Portland is an eclectic city, where sophisticated and alternative styles coexist peacefully. It is known for its friendliness, rich culture and variety of outdoor pursuits. A temperate climate, thriving economy and close proximity to both the Pacific Ocean and the Cascade Mountains are among the many reasons Portland has garnered high rankings on multiple "Most Livable City" lists.
To avoid parking problems in the bustling
Just south of
Fed by mountain snows and rain, the Willamette River separates the east and west sides of the city.
Remnants of this area's colorful past can be seen above and below ground. Film companies often use this district's 19th century architecture as a backdrop. An underground system of tunnels is the subject of tours.
A pair of lions stand guard at the entrance of Portland's
Locals refer to this district as
The Pearl District
Buildings that once served the city's industrial needs are steadily being converted into hip urban living spaces. With homes above and retail businesses at street level, these efficient multi-use spaces fill up quickly. The
An antique lover's nirvana, Sellwood is home to many shops selling collectibles.
Convention Center Area
This area is located on the
In the shadow of a volcano, shop for vintage clothing, sip a local micro brew, or savor the flavors of everything from vegan fare to Coney Island hot dogs. This neighborhood's eclectic aura defies exact definition. Going east on
From the Victorian air of the Northwest area, to heavenly views of nearby Mount Hood, Portland oozes ambiance. Unusual lodgings abound, so skip the run-of-the-mill hotels and celebrate Portland's distinct style. If standard accommodations are what you seek, the city has that too.
Simon Benson was pivotal in bringing culture and gentility to Portland, as reflected in the hotel named for him, The Benson. Built in 1912, this beauty boasts a celebrated lobby with Austrian crystal chandeliers. It is the first choice of visiting presidents and celebrities. The Governor Hotel is another landmark. Lewis and Clark live here, at least in murals and spirit. Everything about this hotel recalls a time when the West was not only won, but finally forced to mind its manners. If you like to be spoiled while traveling, make your reservations at the Heathman Hotel, where you will find subtle elegance and a courteous staff. Room service food arrives from the kitchen of the renowned Heathman Restaurant. Built in 1894, the Hotel Vintage Plaza was slated for conversion into office space, but was rescued and restored in the early 1990s. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, guests here are treated to wine tasting by the fire and intimate dinners at Pazzo Ristorante. Other swanky Downtown digs include Hotel Monaco, the RiverPlace Hotel and the recently remodeled Portland Hilton. Do not overlook the Marriott Hotel, right across from Waterfront Park. Ask for a room with a view and settle in to watch the activity on the Willamette and its bridges.
Downtown hotels are not necessarily synonymous with expensive rates. The Hotel deLuxe, built in 1912, is within reach of both your budget and Pearl District activities. The Imperial Hotel, built in 1908, is the city's longest continuously running hotel, and with good reason. The rooms are spacious and the 2p checkout time allows you to linger a bit. Just west of Downtown is The Mark Spencer Hotel. Offering kitchenettes and long-stay rates, it is an excellent choice for guests who are on extended business or relocating. The comfy hotel is located near Powell's Books and Jake's Famous Crawfish.
Why not spend the night in a beautiful old home in the trendy Nob Hill area? The Heron Haus, a turn of the century English Tudor, has sweeping city views and a paneled library that is perfect for sipping from your brandy glass. You will be within walking distance of the Northwest galleries, restaurants and boutiques. Although not technically located in Northwest Portland, the MacMaster House is conveniently located near northwest 23rd Avenue and Washington Park. A stay here resembles a leisurely visit to a wealthy relative's house. Each of the seven rooms has a special personality, and the breakfast is hearty and imaginative. Look into the Silver Cloud Inn. Although the hotel faces an industrial area, it is a great place to stay, offering the kinds of amenities that a bed and breakfast cannot. It boasts a fitness center, spa, video library and cable TV. Galleries, shops and restaurants like Paley's Place and L'Auberge are literally just steps away.
The Eastside is loaded with great places to stay. Instead of the large, full-service chain hotels, opt for the real flavor of this often overlooked area by staying a night or two at the popular McMenamins Kennedy School. The McMenamin brothers snapped up the old schoolhouse and transformed it into a 35-room bed and breakfast inn. Resonating a great sense of style and humor, the best touches include basketball in the actual gymnasium, a movie theater, and drinks in the Detention Bar. Many of the rooms contain the original chalkboards. The breakfast served at Portland's White House is local fare prepared with a gourmet touch. Although this property is luxurious, it is priced less than almost any Downtown hotel. It is especially nice to enjoy sherry in the parlor, and sip refreshments on the sun-dappled patio in the summertime. The Lion and the Rose bed and breakfast was the home of a brewery magnate. Stroll around the beautiful grounds of the Queen Anne home. In the gazebo, take the opportunity to pop the question to someone special, even if the question is as simple as, "Where do you want to eat tonight?"
