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Best Things to do in Portland, Oregon, USA


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Moupiya Sawoo

Things to do in Portland, Oregon, USA
Photo© www.nonprofitlawblog.com

Portland is the largest city in Oregon, USA. It is also the second-largest city in the entire Pacific Northwest. A laid-back metropolitan, Portland is famous for its marvellous blend of history and modern architecture. Portland’s art and music scene are quite famous. It is home to one of the highest concentrations of independent publishers in the United States.


When you visit Portland, you will see plenty of substantial green spaces. Visit Washington Park and Mt. Hood, and relax in their lush greenery. Portland houses the world’s smallest park, Mill’s End Park, which is only at 2.5 feet in diameter. The city also has the highest number of microbreweries in the world. Visit Portland if you want to take part in the “World Naked Bike Ride”, that takes place every year in the city. In a nutshell, Portland is a beautiful city to visit. Hence it is also known as “the City of Roses”.


The renowned “Beer and Food Cart Capital of the World”, Portland welcomes over 8 million visitors every year. If you are planning to be a part of that number, don’t worry asking yourself where to go in Portland. Read on to find out the most exciting things to do in Portland.



Visit Pittock Mansion in Portland

The Pittock Mansion in Portland

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Pittock Mansion is a French-Renaissance style historic house museum in Portland. You must visit the museum if you are interested to know how Portland transformed from a mere pioneer town to the modern industrialised city that it is now. Here, you can also learn about the history and legacy of the Pittocks, one of its most influential families in Portland


Sitting on the West Hills of Portland, Pittock Mansion is absolutely worth a visit. It was the home of Henry Pittock and his wife. However, the City of Oregon holds the property rights of the building currently. The mansion has around 46 rooms. It stretches across 46 acres of land.


As the building sits at 1,000 ft. Above the sea level, it is a perfect place for bird watching. You may have seen this mansion in many movies and tv shows. One of the recent films where you can see the mansion is the controversial movie “Unhinged”. However, the movie is banned in many parts of the world because of its content.



Hang out at Portland’s “Living Room” with the locals

Pioneer Courthouse Square, AKA Portland's living room, Oregon

Photo© walkingpdx.com


Pioneer Courthouse Square is a public space in the centre of downtown Portland. Locals call this place “Portland’s living room” because it features many cool places to hang out with friends. The square has an outdoor chess table, a fountain resembling a cascading waterfall and many more where you can have fun with your friends and have many picture opportunities as well. There is an area in the middle of the square, which looks like an amphitheatre. The semi-circle area has 24 steps where visitors sit while watching a live performance there.


While walking through Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square, you will notice that the bricks you are walking on have names of people on them. The names are of those people who paid $15 to get their names put on the bricks during the time of its construction. However, all the money were used for developing the area.



Take a trip to The Museum of the Contemporary Craft

The Museum Of the Contemporary Craft, Portland



Visit the Museum of Contemporary Craft at the Pacific Northwest College of Art. The Museum covers an area of 4,500 square feet and is divided into 2 floors. Within the museum, you will find multiple exhibitions telling stories of the craftsmanship of the past, present and future.


The exhibitions keep changing from time to time. The museum displays many items of leading national and international artists in those ever-changing exhibitions. If you are interested to watch the work with glass, wood, ceramics, metal and other materials, there is a store at the museum where you can see these items. However, there is news recently that the museum may close its doors to the public soon.



Find your inner peace at The Grotto, Portland

The Grotto, Portland



If you want some peace in the hustle and bustle of busy Portland, visit this Catholic Shrine in the Madison South district of Portland. The Grotto is dedicated to Mary, Our Sorrowful Mother.

The area of the Grotto covers 62-acres of land and is located in the heart of a Botanical garden. Take a stroll in the garden, just breathe in nature and feel it all.


The Grotto welcomes people from the diverse religion to enter. It is a beautiful place to visit and you cannot help but feel at peace when you are there.


Portland’ The Grotto is actually a rock cave that has been carved into the base of a cliff. If you go to the centre of the cave, you will find a life-size marble replica of Pieta by Michelangelo. Enjoy a relaxing walk in the garden. You can follow multiple trails in the garden. Many of the trails will lead you to panoramic views of the Columbia River Valley.



Take a stroll at The Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden


The Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, Portland

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The Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden is a charming botanical garden in Southeastern Portland. Walk along the Crystal Springs Creek, and you will find this beautiful green gem of Portland city. You can see at least 2,500 rhododendrons, azaleas and many more plants in the garden. The garden looks the most stunning when all the trees and plants are in bloom.


You can see a mixture of paths, waterfalls, fountains and small lakes between the flower beds. The beauty of the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden will refresh one’s spirit. Hence, it is a must-visit attraction while in Portland. From April till September, the gardens are open between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. daily. and from October till March it opens at 6 a.m. but closes at 6 p.m. every day.



Experience life on a Submarine at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

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Visit the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry to get a glimpse of life on a submarine. The USS Blueback was the last non-nuclear submarine that joined the US Navy and was in active service between 1959 and 1990. Now, the submarine at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry is a fantastic attraction for many visitors. You can touch a torpedo and look through a periscope. In a nutshell, It allows you to explore what life was like on the submarine.


