With so many things to do in Portland, Oregon, it’s no wonder why it’s among the top 10 most popular cities in the United States. However, the reason why I love the so-called City of Roses is because it’s one of the most environmentally conscious cities in the world and one of the quirkiest too!
When I was deciding what to do in Oregon, I knew I had to experience the hip urban feel of downtown Portland, OR. Yet, I also wanted to see the natural beauty of the nearby forests and mountains. So, I did both, and now I’m ready to share the best places to visit in Portland.
I recommend planning a few days to see all that this metropolis has to offer. With its eclectic mix of natural scenery and trendy city streets, you want to make sure you see all the top places in Portland.
Now, without further ado, let’s dive into the best attractions in Portland.
1. Washington Park, a calm place to visit in Portland, OR
Washington Park is a beautiful public urban park and one of Portland’s main attractions. It has a little bit of everything – gardens, monuments, recreation areas, public art, and miles of forest trails. There are even two museums and an arboretum.
One of my favorite parts of Washington Park is the Portland Japanese Garden, but I’ll talk about this later.
Another interesting place to go in Portland’s Washington Park is the World Forestry Center Discovery Museum. The museum is suitable for all ages and includes exhibits related to the Pacific Northwest forests and conservation efforts.
You should also check out the walking trails, which connect to Forest Park. One of the most popular trails is the Wildwood Trail. It’s over 25 miles long, but only three of them are in Washington Park. Going on a short hike is a great activity in Portland to do to get some fresh air and exercise.
Two other great attractions in the park are the Hoyt Arboretum and the International Rose Test Garden, which I’ll talk about later.
2. Pittock Mansion, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Portland
Not far from Washington Park, you’ll find Pittock Mansion, one of the top tourist attractions in Portland, Oregon. The 46-room home was built in 1914 in the French-Renaissance style, and today it’s on the National Register of Historic Places. The mansion was the home of former Oregonian publisher Henry Pittock, but today it’s an iconic landmark and must-see for anyone visiting Portland.
Some people are fine with just driving past the mansion, but you can also purchase timed tickets for a tour of the residence and grounds. The interior of the home is lavish and artistic and includes a library, Turkish smoking room, sewing room, music room, and several bedrooms. The hilltop mansion provides spectacular views of downtown Portland, OR, and Mt. Hood in the background which is worth the visit on its own.
The Pittock Mansion grounds are free to access and are open daily. However, the mansion is closed to tours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. If you follow the Wildwood Trail from Forest Park, it will lead to the regal estate.
3. Lan Su Chinese Garden, the most beautiful place to visit in downtown Portland
Another beautiful Portland tourist spot is the Lan Su Chinese Garden. Located in the city’s Chinatown neighborhood, the 40,000 ft² walled garden provides a tranquil escape from the busy streets.
The garden is inspired by the classical gardens in Suzhou, China, and about 90% of the plants here are native to China. There are hundreds of lush flowers as well as soothing greenery like orchids, bamboo, and lotuses. Without a doubt, this is one of the most peaceful attractions in Portland, Oregon.
You’ll also find several traditional Chinese structures that will make you forget you’re in one of the busiest cities in the United States. For example, the Painted Boat in Misty Rain is a charming boat-shaped pavilion, and the Flowers Bathing in Spring Rain pavilion by the water is a good place to find your Zen.
Don’t forget to check out the scholar’s studio, the Celestial Hall of Permeating Fragrance, where martial arts students practice. I also thought the Moon Locking Pavilion and two-story Tower of Cosmic Reflection were lovely.
I definitely recommend the Lan Su garden as one of the most serene things to do in Portland. It’s a great place to take your time and admire the still ponds, gorgeous architecture, and pretty plants.
4. Visit Pioneer Courthouse Square, one of the best things to do in Portland
Pioneer Courthouse Square is an outdoor area known as “Portland’s Living Room.” When you visit, you’ll understand why, as it’s a popular gathering spot for locals and tourists alike. Fortunately, the square is much larger than a living room (in fact, it’s 40,000ft²).
The square is a huge boon to Portland’s tourism, and I think it’s one of the first things to see in Portland. Two light rail stops are on either side, so it’s easy to get to. If the weather is nice, you’ll see outdoor chess games and a central fountain. Throughout the year, different public events take place in the square’s amphitheater.
