Things to Do in Portland, Oregon

comments: 134

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Should you find yourself in the Rose City, here are a few suggestions for you. No list could be comprehensive; I compiled this one from this blog's local reader comments (thank you!), and added several of my and Andy's favorite places and activities. If you have further suggestions, please leave them in the comments for others to find. For more photos and posts about outings we've taken, the Portland and Oregon category (on my right-hand sidebar) may give you some ideas as well. Enjoy!

Must See and Do:

Washington Park ::: Gardens, the zoo, the arboretum, tennis courts, playgrounds
Powell's Books
::: You must!
Farmer’s Market
::: Our favorite is at Portland State University on Saturday mornings
Saturday Market
::: Largest continuously operating outdoor arts and crafts market in the country
Multnomah Falls
::: Take the Historic Columbia River Highway and stop at Crown Point
Timberline Lodge
::: A great historic hotel on Mt. Hood
Cannon Beach
, and anywhere along the Oregon Coast ::: It’s all gorgeous
Clackamas County Fair
and Oregon State Fair ::: In August, though we wait all year

Hotel:

Ace Hotel ::: Hipster heaven, and right in middle of it all
RiverPlace Hotel
::: Fancy, perfectly placed on the river, and within walking distance of downtown
Kennedy School
::: Renovated 1915 elementary school, with a soaking pool and characteristic McMenamins’ flair
The Jupiter Hotel
::: Edgy, pet-friendly, green, and urban cool
Hotel deLuxe
::: Hollywood glamour, and home of Gracie’s restaurant, where we go for lunch during the Christmas season

Fabric stores:

Fabric Depot ::: The largest and most complete fabric store in the country
Mill End Store
::: The best wools, silks, and linens in town, in my opinion
Bolt
::: A cutting-edge collection of contemporary sewing supplies and gorgeous fabric
Cool Cottons
::: Colorful, well-organized, perfectly chosen quilting cottons
Pendleton Woolen Mill Outlet
::: Wonderful wools in every color
Hollyhill Quilt Shoppe ::: Eeeeee! Cottons, gorgeously displayed
Pioneer Quilts
::: Tiny calicos!!!


Yarn store:

Happy Knits ::: Modern, airy, inspiring and always friendly
Close Knit ::: Warm and cozy collection in a great neighborhood for browsing
Yarn Garden
::: Lots and lots
Twisted
::: The place for sock yarn!
Knit Purl
::: Small but right downtown and on the streetcar line
Northwest Wools
::: Nice selection in cute little shopping area

Craft stores:

Collage ::: A curated collection of encaustic, mixed media, paper and other crafts
Gossamer
::: Fiber crafts, wool arts, and Waldorf supplies
SCRAP ::: Creative re-use, education programs, and affordable materials
Knittn’ Kitten
::: Vintage fabric, patterns, notions, and supplies
Acorns and Threads
::: Cross-stitch patterns, fabrics, and supplies
Playful Needle
::: Needlepoint and crewel patterns, fabrics, and supplies
Button Emporium
::: Buttons and ribbons galore

Antiques:

Monticello ::: Big and beautiful, with an emphasis on Shabby Chic-type things and great garden accessories and furniture
Stars
and Stars & Splendid ::: Across the street from each other, both have a generous mix of great stuff
Dusty Tiger
::: I’ve found the best stuff at the best prices at this place, I tell you! Or maybe I shouldn’t tell you!
Antique Alley
::: Old school, baby.
Found on Fremont
::: Well curated collection of your favorites

Cool new little neighborhood restaurant:

St. Jack ::: Rustic French in a gorgeous space on one of my favorite corners anywhere
Equinox
::: Industrial + beautiful + seasonal + delicious + recycled materials = gottaloveit
Toro Bravo
::: Spanish tapas
Little Bird Bistro
::: Doesn’t get much cuter, or much more central, than this
June
::: On a busy street, but still intimate
Pizza Fino
::: Neighborhood pizza and more
Girasole
::: More neighborhood pizza. Probably can’t have too much neighborhood pizza.

