My recent road trip to Portland did not disappoint!
I had written down so many things to do in Portland I couldn’t help but get super excited for my trip. I was able to tick off most of them during my 4 day stay there. Thankfully, I had nothing but sunshine while in Portland. It really encouraged me to get out and do everything on my list.
Portland is definitely a city I’ll be back to someday. The people there are much more relaxed and easy going than many other places I’ve been to. Think of drinking beer on a patio with a few good friends, chilling out and talking about whatever. That’s the Portland vibe I felt while I was there.
With that said, I want to share with you my list of 50 things to do in Portland, along with my experience and some travel tips thrown in here and there.
Check it out!
50 best things to do in Portland Oregon
1// Eat Doughnuts at Voodoo Doughnuts
When you visit Portland, you just have to eat doughnuts at Voodoo Doughnuts. It’s pretty much an icon in Portland now and it’s probably already on your to do list.
We went on a sunny Wednesday afternoon. I was expecting to wait in line like 30 minutes but I was pleasantly shocked to find only 2 people in line ahead of us. We didn’t know what to order and didn’t even look at the menu to be honest. We just asked them to give us a dozen doughnuts of their choice. Probably a really popular request here.
The doughnuts themselves tasted pretty good. I wouldn’t say I was WOW’ed by it. I think what Voodoo Doughnuts has going for them is that they make the most creative doughnuts you’ll see just about anywhere.
I did hear Blue Star donuts tasted better, and they come without the long lineups to boot. They also have six locations in Portland (Voodoo Doughnuts only has one). I didn’t get a chance to try Blue Star while I was there but if you get the chance, do it and let me know!!!
2// See the “Keep Portland Weird” sign
Across the street from Voodoo Doughnuts is another iconic landmark, the Keep Portland Weird Sign. Definitely go take a few photos of yourself under the sign and upload to Facebook with a weird caption.
3// Roam around Pioneer Square
Pioneer Courthouse Square is a big square in the center of downtown. The square has occasional events going on like a farmers market on Mondays. And Portland’s visitor information is located here. But otherwise, there’s not a ton of things interesting in the square. There is a lot of shopping around this area of downtown to check out though. Public transportation from this square is the best in the city. And the Pink Hop on Hop off Portland tour bus departs from here.
4// Drink a lot of coffee
Portland is HUGE on coffee. Just huge. If you are a fan of coffee you will be a fan of Portland. They have amazing coffee shops and cafe’s all around the city. I made it a point to visit 2-3 coffee shops every day, and I still couldn’t visit all the coffee shops I had listed down.
5// Visit Portland’s Children Museum
This is where you want to take your young children (age 0-12). It’s a general museum with collections of art, history, car stuff, etc.,tailored to children of course. They have some really hands on exhibits too, like building a bridge, construction stuff, and a clay studio. The Children Museum is located in Washington Park, along with a ton of other Portland attractions to do as well when you get out here.
6// Go wine tasting in the Willamette valley
The Willamette Wine Valley is roughly an hour south of Portland. Oregon’s weather is cooler and wetter than other parts of the west cost. So the grapes here are usually the European types. It’s a wine valley. Which means sampling lots of wines!
Here’s a popular Wine Tour of the Willamette Valley.
7// Eat at Pok Pok’s and try their famous spicy wings
I was really really excited to see what all the noise was about Pok Pok’s deep fried chicken wings. Being Asian myself and having travelled through Thailand, I felt I could judge this Thai restaurant pretty good.
First of all, I imagined a restaurant but really it’s more of a shackey type place. It was also really busy and people were waiting to eat (it wasn’t dinner time either). We got our server to pick out 5 dishes for us to share. He was pretty cool and was really helpful with explaining what the food is and what it should taste like.
Anyway, the chicken wings were good but I didn’t feel there was anything super special about it. The rest of the food was good too, and there was a couple dishes I liked more than the wings. On that note, their Thai Iced Tea was DELICIOUS. They bottle it in house too. Such a tasty drink on a hot day we had.
Overall, I would recommend eating at Pok Pok’s. The prices are about $15 per dish. I’d say the dish sizes are a bit smaller than average. Splitting 3 dished among 2 people is probably the way to go. With a couple drinks or so, you’re looking at a not so cheap meal. But still worth the experience.