The square is also a great place to see some Portland public art. Two popular pieces are the Umbrella Man sculpture and the Weather Machine, a 33-foot-tall column with a large orb. If you go there at noon, you’ll see the orb open up and reveal the weather forecast for the day. Another thing to do at Pioneer Courthouse Square is to enjoy some yummy street food. Several food carts are parked in the square each day.
There is never a bad time to visit the square since there are hundreds of events and programs throughout the year. This tour takes you to the square in the morning while it’s less crowded, as well as Pittock Mansion and the International Rose Garden.
5. Forest Park, the best hike in Portland, Oregon
As I mentioned earlier, Forest Park connects to Washington Park. It’s one of the largest urban forests in the country (over 5,000 acres), so it’s a must-see. Its trail system is well-known, particularly the Wildwood Trail.
The total trail is 30 miles, but there are many shorter paths in Forest Park. Some of them pass by other Portland attractions like the Japanese Garden and Pittock Mansion, while others travel deeper into the woods.
The western side of the park offers views of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers, as well as the Tualatin Mountains. Even though Forest Park is close to downtown Portland OR, you can still find lots of beautiful flora and fauna here. The area attracts wildlife from the nearby Tualatin River Valley, such as black-tailed deer, flying squirrels, great horned owls, and bobcats and elk.
The park is also home to an interesting site, the Witch’s Castle. Also called the Stone House, it’s an abandoned stone building covered in moss (and some graffiti) that dates back over 100 years. Of course, urban legends have dubbed it haunted, making it another weird thing to see in Portland. In reality, it was previously used as a ranger station and public restroom.
Forest Park and all its interesting sights make for a fun weekend outing, so I recommend visiting if you have the time. There is also this urban hiking tour, which follows a 5-mile trail and passes by the Witch’s Castle.
6. Visit the Portland Japanese Garden, one of the best activities in Portland
One of the top attractions in Portland, which I referenced in some of the previous sections, is the Portland Japanese Garden. Located in Washington Park, the garden will transport you to a world of Zen and natural beauty.
The 12-acre site is divided into 8 gardens, as well as a Cultural Village designed by a famous Japanese architect. The Cultural Village is where you can learn more about traditional Japanese arts and customs. From time to time, the building hosts cultural performances.
Back outside, be sure to explore the different areas of the garden, especially the Strolling Pond Garden. It’s one of the most serene places to visit in Portland, although it feels more like an ethereal dream. You can walk across the moon bridge while koi swim underneath. There is also a gorgeous waterfall and a large pagoda lantern that’s over 100 years old.
Besides, you will find a rock garden, a bonsai terrace, and a tea garden with an authentic Japanese tea house. Even if you just spend an hour here, it’s one of the best places to visit in Portland. It’s suitable for all ages and there are public tours available for free, although they depend on the availability of volunteers.
7. International Rose Test Garden, one of the most popular places to visit in Portland
The International Rose Test Garden is part of Washington Park, as I mentioned earlier. The 4.5-acre park has over 10,000 rose bushes and hundreds of varieties of roses. It’s no wonder why more than half a million people visit the garden each year.
The peak time to visit the rose garden is between April and October. The blooms are at their prettiest in June, so you might want to visit during the summer.
The International Rose Test Garden is a popular venue for weddings and other special events, although you don’t have to dress up to go there. The area is a wonderful place to recenter yourself and treat your nose to the delicious floral scents.
While you’re there, be sure to check out the Queen’s Walk, a brick path with bronze plaques commemorating each Rose Festival queen and signed in her real handwriting. There is also the Royal Rosarian Garden, which has blooms dedicated to former public servants. The Shakespeare Garden displays year-round shrubs, tropical plants, and other greenery along a paved walkway.
You should also keep an eye out for the public art, such as the Water Sculpture fountain and the Royal Rosarian bronze statue. Various events are held throughout the year at the garden’s outdoor amphitheater.
8. Go to Tom McCall Waterfront Park, one of the best free things to do in Portland
If you’re looking for cheap things to do in Portland, I suggest checking out Tom McCall Waterfront Park. The large park is a popular downtown area and overlooks the Willamette River. It’s a very popular spot for joggers and bikers since the walking and riding paths offer scenic views. The waterfront trail is quite crowded during lunch hour, so it might be best to visit in the morning or early evening.
