50 Things To Do in Portland, Oregon

This is by no means a “best of” Portland list, but it is a pretty solid list of 50 things to do in and around Portland, Oregon. We encourage you to check out a few more Portland to do lists to find things that interest you, but if you don’t know a thing about the city, or even if you live here, we hope this list helps you discover something unique in Rip City, Rose City, Stumptown, Bridgetown, Little Beirut, PDX, i.e., Portland—it has many nicknames!

Portland is also known for being weird—in fact a very popular tourist destination is the “Keep Portland Weird” mural on SW 3rd Avenue. We don’t really find Portland to be that weird, but maybe that’s because we’re probably a little weird! The unofficial motto was actually inspired by a movement that began in Austin, Texas, which was originally created to promote small businesses.

Keep in mind that COVID-19 may affect some of the businesses, locations and events on the following list, so be sure to check their websites for more information and availability.

50 Things to do in Portland

  1. Visit one of the city’s many gardens, including the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, International Rose Test Garden, Portland Japanese Garden, Lan Su Chinese Garden, The Grotto and more. Some gardens are best visited during certain seasons, don’t be like us and show up to the Rose Garden in the winter to find no roses!
  1. The Portland Saturday Market features local arts, crafts, music and more year-round. According to their website it’s the largest, continually operating open-air arts and crafts market in the country.  
  1. Visit a themed bar, some of our favorites include the Bible Club (a speakeasy), Multnomah Whiskey Library and Hale Pale. One great thing about Portland bars is that they’re required to serve food by law, and this isn’t your average dive bar food either, Portland has a pretty banging food scene!
  1. Forest Park has more than 80 trails on 5,200 acres of land, all within Portland, and is one of America’s largest urban parks. We recommend taking the short hike to the Witches Castle. (It’s really just an old defunct restroom, but Witches Castle makes it sound so much cooler don’t you think!?)
  1. Portland is also home to the world’s smallest park, Mill Ends Park. Don’t plan the family barbecue here, or much of anything really, because it’s only 452 square inches of land! It does make for a fun photo opp though.
  1. If you want the full experience of Portland’s public transportation system, hike the 4T Trail; this urban trek utilizes all public transit besides the bus, which can easily be added. This route also includes the Portland Aerial Tram, where on a clear day you can see all the mountains. To learn more about the 4T hike, check out our blog post “Urban Hiking in Portland, the 4T,” about our experience.
  1. Eat a bomb burger, Portland has SO many! Some local favorites include PDX Sliders (and they’re more than just burgers), Killer Burger, Jojo Food truck, Sammich PDX, and Little Big Burger, but this list hardly scratches the surface. Check out some of Bob’s local burger reviews on Travel Deeper.
  1. There are 14 bridges in Portland spanning the Willamette River—hence the name “Bridgetown”—can you cross them all? The Tilikum Crossing is pretty cool, especially at night when it’s lit up, and the St. Johns Bridge is simply beautiful architecture.
  1. When in Portland do as the Portlanders do, and eat at a food cart—the city if known for food trucks and food cart pods! There are carts ALL OVER the city, and there are so many mind-blowingly delicious carts that making a list is tough! And there are new ones popping up every day! (It’s hard to stay on a diet here.) Some of our very favorite carts include the Meddling Lime, Pyro Pizza, Mumbo Gumbo, and Potato Champion. Many great carts have also had to opportunity to go brick and mortar because they’re so amazing, many of which are mentioned throughout this list (PDX Sliders, Pine State Biscuits, Lardo, etc.)
  1. Eat a doughnut. Likely you’ve heard of Voodoo Doughnut, it’s on every must-visit list for Portland and it’s even been featured on television. It’s fun and unique doughnuts are delicious, and you should definitely make a visit to their original location downtown on SW 3rd Avenue, but it’s not the only doughnut game in town! We 10/10 recommend Pip’s Original Doughnuts & Chai on NE Fremont Street, their hot and fresh mini doughnuts are worth writing home about! Some other noted doughnut shops include Blue Star, or the ‘Salt and Straw” of doughnuts, Coco Donuts, and Sesame Donuts.
