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17 AWESOME Things to Do in Portland, Oregon

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Are you thinking about hitting up Portland, Oregon? We love this city, especially since it’s just a cool 2-3 hour drive away from where we are in Seattle.

Portland has a ton of quirky cafes (and vegan food galore), gorgeous green parks, and overall really cool neighborhoods. It’s known for its stunning natural beauty, vibrant arts scene, and of course its love for coffee and eclectic things.

So if you’re looking for awesome things to do in Portland, grab your favorite travel mug (you’ll need it for all the amazing coffee!), and check out the top things you can’t miss when you’re in the City of Roses!

Explore the Pearl District

Originally, the Pearl District was an area of warehouses, rail yards, and light industrial buildings. The name “Pearl” is said to have come from a local gallery owner, comparing the district to a crusty oyster with beautiful pearls inside.

In the late 20th century, the abandoned warehouses were transformed into upscale apartments, lofts, art galleries, and office spaces.

Now, the Pearl District is a hotspot for arts and culture, known for its “First Thursday” art walks where galleries open their doors to the public!

Spend an afternoon here browsing through shops, hitting up a café or two, and maybe even catching some live music.

Grab A Donut At Voodoo Donuts

Established in 2003 by Kenneth “Cat Daddy” Pogson and Tres Shannon, Voodoo Donuts is more than just a doughnut shop; it’s a part of Portland’s distinctive culture. It’s famous for its unique and outrageous doughnut creations.

You’ll find flavors and designs here that are nowhere near ordinary, including toppings like bacon, cereal, as well as crazy combinations. It’s also open 24/7 – a haven for doughnut lovers at any hour.

Visiting Voodoo Doughnut is not just about indulging in sweet treats; it’s an experience complete with lively staff, the anticipation in the queue, and the excitement of holding that iconic pink box filled with doughnuts.

Take a Stroll in Washington Park

You can’t come to Portland and not visit Washington Park. It’s huge and has everything from rose gardens (Portland is the City of Roses, after all) to a cool Japanese Garden.

By the way, the Japanese garden here is considered to be one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan!

Every time we go there, we see lots of people taking pictures – this place is Insta-worthy!

Hit Up the Food Trucks

You might already know that Portland is famous for its food truck scene.

You’ll find these trucks clustered in ‘pods’ all over the city, serving up everything from Korean tacos, grilled cheese, custom pizzas, Mediterranean foods, even a brewery on a cart, and sooooo much more!

Michelle’s favorite food truck order is the Farm Bird from Farmer and the Beast and Evan loves “The Taylor” Signature Jianbing from Bing Mi.

Powell’s City of Books

Book lovers, brace yourselves. Powell’s is a gigantic bookstore that takes up a whole city block – it’s one of the largest bookstores in the world!

You can literally spend hours here browsing through new and used books. If you’re like us and you love books, Powell’s is a Portland must-do. Plus, there are lots of cool cafes and restaurants nearby to pop in afterward!

Cruise the Willamette River

For a break from the city streets, hop on a boat and cruise the Willamette River. It’s a chill way to see the city from a different perspective. Cruises usually depart from easily accessible points in Portland.

You can choose from purely sightseeing cruises, brunch and dinner cruises, or holiday and themed cruises like jazz nights or wine-tasting events.

Explore the Saturday Market

If you’re in town over the weekend, one of my favorite things to do is visit the Portland Saturday Market. It happens every weekend from March through December and offers a lively mix of local crafts, food, and music.

You can find the Saturday Market in Portland’s historic Old Town/Chinatown district. It’s also set against the backdrop of the beautiful Willamette River! We love coming here to pick up one-of-a-kind gifts and always to eat good food!

Check Out the Street Art

Portland has some of the best (and weirdest) street art. Even as you drive around town, you’ll find incredible murals all over the city, and they make for great photo ops.

The Pearl District and Alberta Street are neighborhoods known for their concentration of street art.

Visit the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

If you’re into science or have kids with you, try visiting the OMSI. It’s packed with hands-on exhibits covering topics like physics, earth science, biology, and more.

