripSavvy actually named in the top destination in 2019 for greenspaces and the plant moms who love them.)
  • Live Music: Whether you prefer punk or pop, bluegrass, indie rock, jazz, or EDM, Portland’s music scene has got you covered. If you’re looking to see a big-name act in an arena, check out the Moda Center’s calendar. Ever popular spots like the Crystal, Doug Fir, and Mississippi Studios have an eclectic mix of live music nearly every night of the week. In summertime, head just a bit out of town to take in a show on the lawn at Edgefield. 
  • Museums: likewise, PDX’s arts and cultural scene has something for everyone. The Portland Art Museum, the oldest art museum in the Pacific Northwest, is known for its Native American collection. The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) is a destination for curious minds of any age. Pittock Mansion is a gorgeously restored estate that gives visitors a glimpse into Portland’s glamorous golden era, and offers some of the best views of the city. And the Portland Children’s Museum is the perfect place to let stir-crazy kiddos let loose. 

    For more info about what to do in Portland, read our full-length guides on the best live music venues, museums, parks, and free things to do.

    What to Eat and Drink

    Ranging from top-notch food trucks to award-winning fine dining restaurants, Portland has one of the hottest culinary scenes in the nation. Get excited for all the amazing cheap eats options for pizza, doughnuts, dumplings, fried chicken, and ramen. The city also has more than its fair share of James Beard Award nominees and winners, including:

    • Naomi Pomeroy (Beast)
    • Andy Ricker (Pok Pok)
    • Cathy Whims (Nostrana)
    • Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton & Greg Denton and (Ox)
    • Gabriel Rucker (Le Pigeon)
    • Vitaly Paley (Paley’s Place)
    • Kristen Murray (Måurice)
    • Justin Woodward (Castagna)
    • Katy Millard (Coquine)
    • Bonnie Morales (Kachka)
    • Maya Lovelace (Mae and Yonder)
    • Gregory Gourdet (Departure)
    • Nong Poonsukwattana (Nong’s Khao Man Gai)
    • Joshua McFadden (Ava Gene)
    • Doug Adams (Imperial and Bullard)

    Should we go on? We could. You might also know some of these chefs from “Top Chef” (Gourdet, and Adams) and “Top Chef Masters” (Pomeroy).

    Portland has also earned the nickname “Beervana” thanks to all its locally made brews, and there are dozens of spirits makers on the eastside’s “Distillery Row” and throughout the city.

    For more info on Portland’s food scene, check out our list of Portland’s best restaurants and the dishes you can’t leave the city without trying.

    Where to Stay

    Walkable downtown Portland and the west side have the highest concentration of hotels, ranging from big to boutique. Favorites are the Ace, Hotel Monaco, the Heathman, Hotel deLuxe, The Nines, and Hotel Lucia. Standout newcomers include The Dossier and The Hoxton.

    But don’t feel like you have to stay downtown—some of Portland’s coolest neighborhoods are on the other side of the river. Close to the Convention Center is the Hotel Eastlund, along with lots of national chains like DoubleTree, Courtyard, Crown Plaza, and Residence Inn. There are other options with more personality in neighborhoods that aren’t as “close in” (meaning close to the Willamette River, which bisects the city). The Jupiter on East Burnside is connected to the iconic Doug Fir lounge music venue, and The Kennedy School is a former schoolhouse that has a popular soaking pool and screens movies in its auditorium.

    Or live like a local and rent a tiny house or a Craftsman-style home through Airbnb.

    Explore the different neighborhoods you can stay in, and our recommendations on the best hotels.

    Getting There

    The Portland International Airport (PDX) is the city’s only major airport. It’s a breeze to travel through, and has been lauded as the best in the country for its efficiency, amenities, and food and drink options. You can also catch a train or bus to/from the city at Union Station on NE 8th Ave.

    For a detailed primer on the Portland International Airport (PDX), read our complete guide

    Culture

    • Portlanders are a friendly bunch, so don’t be surprised if your barista asks “How’s your day going?” as they make your morning coffee. Yes, they really want to know.
    • Locals are also polite drivers. When driving around the city—especially on the east side of town—be aware that some intersections of residential streets do not have stop signs on any side of the street. Avoid an accident by pausing to make sure no cars are coming before you go through intersections where no one in particular has the right of way. Other cars should thoughtfully do the same.
    • Bikers and pedestrians have the right of way, so you’ll often see drivers stop for you as you’re looking to cross a street. Try to return the favor when you’re the one behind the wheel.

    Money Saving Tips

    • To minimize spending on food, eat at food carts and take advantage of Portland’s amazing happy hour scene (many restaurants have happy hour specials twice a day, early and late).
    • If your rental has a kitchen, cook up some local PNW produce from one of Portland’s many farmers markets. Or pick up some groceries at the local favorite grocery store chain, New Seasons Market.
    • Instead of renting a car for a full day or week, use TriMet’s public transportation system, rent a bike, or try one of the city’s bike, scooter, or car share programs. 
    • Visit the Portland Art Museum on the first Thursday of the month from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. when the regular admission is waived.
    • In summer, check out the city’s free Events in the Park Series.
    • Gallery-hop in The Pearl on First Thursdays, which is also free.
    • Want to work off some of that food? Instead of paying for a yoga class, make one of Portland’s many parks your gym. Go for a run in Forest Park, or conquer the stairs at Laurelhurst Park or Mt. Tabor. 

    Learn more about the cheapest ways to have fun by exploring the best free things to do in Portland.

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