7 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN PORTLAND, OR
Portland, OR is known for its quirky appeal, and the locals are proud of it. The city’s slogan —“Keep Portland Weird”— says it all. But Portland is also the “City of Roses”, reflecting an entirely different facet of its colorful character.
What makes Portland different from any other place? For one, there’s the eclectic mix of attractions and activities. You can find everything under the sun, from stunning outdoor destinations and hidden breweries to underground tunnels and famous donuts.
Whether you’re planning a trip to the city or thinking of staying for good, you simply have to sample these places and activities.
- Explore the Shanghai Tunnels
Officially named the Old Portland Underground, the Shanghai Tunnels is a network of underground passageways connecting the basements of waterfront restaurants, taverns, and hotels from the North End to the South End of the city. It’s believed that in the 19th century, when Portland earned the reputation as “the Shanghai Capital of the World”, the tunnels were used to “shanghai” or kidnap unsuspecting men and women to be sold into white slavery.
The accuracy of these gruesome stories is a subject of debates, but a visit to the tunnels, with their trapdoors, holding cells, artifacts, and unique architecture, just might convince you one way or another. There are several organized tours with different themes, including heritage tours, and paranormal or ghost tours —the latter stemming from the belief that ghosts of shanghaied victims are haunting the place to this day.
- Go on a brewery hopping bike tour
One of the top things to do in Portland, Oregon is go brewery hopping. The city brews some of the best craft beers in the country, which you can sample when you visit local breweries and microbreweries. To make the experience even more exciting — and healthier, perhaps — join a guided brewery tour offered by Portland’s cycle tour providers, and pedal your way from one beer shop to the next. Other bike tours cover historic and heritage places, theme parks, restaurants, and more.
- Have a close encounter with the animals at the Oregon Zoo
Arguably the most famous attraction in Portland and the entire Oregon area, the 64-acre Oregon Zoo is home to over 1,900 animals of more than 230 species, 21 of which are endangered. Opened in 1888, the zoo is home to diverse land, air, and marine animals from around the world, including African elephants, lions, polar bears, Steller sea lions, and so much more. Visitors can also learn about the zoo’s conservation programs and go on a behind-the-scenes tour with animal interactions.
- Soak in the fragrance of roses
Portland is known as the City of Roses for a reason. The city grows them in the thousands, and thanks to the mild weather, they bloom almost all year round, from the spring through the fall.
The top place to go for a breathtaking display of roses is the International Rose Test Garden, found inside Washington Park. Founded in 1917, the International Rose Test Garden is divided into several sections, each also featuring other types of plants. But the main attractions are the numerous varieties of beautiful roses, some of which were developed in the test garden.
Other rose-filled attractions in the city include the Peninsula Park Rose Garden, home to Portland’s official rose, and Ladd Circle Park & Rose Gardens. The city also stages an annual Portland Rose Festival in June, featuring a parade of dazzling rose floats.
- Chase waterfalls at the Columbia River Gorge
Just 30 minutes from the city is the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, a 292,500-acre nature destination that offers gorgeous views of the Columbia River, as well as outdoor activities, such as hiking, mountain biking, windsurfing, rafting, and more. Within the area are stunning waterfalls, perfect for selfies or amateur photography. Easiest to access are Multnomah Falls, Horsetail Falls, Latourell Falls, and Oneonta Gorge. Take to the trails and you’ll discover more falls tucked deeper in the forests.
- Go on a culinary adventure
Sample the most popular gastronomic treats in the city and have a taste (literally) of its eclectic vibe. Among other things, Portland is also famous for donuts and food trucks. Topping the list of must-tries is Voodoo Doughnuts, a local foodie icon that started the doughnut craze in the city. Try a few of its outrageous and unique toppings, like bacon and breakfast cereals, vanilla and Tang frosting, and chili pepper and cayenne, and find out for yourself why this doughnut brand has become synonymous with the city.
Portland also has a strong food truck culture. Wherever you are in the city, you’ll find food carts and trucks offering a dizzying array of cuisines, from Italian and Chinese street food to Korean grills and classic Tex-Mex, and everything in between.
If you’re unsure where to go, join one of the many food tours and food truck tours in the city.
- Explore hip museums
Museums in Portland are not the stuffy kind, and are just as eclectic as the city itself. If you want a one-stop-shop for all things weird, check out Freakybuttrue, a peculiarium established in 1967 featuring unusual art stuff and freaky exhibits, such as a huge Bigfoot statue, a trip inside a zombie’s brain, a haunted dollhouse, and a recreation of an alien autopsy. The museum also has an ice cream shop where they serve sundaes flavored with real bug larva, ant cookies, and other strangely edible things.
Other fun museums to explore include the Pittock Mansion, a historic French Renaissance style chateau built for the prominent Pittock family in 1907. At 1000 feet above sea level, it offers some of the best views of the city.
Also a must-visit is the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, where you’ll find cool exhibits like the submarine used in the movie, The Hunt for Red October. It also has a Science Playground for kids 6 years and below, an IMAX theater, and a planetarium that stages “Laser Pink Floyd” shows.
Learn More About Living in Portland, Oregon with Brian Getman and the PDX Property Team
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