25 Awesome Things To Do In Portland

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Portland is more than Powell’s Books and VooDoo Donuts, here’s some other awesome stuff.

I love Portland and I want you to love it too.  I’ve lived here my entire life and still find new places to explore all the time.  The mountains and the beach are just 90 minutes away, and the beautiful Columbia River Gorge is just 30 minutes, not to mention the treasure in the city. 

Everyone already knows about Powell’s Books, Multnomah Falls, the Rose Garden and Voodoo Donuts, so here are 25 OTHER awesome things to do.

  1. See a show at the Crystal Ballroom:  An old-fashioned 100-year old  ballroom that attracts huge national names and is known for it’s “floating dance floor”.
  2. Hike the 4T Trail:  The four “t”s stand for train, trail, tram and trolley.  This is a really fun way to see the city.  Start in downtown, take the train to the zoo, then follow the signs on a hike through the west hills to OHSU, where you take the tram to the bottom and the trolley back to where you started.
  3. Eat at a John Gorham  restaurantToro Bravo is my favorite restaurant in Portland but his other restaurants are close behind.  Between Toro, Tasty N’ SonsTasty N’ Alder  and Mediterranean Exploration Company (Plus a few more opening in 2016)you could eat your way through a weekend.  Just beware of long lines.
  4. Visit the Smallest Park in the World:  In the middle of SW Naito Parkway at SW Taylor.
  5. Drink a Spanish Coffee At Hubers:  Stop in at Portland’s oldest restaurant for Happy Hour.  They have an elegant, old fashioned bar with a fantastic menu and they serve Spanish Coffee flaming tableside.  You get a drink and a show for $10.
  6. Visit Edgefield or the Kennedy School:  Both properties owned by the McMenamin’s “empire” a company so deeply engrained in Portland culture it’s hard to avoid.  They are known for renovating old properties and turning them into hotels, brewpubs and concert venues, but in recent years have taken some slack for their food.  Kennedy School is an old elementary school converted into a hotel that included a few bars, restaurant, soaking pool, and a movie theater.  Edgefield is outside of Portland in the town of Troutdale.  It’s a brewpub resort, with a pitch n’ putt golf course, restaurants, bars, movie theater, concert venue, spa, hotel and beautiful gardens.
  7. Run or walk the Waterfront Loop:  If you need some exercise, walk or run the waterfront loop.  It’s just less than 3 miles to complete the loop between the Hawthorne and Steel Bridges.  The view and trail is best from the east side of the river.
  8. Have dessert and coffee the mysterious Rimsky Korsokoffee House:  An original “Keep Portland Weird” coffee shop.  Hidden away in an unmarked home in southeast Portland, it’s open nightly for dessert and coffee.  They have live classical music and surprises around every corner.
  9. Hike to the top of Mt. Tabor:  A dormant volcano in the middle of the city that’s turned into a beautiful park with playgrounds, a dog park, basketball courts, trails and a few reservoirs.  Great views of the city.
  10. Play games at Ground Kontrol:  Spend an evening playing games in a popular 80’s arcade in Old Town.  They serve beer, cocktails and a menu of bar snacks.  Check their website for free nights.
  11. Happy Hour with a view at Departure or Portland City Grill:  Two fancy downtown restaurants with high-class views.  Departure has a beautiful rooftop patio overlooking Pioneer Courthouse Square.  Portland City Grill has views of the river.  Be ready to fight for a great seat.
  12. See a movie at the Laurelhurst Theater: Or one of the many other pub theaters around town.  They show second run and classic movies that you can enjoy with a pitcher of beer and slices of pizza.
  13. Drink a boot at Prost: Prost is a German Pub on N Mississippi that serves classic German beers and sausages, but their parking lot is full of food carts. You’re welcome to bring the food into Prost to enjoy with the beer.
  14. Eat Pok Pok’s Famous Wings:  Everyone goes crazy for these things.  You can get them at all three Pok Pok locations.
  15. OMSI: The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.  A must-visit if you have kids, they have great exhibits, a planetarium, IMAX and a submarine.  If you don’t have kids, watch for OMSI After Dark where you can see the museum sans kids with a microbrew in hand.
  16. Visit the “Space Ship” on Sauvie Island:  You’ll find it hidden away on Collin’s Beach at the end of Reeder Road.  If you visit in the summer be ready to see some skin, this section is clothing optional!
  17. Drink Beer:  Why is this one so low on the list?  The big breweries like Widmer, Deschutes, and Rogue  have big brewpubs around town, but I suggest exploring some of the smaller operations on the Eastside, like Hair of the Dog, Base Camp, Cascade, Breakside, Gigantic, or Lompoc to name just a few.
  18. Do a Portland Hill Walk:  My favorite Portland guidebook, a series of 20 walks through Portland parks and  neighborhoods.  You’ll discover hidden staircases, secret trails and learn a lot about the history of the city.
  19. Visit Timberline Lodge:  Whether you’re hiking in the summer or snowboarding in the winter, there’s always something to do on Mt. Hood, but don’t miss Timberline Lodge.  Built during the Great Depression as a WPA project, the lodge is handcrafted.  You really need to go inside to see the beautiful wood and stone work.  Stay the night if you have the extra cash, or just stop in for a hot chocolate.
  20. Check out Mt. St. Helens:  How often do you get to visit an active volcano?  You can either visit the north side of the mountain to see the blast zone from the 1980 eruption, or spend time exploring the south side on one of the many hiking trails or Ape Cave.
  21. Root for the Timbers:  The Timbers are Portland’s Major League Soccer team and their fans are CRAZY.  Make sure you get tickets in the Timber’s Army section.
  22. Wait in line for brunch:  Few restaurants in Portland, especially for brunch, take reservations so the only way to get in, is to wait it out. Tin Shed, Screen Door, Juniors, Gravy and Tasty N’ Sons are just a few suggestions.
  23. Shop!:  Oregon has no sales tax, so go crazy!  My favorite streets for shopping are NW 23rd & SE Hawthorne.
  24. Drink Coffee:  Stumptown Coffee may be Portland’s most famous roaster, but there are lots to chose from.  My favorite is Ristretto Roasters, But Coava and Heart are great too.  Plus, they all have beautiful coffee shops, where you can join crowds tapping away on their Macs.  These are also great places to enjoy a rainy day.
  25. Multnomah Whiskey Library:  A relatively new bar that feels very old.  Perfectly crafted cocktails and great food in a very cool environment.  There are often lines, so try going during off hours.

