We absolutely love living in Portland! Not only is Portland is home to great food, coffee, beer and gorgeous scenery, but it’s so close to other amazing scenic places, like the mountain or the beach. Since we are locals to Portland, we thought we’d share our Portland bucketlist for those are that new to Portland. There is way more to do, but if your visiting Portland for the first time, these are the must-see things to do in Portland.
What You'll Find in This Post
- 1 Ultimate Portland Bucketlist
- 2 Tips for first time visitors
- 3 How to get around Portland
- 4 Where to Stay in Portland
Ultimate Portland Bucketlist
Attractions in Portland
Japanese Garden – A traditional Japanese garden located in Washington Park, with 12 acres of gardens
Pittock Mansion – originally built in 1914, Pittock Mansion sits on 46 acres with a gorgeous view of downtown Portland
International Rose Test Garden – a gorgeous rose garden in Washington Park with over 10,000 rose bushes
Lan Su Chinese Garden – a full city block of Chinese garden in Chinatown influenced by the classical gardens in Suzhou
McMenamins Kennedy School – a historic elementary school turned into an unique hotel, with a soaking pool, bars, movie theaters, and brewery
OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) – a science and technology museum with 3 auditoriums, a planetarium, and exhibition halls with hands-on exhibits perfect for kids
Portland Art Museum – The oldest art museum on the West Coast, with free admission every fourth Friday of the month from 5-8pm.
Portland Farmers Market – Buy local produce, seafood, wine, flowers, and more. Open year-round by Portland State University
Saturday market – The largest open-air arts and crafts market in the country, selling local handmade arts, crafts and food. Open every weekend March through December 24th.
Alberta Street – The Alberta Arts District is known for its fine arts, graffiti, and community murals. To see some of the awesome street art and murals in Portland, Alberta district has a ton.
Oaks Amusement Park – If you’re looking for something to do with kids in Portland, Oaks Park is right up your alley. The closest thing Oregon has to a boardwalk, at Oaks Park Amusement Park you’ll find roller coasters, go-carts, mini-golf, roller skating and more! The park is open from March to September, and the roller-skating rink is open all year round.
Portland Spirit – Enjoy premier dining on a yacht as you ride along the Willamette River. You can depart from downtown Portland or from the Columbia Gorge. Brunch, lunch, and dinner options with some gorgeous scenery of Oregon.
World of Speed – Car museum with interactive exhibits and displays with over 100 historic race cars and motorcycles, 2 classrooms and a service shop.
McMenamins Edgefield– 74 acres of farmland turned resort right outside Portland. 100 guestrooms, a fine-dining restaurant, a casual brewpub, Ruby’s Spa and soaking pool, a brewery, winery, distillery, movie theater, two par-3 golf courses and more.
Drive in Theater – Enjoy an old-fashioned movie at the drive-in. Although technically outside of Portland, the drive-in in Newberg originally opened in 1953, and is only one of 4 drive-ins still open in Oregon. Open from late April to late October.
Powells Books – the world’s largest independent bookstore located on W Burnside, covers an entire city block
Watch Soccer – The Portland Timbers and The Portland Thorns are great family-friendly experiences when in Portland
Baghdad theater – an iconic movie theater in the Hawthorne district, that originally opened in 1927
See a roller derby game – Portland has it’s own women’s flat track roller derby league, with 4 home teams, 1 all-star team, and 1 recreational league, as well as kids teams.
Take a ride on the trolley – Enjoy the scenic views of the Willamette River as you ride on a vintage trolley between Lake Oswego to Downtown Portland.
Play old school video games – at Ground Control you can feel like a kid again with over 100 types of video games, 40 pinball machines, full service bar, and event rentals
Walk across Tilikum crossing bridge – The Tilikum Bridge is the first major bridge in the US that was designed to allow access to public transit vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians, no cars allowed
Parks in Portland
Forest Park – Forest Park is one of the largest urban forests in the United States, with 5200 acres. On the hills of the west side of downtown Portland, you’ll find more than 80 miles of trails and forest roads. Even though it’s close to the city, you wouldn’t know it when you’re in the middle of Forest Park. The park is open every day from 5am-10pm, and dogs are allowed on leashes.
Mills End Park – Not your normal “park”, but worth seeing as Mills end is in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the smallest park in existence, only 452 square inches.
Washington Park – Washington Park is a public urban park in SW Portland that includes Hoyt Arboretum, International rose test garden, the Oregon Zoo, the children’s museum, Portland Japanese garden and more!
