Exciting Things to See and Do in Portland

By: Kirsten Schlewitz
Portland, Oregon Getty Images/Image Source / © 2014 Seth K. Hughes

Portland, Oregon – a place many consider the hipster capital of the world, but for those willing to put that perception aside, this Northwest city offers up a little something for everyone. Foodies will delight in everything from lunches at food carts to the brunch rituals observed each weekend. Nature lovers can kayak the Columbia River at sunrise and hike the hills at sunset. Shopping addicts will be thrilled by the lack of sales tax as they flit around the city’s distinctive neighborhoods, browsing local stores as unique as Portland itself. The city offers so many enticements that it’s difficult to name just 10.


10. Walk the Hawthorne Bridge

Portland downtown district view from the Hawthorne Bridge on the Willamette river on a sunny day in Oregon largest city.
Getty Images / (c) 2017 Didier Marti

You can go native and bike across one of Portland’s nine bridges, but when you get caught up in the blur of cyclers, it’s difficult to slow down and properly absorb the views. While many companies offer walking tours to shuttle you back and forth across the river, you don’t need a guide to take in the scenery. Start the Hawthorne Bridge at Waterfront Park in downtown Portland and walk east across the Willamette River, glancing backward at the center’s sparkling skyscrapers and forward toward Mount Hood, the 11,250 peak that towers over the city on clear days.

9. Sit in the Crowd at a Professional Soccer Game

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Portland is famous for its soccer fans. The Portland Timbers, a Major League Soccer team, play their home matches in Providence Park, nestled just on the edge of the city’s downtown. Win, lose, or draw, loyal supporters, pack the 22,000-seat stadium full for every match. The Timbers Army fan club creates a passionate, noisy atmosphere, waving flags and chanting for the full 90 minutes. Providence Park is also home to the Portland Thorns, the 2013 National Women’s Soccer League champions. Like the Timbers, the Thorns draw large crowds, and the Rose City Riveters supporters’ group makes sure the games are raucous.

8. Line up for Brunch

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The question in Portland isn’t whether to brunch, it’s where. And visitors are likely to be able to identify the latest hot spot by the crowd of people lingering outside its doors. Even on rainy weekends, they flock to meet their friends for a leisurely brunch featuring anything from chicken and waffles to oysters on the half shell to French toast bread pudding. Portlanders also know that booze is often essential to a terrific brunch, and the city’s restaurants comply by offering up everything from Bloody Mary bars to bottomless mimosas.

7. Shop Portland’s Distinctive Neighborhoods

Girlfriends looking into shopping window in Berlin, city.
Getty Images / Guido Mieth

While downtown is mostly filled with ubiquitous chain stores, there are great finds to be had in almost any of Portland’s 95 officially recognized neighborhoods. Browse for locally-made jewelry or custom-made dresses as you stroll through the Victorian homes that populate the shopping district of the Nob Hill neighborhood. You’ll find socially-conscious clothing and footwear among the galleries of the Alberta Arts district. Vintage boutiques abound throughout the city, but head to Hawthorne Boulevard to find the best collection of eclectic resale shops. If you’re looking to redecorate, the Mississippi neighborhood provides both recycled and new home décor.


6. Learn the City’s History

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Oregon is where Lewis and Clark ended their historic expedition through the heart of the United States, but there’s much more to the state’s history than that well-charted journey. The museum of the Oregon Historical Society, located downtown, houses a collection of more than 85,000 items, including the penny used when determining whether Portland or Boston would win out as the city’s name. The museum doesn’t just dwell on statehood, however. It also showcases exhibits dedicated to the region’s earliest inhabitants and Native American artifacts, as well as displays outlining Oregon’s unique geography.

5. Dish Out the Food Carts

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CNN declared Portland as the home of the world’s best street food, a claim that’s difficult to argue. The question isn’t what sort of food is available at Portland’s food carts, the question is what isn’t? The city doesn’t have 44 carts, it has 44 “pod” locations, meaning the trucks are rarely mobile. Instead, they hunker down together, providing a variety of options for reasonable prices. The over 600 carts serve everything from Norwegian flatbreads to Korean tacos. If you need a late-night nosh, the kitchens of the Cartopia pod will be pleased to serve you, dishing up poutine or crepes to make sure you don’t go to sleep hungry.

4. Paddle the Rivers in a Kayak

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Portland offers not only kayak rentals, but classes and guided tours of the city’s waterways. Paddling the Willamette River provides the chance to see blue heron, osprey, and even the occasional bald eagle, as well as gorgeous views of the city’s skyline. Some companies even offer sunset and moonlight tours. Wetland tours along the Columbia River give kayakers even more opportunities for wildlife spotting. For those chasing a bit more of an adrenaline rush, the Clackamas River is only an hour away, with surf waves and rapids that provide plenty of challenges.

3. Sip and Sample at Portland’s Craft Breweries

Close-up of bartender serving beers at bar
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Think you can just dive into Portland’s beer scene without any guidance? Think again. With over 50 breweries (and counting!) “Brewvana” is likely to overwhelm even the most seasoned beer connoisseur. Various companies offer brewery tours, loading up a van to take visitors safely from taproom to pub to outdoor beer garden. Destinations might include Hopworks Urban Brewery, which focuses on local and organic ingredients; Upright Brewing, which takes its inspiration from Belgian farmhouse ales; or Ecliptic Brewing, which focuses on seasonal creativity. And it’s almost certain you’ll make note of a few more breweries you pass along the route.

2. Visit Powell’s City of Books

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Even if you’re not an avid reader, a stop at Powell’s flagship store is a must for any visitor to Portland. Located on the edge of the city’s trendy Pearl District, the store takes up an entire city block, encompassing three levels and providing maps to outline what’s available in each of the nine color-coded sections. This mecca for lovers of the printed word stocks more than a million titles in 122 major subject areas, selling to over 3,000 customers each day. Grab a cup of coffee from the attached café and set aside at least an hour to browse the shelves.


1. Soak in the Scenery

Portland Downtown with Mount Hood View from Japanese Garden
Getty Images / David Gn Photography

Portland might be well-known for its persistent rain, but on clear days, there are plenty of places from which to view the city and its surrounding beauty. Portland City Grill provides breathtaking views from its 30th-floor location. The aerial tram provides unforgettable vistas during the four-minute ride, and there’s a patio at the upper terminal where riders can relax and take in the site of the city below. The best view might be from Pittock Mansion, where visitors can drink in not only the site of Mount Hood rising over the city but spot Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainer in the distance.