  1. The Springwater Corridor Trail is a multi-use, largely paved section of a 40-mile loop system that connects a number of parks from Boring (an actual name of a town) into the city of Portland. It’s great for running and walking, cycling, e-scooters and rollerblades. We’ve even seen dogs on homemade bike trailers (not really sure what else to call them?) being pulled on the Springwater!
  1. Visit an extinct cinder cone (volcano) within the city limits, Portland has two of them, Mount Tabor and Rocky Butte.
  1. Go to a show…after COVID! Prior to COVID there was always a show or music somewhere in Portland, and there are plenty of cool venues to catch them at, like the Hollywood Theatre, Aladdin Theater, McMenamins Crystal Ballroom, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Wonder Ballroom, Mississippi Studios, Mission Theater and more. You’ll also find plenty of free concerts and festivals throughout the summer in Portland parks.
  1. Booze fests…when COVID is over! Beer festivals, cider festivals, distillery tastings, the Bourbon & Bacon Festival, wine festivals—Portland has ALL of the festivals, when COVID isn’t raging.
  1. Portland CRUSHES happy hour, seriously, I don’t think we’ve ever visited a place that enjoys happy hour as much as Portland does! Like brunch, it’s kind of a thing here. Check out one of Portland’s many best happy hour lists, or simply pop into any bar or restaurant during the early afternoon…when COVID is over of course.
  1. Brunch is a big deal in Portland, and it feels like just about every bar and restaurant offers brunch these days. We can’t get enough of the bottomless mimosas with mixers beyond the traditional OJ or the infamous Bloody Mary bars, not to mention some of the best brunch foods your money can buy. Throughout COVID many bars and restaurants have still offered brunch for takeout, including DIY booze kits (minus the alcohol unfortunately, although we’ve heard the state is considering changing the law to allow for takeout alcohol soon).
  1. Sorry to keep talking about alcohol, but Portland loves booze! It’s home to many breweries, bottle shops, wineries, distilleries and cider brewers, and Portland even ranks 8th in the United States for breweries per capita, with nine for every 50,000 people. 
  1. The Pittock Mansion is a historic house museum. You can pay to tour the inside of the mansion, or just climb up there to take in the killer views of the city for free. On a clear day you can even see Mount Hood!
  1. If someone else’s trash is your treasure, Portland has you covered with its numerous antique shops and thrift stores.
  1. Yay for e-scooters! Portland has razor-style and seated scoots, and the 10-year-old inside of us just really enjoys zipping around on them!
  1. McMenamins is a local chain of pubs, breweries, hotels, music venues, and theater pubs throughout Oregon and Washington. The best locations are in old historic buildings and properties, and two of the most unique McMenamins are Portland: The Edgefield and Kennedy School. There’s something really neat about a place that has several bars and restaurants (and maybe a spa or a theater) on one property, where you can order a drink in one pub and carry it around to the next.
  1. Portland has movie theaters with alcohol and food service! Maybe this is normal here, but not where we grew up, and it should really be the standard for theaters everywhere.
  1. We all scream for ice cream! Everyone recommends Salt and Straw, and for good reason; the standard menu itself is amazing and the rotating monthly flavors are seasonal, kooky and creative which keeps us coming back for more. For instance, during Thanksgiving they have a salted caramel flavor made with rendered turkey skin—WHAT?! (It’s actually kinda good.) A couple other great ice cream joints in Portland include Ruby Jewel and What’s the Scoop.