Since the park is so big, it is divided into several sections. The Esplanade is the riverfront corridor, but there is also the Central Lawn, the primary green space in the park. Several festivals take place here throughout the year, and there is a big fountain that serves as a fun centerpiece during the summer. If you visit in the spring, you’ll get to see the famous cherry blossoms, which line the park’s Japanese American Historical Plaza.
The park includes a few memorials dedicated to historical figures and Portland organizations. Other landmarks include Friendship Circle, the steamboat Portland, and the Saturday Market Pavilion. One of the fun Portland weekend activities to do is to visit the outdoor arts and crafts market, which is held every weekend between March and December. I also suggest this bike tour, which takes you along the riverfront corridor to Chinatown and the Old Town district.
9. The Grotto, the most peaceful place to go in Portland, OR
Also known as the National Sanctuary of our Sorrowful Mother, the Grotto is a Catholic outdoor shrine. This is one of the most tranquil places in Portland, whether you’re religious or not. The centerpiece of this area is the Grotto Shrine, a cathedral cave carved out of a 110-foot basalt cliff. A statue of the Virgin Mary and Jesus, as well as a replica of Michelangelo’s Pietà are inside.
Above the cliff, there is a botanical garden, several shrines, and a meditation chapel. The Grotto also has nearly two dozen religious sculptures, as well as a John F. Kennedy Memorial.
Many people enjoy walking through the gardens, which are quiet, peaceful, and perfect for contemplation. Some visitors go into the Monastery, which was built in 1936 and serves as a home to the Servite Friars. Other visitors prefer to explore the grounds, which include a Rose Garden, Labyrinth, and Peace Garden.
The Grotto is designated as a National Sanctuary, and several mass services are held each day. The area is open to everyone, and most would agree that it’s one of the most beautiful places in Portland.
10. Portland Art Museum, something you must see in Portland, OR
If it rains in Portland or you’re a big fan of the arts, then I recommend visiting the Portland Art Museum. It’s the oldest art museum on the west coast, and it has a huge collection that spans all kinds of time periods and artistic styles.
What’s great about this museum is that, among its permanent gallery spaces, it also owns an outdoor sculpture garden and the Northwest Film Center.
The museum is also the venue for the Contemporary Northwest Art Awards, which are held every two years and showcase artists from the Pacific Northwest. It’s a cool thing to do in Portland if you’re in the city during the event.
Among the permanent pieces at the museum are classics like Monet’s Water Lilies and Renoir’s Seine at Argenteuil. Of course, you don’t have to be an art historian to appreciate these works. Depending on your preferences, you can peruse the Native American masks, ancient Corinthian vases, Asian woodblocks, or thousands of other pieces.
The art museum is a fun place to visit in Portland for all ages. It’s also a nice thing to do if you get stuck with a dreary, wet Pacific Northwest day.
11. World Forestry Center, a great place to visit in Portland with kids
The World Forestry Center is a unique place to see in Portland. It’s a great way to familiarize yourself with the local flora and learn more about the forests of the Pacific Northwest. This is such a valuable part of the country, and the World Forestry Center has fun and interesting exhibits that will appeal to all ages. In fact, a visit here is a wonderful thing to do in Portland with kids.
The Center is a non-profit institution and offers a variety of programs. It also has a museum with several exhibits explaining sustainable forestry, local wildlife, and innovations in timber-working and environmentalism. There are also virtual tours that transport visitors to the boreal, temperate, subtropical, and tropical forests of Siberia, China, South Africa, and the Amazon Rainforest.
After visiting the museum, step outside and explore the rest of the campus. You can climb aboard Peggy, the 42-ton locomotive, or examine a 10,000-pound petrified tree stump that’s estimated to be millions of years old.
The World Forestry Center is conveniently located in Washington Park, so after your visit, you can hop on the Wildwood Trail or another green space in the park.
12. Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, the most romantic thing to see in Portland
For those who are looking for romantic things to do in Portland, consider the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. This area is 9.5 acres of gorgeous azaleas, trees, and of course, rhododendrons. Along with thousands of flowers, the botanical garden is also home to several small lakes, waterfalls, and a fountain.