This is by no means a complete list, but it’s a good start.  What are your favorite things?  Did I forget something?  Let me know what you think.

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25 Awesome Things to Do In Portland

48 Comments on 25 Awesome Things To Do In Portland

  1. Great list!

  2. Awesome list! Despite living in Portland almost my entire life, I finally went to Mt St Helens last year. It definitely seems to be underrated around here!
    I’d also add Noble Rot to the happy hour with a view. It’s on the other side of the river so you can see all of downtown which gives for a different perspective.

  3. When I was in middle school, I’d come to Portland to visit my older sister. She’d always take me to Rimsky for dessert. It was the most special treat! I’d almost forgotten about it—thank you for the reminder that I need to get back there now that I live in Portland!

  4. melissa // May 15, 2014 at 4:51 pm //

    What about trying to hunt down the cast of NBCs Grimm?!?!

  5. I would not portray Casa Diablo that positively. Talk about one of the worst clubs in Portland for exploitation! Sleezy sex shows, and the owner takes “incentives” for girls working at his club. I would never suggest it to anyone. Go to Devil’s Point if you want a great strip club!

  6. You’re right. I should probably take it off… it is pretty bad… I feel a little bad putting it on the list. I was just playing off the vegan thing. Thanks for your comment.

  7. Totally forgot that one. It is pretty fun to run into the crews around town when they film.

  8. Great list. I’d personally add Dick’s Kitchen. Great local-ingredient burger place. They also always have a weekly rotating guest burger from local game and meat sources, such as venison or boar burgers. Great diner. http://www.dkportland.com/

  9. I love Prost! Got to get a punch card.

  10. Trimet Road Supervisor in white shirt uniform gives accurate directions info where buses/Max plus schedules. They keep Trimet Operations in smooth sailing. Trimet takes you where you want to go in Public Transportation mode. Buses and MAX Rail.