Cathedral Park – Along the WIllamette River in North Portland, underneath the St. Johns bridge. Cathedral Park is popular for it’s beautiful cathedral-like arches. Cathedral Park is a popular place for engagement photos in Portland.
Mt Tabor Park – Located in Southeast Portland, Mt. Tabor has 196 acres of forested areas and panoramic views of the city. For an active day in Portland, head to Mt Tabor for running, walking, biking, hiking, and more!
Tom Mccall waterfront Park – Tom Mccall Park is located right along the Willamette River and is home to many annual events. The park is 1.5 miles long with a grassy area right next to the river.
Council Crest Park – thought to be the highest point in Portland, on a clear day you can see 5 mountains (including Mt Hood and Mt St Helens) .
Blue Lake Park – Blue Lake is a great place to take the kids for the day, with fields, lake, barbecue patio, and paved fountain.
Food and drinks in Portland
Pips doughnuts and chai – In a city with tons of doughnut options, you MUST try Pips. Pip’s has delicious bite sized doughnuts and chai tea. The doughnuts are simple and made to order, with delicious combinations like nutella and sea salt, or cinnamon sugar, or the “Dirty Wu”. They make amazing seasonal flavors as well. If you’re in Portland for your birthday, get a free dozen doughnuts from Pips!
Voodoo Donuts – Another Portland staple, Voodoo donuts captures the “weirdness” of Portland. Be prepared to wait in line for awhile. Two locations are open in downtown Portland.
Salt and Straw – Salt and Straw is a staple for anyone visiting Portland for the first time. And while many people question if ice cream can be that good, lets us answer for you: YES! Salt and Straw is a “farm-to-cone” ice cream shop, using only local ingredients for the ice cream. From snickerdoodle, to maple and bacon, to honey lavendar, there isn’t a bad scoop of ice cream at Salt and Straw.
Hubers Cafe– Located in Historic Oregon Pioneer Building, Hubers is the oldest restaurant in Portland, founded in 1879. Known for their traditional turkey dinners, fresh seafood, pasta and the Spanish coffee prepared at your table including fire.
Verde Cocina– Farm to fork and locally sourced Mexican food with a vegetable-centric, health-oriented twist. Signature gluten-free ingredient, you can find something you like whether you are vegetarian, paleo, or carnivore. Three locations and a food cart at Portland Farmers Market.
Olympia Provisions – A charcuterie house with 6 restaurants
Laurelhurst Market – named one of Portland’s best restaurants, Laurelhurst Market is a steakhouse, full-service butcher shop, and bar.
Luc-Lac – famous for the pho, happy hour includes $2 appetizers including spring rolls, skewers, and coconut prawns, and $4 beers and wine. Try the chicken wings glistening with a sugar and fish sauce marinade.
Pok Pok – A world-famous Thai restaurant located right in downtown Portland. Pok Pok is inspired by the street food found in Thailand. Not your typical thai food, you’ll find adventurous and authentic thai food like spicy papaya pok pok salad. The original Pok Pok is on Division Street.
Pine Street Market – A food hall, where you can find 9 of Portland’s best chefs all in one spot.
Beast – A six-course meaty fine-dining restaurant. Beast has dishes that are creative but refined, menu changes every other week.
Screen door– considered one of the best weekend brunch spots in Portland, but be prepared to wait in line for brunch. Preparing southern cuisine including fried buttermilk-battered chicken, Low Country shrimp and grits and Carolina pulled pork.
Marukin ramen – Marukin is the best ramen restaurant in Portland, created with locally sourced ingredients.
Multnomah Whiskey Library – One of the best whiskey bars in the country, choice of over 1500 distilled spirits
Matt’s BBQ – Texas-style BBQ food cart on N. Mississippi Ave.
