5 exciting ways to explore Portland, Oregon

Portland is one of my favorite cities. Like many that call Portland home, I grew up elsewhere, but can't think of anywhere I'd rather live. It's just big enough to feel like a major west coast city, and still small enough that random people on the street don't feel like strangers.

Visiting Portland is certainly a treat, and you can get to mountains, beach or wine country in less than an hour by car. And while not a traditional "tourist city," there are certainly plenty of things to see and do right in town. Best of all you can walk or take public transportation most anywhere. So explore some of Portland's best with my 5 recommendations below.

Original Photo: Joe Mabel / CC BY-SA 3.0

Original Photo: Joe Mabel / CC BY-SA 3.0

1. Take a hike in Forest Park.

Whether you're into hiking or biking, you’ll enjoy time exploring Forest Park, one of the largest urban forests in the United States. With more than 70 miles of trails there is abundant potential for exploration. Bird lovers will appreciate that more than 100 species frequent the park. The Wildwood Trail is the longest in the park and has been designated as a National Recreation Trail and stretches for approximately 30 miles. Leif Erickson Drive is a dirt service road closed to motor vehicles, but great for hiking and biking.

Original Photo: Another Believer / CC BY-SA 3.0

Original Photo: Another Believer / CC BY-SA 3.0

2. Use your nose to explore the International Rose Test Garden.

Portland's love affair with roses stretches back to the late 19th century. Located in Washington Park, the International Rose Test Garden was created in response to fears that unique European hybrid varieties might be destroyed during the First World War. Decades later there are over 500 varieties. Spend the morning admiring the roses, enjoy a picnic lunch and then check out one of the many other monuments, sites or adventures in surrounding Washington Park.

Original Photo: LikeWhere / CC BY 2.0

Original Photo: LikeWhere / CC BY 2.0

3. Check out one of the city’s awesome neighborhoods.

There are 95 recognized neighborhoods in Portland. Looking for trendy and upscale? Check out the Pearl District. Music and good food? Mississippi/Williams is your destination. If you're looking for hipster fun and a vegan burritos, you'll want to head to the Alberta Arts District. If laid back and antiques are more your speed, Sellwood-Moreland is your destination.

Original Photo: Allison Park / CC BY 2.0

Original Photo: Allison Park / CC BY 2.0

4. Eat and drink your way around town!

Oregon is home to more than 185 breweries, many in Portland. Whether you're looking for a traditional IPA or a fun, fruity seasonal beer, you’ll find what you're looking for! Want something a little harder? Checkout Portland's Distillery Row in Southeast Portland. Home to seven distilleries, many within walking distance of one another, you'll find more than 20 different liquors to choose from.

Once you've quenched your thirst, food options in Portland are equally varied. Whether you're looking for fine dining or something quick and dirty, you're sure to discover something tasty. Portland is home to an amazing food cart culture! You'll find food cart pods — groupings of food carts setup in the same area — all over the city. This is particularly great for families with diverse culinary needs. Mexican? Sure. Burgers? You got it. Vegan? Without a doubt. And all in one place. 

Finally, after a walk around town to digest everything, end your day with a donut! The city is home to some of the best and most creative donuts you can experience, from X-rated confections to more classic yet creative cakes.

Original Photo: LWYang / CC BY 2.0

Original Photo: LWYang / CC BY 2.0

5. Explore Downtown Portland.

City Block Size

Pioneer Courthouse Square, and the Tom McCall Waterfront Park all make for a fun and easy walk. Plenty of people watching, architecture and unique statues including Portlandia (no, not the show). After the Statue of Liberty, it’s the largest copper statue in the United States!

As if it couldn't be better, Portland city blocks are actually one-third the size of those in Manhattan (see chart to right to verify: PDX city blocks love your feet)! So walking around downtown is both quick and easy.


Now it's your turn: Comment below and tell me your favorite things to do in Portland!

Posted on June 14, 2015 and filed under City Adventures.