  11. Carl Peters // May 16, 2014 at 6:17 pm //

    Kit Kat Club / Devils Point / Lucky Devil duh

  12. Kathy Ireland // May 17, 2014 at 2:00 am //

    Pittock Mansion, the river Cruise, the tunnel tour, Bagdad Theater, Saturday Market, Art Walks and Garden tours, Darcelles, a comedy club,garage sales

  13. How about visiting Portland’s very own non-profit pub? It’s the first in the nation and right here on NE 7 & Dekum – The Oregon Public House! Your proceeds go to the charity of your choice with every purchase and it’s open to all ages! Have a Pint, Change the World! http://www.oregonpublichouse.com

  14. (Hmm… some good points here, but much about drinking.) let’s go with a focus on historical, arts, or add more nature-oriented destinations. How about some family friendly activities?

  15. You forgot McMenamins Grand Lodge in Forest Grove in addition to Edgefield and Crystal Ballroom. They have new chef so the food has gotten better, still spendy though.
    Also, a trip to Portland isn’t complete without the visit to Voodoo dounuts!

  16. What about Cafe Yumm? Or on a sunny day, go to the Island Cafe on Jantzen Beach… floating restaurant on the river. Hit one of the local Farmers Markets.

  17. Great list. I’m so tired of hearing that about Vodoo donuts, beer and the food carts. We have so much more to offer.
    The rose gardens- especially the symphony concerts!
    Forest Park- a 30 mile trail in the park IN the city!
    What about Stanichs? Best burgers in town!
    Breakfast- I love going to OAC – Oregon Art College on Sundays.
    Watching fireworks from the Waterfront.
    Portland Saturday Market!
    All the Farmers markets around town.
    I know there’s more- but that’s my list off the top of my head.

  18. Check out this coffee blog that highlights the coffee houses in Portland. It’s very fun and informational;-)
    http://coffeeofpdx.blogspot.com

  19. In April, I wrote a post about Portland every day…it was called “Portlandia A to Z.” Made me love my city even more. But damnit–I forgot some of these things, especially Rimsky Korsakoffeehouse!

    Here’s what I love about Portland: http://marie-everydaymiracle.blogspot.com/p/blogging-from-to-z-challenge-2014.html

  20. Brian Medved // May 19, 2014 at 11:02 pm //

    “Everyone already knows about Powell’s Books, Multnomah Falls, the Rose Garden and Voodoo Donuts, so here are 25 OTHER awesome things to do.”

    I like how the author mentions “Voodoo Donuts” in the same breath as the first three. Really? Of all the things you would think of first when about the Rose City…the Rose Gardens at Washington Park, or in the Rose Garden (no I won’t call it the Moda Center) Rose Quarter? As big a Blazer fan as I am, I sure hope the author meant Washington Park, but somehow I’m thinking not.

    Some good ones mention in comments – Pittock Mansion, Forest Park trails, McMenamins.

    I would add – walk the Park blocks, especially in the summer time, hang out at the Multnomah County Library (I know it’s not Powells, but still, a first class public library). If you’re a golfer, there are plenty of public golf courses in the area – Heron Lakes and Eastmoreland are my two favorites in Portland, but if you’re willing to travel further than Portland, some of the best public golf courses in the country can be found on the Oregon Coast and in Bend.

  21. I’m tired if hearing about all the cliche stuff around here. What about the rose festival and the dragon boat races in early June. The rose festival starts Friday and goes until mid june. Gay pride. The many running and athletic events that Portland and Oregon has to offer. The 4th of July blues festival and the brew fest and beer fests(both international) or the malls? There are more places to shop then just NW 23rd or Hawthorne. Those places are nice to look at, but not for everyone. Did anyone mention the shang hi tunnels? Those are places and things I would recommend doing–especially the rose festival. There’s the starlight parade coming up and the grand foral parade coming up as well. Fleet week is back this week after a year long hiatus due to funding and budget cuts. There’s more to do here then eat and drink.