The garden is open daily from dawn to dusk and it’s one of the top Portland Oregon attractions for couples. The atmosphere is calm, and the surroundings are lovely, so it’s a good spot for those who want to take a break from the city. Not only will you find a variety of flora here; there are dozens of species of waterfowl, too. Keep your eyes peeled for Canada geese, herons, gulls, and hummingbirds.
The most recent addition to the attraction is the waterfront butterfly garden, which adds a magical air to the place. Crystal Springs sees many repeat visitors throughout the year, and if you visit, you’re sure to want to come back. There is something so peaceful about the charming footbridges, majestic waterfalls, and vibrant blooms. Plus, it’s a photographer’s paradise!
13. Portland Saturday Market, an amazing thing to experience in Portland
As I mentioned in the section about the Tom McCall Waterfront Park, the Portland Saturday Market is something to check out if you’re in the city on a weekend. The market is open every weekend between March and December and is the largest continuously operating outdoor market in the country.
Here, you’ll find arts, crafts, and all kinds of unique Portland stuff. It’s a great way to get out and about, and you can meet local artisans and vendors. You may even find some nice souvenirs and gifts for friends. Dozens of stalls line the waterfront, and the merchandise ranges from hand-crafted jewelry and textiles to art prints, wine, body care, and clothing.
The products aren’t the cheapest, but I think it’s always good to support and pay artists what they’re worth! Besides, you can always stroll along the riverfront and look at the stalls for free. Plus, you’ll already be in the park, so once you’re done browsing, you can explore the rest of the area.
Consider the Saturday Market if you’re looking for Portland weekend activities, and you won’t be disappointed. Just don’t confuse it with the Portland Farmer’s Market, which is open on Saturdays at Portland State University.
14. Alberta Arts District, one of the most popular places to go in Portland
For something interesting to do in the city, check out the Alberta Arts District. In this northeast section of Portland, you can find all the great things that make the city weird, vibrant, and unique.
This section of downtown was once plagued by crime, but now it’s a popular destination for locals and tourists, full of trendy galleries, cafes, and cool things to do in Portland. Pick up a map of all the street art in the neighborhood from the Portland Street Art Alliance and go on a hunt for murals and galleries. Some popular art spaces include the Guardino Gallery, Alberta Rose Theatre, and Ampersand Gallery.
If you’re in the city at the end of the month, stop by the Alberta Arts District for the “Last Thursday” street fair. The event also includes food carts and street performers. After perusing works by local artists, grab a bite to eat at one of the hip restaurants or bars. A few local favorites include Tin Shed, Alberta Street Pub, Radio Room, and Great Notion Brewing.
While exploring the arts district is something to do in Portland for free, I suggest supporting the local businesses by purchasing some art or food. You could also take this tour, which takes you around the neighborhood to some hotspots and little-known corners of the district.
15. Shanghai Tunnels/Portland Underground, an unusual thing to do in Portland
Lots of people refer to this city as a quirky place, and the Shanghai Tunnels Tour is one of the weird things to do in Portland. Also known as the “Portland Underground”, the tunnels are mostly underneath the Chinatown neighborhood, and are remnants of the city’s past.
The discreet passages connected hotel and tavern basements and were originally intended to help with the movement of shipped goods that came from traders on the Willamette River. The underground pathways allowed businesses to transport stock without having to deal with streetcars and trains.
Of course, the tunnels are now one of the strangest Portland attractions and have accumulated some odd stories throughout the years. Today, you can take a tour of the Shanghai Tunnels and learn more about the story of these passageways and the people who once used them. Some tours delve into the haunted legends that many people now associate with the tunnels.
There is even a Museum of the Shanghai Tunnels, which educates visitors on the history of the shanghaiing trade, in which sailors would kidnap individuals to have them serve as deckhands. If you’re fascinated by the tunnels and want to hear more creepy stories, I recommend this ghost tour, which takes you to the Portland underground and other supposedly paranormal places downtown.
16. Hike Mt. Tabor Park, another place you don’t want to miss in Portland, Oregon
Another outdoorsy thing to do around Portland, Oregon is to visit Mount Tabor. Its name is a reference to Mount Tabor in Israel, but the mountain in Oregon is actually a dormant volcanic vent. As if that weren’t cool enough, you can hike to the peak (about 630 feet), to get stunning views of downtown Portland. You will also find an outdoor amphitheater and basketball courts there.
