What to do in PNW’s original hippie capital? Well, it doesn’t all have to be uber hipster (though a lot of things will be). Portland has a lot to offer and we’re here to get you acquainted with the best things to do in the city so you don’t miss a thing.
Get out your flannel and Blundstones out and get ready for the most epic visit with our guide of the best things to do in Portland, Oregon.
Hit the breweries in Pearl District
Portland’s known for its craft brewery scene no doubt. The Pacific Northwest prides itself in the IPA especially, so if it’s your first visit to this glorious area of the world, make sure to try a few! (Just prepare your palette and your body, as they tend to teeter over the 5.5% alcohol mark with IBUs in the 50-70 range).
Whatever your preferred beer though, hop on (pun intended!) over to the Pearl District where there’s a very good density of breweries for a decent crawl, with about half a dozen options within walking distance of each other. Deschutes is a popular place to start.
Spend some cozy time in a McMenamins establishment
McMenamins are the Pacific Northwest’s answer to gentrification. Rather than bulldozing old buildings to make way for new lux builds, the McMenamins chain of brewpubs and historic hotels have been making old buildings present-day places of profitable gathering since the eighties.
Family-owned and operated, and also claimed as one of America’s largest craft breweries, expect to drink tasty beers in all kinds of places, from old theatres to elementary schools. A great place to start is the Kennedy School.
Eat from a food cart – or three
Portland is the city of food trucks. With over 600 food carts in the city and counting, they’ve parked themselves in pods all over the city and are waiting for you to discover them. The Alder Street Food Cart Pod is a good place to start (it’s the largest downtown). Located from SW 9th to 10th Avenues between SW Alder and Washington, it’s great for lunch on weekdays. For late-night eats, Cartopia is a favourite, located on SE Hawthorne Boulevard, and open until 3 am on weekends.
Cycle or scooter ’round town
Get with the program (cuz the official program in PDX is cycling) and hope on some wheels to get around the city. Learn your hand signals, shoulder check, and make use of the incredible bike lanes that criss-cross the city. Plus, the city offers a great bike share program BikeTown (it’s the orange bikes everywhere), so you can get around on the cheap.
Not into cycling? Well, then, make like a millennial kid and hop on a scooter; download Lime and you’ll be set to go (seriously!). But whatever your choice, it’s no visit to Portland without doing what the locals do – and getting around between places just like them, too.
Cross a bridge over the Willamette
Portland is in some ways a city of bridges. In total, there are a total of 12 bridges that span the Willamette River. One favourite for pedestrians is the Hawthorne Bridge, a truss bridge that is the oldest vertical-lift bridge in operation in the US, which offers beautiful views of the city. The Morrison Bridge is Portland’s oldest bridge (and longest west of the Mississippi!). For the lazy, hop on the MAX Orange Line that will take you over Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People, a cable-stayed bridge designed for passenger trains.
Catch a game
Portland is home to the NBA Trail Blazers as well as the MLS Portland Timbers. Choose your sport or time of year/weather forecast, then head on out to the Moda Center for some good ol’ b-ball or the outdoor Providence Park downtown for a soccer match.
Hitch a ride on the Aerial Tram
For about $5, take a ride on the Aerial Tram, Portland’s own commuter tram, and get glimpses of the city from a very unique point of view – from 500 feet up in the air! Cabins depart every 6 minutes or so, and a one-way trip lasts four minutes. But it’ll be a very cool four minutes, we promise!
Beat the rush hour crowds by going on weekends, unless you really want to experience the local commuter crowds as the make their way up Marquam Hill. There’s also a coffee shop up top so you can hang out.
Take in the view from the top of Mount Tabor
Central Eastside in Portland saw the fourth highest increase in millennial residents of any large US zip code so it would be amiss to not go check out what this hood has to offer, right?
Of course, once you’ve had your fill of hipster cafes, head a little further east to nearby Mount Tabor (by foot or by bike) to take in some epic city views. It’s about two miles long and pretty easy. Start at Lincoln Street Trailhead.
Spend a billion hours inside Powell’s Books
Powell’s City of Books is aptly named because you could spend an entire day there and still feel like you haven’t seen it all. But no trip to Portland without a stop here would be complete. Get lost in the racks, find old vintage faves or the last new edition, grab a coffee at the cafe, and perch yourself here for the day.
Go vintage shopping on Hawthorne
Hawthorne may be a bit grimy these days, but it’s the original spot for vintage shopping. Head there for loads of used/vintage/consignment options including vintage superstore House of Vintage, funky emporium Vintage Pink, and the well-curated Red Light Clothing Exchange.
Hike the T4 Trail loop
If there’s any creative way to see Portland, this is it. This four-mile hike consists of trails combined with rides on the tram, trolley, and train, and you can start at any spot on the loop. It’ll take between three and four hours to complete and will make any major pig-out in Portland’s delicious eateries afterwards that much more worth it!
Eat your new favourite donut
Portland is known for this old-time American delicacy and flaunts a pretty large number of donut shops like Voodoo Donut, Blue Star, Heavenly Donuts, Doe Donut, Coco Donuts, and Pip’s Original… The list most definitely goes on, but this is a good batch to start with. Try them all and find your fave, and please don’t forget to tell us about it. #drool.
Drink in a building that used be a church
Portlandians are notorious for taking old buildings and revitalizing them into something for modern use (i.e. doesn’t prohibit the imbibing of some fine alcoholic drinks). Take for instance the Mississippi Studios and Bar Bar, a revamped Baptist church, the Portland Playhouse and the Roseland Theater and Grill (both old churches-turned-venues), or Grace, a United Methodist Church circa the 1850s that’s now a swanky burger joint.
Drink in a movie theatre
It’s not every city where you can find a historic movie theatre that serves you beer (and food) right to your seat! Plus your seat is a big-ass comfy couch. Portland is teeming with options, with cool theatres all over the city.
McMenamins’ Baghdad Theatre on Hawthorne Boulevard and Kennedy School in the Alberta Arts District are fine choices because of the excellent decor and all-around amazing atmosphere offered by both. Plus local craft brews! Just don’t drink too many and fall asleep (if you really care about seeing the movie).
Make like a local with these must-do activities in Portland, Oregon and get a true taste of the Pacific Northwest and what this hip(ster) city has to offer!
Found your fave donut or beer in Portland? Tell us about it using the hashtag #dailyhivemapped.