  1. Eat at a restaurant that’s been featured on television, there’s plenty to choose from! We highly recommend that you visit Pine State Biscuits, we love the Reggie Deluxe and the seasonal pop tarts but literally everything there is great! The main attraction on the Reggie is the fried chicken, and we must say that Portland’s fried chicken game in general is ON POINT. Portland has everything from fine dining to food carts to feed your craving.
  1. Move over Seattle, you aren’t the only city with great coffee! Visit a local coffee shop while you’re in Portland. We had no idea what we were missing in terms of quality and complexity in our coffee until we moved to the Pacific Northwest. Many shops even roast their own beans. Our personal neighborhood favorite is Rose City Coffee, and Stumptown and Heart Coffee Roasters were our original favorites.
  1. Portland has great local grocery stores, including New Seasons, Zupans, and the Sheridan Fruit Company to name a few.
  1. Pretty much every neighborhood in Portland and every suburb has farmers markets from May through October that feature tons of local produce, foods, arts and crafts.
  1. HAHAHA! Check out Portland’s local comedy scene and visit a comedy club or open mic night.
  1. Portland has a beloved heard of goats! The Belmont Goats (14 goats, and one hen) don’t live on Belmont anymore, but have relocated to 6631 N Syracuse Street in North Portland.
  1. Run or Walk a race…when they come back! Portland is a running town and prior to COVID-19 there was a race, or several, scheduled for every weekend. One of the most famous races in Oregon is the Hood To Coast Relay, a 199-mile race split amongst 12 runners who make their way from the top of Mount Hood and through Portland to the Oregon Coast. A St. Patrick’s Day favorite, the Portland Shamrock Run is the state’s largest running and walking event.
  1. If you know someone who can hook you up, get your hands on an employee store pass to Nike, Columbia, or adidas and enjoy 50% (40% at Nike) off their newest gear! Columbia and Nike also have outlet stores open to the public where you can score some sweet deals too.
  1. Visit a cannabis dispensary or a club, because you can here! If it’s your first time in a legal dispensary prepare to have your mind blown. Yes it’s real life, welcome to Oregon!
  1. In Portland, golf is a year-round activity. There are plenty of public courses and even a championship club, Pumpkin Ridge, for the real golfers. For those lacking actual golf skills, try out Top Golf or the indoor glow-in-the-dark pirate mini golf course.
  1. Portland’s largest art event, “Last Thursdays on Alberta,” is a street fair on NE Alberta Street from 15th to 30th avenues that showcases local music, art, and food on the last Thursdays in June, July and August.
  1. Portland is filled with tons of Instagrammable murals and street art, and new stuff keeps popping up all the time.
  1. Portland is divided into four sections by the Willamette River and Burnside Street, creating the NE, NW, SE and SW quadrants. There’s also “NoPo” or North Portland, which has been dubbed the Fifth Quadrant, as well as the newly added South Portland area. Within these sections of the city are 95 unique neighborhoods to explore! Here’s a few to get you started: the Pearl District, Sellwood-Moreland, Hawthorne, Belmont, Alberta Arts District, Hollywood, Old Town Chinatown, Woodstock, South Waterfront, Ladd’s Addition, St. Johns, Lents, Sunnyside and Mt. Tabor.
  1. If you’re feeling nostalgic, strap on some roller skates, play in the arcade or ride carnival rides at Oaks Bottom Amusement Park in Sellwood.
  1. It seems that Portland has a museum for everything, and here’s just a few of them: the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry (OMSI), Portland Art Museum, Museum of Contemporary Craft, The Hat Museum, The Freakybuttrue Peculiarium and Museum, Zymoglyphic Museum, Oregon Historical Museum, Children’s Museum, Portland Puppet Museum, and Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals. There is even a museum dedicated to freaking vacuums, Stark’s Vacuum Museum.
  1. The Portland International Raceway, or PIR, is located in the North Portland neighborhood of Kenton. Events there range from bicycle races to car shows, drag racing, sports cars and motorcycle road racing, motocross, IndyCars, GT Cars and more. If you’re really feeling wild there’s options to put your own car on the track to race.