8// Walk Portland’s waterfront
Portland’s waterfront is a nice stroll. There are bike trails and parks, and benches facing the waters to sit on. Portland has many bridges to check out and walk under as well. There’s an area to play in water where I saw many kids running around. You’ll also walk near Mill Ends Park which you should detour for. They were setting up an amusement park when I was walking through there. I went to the Waterfront twice during my time in Portland. It was really close to my budget hotel University Place Hotel, which made it easy to get to.
9// Enjoy biscuits at Pine State Biscuits
Pine State Biscuits is maybe the best place to get biscuits in town. Most of their menu uses their biscuits burger style. Pulled pork, chicken, bacon, eggs and more are sandwiched in between. It was pretty damn good. Also try their local apple cider. That was equally as delicious. Check out their menu here.
10// Eat Ramen at Boxer Ramen
Boxer Ramen was a place we tried to eat at several times. Because of power outages and a holiday, we finally got a chance to eat there on our 3rd visit. It was well worth the attempts.
The ramen they server is really good and you get a lot of meat with your meal. Ramen starts at $12 and you can add on extra items. We got in right when they opened at 11 and it got busy quick. So it’s a pretty popular place. If you like Ramen you should visit Boxer Ramen. It’s located in the Pearl district and is close to Powell’s City of Books.
11// Visit Powell’s City of Books
Powell’s Bookstore is the largest independent bookstore in the world. It doesn’t look that big from the outside but when you go in and start going through their floors, then you’re like holy crap I’m never going to run into my friends again.
They organize their rooms (categories of books) by color which makes life easy though. They have free maps of their bookstore as well (I took one home as a souvenir). You know a place is big when there’s a map of it.
They have 5 locations in Portland. But go to the main one at 1005 W Burnside St. It’s their flagship store and their biggest one (over 1 million books). Cause the main reason you’re visiting a bookstore is because you want to see the biggest one in the world right!! 😛
12// Sample beer at Deschutes Brewery
Portland is the best city in the States to be a beer lover. They have more breweries per capita than any other city in the world. That’s actually really really impressive Portland! Of all the breweries Portland has, the biggest and baddest one of them all is Deschutes Brewery.
Visit their Public House (restaurant) to get some food and of course, sample their beers. I recommend ordering their beer samplers. They have 2 kinds of samplers to choose from or you can create your own beer sampler too. I’m not a huge beer guy and I found a lot of their beers on the bitter side (and many weren’t even IPA’s). So you’re probably not gonna be a fan if you don’t like the bitter stuff. But you’re in Portland, you just gotta drink beer!
Deschutes Brewery also has a tasting room but it’s in Bend Portland. BUMMER!! It was too far out of the way to get to but it would have been fun to do a tasting tour with them.
13// Eat at the Bollywood Theater
They Bollywood Theater (not an actual theater) is a popular place to get Indian food in Portland. They have two locations, one in Alberta Street and the other is in SE Division. The restaurant itself is pretty open spaced and cool. When you see it it will make you want to walk in. At least that’s how I felt. If you need to get your Indian food fix in Portland, the Bollywood Theater is where it’s at.
14// Visit Cathedral Park
Cathedral Park is as far as you can get away from Portland while still being in Portland. So I don’t recommend it being one of the first things you do. However, the park is a very very lovely place to walk around. It’s adjacent to the Willamette River, which makes it more awesome. If you like walks outdoors, it could be a great way to spend a sunny or even slightly wet afternoon.
15// Keep Portland weird at Freakybuttrue Peculiarium
I only found out about this place when I was doing my Portland research. It’s pretty much as weird as everything I had read about it. It’s a store and as well as a museum, I guess if that’s what you call it.
The museum part is full of just weird weird and more weirdness. I won’t spoil it and leave it there. You’re allowed to take photos in their museum. It does cost 5 dollars to see it though. The store itself sells odd items and, you may have guessed it, weird things – like anti-hipster gas. I took a case of these home (lol no I didn’t).