Close your eyes and picture the perfect ski lodge. Do you see a huge stone fireplace? Rustic beams and stonework? You must be channeling Timberline Lodge, built in 1937 and named on every list ever compiled of outstanding American architecture. Located on Mount Hood, it is the heart and soul of the Timberline Ski Area. Speaking of rustic lodge charm, the Heathman Lodge, located next to Westfield Shopping Town, has bundles of it. Besides everything any business traveler could ever need, there is atmosphere to spare from leather lampshades to Pendleton wool bedspreads.
Strolling around Downtown Portland can be entertaining in itself, with tons of culture pouring out of every corner. You will find a festival, event or performance every week of the year: a ballet theater that impressed New York critics, an NBA team, more than 70 galleries, a thriving local music scene and more. Finding entertainment in Portland is never a problem and with each choice you get to learn a little more about the city.
The mother of all Portland festivals, the Rose Festival at Waterfront Village is still going strong. The Grand Floral Parade is by far the most famous attraction, but children also love the Waterfront Village amusement park at Waterfront Park. During Fleet Week,also at Waterfront Park, you can tour numerous U.S. and Canadian Navy ships.
No trip to Portland is complete without visiting the Saturday Market. You are sure to find something to pique your interest with more than 300 booths of unique art, crafts and gadgets. For more than 20 years, this seasonal outdoor market has featured handmade items and tasty treats. The street performers and characters that assemble here provide the ultimate show, so grab some falafel, settle down by Skidmore Fountain and enjoy.
Three stages featuring the greatest names in jazz and more than 30 hours of music are offered at the Mount Hood Jazz Festival at Mt. Hood.
The Bite, Cinco de Mayo and July's Oregon Microbrewery Festival are held annually at Waterfront Park. Autumn's most popular Oktoberfest celebration takes place in the little Bavarian town of Mount Angel. Look in Friday's Arts & Entertainment section of The Oregonian for the week's scheduled hoopla.
Museums & Galleries
Stand in the heart of Downtown Portland and glance around you. You'll find beautiful fountains form graceful arcs set against some of the nation's best architecture. A street musician may serenade you as you step off the MAX, holding tickets to a Broadway musical. Portland is an art haven and its nurturing environment has inspired countless creative minds.
To explore Portland's more inspired side, start with the Portland Art Museum (PAM). This museum has been a big stop for much tourist admiration, and you can enjoy everything from Native American artifacts to modern art. Stay late on Wednesday and enjoy live music at the Museum After Hours.
Peek at PAM's wilder sister, the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA), in a newer building on Northwest 12th Avenue. PICA is the place for the very latest in art, music and theater, especially the avant-garde. To sample the hottest portions of Portland's visual arts scene, visit one of the many local galleries. Look into the First Thursday and Last Thursday gallery walks.
If you like your art a little livelier, the Portland Center for the Performing Arts should be your next stop. This series of great venues includes the famous Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, or “The Schnitz,” as locals like to call it. This opulent, historic theater is home to the Oregon Symphony. The Keller Auditorium houses the Oregon Ballet Theater, the Portland Opera and various touring Broadway plays.
More intimate theater experiences are available from Portland's own professional company, Portland Center Stage, as well as Stark Raving Theatre and others.
The music scene cooks in Rip City, and you must not overlook the newly restored Crystal Ballroom with its floating dance floor. For really big names, only the Rose Garden, home of the Portland Trailblazers, will do.
Take a drive up to 100 year old Washington Park and explore the famed International Rose Test Garden and Japanese Garden. The views of Downtown and Mount Hood will leave you speechless. The Oregon Zoo features outdoor concerts, a zoo railroad and hundreds of animals. With all of the area highlights, including the World Forestry Center and Hoyt Arboretum, you will have no trouble finding something to your liking here.
Another Portland attraction that turns locals into tourists is the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), across the river from Washington Park. OMSI features changing interactive science exhibits, Omnimax Theater laser, adventure shows and a submarine in the Willamette River.
Popular day trip attractions include touring the Mount Hood/Columbia Gorge Loop, where the beauty of the great Columbia River is matched by a series of waterfalls. You can check out Multnomah Falls, the Bonneville Dam and Timberline Lodge. Visit the beautiful coastline while you are here. Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach is particularly memorable, and you will see a part of Oregon that is often overlooked.