The land around the volcanic hill is referred to as Mt. Tabor Park. Here, you’ll find a visitor’s center and a range of hiking trails that vary in difficulty. There is a 1-mile, 1.5-mile, and 3-mile trail, which loop around the reservoirs in the park.
A visit to Mount Tabor is one of the best free things to do in Portland.
17. Powell’s City of Books, an unforgettable place to go in Portland
You might not think about visiting a bookstore as one of the exciting things to do around Portland but hear me out. Powell’s City of Books is the largest new and used bookstore in the world, and its retail space holds more than a million books spread across an entire city block.
Trust me, visiting Powell’s City of Books is one of the top 10 things to do in Portland. No matter your interests, you can find a book that will speak to you. The bookstore is a lot of fun to explore, thanks to its nine color-coded rooms. There are over 3,500 sections from cooking to languages to travel and everything in between.
The independent bookseller has been open for nearly 50 years. Visiting the store and curling up with a good book has been one of the favorite Portland weekend activities for locals. The shop is more than a collection of books; it’s a community of book lovers, writers, and creative people. Throughout the month, the bookstore hosts workshops and meet-and-greets with local authors and other community members.
It’s also worth noting that Powell’s City of Books is in Portland’s Pearl District, which is known for its art galleries and upscale shops. That said, you’ll find lots of bargains at this bookstore. If you’re going to visit, keep in mind that they’re open Wednesday through Sunday.
18. Hoyt Arboretum, a lovely attraction in Portland, Oregon
Another awesome attraction in Portland’s Washington Park is the Hoyt Arboretum. The arboretum is open to the public and accessible from the Park or the Wildwood Trail.
This is one of the best places in Portland to get your nature fix. The arboretum has one of the largest collections of coniferous trees in the United States, as well as thousands of species of shrubs and plants. Some of its most prized trees are the dawn redwood, weeping sequoia, and Himalayan birch.
Of course, you don’t have to be a forestry expert to appreciate the lush surroundings and fresh air. Visitors are free to simply walk around and enjoy the natural beauty, or they can participate in a class or program hosted by the arboretum staff. Depending on the time of year, there are different plant and tree species in bloom, so there’s never a bad time to visit.
Once you arrive, feel free to check out the visitor’s center, or go straight to one of the trails or picnic areas. I highly recommend going to the bamboo garden, which has the largest collection of bamboo in the Pacific Northwest. There, you’ll see a bamboo-inspired sculpture, Basket of Air, hanging over the pond in the garden. The arboretum has another living sculpture, House for Summer, which is made of Himalayan birch.
The Hoyt Arboretum is a great place to go if you’re looking for cheap things to do in Portland. Plus, it’s close to several other popular attractions within Washington Park.
19. USS Blueback, another unusual place to go in Portland
Besides the natural beauty, there is other interesting stuff to do in Portland. For example, how about a visit to the USS Blueback?
This is a decommissioned sub from the United States Navy. It was launched in May 1959 and was the last non-nuclear submarine to join the Navy ranks.
Blueback’s first mission was to the Gulf of Mexico in 1960, followed by the Panama Canal. It also made port calls in Seattle and Vancouver and had a temporary home at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Blueback made trips to Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and the Philippine Sea. The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry obtained Blueback in 1994, and it has been stayed at the Willamette River, in from of the museum, since then.
This submarine earned two battle stars during the Vietnam War, and it has also appeared in fictional wars on the silver screen. It was featured in Hawaii Five-O in the 1970s and the modern TV show Portlandia.
The sub is on the National Register of Historic Places. In the past decade or so, its radio room has been restored and there are guided tours of the interior several times a day. Touring the Blueback is a cool thing to do in Portland, Oregon with kids. It’s also a fun experience for adults, as most people haven’t been inside a submarine before.
20. Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, an interesting attraction in Portland
As I mentioned in the previous section, the USS Blueback is at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). This museum is a boon to Oregon’s Portland tourism and a place I recommend checking out.
In addition to the submarine, OMSI has an IMAX theater, planetarium, and several exhibition halls dedicated to life science, earth science, and environmental technology. It also has a science playground, which is a fun Portland Oregon attraction for children.
Not only is OMSI a great place to learn something new, but it’s also an enjoyable experience. The permanent exhibits include physics, chemistry, paleontology, and biology labs, an earthquake epicenter, and innovation stations. Visitors are encouraged to come up with solutions to real-world problems and scenarios while learning about different branches of science.