16// Shop on trendy Albert Street (Alberta arts district)
The Alberta Arts district houses my favorite street in Portland, Alberta Street. This street is the main artsy and trendy part of North East Portland. I gotta say, I was really impressed with the awesomeness of Alberta street. It’s a very long street with lots of shopping. I spent a couple hours here and didn’t even walk the whole street. But It was also like 90 degrees of pure sun and I was dying outside.
I was only able to see Alberta Street once. It wasn’t close to my hotel, but if it was, I’d visit it every day.
I’m not sure if this was typical but I noticed a lot of stores were closed. It definitely was not busy when I was there. But it was just a weekday afternoon so I found it odd. Anyway, there was still lots to see and lots of places to eat and drink.
It’s a little bit away from the core of Portland’s Downtown/Pearl districts but still something you will really want to check out. Quirky stores, boutique shops, bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and artsy stores. It’s a really trendy street, and if you could only visit one shopping street in Portland (but whyyy would this be the case!!), it should be Alberta Street or NW 23 Ave in Nob Hill.
17// Visit the Tiny House Hotel
Keeping with the weirdness, Portland has hotels in tiny houses. You can book a stay here to experience that. You can also do a Tiny House Tour if the Four Seasons is not your thing. They are located pretty much where the coolness begins at Alberta Street. So definitely check it out when you visit Alberta Street.
18// Experience the Crystal Ballroom
The Crystal Ballroom is a historic music venue in Portland. It’s over 100 years old, and like most old venues that survive for this long, everything else gets built around it. The vintage vibe around the Crystal blocks is awesome. You’ll very likely end up here strolling around the Pearl district. It’s one of the more lively places late at night.
The Crystal Ballroom venue itself hosts all kinds of music styles. R&B, punk, hip hop, you name it. And they host people you’lve actually heard of too. You can check out their events calendar here. Also, the Crystal Hotel is right here too. This hotel just SCREAMS Portland. So check it out.
19// Visit Chinatown (or maybe don’t)
A lot of my research into Portland told me to visit Chinatown. I did. And it was easily the worst Chinatown I’ve ever been to. It did NOT feel like a Chinatown at all. It was mostly a lot of homeless people and a Chinese restaurant here and there.
Having said that, there was still a good amount of regular folks around. There are some decent hotels and hostels in this area that are super budget friendly. I’m gonna guess that’s why most of them are there. The bums can be a little scary though, not gonna lie. They seem more unpredictable here compared to the bums I encountered in places like San Francisco or Seattle.
I’d only really come here if you wanna experience a bit of sketchyness with your Chinese food. Otherwise it’s 100% skippable and you won’t return home with FOMO.
20// Visit Pittock Mansion
Pittock Mansion is a chateau that was built in 1914 for Henry Pittock and his wife. They were like the “power couple” in Portland back then. It has 22 rooms and sits on the West Hills of Portland.
The mansion is available for public touring and it’s a fairly popular place to visit. I wasn’t that interested in it but a couple people recommended it to me. A nice perk of of visiting the mansion is the views of Portland you’ll get. From the hills it sits on, you’ll get an unbeatable view of downtown Portland.
21// Walk down SW Broadway Street
The coolest street in downtown Portland is SW Broadway (my opinion of course!). It’s got a great mix of retail shops, coffee shops, big business buildings, and hotels. I’m a city person, and this street kind of just has it all. You should definitely walk down this street when you check out downtown. It’s modern coolness in downtown Portland. The location of SW Broadway is in central downtown Portland too.
22// Buy Marijuana
Oregon is one of the few states where you can legally buy marijuana for recreational use. I recommend getting edibles. You can get chocolates, brownies, gummies, candies, etc. You can put marijuana in anything really. I recommend edibles because smoking hurts your throat if you’re not a regular user and edibles tend to give you a more even high that lasts longer.
If you’re trying it for the first time make sure you take it easy. Everyone responds to it differently and you don’t want to start freaking out. Take like 5mg to start and wait a couple hours. If you’re apprehensive at all then I recommend NOT doing it. Better safe than sorry.
23// Go Tea Tasting at Smith Tea Maker
Smith Tea teashop makes good teas. And they have a tasting room. You can just show up and get a tea tasting, no appointment necessary! Check them out here.