Laurelwood Brew Pub – A family friendly restaurant with great beer
Brew cycle tour – Drink and cycle your way around Portland. A 2 hour 3-stop brew crawl ride around the city
The waffle window – One of the best breakfast places in Portland, the waffle window has delicious beige waffles with an assortment of flavors and toppings
Departure – Top Chef alum Gregory Gourdet serves specialty-diet-friendly sushi, salads, and show-stopping plates, located on the top of The Nines Hotel
Enso winery – an urban winery in SE Portland
Ancestry brewery – the 3rd location to open up off SE Hawthorne, with delicious beer and food
Portland City Grill – located on the 30th floor of the US Bancorp tower, this restaurant is known for its view. For “cheap eats”, come for happy hour to enjoy the view
Church bar– The motto of church is “eat, drink, repent”. A hipster hangout with southern-comfort food. With a confessional style photo booth
Brewvana brewery tour– various guided beer tours throughout the city
*Coffee, Beer and Wine are absolute must do’s while in Portland*
Street Art and Signs in Portland
Portland, Oregon sign – lighted neon sign sits atop the White Stag building on NW couch street. The sign faces westbound traffic as it enters downtown Portland coming across the Willamette River.
Alberta street art – There is street art all over Portland, but the Alberta Arts district is one of the best areas to go if you’re looking for street art. You can find a PDF of the street art here.
“Keep Portland Weird” – Portland’s unofficial motto, this sign located right across from Voodoo donuts on 3rd Street between Burnside and Ankeny.
Central Eastside street art – Central Eastside Industrial district is full of street art murals and graffiti. There is always new art added, so it can be fun to explore to see what you find.
Best hikes in and around Portland
Trail of 10 falls – Located in Silver Falls State Park, the trail is a moderate 7.6 miles with 10 waterfalls. Perfect for families, and smaller kids, but can be slippery after some rain
Tamanawas Falls – 3.5 mile roundtrip hike in the Mount Hood National Forest
Pittock Mansion – hike Wildwood trail up to Pittock Mansion for a great view of the city
Tryon Creek – located right outside Portland, there are 8 miles of hiking trails surrounded by scenic greenery.
Dog Mountain – an intense hike, right across the river, in Washington, known for it’s wildflowers and gorgeous views.
Forest Park – 7 miles of park located in Northwest Portland, there are tons of hiking trails right inside the city.
Angels Rest – a 5 mile hike overlooking the Columbia River gorge
**If you want to make a trip out to the Columbia Gorge, check out some of these gorgeous hikes in the gorge
Notable Festivals and Events in Portland
Chinese New Year at Lan Su Garden- February
Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival – April (Woodburn, OR)
Portland Rose Festival – May
River 2 Ridge Relay Race – May (Salem, OR)
PDX Beer Week – June
Tigard Balloon Festival – June
World Naked Bike Ride – June
Waterfront Blues Festival – July
Oregon Brewers Festival – July
Mt. Angel Oktoberfest – September (Salem, OR)
Day Trips from Portland
Portland is in a prime location, being 2 hours from the Pacific Ocean, 1 hour from the mountains, and tons of outdoor adventures only a short drive away. Here are some notable day trips from Portland if you’re visiting for the first time:
- Oregon Coast – 2 hours from Portland
- Mt Hood – 1 hour from Portland
- Columbia Gorge and Hood River – 1 hour from Portland
- Oregon Wine Country – 1 hour from Portland
- Silver Falls State Park – 1 hour from Portland
- Olympia and Seattle, Washington – 3 hours from Portland
Tips for first time visitors
- When to visit: Late spring and summer are the best times to visit Portland.
- If you want to do some day trips and visit some hikes and waterfalls, we recommend you rent a car
- No matter the time of year you are visiting Portland, bring a rain jacket.
- There is no sales tax in Portland, so stock up on all your shopping
- Come hungry AND thirsty, Portland is home to great food and coffee, beer and wine!
How to get around Portland
Portland is a big bicycle city, with over 350 miles of bikeway. Portland is one of the most bike-friendly cities. You can rent bikes from nearly anywhere, thanks to the Biketown bike-sharing program. There is also the Trimet bus and MAX train throughout the city. Uber and Lyft are both readily available in Portland. If you are staying in downtown Portland, you probably don’t need to rent a car, but we recommend you rent a car if you want to explore the surrounding area.
Where to Stay in Portland
It can be tricky to know where to stay in Portland, because there are so many different districts to pick from. Figure out where you want to stay first and then narrow down the options. Here are some of our favorite hotels in Portland.
Downtown – Kimpton Hotel Vintage
Pearl District- The Benson Hotel
Eastside- Luxury Guesthouse near downtown
Portland International Airport- Aloft Portland
Read reviews here
- Day Trips from Portland
- Oregon Coast Road Trip
- Things to do in Bend, Oregon
- Exploring Tualatin Valley
- Visiting Oregon’s Tulip Festival
Have you been to Portland? What are your must-see things to do in Portland?