The Kendall Planetarium is the next best thing to the wide-open skies of the great outdoors. In fact, a visit to OMSI is a must-do in Portland if you run into bad weather during your trip. The theater plays several different shows depending on the time of day. A few examples of documentaries include arctic fires, evolutionary mysteries, and the life cycle.
OMSI is the place to go if you want to beat your boredom and learn something new about the world around you. It’s a perfect alternative to outdoor activities, especially on those dreary and wet Pacific Northwest days.
21. Mill Ends Park, a little-known area to visit in Portland, OR
Back to the weird sights in downtown Oregon! Mill Ends Park is one of those interesting things in this city that will make you scratch your head and wonder.
The park is not really a park at all, but more like a tiny shrub in the middle of the road. Dubbed a “tiny urban park”, it’s just two feet across and consists of one lonely tree. The park is in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the world’s smallest park. You can find Mill Ends Park at SW Naito Parkway in the median strip.
The park was established in 1948 when that little spot on the median was being prepared for a streetlight. For some reason, workers never filled the drilled hole with the pole, so a columnist named Dick Fagan placed some flowers in the hole and named the area Mill Ends.
Being a writer, Fagan came up with an elaborate story about Mill Ends. He wrote in the Oregon Journal that he noticed a leprechaun digging the hole in the median. Fagan ran into the street and grabbed the magical little guy, who granted Fagan a wish. The columnist wished for a park of his own, but the clever leprechaun, noticing that Fagan didn’t specify the size of the park, gave presented the hole in the cement as his new park.
The story of Mill Ends lives on, and Portlandians are quite protective of it. The park changes from time to time, such as when it became a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree or when people put tiny plastic army men in the surrounding dirt. It’s definitely one of those weird Portland things to see.
22. The Freakybuttrue Peculiarium and Museum, another must-visit in Portland
Continue your Portland adventure and stop by an unusual little spot in the northwest district. The Freakybuttrue Peculiarium and Museum is a place like no other in the city and one that will delight, amaze, and confuse you.
The Peculiarium is home to all kinds of oddities, gags, novelties, books, toys, and much more. You never know what you’ll see at the museum, which opened in 2011 and is the only Freakybuttrue Peculiarium in the world.
Everything about the Peculiarium and its employees is tongue-in-cheek, and you’ll be laughing and having fun in no time. A visit here is a great thing to do in Portland, OR if you want to do something fun and shake up your routine. The items here are peculiar, of course, and you’ll probably feel all kinds of emotions, from disgust to disbelief to joy and amusement. Some of the exhibits include adult themes and dark undertones, so be aware.
The museum is famous for its bug sundaes, so will you be brave enough to try one? You can count me out on that one!
Admission to the Peculiarium is just $5, and you can get in for free if you wear a good costume. If you’re looking for Portland’s best quirks, you’ll definitely have to stop by.
23. Multnomah Falls and Columbia River Gorge, another exciting thing to do in Portland
Multnomah Falls is a spectacular place to see in Portland, and well worth the 35-minute drive. The two-tier waterfall cascades over basalt cliffs from a height of 620 feet. Its waters land in a pool that feeds into the Columbia River Gorge.
The gorge is a huge canyon that stretches over 80 miles and goes through the Cascade Mountain Range. In some places, the canyon is as deep as 4,000 feet, and its western side reaches down to the Portland area.
If you want to see Multnomah Falls, there is a paved footpath that will lead you to Benson Footbridge. The bridge crosses the lower tier of the waterfall, about 100 feet above the ground. Getting up close and personal with the falls will be one of the most exciting Portland adventures of your trip!
Other waterfalls worth visiting in the area are Latourell Falls, Wahkeena Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Horsetail Falls. Besides, check out the Oneonta Gorge if you’re into hiking.
If you don’t want to drive there, you can also take this half-day tour to see the most important sights.
Or, for those who are short on time or want to see the canyon from a different point of view, I suggest this flight tour. The 40-minute flight will give you scenic views of the gorge and Multnomah Falls, as well as the Bridge of the Gods steel bridge.