24// Shop on Mississippi Ave
Mississippi Ave is a great place to eat, drink, and shop. It’s similar to Albert Street. Little less artsy here and a little more sophisticated. I’d hit up Alberta Street first. If you’re looking for more, then Mississippi Ave is isn’t far away.
25// Shop on Williams Ave
Another good area to grab a beverage, food, and shop is Williams Ave. The Williams district isn’t far from Mississippi Ave, and you can actually do these two with Alberta Street in the same day. That’s a lot of walking and shopping. But hey, no sales tax in Oregon!
26// See the Oregon Zoo
The Oregon Zoo is located in Washington Park. The zoo is always a great place to take your kids out to. The nice thing about visiting Oregon zoo is that there are a lot of other popular things to do in Washington Park that you can also see.
27// See St. Johns Bridge
Portland has 12 bridges (that’s a lot) and St. John’s bridge is possibly the coolest bridge of them all. It is located in the same area of Cathedral Park, so a visit to the park will give you a chance to see this Gothic style suspension bridge.
28// Play 80’s arcade games at Ground Kontrol
I guess one reason to not avoid Chinatown is to check out this 80’s arcade! You can order beer here as well. Classic arcade games + drinks = good night.
29// Shop at boutique stores in old Victorian homes at Nob Hill (23 Ave NW)
Nob Hill, aka Snob Hill is a very trendy and cool area of Portland. It’s where the “cool kids” hang. The long stretch of road on 23 Ave NW is one of the best areas to shop in Portland. You can spend a good part of a day here. Check out Nob Hill’s vendor list here.
30// Visit the International Rose Test Garden
The International Rose Test Garden is located in Washington Park (a park with tons of other things to see). The biggest attraction at Washington Park is easily the Rose garden. I recommend spending a good part of a day here to check out everything, and of course see the over 600 types of roses here.
31// Visit the Japanese Gardens
The Japanese Gardens is next to the International Rose Garden Test, so you can do both in the same day. It’s a piece of Japan in Portland. If you like nature, East Asian culture, and relaxing walks, a stroll through the Japanese Gardens would make you really happy.
32// Get your spirituality on at The Grotto
The Grotto is a Catholic shrine and botanical gardens. It’s a spiritual place and somewhat of a retreat. It’s located in NE Skidmore street. You can learn more about them here.
33// Watch a Portland Timbers game
The Portland Timbers is Portland’s soccer team. If you’re a sports fan you know about them already. If you’ve never seen a professional soccer game before, Portland is a great place to have your first. Check ticket prices here.
34// Grab a beer at the Nest Lounge
We were recommended The Nest Lounge by our server when we had an afternoon meal at Nel Centro restaurant. We were so glad we took her up on it. The Nest is a house-like place to grab a drink. The vibe there is really chilled out and laid back. It’s much more “homey” than your typical bar. They have cheap beer on tap and a patio area to smoke and drink when it’s nice out.
I highly recommend this bar. It’s got that Portland feel all over it. Just the people that go here, the building, the street it’s on, everything about it is Portland. You can find the Nest in the Belmont neighborhood.
35// Eat at food trucks
If you don’t eat at a food truck you aren’t truly experiencing Portland! Portland has 500+ food carts all over the city. You will see them everywhere as you do stuff around Portland. Portland’s food trucks serve every type of food you can think of. It’s cheap and nothing we tried tasted bad. Don’t be afraid to ask locals waiting for their food what to order if you can’t decide.
There are several areas in Portland where many food trucks exists together. These are called food pods. The best one is the Alder Pod located on SW 10th and Alder. It’s a collection of around 35 trucks, taking up an entire square and more. We sampled foods at maybe 6 or 7 different carts and it was all tasty tasty tasty. Most carts open around 11ish and close around 5ish.
The Alder Pod is pretty close to Powell’s Bookstore to give you some reference. There’s also a park beside it where I recommend you go eat your food in (there’s nowhere to sit otherwise). Another great pod I visited was the Portland State University Food cart pod. It was minutes from my hotel University Place hotel.
