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Things To Do In Portland

Enjoying Portland

The Portland Visitors Association Events Calendar tracks just about every event in the city. Visit the Events Northwest Web site for events in the Pacific Northwest.


Visit Pioneer Square, Tom McCall Waterfront Park (along the Willamette River), Powells City of Books (largest independent bookstore in USA) where you can buy out-of-print and used books at great savings, Chinese Garden, and Saturday Market.

Visit the Portland Central Library.  Completely renovated in the late 90s and now complete with computers.  The county library system is one of the most used libraries in the nation.

Hop on a streetcar and take a trip over to Northwest 23rd Avenue (or NW 21st) for lunch or dinner.  This is an area with numerous sidewall cafes and shops.

If you been out on the town at night and looking for a place to end the evening, stop at Hubers and have a some Spanish coffee prepared and flamed beside your table or at the bar.  They are also famous for their turkey dinners. Hubers is located at 411 SW Third Avenue.

Pearl District

Thinking about living in an city/urban setting?  Stroll through the Pearl District – located on the northwest side of downtown.  This is one of the fastest growing areas in Portland. Note the lofts and condos .  Visit shops and art galleries.


The Portland Art Museum and the Oregon History Center are downtown.  The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry is located on the east side of the river.  The Children’s Museum is located in Washington Park next to the Oregon Zoo.

Art, Music, and Theatre Events

The Portland Center for the Performing Arts has three building offering music and theatre events.

First Thursday

One of the best times to explore Portland’s galleries is on the first Thursday of every month during the aptly named First Thursday Gallery Walk.  On these nights, galleries and shops in Portland’s Old Town, Pearl District and downtown neighborhoods stay open late, inviting the public to mingle with the artists and explore the city’s rich art scene. The streets are abuzz with performers, sidewalk artists and enthusiastic crowds. Most art dealers use First Thursday to stage new exhibitions and artist receptions.  The Portland Art Museum participates, as well, by holding its exhibits open until 8 p.m.

Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade

Tucked between Interstate 5 and the Willamette River, the Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade is 1.5 miles long, extending from the Hawthorne Bridge to the Steel Bridge with connections to eastside neighborhoods as well as across the river.  Primarily a pedestrian/bicycle corridor, it offers a dramatic view of the downtown Portland skyline.  You get a whole new perspective of the river and downtown as well as the eastside.  We recommend you start your walk on the Steel Bridge and head south towards the Hawthorne Bridge.  You don’t have to twist your head to see the downtown skyline that way.

Trail, Tram, Trolley, & Train

The 4T is a loop through roughly nine miles of the city’s hilly west side by trail, tram, trolley and train. The 4T showcases a few of the city’s attractions. The first leg of the 4T began with a hike from the zoo to one of the city’s highest  peak, Council Crest and then continues to the tram at Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) for a total hike of about four miles. The trail is well-marked with signs.  You board the tram at OHSU and down you go to the river into the South Waterfront neighborhood. After exiting the tram walk over to the Portland streetcar stop and board the streetcar. The trolley followed the waterfront to Harrison Street and swings uphill through Portland State University before coming to a stop about 20 minutes later at Southwest 10th and Morrison. A last leg of the 4T is aboard a MAX train bound for the zoo.  Plan for about a three hour excursion. The trail is free, and so is the tram ride from OHSU to the waterfront. A two-hour TriMet pass for the trolley and train portions of the route is $2, an all-day pass $4.75.  Click here for a 2-page guide.

Washington Park

Within a 5-7 minute drive of downtown is Washington Park.  Make certain you visit the International Rose Garden and if you love gardens, also the Japanese Garden.   Located in the same general area is the Oregon ZooForestry Center, and Children’s Museum. Take a hike in the Washington Park Hoyt Arboretum and enjoy trees from all over the world.  You can take bus number 63 from downtown to Washington Park – a shuttle bus operates in the summer between the gardens and zoo area.  For a complete guide to the park click here.

Oaks Park

Go roller skating at Oaks Park or take a ride on their carrousel.  The Oaks celebrated its 96th consecutive year of operation in 2001, making it one of the oldest continuously operating amusement parks in America. The Oaks is on the eastside of the Willamette in the Sellwood neighborhood.