24. Visit Willamette Valley, the best thing to do in Portland for couples
Another wonderful date idea is a trip to Willamette Valley, also known as the Oregon Wine Country. Imagine miles of open land, the flowing river, and views of the Cascade Range, the Oregon Coast Range, and the Calapooya Mountains. It’s just as lovely as it sounds, and one of the best places to visit near Portland, Oregon.
The Willamette Valley is about 50 miles from downtown Portland, making it a perfect day trip. Visiting one of the 500+ wineries and vineyards is one of the top things to do outside Portland. I recommend this wine tour, which includes transportation to three Willamette Valley wineries.
If wine isn’t your thing, there are other activities available in the Willamette Valley. The area is home to some stunning natural places, such as Silver Falls State Park. Here, you’ll find some trails through the lush forest leading to gorgeous waterfalls.
There is also the more challenging Spencer Butte Hike. It’s a bit of a climb, but you’ll be rewarded with magnificent views over the valley and the city of Eugene, Oregon. Just like Portland, Eugene is part of the Willamette Valley region, so if you want to get to know this city, consider a day trip there, too.
25. Mount Hood, one of the top places to go near Portland
Mount Hood is one of the most interesting things to see in Portland, OR. The stratovolcano, which geologists aren’t sure is active or inactive, is part of the Cascade Volcanic Arc. It’s the second most-climbed mountain in the world, and it’s just 50 miles southeast of Portland.
In addition to being the highest mountain in Oregon, Mount Hood offers year-round activities in Portland. If you visit during the summer months, the area is a haven for camping and hiking. During autumn and spring, there are all kinds of wildflowers and berries to see. The harvest supplies the Fruit Loop vendors, who have their stands at the foot of Mt. Hood in the Hood River Valley.
If you visit during the winter, you’ll be able to enjoy one of the best ski areas in the country. Mount Hood has six ski areas: Cooper Spur, Mount Hood Meadows, Ski Bowl, Snow Bunny, Summit, and Timberline. These resorts offer fun wintertime activities in Portland, including skiing, snowboarding, and tubing.
When it’s warmer, the Mount Hood National Forest beckons visitors near and far. It is known for its untouched natural beauty and gorgeous alpine lakes. Two of the most amazing ones are Trillium Lake and Lost Lake. On a clear, sunny day, you can see the mountain reflected in still, blue water.
There are so many ways to enjoy this natural area, but if you don’t want to drive there, I recommend this tour, which includes visits to the Hood River, Multnomah Falls, and Timberline Lodge and Ski Area.
26. Cannon Beach and the Coast of Oregon, one of the best beaches in Portland
If you’re willing to take a brief drive, you can visit Cannon Beach and the Oregon Coast. About 80 miles from the city, this beachy area is a popular place for a vacation in Portland.
There you can find Haystack Rock, that was the set of The Goonies movie and one of the best natural places to visit near Portland. This 235-foot sea stack is said to be the third-largest intertidal structure in the world. Wait until low tide to see the tide pools, and you may spot sea slugs, starfish, anemones, crabs, and sea snails.
Seaside is another popular town you should visit at the Coast of Oregon. It’s known as a fun thing to do around Portland, thanks to its amusements, bike rentals, and 1.5-mile oceanfront walkway, The Promenade. It’s also very close to Ecola State Park, one of the best places to visit in Oregon.
Going south you will find Oswald West State Park and Nehalem Bay State Park, other hotspots for camping, yurt rentals, hiking, and biking.
I also suggest visiting nearby Cape Meares. It’s part of the Three Capes Scenic Route, which also includes Cape Lookout and Cape Kiwanda. Cape Meares has a gorgeous scenic viewpoint 200 feet above sea level, granting you unhindered views of the ocean and nearby sights. During the summer, you may spot whales. There is also the Cape Meares Lighthouse and the “Octopus Tree”, a Sitka spruce tree with multiple trunks.
If you don’t want to drive, I recommend this full-day tour, which takes you to some of the most beautiful coastal towns on the Pacific Northwest Coast, including Cannon Beach and Nehalem Bay.
27. Tillamook Seafood Tour, the most fun thing to do in Portland
The Tillamook Coastal area on the Oregon shoreline is one of the best places to visit near Portland Oregon. Here, you’ll find the Tillamook Bay and its charming little town. Contrary to its coastal vibe, its economy relies mostly on dairy farming, although you can also get amazing seafood here. This brings me to my #1 recommendation for this area: a Tillamook Seafood Tour.