Food carts:

Potato Champion ::: Andy’s favorite
Lardo
::: Andy’s other favorite
Grilled Cheese Grill
::: Everybody else’s favorite
Koi Fushion
::: Korean-Oregon infusion
Big-Ass Sandwiches
::: Prolly needs no explanation
Khao Man Gai
::: Just one thing on the menu

Breakfast:

Slappy Cakes ::: Make your own pancakes, and I really love the light here.
Broder
::: My favorite atmosphere and decor in the whole city. Especially wonderful in the morning, for some reason.
Zell’s
::: Classic neighborhood breakfast spot, complete with café curtains and eggs Benedict
The Waffle Window
::: Legendary in our house, and best on a day with no rain
Pine State Biscuits
::: With sausage or mushroom gravy, thick-cut bacon, fried chicken, eggs, grits, and preserves. I think you get it.
La Petite Provence
::: The best -- and best-priced -- French bakery/café in Portland. Don’t leave without taking home an éclair, seriously.
Helser’s on Alberta
::: Crowded but really wonderful

Outdoor restaurant dining:

Meriweather’s ::: Fancy date, or a lovely, grown-up place to take the in-laws
Departure
::: Uber swanky rooftop
Piazza Italia
::: My favorite sidewalk dining on Friday nights in the summertime
Por Que No
::: Mexican patio, and I seriously love their summer fruit juice drinks
Tin Shed
::: Playful and fun, kinda like being at great backyard party
Basta’s
::: Romantic and quiet grapevine covered patio

Burger and fries:

Little Big Burger ::: So simple, so perfect, and with truffle-oil fries: Andy’s requested birthday lunch
Violetta
::: Slow food fast, and in Director Park, a great new location for people-watching
Castagna Cafe
::: This one's good
Besaw’s
::: OH, this one is even better, but there is nothing I don’t love about Besaw’s. Stop here after hiking in Forest Park in the fall, and sit in the front room. Love love love.
The Observatory
::: A beloved veggie burger in an up-and-coming neighborhood
Café Nell
::: I haven’t tried this one, but it looks delish

Microbrew:

Hopworks ::: And The Derailer is a great chicken sandwich.
Bridgeport
::: Our neighborhood joint, so we love it.
Deschutes
::: It’s always good, and the pub is cool.
Captured by Porches
::: Definitely the best name

Coffee shop with a plug for your computer:

Water Avenue Coffee ::: Great coffee, great light, great colors, and not claustrophobic, which is why I love it
Caffe Pallino
::: Bright and streamlined, with gelato, food, and usually decent music
Cloud Seven
::: On a nice day you can sit outside, and this one even has good people-watching in Jamison Square, to boot.
The Press Club
::: With wine, crepes, and great magazines to boot.
Extracto
::: I haven’t been to either location, but they got several mentions

Coffee shop with people watching:

Stumptown ::: Daily
Ristretto
::: Another several-times-recommended shop I have to try
Fresh Pot
::: Watch the comings and goings in some of our favorite neighborhoods (Hawthorne and Mississippi) here
St. Honore Boulangerie
::: So adorable, so French, so crowded, so expensive, but so delicious

Garden:

International Rose Test Garden ::: If you do one thing. . . .
Portland Japanese Garden
::: Magical. Go on a weekday morning before it gets crowded, so you don’t have to hear a bunch of other peoples’ conversations. This is a place for quiet.
Lan Su Chinese Garden
::: So very beautiful on a cloudy day, especially
Elk Rock Garden of the Bishop’s Close
::: I love this place. It’s beautiful.