Summer Zoo Concerts

On evenings during the summer, the Oregon Zoo music lawn concerts are in session.  Sneak a blanket out of the hotel, visit a deli and pick up some picnic food, and spent an evening listening to the likes of Emmylou Harris, John Prine, Ricky Skaggs, and Jerry Jeff Walker.  I suggest you take the light rail from downtown to the Zoo as parking can be a challenge.

Sports Teams

Like basketball or hockey? Want to see soccer play at the highest level in the USA? Visit the Rose Garden and watch the Blazers (NBA) and the Winterhawks (Western Hockey League) play.  Baseball or soccer?  The Portland Timbers play in the Major Soccer League (MSL).

Southwest Montgomery Historic Drive

Take a driving tour of Southwest Montgomery Drive located in the West Hills of Portland. It’s just minutes from downtown and easy to find.  Find SW Vista Avenue on your map (just north of downtown – it crosses over highway 26) and drive up to Montgomery – sharp right turn just after the Vista Bridge. Another way to locate Montgomery Drive is visit Mapquest and use the address of 2300 SW Montgomery Drive, Portland, Oregon 97201-2387 to obtain a map.


Big Pink Sightseeing Trolley Tours  A hop-on, hop-off tour that offers sightseers an easy way to see the city’s major, mainstream attractions. One dollar from each ticket will go to breast cancer research, thus the pink.  The route begins at Pioneer Courthouse Square and visits, among other stops, the South Park Blocks, the Oregon Zoo, the Chinese Garden, RiverPlace, OMSI and Salmon Springs. The trolleys run from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and serve each stop every half hour, thus the loop needs to be as geographically compact as possible. Cost is $27 a person. Telephone (503) 241-7474. Visit the Big Pink Trolley Tours Web site.

Portland Walking Tours   The Epicurean Excursion, Best of Portland, Underground Portland, and Roses Gone Wild tours are available seven days a week and there Chocolate Decadence and Beyond Bizarre are every weekend year-round. Group/Private Tours are available. Visit the Portland Walking Tours Web site by clicking here.

Jet Boat on the Willamette River  Explore Portland’s historic bridges, skyline and scenic waterfront. Catch a glimpse of bald eagles and osprey as they nest along the river. Glide past spectacular river-front homes on your way to the magnificent Willamette Falls, stopping just yards from the cascading water. During the summer they offer the tour combined with an authentic Native American style salmon bake in a “Farm to Table” luncheon streamside during the Clackamas River stop. Visit the Willamette Jet Boats Web site for more information.

For Kids

  • Kidzlist   The online resource for all things kids has a “Places to Go” page along with  sections on “Children & Education” and “Services & Resources.”
  • Oregon Zoo and Children’s Museum  They are located in the Washington Park area.  You can take bus number 63 from downtown to Washington Park – a shuttle bus operates in the summer between the gardens and zoo area.  The MAX Light Rail line has a stop at the zoo.
  • Oregon Museum of Science and Industry is located on the east side of the river a short distance from downtown.
  • Oaks Park  Visit one of the oldest continuously operating amusement parks in American.  Oaks Park in southeast Portland (just across the Sellwood Bridge) has been in operation for over 100 years.
  • Ira Keller Fountain  On one of those rare summer days when the heat becomes unbearable, splash in the Ira Keller Fountain at SW 3rd Avenue between SW Clay and Market Streets.
  • Bronze Tree Sculpture  The tree at the Portland Library teaches children another way of living. The tree’s bark combines images from Oregon’s natural history with subjects found in the Dewey Decimal system.  The objects are clustered at different levels so children of all heights will have something fascinating to explore.

Smell the Roses

The Portland Rose Festival, an annual event, started in 1907, though the city’s first rose show, organized by pioneer and avid gardener Georgiana Pittock, actually took place 18 years earlier. It’s a good reminder to us that even when roses aren’t parading down the street, they’re easy to find in Portland, both our private and our public gardens. To read more on Portland’s roses, rose facts, recipes, history and more, check out the Portland Bureau of Parks & Recreation’s Rose Gardens Rose Garden Web page by clicking here.


Ski Mt. Hood Timberline where skiing is almost a year-around activity.  The high-speed Palmer lift begins operations each spring and it whisks skiers close to the summit.  Mt. Hood is 50 miles from the city.

