Bridge City, Stumptown, Beervana, or the City of Roses—Portland is as eclectic as its nicknames. The four distinct districts all tout a variation on the theme “Keep Portland Weird.” Southwest houses the downtown city core, a bustling blend of high-profile retail, culture, art, and entertainment. Southeast clings to the Willamette River on its gritty edge, softening into quaint neighborhoods offering all levels of lifestyle. North/Northeast, or “NoPo,” is an evolving, ethno-diverse tract of livability dotted with affordable, hip haunts and a cooler-than-thou attitude. Northwest is the upscale sustainability model anchored by the Pearl and slightly adrift from Uptown/23rd. Together these districts deliver a trendsetting cultural crossroad catering to over eight million visitors a year.


Photo by Elena Kuchko/Unsplash


When’s the best time to go to Portland?

There’s a reason Portland boasts the highest concentration of craft brewers and distillers on the planet: the rain. Starting in late September, it is a close companion, lasting well into June. That shouldn’t stop you from planning a trip any time of year. Fall boasts colorful scenery and bountiful harvests from local growers. Winter snow is a novel inspiration for intellectual and physical pursuits. Rains relent somewhat in spring, giving way to warmer weather and lingering light. Summer is sensational, with dry, sunny days stretching into glorious evenings perfect for peddling your bike through a happy-hour haze and beyond.

How to get around Portland

Do the 12-mile jaunt from PDX International to downtown on MAX. The $2.50 train ride to the city center takes 40 minutes, providing a great introduction to Portland’s transit environment. The taxi ride takes half the time and runs $40. Amtrak and Greyhound make it easy for West Coasters to drop in.

Skip the car and go by bike, train, tram, streetcar, and bus. A bike gets you everywhere easily, unless you venture into the West Hills for a mile-long uphill slog to the famous Rose Garden. MAX trains are bike-friendly and can enhance your cycling range. You’ll need a car to get up to the mountains, out to wine country, over to the coast, or up the gorge. Some hotels now offer bikes as part of their room package. Bike rentals are plentiful and convenient.

Can’t miss things to do in Portland

Rain or shine, day or night, you can always make the pilgrimage to Powell’s Books. A visit to Powell’s is more than a trip to a bookstore; it’s a literary expedition. The actual need to buy a book is irrelevant. Powell’s is a small city with food, drinks, and entertainment. Oh, and books—rows upon rows of books. The clientele is a cross section of PDX culture, from grandmas to hipsters, students to survivalists. Explore the color-coded rooms to your heart’s content, and then try to find your way out…

Food and drink to try in Portland

Dining in Portland is a remarkably delicious adventure. The fare is focused, local, and sustainably mouthwatering. Start with locally roasted morning coffee. Grab your gluten-free-for-all donut in the food cart pods. Mix up regional and international offerings between lunch and dinner. Do your homework on the food scene and come hungry. But don’t forget to let the spirit move you. With breweries, wineries, and distilleries littering the landscape, it’s easy to find something you’ll absolutely love. PDX turns happy hour into a lifestyle, so carve out that 4-7pm slot on the schedule to make the rounds.

Culture in Portland

Portland’s large reader population enjoys a library and a bookstore that each cover an entire city block. The city is a rich new-media outpost—with film, literature, art, and music spanning the cultural spectrum in a variety of venues and installations. The museum scene offers a full complement of content from art to history, science to forestry, all easily accessible and striving to give visitors context for their NW experience. Note that Portlandia (not the TV show) is the second-largest bronze statue in the United States, eclipsed only by the one on Liberty Island. See it!

Summer serves up some of the most entertaining events on the festival calendar. Cinco de Mayo kicks off the season; then the Rose Festival officially welcomes summer in June. The Waterfront Blues Fest fuels a carefree, all-ages party well into the evening on the Fourth of July, attracting national headliners. The Oregon Brewers Fest puts the beer in Beervana with summer and winter events. Go international with the Chinese, Polish, Italian, Greek, and German festivals. Music/Techfest NW is Portland’s all-out SXSW knockoff in fall. Portland International Film Fest lights up screens in winter. Bottom line—the party’s always pumping.

Practical Information

It’s all about the environment, so always bring rain gear. Pack jacket and pants if you’re planning on going native. Summer can be hot. Winter can bring snow. Fall and spring weather are all over the map, so wear your layers for a comfortable stay. Don’t forget your running, yoga, or exercise wear, and get a workout in. Major-league soccer with the Portland Timbers is a real treat, but tickets are tight, so plan ahead and sit with the “Timbers Army.” Across the river, Winterhawks and Blazers seats are more accessible.