Outdoor fountain:

A walking map of local fountains is here.
Jamison Square
::: Really sweet little setting for kids, like a piazza with a tidal pool
Ira Keller Fountain Park
::: One of Andy’s favorites, an urban warren of waterfalls
Magnolia Park
::: In Hillsboro, with lots to do

Picnic spot:

Council Crest ::: On a clear day, this view is hard to beat
Wildwood Recreation Site
::: This looks gorgeous. Can’t even believe we haven’t been here yet. Will report back.
Commonwealth Lake
::: A suburban park with a lake that looks good for those with small kiddos
Pittock Mansion
grounds ::: I always pretend I’m going to a wonderful party when I’m here. Except that I’m paying to get in. But still – the lawn is free.
Skidmore Bluffs
::: Sometimes I feel claustrophobic in Portland. Not up here. Love the view, and the neighborhood. Always feels like a different town to me.

Day hike:

Anywhere in Forest Park ::: The book Portland Hill Walks by Laura O. Foster is awesome.
Cascade Head
::: The mountains at the edge of the sea, with wildflowers
Angel’s Rest
::: A heavenly view
By the way, the Portland Hikers Field Guide web site is spectacular.

Bike ride through the country:

Springwater Corridor ::: We love to go from OMSI down to Sellwood, or from SE 136th out to Gresham.
Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail
::: Totally wanting to do this from Tooth Rock to the Bridge of the Gods trailhead
Champoeg State Park
::: Such a cool place, with a little of everything

Swimming hole:

Opal Creek to Opal’s Pool ::: Oooo, oooo, oooo – I wanna go here!
Dougan Falls
::: Very pretty, very cold
Eagle Creek Trail
to Punchbowl Falls ::: Quintessentially, gorgeously, lusciously Oregon
Oxbow Park
::: Close to town but feels like it’s a million miles away
Dabney State Recreation Area
::: Close to town, kinda scruffy, but if you find a good spot you’re good to go for an afternoon

Wildflower meadow:

Catherine Creek ::: Go in April or May, even if you’re in a wheelchair – this is a universal access path (yay!)
Mollala River State Park
::: I love this area
Tom McCall Nature Preserve
::: Oh this looks beautiful – a bit past Hood River in the Gorge.
Cairn Basin from Vista Ridge
::: A difficult hike with a creek crossing, but looks incredibly beautiful and includes lupine fields (sigh).
Dog Mountain
::: Another difficult (steep) hike, but wow.
Sauvie Island u-Picks ::: Oh, now these are easy! Try Bella Organic, Kruger’s, or Sauvie Island Farms for flowers.

Rented canoe ride:

Blue Lake ::: Close to town, and such a fun way to spend an afternoon together
Detroit Lake
::: Lots of things to do here: swimming, boating, camping, hiking, too.
Trillium Lake
::: On Mt. Hood, doesn’t get more beautiful

Waterfall hikes:

Trail of Ten Falls hike ::: Here are 10 falls, including the majestic and wonderful Silver Falls, in 8.8 miles.
Pool of the Winds
::: Short and pretty
Wahkeena to Multnomah Falls
::: Described as a waterfall lover’s paradise
Horsetail Falls
::: Family-friendly, low-elevation, and only 2.6 miles roundtrip
Oneonta Falls
::: Challenging to get to (you’ll be in the water), but it is my dream to figure out how to get my bad foot to this spot someday. Someday.

134 comments

What's the best time of year to visit if I'm only coming once? Thanks!!

Amy in PDX says: May 15, 2012 at 04:00 PM

I live here but I'm totally inspired for a summer staycation! This is a fabulous list with lots of restaurants I want to try! I just wanted to add the The Waffle Window is opening a second location @ NE Alberta & 26th--my neck of the woods. Hooray! Also, if you added a section for frozen treats, Ruby Jewel Scoops and Salt & Straw should definitely be in it. : )

This is a great list and I second many of your pics! There are also quite a few I didn't know about too and I can't wait to explore. Thanks so much for this!

I think that there might not be a category for this one, but Voodoo Donuts is also a charm. :)

I totally agree about the Dusty Tiger's prices. My son had to pick a business to do his 2nd grade presentation this week and he picked the Dusty Tiger. He interviewed them on Sunday and they were so nice!