  22. Viking Macshea // May 20, 2014 at 4:39 pm //

    Ummmmm…Not to put too fine a point on it, but Mt.St. Helens is not in Portland. It’s a number of miles north in the state of Washington. How aout visiting an extinct volcanic caldera in Mt. Tabor Park?

  23. linda c. // May 21, 2014 at 12:06 am //

    Definitely try Waffle Window on Hawthorne. Best waffles ever.

  24. Good list a few highlights as a recent transplant that weren’t on the list:

    St. Johns Bridge – When it was built, it had the highest clearance in the nation, most northern bridge on the Willamette. Driving underneath to the park on the east side really gives you a sense of scale.

    Glowing Greens Blacklight Miniature Golf – Completely silly and worth doing at least once.

    The Hat Museum – you have to arrange a tour with the museum, but its a fantastic one on one history with from a historian on the history of women’s high end fashion hats. If you have an interest in general history, its fantastic. Easily one of the best things I’ve done in Portland.

    Pittock Mansion – Mentioned in the comments and its cliché as its on all the Portland lists, but that doesn’t make it bad.

    Bushwacker’s Cider bar – when I visited it, unbeknownst to me it was the nation’s first cider only bar.

    Angel’s Rest Hike / Punchbowl Falls – Hiking the Columbia Gorge is a must, pick one of the fantastic hikes nearby.

    More Breweries in SE – Lucky Labrador (nice funky laid back place), Cascade (Sour beers!) to add to your fine list.

    Fred Meyer on Hawthorne – Just another FredMeyer/Kroger right? If you want to buy beer they have over 1000+ beers for sale and even pint fill station with 20 beers on tap at really great prices.

    Also big props to putting Prost on the list 😀

  25. It’s great that the first item on your list of things to do IN Portland is to leave Portland and go to a different state.

  26. Sally Ham // May 28, 2014 at 2:34 pm //

    Thanks for all the ‘gems’ I only visit my hometown once a year, but one place I like to go is Leaches Gardens, magical forested park with tons of interesting plants and trails. The Grim series has used the gardens for a location shooting, look for the cute stone house along Johnson creek.

  27. Take an Urban Wine Tour…my sister and I did this “tasting tour” a couple of years ago and it was a blast!!! http://pdxurbanwineries.com/

  28. EveCassandra Kelly // May 30, 2014 at 8:34 pm //

    Audubon Bird Sanctuary is a beautiful hidden jewel in the hills on the eastern side of Portland. It’s a gorgeous place to take a short hike for adults and children alike as well as to see the incredible work they do with injured fowl. Saturday Market? Forget about that? And all the art venues. Portland really is a beautiful and interesting city, but above all, the free public transportation is a wonderful gift to visitors and residents alike.

  29. EveCassandra Kelly // May 30, 2014 at 8:35 pm //

    oops – WESTERN side of Portland, not eastern!

  30. Nance Cedar // May 31, 2014 at 9:22 am //

    Eat at Bernie’s Southern Bistro on Alberta. The only place to get fried chicken!

  31. Marlene Koehn // June 12, 2014 at 7:17 am //

    5 of us sisters will be there Sept. 17-20. Can’t wait!!!

  32. JULIE// // June 12, 2014 at 7:43 am //

    IF ANYONE EVER WALKED AROUND ST. JOHN’S, THERE IS SO MUCH TO SEE, ANTIC SHOPS, BOOK STORES, EATING PLACES, [GOODPLACE “PATTY’S HOME PLATE}, THEN YOU GOT THE BEAUTIFUL ST. JOHN’S BRIDGE AND CATHEDRAL PARK, MANY LITTLE SHOPS. TAKE A WALK ACROSS THE BRIDGE AND SEE [EVENING LIGHTS OF PORTLAND], DURING A CLEAR DAY, 3 MOUNTAINS, MT. ST. HELENS, MT. HOOD, AND MT. ADAMS. WHERE ELSE CAN YOU SEE SUCH A BEAUTIFUL VIEW. [LIVED HERE IN ST. JOHNS FOR 45 YEARS]

  33. Leah Middlebrook // July 14, 2014 at 7:40 am //

    Thanks for the great list! I’m newish to town (yes, I’ll cop to it), and your list offers exactly the kinds of sites/activities I like. So yay!