For a closer perspective, take a guided tour of the submarine. The guided tours are available several times a day. Don’t forget to see the radio room in the submarine, which has been completely restored and is in full working order now. USS Blueback is also a part of the National Register of Historic Places. So, the museum is one of the must-visit attractions in Portland.



Explore the collection at the Portland Art Museum

the Portland Art Museum

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The Portland Art Museum is the seventh oldest museum in the United States. Founded in 1892, the Portland Art Museum is now one of the major tourist attractions in the city. The Museum aims at engaging diverse communities through art and film of enduring quality. It also aims to collect, preserve, and educate the community for the enrichment of present and future generations.


The Portland Art Museum has a permanent collection of more than 42000 pieces of Art. The collections are permanent. If you are a history buff, you will find plenty of historic art pieces at display in the museum. Many of the collections come directly from the native people of North America. Don’t miss the museum’s large collection of English silver. The Jubitz Centre for Modern and Contemporary Art on the same campus is another attraction worth a visit.



See the Coin that decided Portland’s name at the Oregon Historical Museum

8 2 - Best Things to do in Portland, Oregon, USA



There is a story behind the naming of the city Portland. Before Portland, the city was known as the Clearing. Two new England natives vied for the bragging rights of naming the new city. Both of them wanted to name the city in Oregon after their respective hometowns. One of them was Asa Lovejoy who was from Boston, Massachusetts, and the other one was Francis Pettygrove from Portland, Maine. They settled the decision on a toss of a coin. This famous coin is known as the Portland penny.


Petty grove won the coin toss and that is how the city gets its name from Maine’s Portland. Today, you can see the penny on display at the Oregon Historical Society Museum. The Oregon Historical Museum in downtown Portland was officially opened in 1898. There are over 85,000 artefacts in the museum that relate to the local area. However, the main attraction of the museum is the copper one-cent Portland penny that decided the name of the city.



Have fun at The Oaks Amusement Park, Portland

The Oaks Amusement Park, Portland



If you are travelling with kids, you must visit Oaks Amusement Park on 3.5 miles south of downtown Portland. The Oaks park started operating in 1905. It is one of the oldest continually operating amusement parks in the United States.


Oaks Amusement Park has plenty of nostalgic amusements such as wooden skating rink, go-karts and a mini-golf. There are also a number of thrill rides to give your adrenalin a rush. You can buy a day pass for your family and enjoy games and rides for discounted prices, especially during special events.


If roller skating is your things, there is no better place to go than this. Oaks Amusement Park houses the largest roller skating rink in the United States. You can take part in a roller-skating competition, skate at the disco, join a couple’s event or just go freestyle. The place is very popular with the people of Portland as it offers a fun-filled day for the whole family.



Admire the beauty of Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland

Lan Su Chinese garden in Portland



If you have ever visited Suzhou in the Jiangsu province of China, you will find this place quite similar to Portland’s Lan Su Chinese Garden. Suzhou is famous for its incredibly beautiful Ming Dynasty Gardens. The Lan Su Garden in Portland is currently the most authentic Chinese Garden outside of China.


The Lan Su Chinese garden is surrounded by walls. So, once you are inside the garden, you feel like you have been transported into China. You can explore authentic Chinese Culture in this place, their way of thinking and their history. Lan Su means “Garden of the Awakening Orchids.” The garden does wonders to awaken your spirit. Spend a few hours in this garden and you will feel incredibly fresh and revitalised.



Relax in the Portland Japanese Garden

11 2 - Best Things to do in Portland, Oregon, USA

Photo© southsoundseniors.org


The Japanese Garden in Portland is another beautiful attraction in the city. As it stretches out over 5.5 acres of land, it splits into five very distinct areas. Once you enter the garden, you. Will feel harmony, peace and tranquillity instantly.


The Japanese gardens have plenty of historical and cultural elements to them. As you move from one area to another, a sense of tranquillity will be always accompanying you. It is a place where you can spend hours without getting bored. Hence, exploring the garden and admiring the beautiful trees, ponds and bridges in it must be on the list of every visitor to Portland.



Take a Portland Aerial Tram Ride

Portland Aerial Tram Ride

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People use Portland Aerial Tram as both public transport and attraction. The Portland Aerial Tram route is between the South Waterfront and the Oregon Health & Science University in Marquam Hill. The tram climbs an impressive height of 500 feet during its journey. You can capture amazing views of downtown Portland, Mount St. Helens and Mount Hood, on clear days. It takes just four to five minutes to complete a one-way trip. The tram is also called OSHU tram by the locals.


Trams are available daily every 6 minutes between 5:30 am and 9:30 pm on weekdays and between 9 am and 5 am on weekends during the summer. However, the tram is closed on national holidays like New Year’s Day, Presidents Day, Independence Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Labor Day. Thanksgiving Day, Veterans Day and Christmas.

Over To You!

Fun activities? Check. Quirky attractions? Check. Breathtaking nature? Check. There is no shortage of cool things to do in Portland. So, our advice is to make a list of your favourite must-do things before you visit Portland. This is how you will avoid the chances of being sidetracked and missing out on a few of the most exciting bucket list activities in this cool city of Oregon.