Guide Editor

Jay Rymeski is a veteran writer, producer, and journalist based in Portland, Oregon.

Read Before You Go
Resources to help plan your trip
Whether you’re searching for a caffeine boost to kick off a day in Portland or you’re on the hunt for a perfect place to perch for some people watching, the city’s cafe scene offers plenty of options. From drip coffee to espresso drinks at third wave coffee roasters to donut spots and bakeries that also serve up good java, your time in Portland is about to get turbocharged. Don’t forget to pick up some to-go beans from local coffee roasters. You’ll want to brew up some of Portland’s coffee scene long after your visit.
The City of Roses may be known for its coffee shops, food carts, and craft breweries, but it’s also home to some of the most unique hotels in the Pacific Northwest. From a tiny house and converted school to a hipster favorite and elegant grande dame, the options are varied in both style and price, with extras ranging from Wilamette River views to Pearl District proximity.
Portland, Oregon, is a city that offers a unique combination of outdoor adventures and urban appeal. Near Mount Hood at the junction of the Columbia and Willamette rivers, it’s just a short distance away from some of the most stunning areas of the Northwest, with opportunities for biking, hiking, and kayaking.
No matter your passion, Portland has you covered. The tax-free shopping wonderland is loaded with stores to tickle the fancy of shoppers both casual and obsessed. From Powell’s City of Books—easily one of the best bookstores in the United States—to Wildfang, where the coolest patriarchy smashers hang, and, yes, all the chain stores, Portland’s got the goods. Some of the city’s shopping hubs include downtown Portland, Pioneer Place, 23rd Avenue, and the Pearl District. Fuel up with some java at the coffee shop of your choice because there is serious shopping to be done.
Get your clothes on and get going—the coffee is ready. Portland offers no shortage of ways to start your day off right.
You can take your rented bike and pedal down to a waiting Zipcar and get out of town. From the mountains to the coast—and everything in between—you’ll enjoy an easy break from the urban outlook, usually with an hour of driving, or less.
No matter the time of day, weather, or your mood, your list of Portland to-dos will stay stacked with good times and stellar flavors. Grab some chow from the city’s famous food carts, shop downtown Portland, tour Pittock Mansion, or take a bike ride through one of the city’s many parks. Up for something else? You could always spend the day browsing Powell’s City of Books. Or the whole weekend. Here, some fine ideas to get you going.
Spending a long weekend in Portland is the perfect way to ramp up your love for the city--whether it’s your first visit or your 44th. After browsing Powell’s City of Books, taking in the sights and scents of the International Rose Test Garden or the Japanese Garden, and eating your way through donut shops and a Korean fried chicken hot spot, and washing it all down with great craft beer, Portland is sure to jump up a few spots on your list of favorite destinations. This collection will keep you fed and entertained for every day of your visit.
Picking the fun and food for one single day in Portland is, to put it mildly, a tricky task. But if it’s just one day you’ve got, we’ve got your back. You’ll start with a coffee- and donut-fueled morning and end up drowning your sorrow over leaving at one of the city’s many (many) craft beer breweries. In between? Gardens, food carts, and, of course, some shopping. Off you go...
Portland’s bar scene goes far far beyond offering a little something for everyone. The city is rich with knowledgable bartenders and cocktail innovators. From swanky mixed drinks to tiki bar delights, cutting edge wine bars, and, of course, craft brews, Portland is the place to find your new favorite tipple. You’re going to love the city’s late-night scene.
Multnomah Falls. Forest Park. Mount Hood. They’re some of the hiking world’s most beloved spots and, lucky you, they’re all within reach during your time in Portland. From day hikes to backpacking, Portland and the area beyond will keep your feet busy for miles. There are loop trails a-plenty so you never have to see the same tree twice. Prefer going up up up a mountain hike? No problem. So lace up your boots, you’ve got ground to cover.
Portland started the craft beer revolution and the city remains home to a vibrant and ever-growing group of breweries. Belly up to the taps at one of the city’s oldest brewpubs or try something new new new. No matter which beer stop you choose from the list below, you’re golden. There are, of course, plenty of IPAs around town but, no matter your taste, Portland is sure to serve up what you love to drink. Pick a few from the list below and make a night of it. Want to try several breweries in one night (or day)? Ride around with Brewcycle (a multi-person traveling bar you help pedal) or Brewvana (a good old bus tour).
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