    I’d add:

    Do it all by bike! I love the fact that it’s possible to let the car sit untouched for days.

    Laurelhurst Park.

    Rent a Kayak at Portland Kayak Co. or Alder Creek kayaks and check out Portland from the water. We’ve taken the kids out in doubles and they loved looking up at the Ross Island and Hawthorne bridges from underneath.

    Hike the trails on Powell Butte. If you like birds and have some binoculars, kestrels, hawks and towhees are easy to spot. Seasonally, I’ve seen all kinds of warblers, buntings and bluebirds there as well.

    Check out the local music scene, via the Doug Fir, Mississippi Studios or the Alberta Rose theater. Those are some Portland stalwarts, but we’ve stumbled onto terrific stuff from alt.country to hardcore at venues like Laurelthirst, the Firkin Lounge, the Landmark…you name it. Or tune into opbmusic.org or kink FM for an overview of what’s worth listening to.

    PS: If you have to leave town, check the train schedule! I commute to Eugene several times a week and am totally in love with the Amtrak Cascades, especially out of Oregon City (slightly cheaper fare, lots of parking…or you can bring your bike on the train…)

  34. You may have to do another 25. Council Crest (hard to find, average park, nice, but best view in Portland – 360 degrees! ) Ladd’s Addition – great gardens and cute houses. Pambiche, wonderful Cuban food.

  35. That’s a great idea. I’m thinking about doing a yearly addition of that list, so I’ll keep council crest in mind. It is an amazing view.

  36. Portland is my much loved hometown which I visit regularly from Seattle.The Grotto, Lloyd Center: 1st covered mall in the US and the Portland Art Museum. You must try the Dutch Baby at The Original Pancake House which actually did originate in Portland…(as did Fred Meyers by the way.) Albertina’s Cafe and Thrift Shop, and the best of all: The Japanese Garden serenely set above the Zoo and Rose Garden…beautiful in any season but especially wonderful in the rain.

  37. i like the list. I’m fortunate enough to spend at least a week a year in Portland. I’ll try some of these I’ve never tried. But I was surprised no Saturday market… I haven’t been in a while, is it not so great these days, it was a fun family outting

  38. There are a couple of really cool touring companies: http://www.forktown.com offers great foodie tours and http://www.brewvana,com offers fun beer tours! Enjoy!

  39. Great list.. except number one, of course. You have to leave Portland & even leave the state of Oregon to see Mt St Helens as it’s in Washington state. Not far from Portland, granted.. but still in a completely different state.

  40. Monica Gauthier // February 11, 2015 at 5:31 pm //

    How about the Skyline Burger joint? or the cool little tavern up skylne that has a great outside sitting area among trees and a great view.
    Goose Hollow for the best ruben sandwiches ever.
    The Ringside resturant on Burnside. Everything i excellent but the onion rings are by far the best in the world, Even better if you call ahead for a to go order of them. i swear they get even better when to go.
    Portland Symphony, the opera, the ballet, the Portland Youth Philharmonic,
    tattoo studios
    music and movies in the park
    I know there are more, some already said in previous comments that I would add as well as those i forget at the moment.

  41. Great idea! I love that place too! Maybe I’ll put it on the 2015 edition!

  42. You had me at Toro and Tasty, but before and after I got there, I was and am impressed with the quality of this list.

  43. Thanks Chris! I didn’t know you read my site, thank you! You’re kind of a local celebrity to me since I listen to your podcast all the time! I love hearing where local chefs like to eat.

  44. Good point. It probably shouldn’t be number one on the list… but it is still one of our local wonders, even if it is in Washington. Thanks for reading!

  45. What about checking the Argentine tango community in Portland. The best in the US, see http://www.portlandtango.com. A subculture few people know about.

  46. Luisa, That is a great idea! I have heard about the big Argentine tango community, I should wrote more about them. I’ve even taken a class! Thanks for the reminder.

  47. Dumbest list ever. U can do that anywhere anytime of day.

  48. michelle v // August 10, 2015 at 7:01 am //

    Great list. However, how does such an original city as Portland keep marketing the stolen Austin quote, ‘keep austin weird’. Seems like y’all could have created your own.

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