One of the unique attractions at OMSI is the USS Blueback Submarine. You can actually go inside and tour this real submarine, which was in active service and is now docked at the museum.

These exhibits are super fun and designed to make learning about science interesting for all ages. They’ve got a planetarium, too!

Take a Brewery Tour

Portland is known for its craft beer scene. Many breweries offer tours and tastings, so you can sample some of the local brews. Here’s what you can expect from a brewery tour:

  • Variety of Brews: From hoppy IPAs to rich stouts, there’s a wide variety of beers you can sample. Many breweries also experiment with unique flavors and brewing techniques!
  • Behind-the-Scenes Access: Brewery tours often include a walk through the brewing facilities. You’ll get to see how beer is made, from the brewing process to fermentation and bottling.
  • Expert Knowledge: Guides usually have extensive knowledge about beer and brewing. They can provide insights into the history of brewing in Portland, the characteristics of different beer styles, and even pairing suggestions.
  • Tastings and Souvenirs: Of course, the highlight of any brewery tour is the tasting session. You’ll get to sample a range of beers, and many tours include a souvenir glass to take home.

Visit Pittock Mansion

Pittock Mansion is a cool old house on a hill in Portland. Built in 1914, it was the home of Henry Pittock, who started The Oregonian newspaper.

Now, it acts like a museum that essentially shows off how fancy life was in Portland a long time ago. The house itself is really pretty, with lots of old-timey decorations and furniture.

But the best part has got to be the views! From up there, you can see the whole city and even mountains far away. It’s a great place to check out if you’re into history or just want to see an awesome view of Portland.

Get A Cup of Coffee at Stumptown Coffee Roasters

Founded in 1999 by Duane Sorenson, Stumptown has grown from a small coffee shop into a nationally recognized brand.

They’re known for their commitment to sourcing the finest beans by having direct relationships with coffee farmers. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that their coffees are also incredible 🙂

Stumptown’s cafes also feel super warm and inviting. It’s a great place to read a book, work, or catch up with friends.

Catch a Show at the Crystal Ballroom

The Crystal Ballroom is an iconic venue in Portland for live music. Each night, they host a bunch of different artists, so check out who’s playing when you’re in town.

Electric atmosphere and great music? Check and check!

Take a Day Trip to Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls is just a short drive from Portland – and it’s stunning. Seriously, I couldn’t get Evan to leave haha.

Bring your camera, a waterproof jacket, and some comfy shoes for this one! We went all the way to the top of the trail to see the views (heads up: the climb up can be somewhat steep). But if you want to just see the waterfall without the work, there’s a scenic viewpoint at the base and it’s still just as gorgeous!

Relax in the Lan Su Chinese Garden

The Lan Su Chinese Garden makes for a nice stroll or picnic spot in the middle of the city. It feels like a mix of Portland and Suzhou (Portland’s sister city).

It’s beautifully designed and a great spot to unwind after a day of exploring.

Hike in Hoyt Arboretum

The trails at Hoyt Arboretum are thematically named after the tree species you’ll find along the way, from the holly, white pine, redwood, oak, etc.

We thought the trails were really well-marked and maintained, and loved the variety of terrain that caters to both casual strollers to intense hikers (we’re somewhere in the middle!).

Plus, the arboretum is located just minutes from downtown Portland, making it super accessible for a quick nature fix.

Shop at Hayden Island

Hayden Island sits right on the Columbia River, smack between Oregon and Washington, but the island itself is part of Portland.

People usually go to Hayden Island to visit the Jantzen Beach Center. This area used to be known as a big amusement park back in the day, like way back in the 1920s to 1970s. Nowadays, it’s dedicated to retail shopping with a huge shopping center there. We drive here for bigger purchases to save on sales tax!

In the eastern part of the island, there are residential areas. There are these floating homes, which are super cool and something you don’t see every day.

Fun fact: the island has two parts: the developed area and a pretty much untouched, natural wetland – which you can visit. You can find all kinds of birds and wildlife hanging out there.

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Are there any other fun things to do in Portland that we missed? Feel free to leave a comment below!

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