  1. There’s many ways to enjoy the Willamette River that divides Portland. Rent a small boat, kayak, or paddleboard, visit one of the swimming beaches under a few of the bridges, enjoy a Portland Spirit river cruise or the BrewBarge pedal-powered booze cruise!
  1. The Oregon Zoo was founded in 1888 with one bear, and today houses around 2,500 animals on 64 acres. We can thank that 1880’s pharmacy owner for starting it all by taking in all the sailor’s random animals, including the “she-grizzly.”
  1. Portlanders are passionate about their local sports teams. It’s BLAZER NATION! This city has so much love for their NBA team, the Portland Trail Blazers, and also for the MLS soccer team, the Portland Timbers (RCTID!). The Portland Thorns are the local National Women’s Soccer League team. The city is also home to a junior ice hockey team, the Winterhawks, and baseball teams including the Pickles (collegiate wood-bat) and Hillsboro Hops (minor league baseball). Though technically not in Portland, we must mention the U of O Ducks and OSU Beavers because the fandom is REAL folks; Oregonians love their local college football, and it’s really pretty endearing.
  1. Portland is known for its strip clubs, and there are plenty of lists online to help you choose one. We’ve heard great things about the Acropolis Steakhouse, but don’t worry if you’re not a meat-eater, because Portland has a vegan strip club too!
  1. You can find some cool displays around Portland during the holidays. If you enjoy Christmas lights and holiday cheer, make sure to check out Peacock Lane, The Grotto, Zoo Lights, and even a Christmas Ship Parade! During Halloween, the Davis Graveyard is an awesome yard display created by a local family and their neighbors. Sadly, Peacock Lane and the Grotto’s Christmas Festival of Lights are cancelled for 2020 due to COVID-19, but you can experience Zoo Lights from the comfort and safety of your car.
  1. The Shanghai Tunnels, or Portland Underground, is a network of tunnels linking basements of local bars and restaurants to the river. It’s said that men used to be “shanghaiied” through these tunnels and shipped off to be used as slave laborers. Today you can visit these spooky historic tunnels in downtown Portland by walking tours.
  1. Sauvie Island, located 10 miles north of Portland and is about the size of Manhattan, is the largest island along the Columbia River. It features a designated wildlife area, hiking trails, several you-pick farms that offer seasonal activities like corn mazes, concerts, wine tasting and more. Its five public beaches are popular among Portlanders in the summer, and there’s even a UFO on Collins Beach.
  1. Portland is home to a 20-foot fountain filled with 2,800 pounds of cascading chocolate! It’s like Willy Wonka meets Multnomah Falls at the Candy Basket in East Portland. But this chocolate is for looks only, no eating!
  1. Portland has a Troll Bridge, literally. Just on the outskirts of the city you can find an old train trestle bridge covered with trolls. Don’t forgot to pay the troll toll and add one to the bridge when you visit. 
  1. The infamous World Naked Bike Ride – if you visit Portland on the right weekend in June you can witness thousands of naked people riding bikes through the city!
  2. Visit the world’s largest independent bookstore, Powell’s Books. It’s huge, slightly overwhelming because there are many different rooms filled with SO many books, and AWESOME! There’s even a Rare Book Room you can visit that’s filled with thousands of rare and beautiful books!
  3. If you have the extra time on your trip to Portland, we highly recommend taking a few day trips outside the city. One of the best things about living here is the easy access to nature. Within 30 minutes you can drive along the “waterfall alley” in the Columbia River Gorge, designated as a National Scenic Area. The Pacific Ocean is a measly 90-minute drive from the city; a straight shot on Highway 26 takes you directly to one of the most iconic and photographed sites along the Oregon Coast, the Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach, made famous in “The Goonies” movie.

This post, “50 Things to do in Portland, Oregon this Weekend” was originally published on our buddy Gareth’s website, Travel Deeper, but this version has been revised in November of 2020.

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