This half-day tour will introduce you to the best seafood and cheese in the region. Plus, you’ll get to meet local farmers and fishermen and try your hand at some of their work. Many of the businesses in this area use sustainable fishing and crabbing practices, and it just seems to make the fresh oysters, crabs, and fish taste so much better.
If you’re a seafood lover, that tour is one of the coolest things to do in Portland Oregon, so you shouldn’t miss it out.
28. Eat at Voodoo Doughnut, another unique thing to do in Portland, OR
When visiting a new place, it’s always fun to explore the dining spots that are popular with locals. You can’t spend too much time in Portland without hearing about Voodoo Doughnut. This unique doughnut shop has been featured on TV and in national publications. It started in Portland, but as of 2020, there are nine Voodoo locations spread across five states.
The founders of Voodoo Doughnut opened their shop after realizing there weren’t any doughnut places in downtown Portland. They set out with a plan to dominate the doughnut market with all kinds of intriguing flavors. People quickly noticed Voodoo, and the rest is history. Today, it’s one of the tastiest Portland Oregon attractions you must visit.
The doughnut shop has more than 50 different doughnuts, ranging from yeast and cake doughnuts to specialty treats like map bars, cannoli doughnuts, apple fritters, and even a voodoo doll doughnut. They even offer vegan flavors, and they’ll take custom requests in advance.
Walking the streets with a Voodoo doughnut in hand is one of the coolest things to do in Portland, OR, not to mention the most delicious. Just be aware that this place is extremely popular, and the line of customers often snakes out of the door and down the block. Locals will tell you it’s totally worth it.
However, if you don’t want to wait so long for a sweet treat, Coco Donuts is another popular doughnut spot in Portland with multiple locations. The doughnuts are handmade, and they roast their own coffee, too. This Portland Underground Donut tour will take you to Voodoo Doughnuts, Coco Donuts, and three other prized doughnut shops in the city.
29. Portland Food Tour, the best thing to do in Portland for foodies
If you’re a foodie looking for fun activities in Portland, you can’t go wrong with this downtown food tour.
The tour starts at the Pine Street Market, where you’ll learn about the city’s gastronomy and culinary trends. Your tour guide will introduce you to the local food scene as you visit some of Portland’s most iconic restaurants.
As an added bonus, you’ll be able to pair your dishes with some excellent beers. Without a doubt, this food tour is a cool thing to do in Portland, whether you’re traveling alone or as a group. If you want to get to know the city, there’s no better way than by whetting your appetite!
30. Find the Portland Food Trucks, a great thing to do in Portland at night
Along with the historic pubs and restaurants, as well as its hipster cafes, you must eat at a Portland food truck. There are more than 700 scattered throughout the city, so going on a food truck excursion is one of the top things to do in Portland!
While every local you talk to will have their personal favorite, there are a few popular food cars that I recommend checking out.
First is Cartopia, which serves everything from casual American fare to Middle Eastern gyros and Indian paneer fries. It has a few carts spread throughout the city.
El Local Mexican Food Truck in the Industrial District is where you can get delectable carne asada tacos, guacamole, and chilaquiles. The owners are friendly and serve up big portions as well as vegetarian-friendly plates. The burritos and salsa verde are crowd favorites.
Third Avenue Food Cart Pod is lovingly called the Gyro District by Portlandians. Other city gems include Gumba (hearty Italian food), Gracie’s Apizza (local ingredients), and Kee’s Loaded Kitchen (Southern specialties).
The food cart scene is a Portland Oregon attraction all on its own. These areas are popular hang-out spots among locals and a great place to catch a break and a delicious bite to eat at lunchtime. If you can’t decide with food truck to try, check out this food pods tour and stop at 5-7 different trucks and one brewery.
I hope you enjoyed learning about the best Portland Oregon attractions, and you have some ideas for your next trip. You can save time planning your Portland activities with this convenient map.
This city in the Pacific Northwest is lots of fun and well worth visiting. I’m still amazed by all the things to do in Portland, Oregon, as well as how the city perfectly balances natural beauty with impressive modernization. Do you have a favorite Portland tourist spot? Let me know in the comments. I’ll also do my best to answer any questions you may have. Happy travels!