36// Go on a Brew Cycle tour
The people of Portland love to drink beer and ride bicycles. So why not combine both of them and start a business. Well, it happened. You can tour Portland and a bunch of breweries on bike, and drink as much beer as you can along the way. Here’s a Portland brewery bike tour you can join.
37// Go on a brewery tour
If biking and drinking is a little bit crazy, then maybe walking and drinking is more managable. So there’s a lot of breweries in Portland and you obviously can’t visit all of them (or can you?) Because of that, there are various tours that will take you to a few select breweries to taste local craft beer and teach you how beer is made. Brewvana is perhaps the most popular brewery tour provider (they’re actually a bus tour), however it’s also the most expensive one. You can see more Brew tours here.
38// Visit a distillery
So Portland is most well known for craft beer and its record setting amount of breweries. But let’s not forget about the hard stuff. If you’re in Portland on the weekend, drop by at any of the distilleries on this map here for spirit tasting. Some are open on weekdays too. Keep Portland Wasted.
39// Watch a Portland Trailblazers game
Portland has an NBA team. If it’s basketball season and you’re in the mood for some alley oops and slam dunks, hit up a Trailblazers game. Check for tickets here.
40// See Mill Ends Park (the smallest park in the world)
The smallest park in the world is in Portland! And a fun fact for you, Mill Ends Park is listed in the Guinness Book of Word Records as the smallest park in the world since 1971. So you gotta check out this historical landmark right!
It’s located near the waterfront and it’s really really easy to miss. I walked right by it when I was trying to find it. It’s that small. Not only that, it’s located in the weirdest place possible. It’s in the middle of the street at a crosswalk. Keeping Portland weird!
What grows in the park changes over time. If you Google image Mill Ends Park, you’ll see a variety of landscapes that have existed in the park! And here are 11 fun facts about this quirky park that is SO PORTLAND! You have to check it out. Someone actually stole the one and only tree in the park in 2013 haha.
41// Stroll around Portland State University
Portland State University is located on the south end of downtown. There’s a fair amount of green space on campus to walk around and benches to sit on. There’s nothing particularly that interesting here. It’s a school campus that’s really close to where you’ll be spending time. So maybe head here to reminisce about school life again.
It was right beside the budget hotel I stayed at, University Place Hotel so I walked through campus a few times. It was nice being on a school grounds again. Reminded me of the highs and lows of student life.
42// Eat Vietnamese food at Luc Lac
Luc Lac is hands down one of the coolest restaurants I’ve ever been to. It’s Vietnamese food mixed with hip hop music. I never in a thousand years thought this combo could work. But Portland makes it work. And it’s wildly successful too. We went two times and had to wait for a table both times. I’m a big fan of hip hop and pho noodles. For me, this place is everything I could dream of.
The food is good and the music is good. There’s a bar in the middle to grab drinks while you wait or with your meal of course. They have an interesting system where you choose your food AND pay for it first. Then you get seated and they bring your food out shortly. It’s open late which is a bonus!
43// Visit Columbia Gorge Waterfalls area (Mount Hood & Multnomah Falls)
Not too far outside of Portland is some very very scenic waterfalls, trails, and mountains. The Columbia River Gorge area is the most popular place to see outside of Portland. Day trips to this area are very common. It’s located east of Portland on interstate 84.
Multnomah Falls is roughly 45 minutes east of Portland, so it’s the most reachable place. It’s super super popular. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve seen pictures of the falls even back home randomly watching youtube videos or something.
Mount Hood is about 2.5 hours east Portland. Mount Hood is Oregon’s tallest peak. It’s a land mass area with a variety of things to do because of it’s elevation and varied weather. Hiking here is super popular, along with camping, fishing, and skiing. It’s big enough to see it from a distance while you’re in Portland. You’ll probably see it without even knowing what it is.
The Columbia River Gorge is a canyon in the Columbia river. It’s the main area where people who want to spend a few days or so exploring the surrounding area typically stay. You’ll pass by here if you visit Mount Hood.
If you want to do a day trip out of Portland, the area around here is the most popular place to go. There are a lot of options to choose from. Half day or full day trips, and different destinations/landmarks to see. You can look at a lot of popular tours of the area here.