Thanks for the list! even though I live here, some are new to me. and totally agree about lots, like tumbleweed boutique, close knit, st honore, champoeg state park... on my personal list of favorites, i have tryon state park, hollyhill quilt shoppe, dublin bay knitting, jade teahouse, mekong, oui presse, spella's, american at heart, and sourdough willy's. at the top of my list used to be the looking glass bookstore in that adorable red caboose in sellwood. now it's a tea shop-- must try!

Perfect timing, flying into Portland next month, rented a funky little cottage in the Alberta Arts area to call "base camp". Can't wait! Thank you.

Oh my! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! We were thinking of packing up Miss Lucy and heading to Portland sometime this summer but I had no idea where to start! This helps immensely! Can't wait! If a yellow lab knocks on your door, it's just Lucy wanting to meet Clover Meadow! :-)

Powell Books is listed under the first category - Must See and Do

I heard that Lardo was opening a store-front over by you. That should make Mr Paulson happy.

I love Portland.

SO excited to see this! My family and I visited Portland last Octboer and fell in love with this charming city! We visited several places on your list, but I can't wait to come back and see more! We're planning a trip in September, so your guide comes at the perfect time! Thanks!

caitlin says: May 15, 2012 at 04:57 PM

oh dear me, we just got home yesterday from visiting my sister in your lovely city, i think we may have done about 5% of the things on your list! oh well, all the more reason to go back.

This is a great idea. I am going to make a map for my town (Ballarat, Australia :) )

I lived in Portland (actually Gresham) in the 80's and your post made me miss the Rose City. I used to say that if I was a young widow I would race right back. Thanks for reminding me of a great town.

Thank you! Thank you! My daughter is moving there soon and this will be a lot of help!

What a fabulous list - thanks so much! I go back at least each summer to visit family outside Portland and in Hood River, where I grew up. Hood River is gorgeous by itself imo and worth the trip. Plus lots of cute independent shops too. So glad you put Slapycakes on the list in SE. That was a hit for the whole family from our last trip!

Margaret says: May 15, 2012 at 06:09 PM

In the breakfast category, you should definitely add Voodoo Donuts!

You forgot the Whole 9 Yards! Even though its primarily upholstery/home-dec its still pretty fabulous!

You are making me miss sweet Portland, thanks for bringing back some terrific memories!

What a great list! I married a Portlander, and visits to Gma and Gpa are a highlight every few years. I would add OMSI to the list of places to visit (especially with kids) and on the coast: Heceta Head Lighthouse and Oswald West are the most stunning spots.

Wow this list is superb!!! We were in Portland a couple of years ago and it is our most favourite city ever (we would move there if we were American) and are planning on stopping through again this summer. I'll be pinning all of your marvelous tips. Thank-you!!!

My entire vacation, someday, outlined and waiting for me to sign up! I want to go to there!!

Ah, there it is ;)
Could I also suggest Blossoming Lotus restaurant for the vegans possibly reading http://blpdx.com/
Also Studio Datura for bellydance classes with the legendary Rachel Brice http://studiodatura.com/Studio_Datura/Studio_Datura.html

I cannot believe Zell's is still there, I used to eat there in the late 80's! google tells me all of my favorite coffeeshops are still open, Cup & Saucer, Rimsky Corsakoffee, and the Pied cow. ::big long protracted sigh::

michelle m says: May 15, 2012 at 08:18 PM

I HEART Portland!! Whenever I can sneak away, even by myself, I run to Portland. It is sweet, funky & creative. They saved my husband's life there at Legacy Emmanuel Hospital. After a 3 week stay there in August, 5 years ago, Portland stole my heart. Now you gave me even more reasons to go there. Bye Seattle, leaving for a weekend...

So awesome. We spent a great few days and nights in Portland last year because we drove past it on our honeymoon. Love walking to the bookstore and yarn shop with stops at microbreweries! Definitely going back and thanks for the next tips.

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About Alicia Paulson

About

My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at aliciapaulson.com

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Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.