Join the MazamasAudubon Society of Portland, or the Oregon Nordic Club for a hike, bike, ski, or climb.  The Mazamas hike every Tuesday and Thursday in the early evening.

The Portland River Company offers guided tours around Ross Island (Willamette River) daily.  Once you get a feel for the area, venture back with a rental kayak or canoe − the island has a large population of herons as chances are good you may spot a bald eagle.

Pedal Bike Tours offer sight seeing tours of Portland, the wine country, and the Columbia Gorge.  Their most popular is the 9-mile tour of the historic downtown area.  Portland Bike Tours also offers bike rentals at their downtown location at 133 SW 2nd Avenue.

Salmon Viewing

To catch a glimpse of a Pacific Northwest spectacle: the pink and silver flash and swirl of migrating salmon and steelhead on a misty fall day is well worth your time. Steelhead can spawn without dying, but for the salmon, they turn battered, mottled and a bit ghostly before they die after spawning.

While most runs are in the fall or spring the show will last into winter.

  • Eagle Creek  One of the best places is in the Columbia River Gorge: the popular Eagle Creek Trail which is just west of Hood River and accessible off I-84. While hikers may not have paid much attention to the stretch of water between the trailhead and the hatchery, right now there’s a decent chance of seeing spawning coho splashing around in shallow water, especially if you cross the wooden footbridge labeled “Gorge Trail.” In the spawning season, which usually happens in their third year, the sides of the coho can turn a deep pink or reddish, especially on the males, in contrast with dark blue or greenish backs. Coho like smaller streams with clear water, which can make for good viewing.
  • Herman Creek  Another good spot is the lower stretch of Herman Creek, on the eastern edge of Cascade Locks. The closer you are to the mouth, the more you’ll see fish. Coho will keep spawning until January, and you may see hundreds of them. Access the mouth of Herman Creek off Herman Creek Lane, which intersects Northwest Forest Lane just west of Interstate 84. You can also hike up the Herman Creek Trail about a mile to a footbridge over the creek.
  • Clackamas Wilderness  For a little more adventure, head up the Clackamas River to the Big Bottom unit of the new Clackamas Wilderness, designated in 2009. Try going in from Road 4651 along the south bank.

The Eastbank Esplanade provides visitors with a unique and distinctively urban experience. Tucked between Interstate 5 and the Willamette River, the Esplanade is 1.5 miles long, extending from the Hawthorne Bridge to the Steel Bridge with connections to eastside neighborhoods as well as across the river. Primarily a pedestrian/bicycle corridor, it offers unparalleled views of downtown Portland and leaves visitors with a whole new perspective of the river and the eastside.

Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade

Primarily a pedestrian/bicycle corridor, it offers a dramatic view of the downtown Portland skyline.  You get a whole new perspective of the river and downtown as well as the eastside.

Oregon Children's Theatre

Oregon Children’s Theatre

Professional stage adaptations of classic and contemporary children’s literature.

Land of the
Midnight Sun

Not quite but daylight stretches
languidly from
5 a.m. to almost 10 p.m.
in midsummer.
Portland has the same longitude as Montreal Canada.

A statue of Sacagawea, the Shoshone American Indian who accompanied the Lewis and Clark Expedition, greets visitors to Washington Park.

Washington Park

A statue of Sacagawea (also known as Sacajawea), the Shoshone American Indian who accompanied the Lewis and Clark Expedition, greets visitors to Washington Park. Mounted on a rough boulder, it was first unveiled on July 7, 1905, at the Lewis and Clark Centennial. Among those present at the unveiling were Susan B. Anthony, Abigail Scott Duniway, and Eva Emery Dye. For details about Washington Park click here.

Summer Weather

The average daytime temperature from June through September is in the 70’s. The average rainfall is usually one inch per month.

Bronze Tree Sculpture
Portland Library

bronze tree, photo by Stewart Harvey

Oregon Crosswalk Law

ORS 811.028

When a pedestrian is crossing the street —  cars should safely stop — when any part of the pedestrian moves into the crosswalk with an intent to cross.
The law also applies to cyclists. If you are on your bike on a sidewalk, all you have to do is dip a wheel into road and cars must legally stop.

That doesn’t mean a pedestrian can step in front of a vehicle that so close that the driver cannot stop.