44// Go to Canon Beach
Canon Beach is a beach town and probably Oregon’s best beach. The most famous landmark here is the Haystack Rock, which sticks out from the waters. Oregon’s coastline is very scenic with cliffs, trees, and of course the water. The drive to Canon beach is amazing. If you have a car I recommend driving there. If you don’t have a vehicle you can still check out Oregon’s coastline with a day trip. Make sure you bring a jacket because it will probably be cold.
Here’s a really popular day trip to Canon Beach.
45// Visit Salt & Straw for the best ice cream
I guess Salt & Straw is like the Voodoo doughnuts but for ice creams. Their flavors are just off the wall and out of left field. I guess that’s why they’re so damn popular. If it’s a hot day out, expect long lines at Salt & Straw. They have three locations in Portland and they’re all located in great shopping hoods (Alberta St, NW 23rd Ave, and SE Division St).
46// Have a drink at Bagdad Theater & Pub
The Bagdad is a pub and a theater in SE Hawthorne. It’s almost 100 years old and is a pretty historic place in Portland. We had drinks here one evening. I felt the vibe here is really relaxed and laid back. I didn’t feel any of the specialness though. Maybe that’s just reserved for locals who grew up with the Theater. Speaking of the Theater, they play new box office releases. But just one movie at a time. You can catch a movie there if you want. It’s impossible to miss the Bagdad. It’s enormous bright sign is unmistakable.
47// Walk through SE Hawthorne Blvd
Hawthorne is a popular street in South East Portland. It’s a hipster hood full of cafes, vintage stores, and places to eat to match. It’s a great place to visit during the day and the night life is on point too. The iconic Bagdad Theater is on Hawthorne as well (also a Powell’s Bookstore and a Blue Star Donuts). Have a walk through it and gawk over the vintage homes and stores. Overall, I think a visit to Portland isn’t a complete without a walk down SE Hawthorne.
48// Experience Portland’s Peelers
Fun fact: Portland has the most strip clubs in the US. They are indeed the strip club capital of America. There are no shortages of strip joints if that’s something you want to experience. Try and rid your wallet of the dirty $2 before you go back home though. Let’s leave that in Portland!
49// See the Oregon Maritime Museum
Oregon’s Maritime Museum is located in downtown Portland on the waterfront. Here you can go enjoy the waters on the last operating sternwheel steam tug in the US. Along with your cruise of the Willamette river, you can check out their maritime artifacts and learn about steam power, sailing, and the people who powered them.
50// Get a massage at the Tiny Massage Cart
So there’s been a lot of things on this list that says “only in Portland!” but I can’t think of anything else much quirkier than getting a massage in a tiny cart. It would totally be one of the quirkiest things you can do in Portland. The Tiny Massage Cart is located in Alberta Street. It’s right beside an organic health drink place that serves drinks out of a little bus cart (surprise surprise!).
At $45 for a massage it’s pretty good value. Yelp reviews are very good. You’ll need an appointment. I would have totally done this just for the experience. I just happen to run into it and didn’t even know it existed until I roamed around Alberta Street. Why not get a massage along with your shopping fix when you visit Alberta Street!
The Best Places To Stay In Portland
Portland has many neighborhoods but I think the best area to stay would be around Downtown and the Pearl District. A lot of the things you’ll want to see and do are around here and it’s better to be close to those things.
I decided to choose a budget friendly hotel that was as central as possible for my stay in Portland. That ended up being the University Place Hotel. It’s a budget place to stay so I could spend the money saved elsewhere. They have free breakfast and the rooms are what you’d expect from a regular hotel.
Otherwise, I would stay on the street of SW Broadway in downtown (best street in Portland). The awesome hotels of Hotel Kimpton, The Benson, and Hotel Lucia are here. The Marriott and Hilton are also staple choices along this street.
Downtown Portland isn’t overly big. So the exact location of your hotel isn’t too too important. I think as long as you’re in the area you’re pretty good to get to where you want to be by foot. The hotels I mentioned were the ones that caught my eye as I roamed around the area.
Welp, that’s it!
Do you have any questions about Portland at all? Have something I should add to the list? I’d love to hear from you. Hit me up in the comment section below!