This barely scratches the surface of Portland's entertainment scene. The wine country is located just minutes southwest of town, local clubs with thousands of hopeful artists are ready to entertain you and limitless outdoor recreational opportunities are available. You will find many local cinemas as well, including the wonderful Mission Theater and Pub. Comedy clubs like Harvey's provide outrageous entertainment.
Highbrow to storefront, street theater to mountaintop, Portland has it all.
Well before visits by explorers and frontiersmen, the Portland area and its rivers were home to trading among the many native people who lived in the lush valleys bordering Mount Hood and the Cascade Mountains. Legend tells that the Native Americans who thrived here used to hunt at Elk Rock and meet at Council Crest, the city's highest point. Tribal lore reaches in all directions, including the Bridge of the Gods, where Mother Nature provided the perfect place for a man-made bridge that now links Oregon to Washington near Bonneville Lock & Dam. Much of the vibrant culture of local tribes can be experienced at The Museum at Warm Springs.
Ordered by President Thomas Jefferson to explore the Pacific Northwest in 1804, Lewis and Clark made their famed journey through the Columbia River Gorge, which remains among the most scenic areas in the U.S. Take in the expansive view from the historic Vista House. The arrival of the explorers brought a new wave of trade and culture to the city. With military camps at nearby Fort Clatsop and Fort Vancouver, as well as historic Officers Row, U.S. military personnel mixed with settlers, fur trappers and seamen who came to Portland primarily from Astoria. The coastal town itself has a bountiful past that lives on in the Astoria Column and Columbia River Maritime Museum.
Drawn west by the California Gold Rush, a number of pioneers decided to head north to Oregon and Portland. Their arduous journey can be revisited at the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center as well as other museums. Among pioneers who came to the city in the 1840s were two early settlers from Boston, Massachusetts and Portland, Maine. The two gentlemen bet the name of the city on the toss of a coin, which can still be seen today at the Oregon History Center. The City of Portland was actually chartered in 1851, and historic City Hall and Pioneer Courthouse, both still in use, are testaments to Portland's dedication to its past.
Other key figures of Portland's past include the original publisher of The Oregonian Henry Pittock, whose Northwest Portland mansion provides an incredible view of Downtown and can be toured. Another father of the city is lumber baron Simon Benson, whose water fountains, known as the Benson Bubblers, still offer cool drinks today. The Benson Hotel is also named after this head of industry and is considered among the top accommodations in town.
Benson and Portland prospered through the harvest of timber, which is more closely examined at the World Forestry Center and Magness Memorial Tree Farm. Shipping along the banks of the Willamette and Columbia rivers, as well as fishing, helped drive drive the city's growth. When times became more difficult with the Great Depression, the area saw one of its biggest government projects with the New Deal construction of historic Timberline Lodge.
The history of Downtown Portland is rich with culture and color. The centuries-old buildings of the Pearl District and Chinatown mix with newer aesthetic attractions such as the Classical Chinese Garden. Stories of the city's boisterous past, when sailors and shipyard workers mixed in places like the White Eagle and Buffalo Gap saloons, include tales of men getting "shanghai'd"—taken away drunk and forced to work aboard the ship of a cruel captain. The city's darker side can also be seen at the Portland Police Historical Museum, where both criminals and heroes of the city's past live on.
Also known as the City of Bridges, part of Portland's history spans the Willamette River, which passengers can tour on the Willamette Shore Trolley. The Hawthorne Bridge—one of the oldest elevation bridges still operating—is often being filmed for a movie, and where races and walks take place. It connects the Downtown area to East Portland, which in the early days of the city was connected only by ferry. Today, Portlanders have a choice of many bridges, including the Steel Bridge, which is a one of-a-kind, double-decker elevation bridge, and the Broadway Bridge, which connects Downtown to the Rose Quarter and Northeast Portland. The city is also linked by the Interstate Bridge to Vancouver, Washington, which carries its own history in a small, rejuvenated downtown area.
Rivaling Portland's numerous, historic bridges are the city's parks, which are never far and offer the perfect place to play, walk, relax or picnic. It would not be hard to spend a day at Forest Park, which is the largest city park in the United States. A visit to Portland would not be complete without seeing Washington Park, the International Rose Test Garden and other attractions of the urban forest. Here you will see and smell the reason Portland is called the Rose City.
One of Portland's largest examples of history is the renovated PGE Park. Formerly known as Civic Stadium and rebuilt in 2001, this is one of the oldest Downtown ballparks in the U.S. The outdoor park still hosts Portland Beavers baseball as well as other sporting and musical events. Other landmarks connecting Portland's past and future include Powell's Books, which chronicles the local history and the Portland Brewing Tap Room, where the new twist of micro brew adds flavor to the old art of brewing.