17 Best Things To Do In Portland [Oregon] in 2023

Cazzy Magennis
Written By:
Cazzy Magennis
Last Updated:
December 31, 2022
Whether you are up for hiking, taking a river cruise, or eating your way around the city, you won't run out of things to do in Portland, Oregon....
things to do in portland oregon

With trendy bars, a beautiful river, and plenty of history, Portland is a great city to visit.

Whether it’s for a day or a week, we discovered there were so many great things to do in Portland.

It’s famed for its quirky, bohemian vibe and is home to some of the best craft beer breweries in the whole of the US.

Not to mention it’s donuts! More on that below …

It’s also the gateway to the beautiful Pacific Northwest, one of America’s most scenic areas with mile upon mile of dramatic coastline.

With so much to see, planning a trip here can often feel overwhelming! 

So below I'm going to take you through the best sites in Portland to help get you started, as well as offering some more useful travel tips and tricks for your stay.

Let’s get started …

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How to get to Portland

how to get to portland

Drive

Portland is easily reachable from other major cities in the United States. Seattle is just a three-hour drive on I-5, and San Francisco is around ten hours. 

One of the best ways to drive is to go by campervan or RV. Not only do you have everything you need right with you, but you'll never be caught short looking for somewhere to stay for the night!

Airplane

Portland International Airport (PDX) is just nine miles from the downtown area and has flights to and from most major cities in the US.

There are international flights from Canada, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, and other countries too. 

Portland International was voted the best airport in the United States by Travel + Leisure magazine in 2021, so starting your trip here can’t be bad! 

Check for the latest flight deals on Skyscanner!

Train

Portland lies on the main Amtrak line between Los Angeles and Seattle making getting to the city by train a great option. The Coast Starlight is one of the most scenic routes in the country and makes a stop at Portland.

There is also the Empire Builder that runs from Chicago to the Pacific Northwest and includes Portland on its route. 

Bus

It’s easy to reach Portland by bus using the famous Greyhound coach service.

From Seattle it takes just three and a half hours and costs from as little as $24.00 if booked in advance. Check the Greyhound website for fares and schedules! 

Getting to the City from Portland International Airport

It’s easy getting into central Portland from the airport with a distance of just nine miles!

The cheapest and quickest option is to take the MAX light rail line which takes just 38 minutes and costs as little as $2.50. 

Getting Around Portland, Oregon

getting around portland
Photo by Slava Keyzman on Unsplash

Hiring a Car

Hiring a car is a great way to get around as it gives you the most freedom to explore on your own. For the best deals, check out Rental Cars!

Campervan / RV

However, one of the best ways to get around Portland is to go by RV/campervan.

This is perfect for exploring the wild Pacific Northwest and means you can save on expensive accommodation!

Flying into Portland and hiring an RV is our top way to get around the city and wider Pacific Northwest!

For more tips on this, check out our guide on the best campervan and RV rentals in Portland.

MAX Light Rail

Portland benefits from the Metropolitan Area Express (MAX) with five set routes covering much of the city, including the airport, and is a great way to get around Portland.

Other Ways to Get around Portland

Cycle

Portland has been given the highest rating for bicycle-friendly cities in the USA by the league of American bicyclists.

As such, getting around by bike is a great option, healthy, and good for the environment! Check out Biketown for shared bikes in the city. 

Guided Tour

One of the best ways to see the city and learn all about Portland’s history is to take a guided tour.

River Cruise

A great way to see the city is to take one of the many river cruises which take in some of the city’s major sites along the Willamette River and waterfront areas. 

Where to Stay in Portland

There are plenty of great accommodation options in Portland and the surrounding areas.

Whether you're looking for a dorm bed in a hostel or a little more luxury, you’ll be sure to find something to suit your tastes and wallet.

Here is a small selection of places to stay in Portland Oregon:

Budget: Portland Northwest Hostel

If you're on a budget then Portland Northwest Hostel is your best option! Offering complimentary breakfast, dorm beds, and private rooms, this place has a lot to offer.

During your stay, you'll benefit from a shared kitchen, laundry facilities, bicycle rentals, and entertainment.

Mid-range: Park Lane Suites and Inn

Park Lane Suites and Inn offers a variety of rooms and suites, some of which even feature a private kitchen, a spacious seating area, and a full-size refrigerator.

This place is also in a great location for exploring the city and there's complimentary parking and free WiFi available! 

Luxury: The Sentinel by Provenance

This is one of the most luxurious hotels you'll find in Portland and it's known for its gorgeous rooms, fantastic facilities, and the fact that it's within walking distance of the city center.

With an on-site restaurant, a fitness center, a bar, and a wine lounge, The Sentinel by Provenance has plenty of amenities! 

The Best Things to do in Portland, Oregon

1. Go on a Boat Tour or River Cruise

boat tour portland

One of the most popular things to do in Portland for visitors is to take a cruise along the Willamette River with Portland Spirit.

This tributary of the mighty Washington River runs through the heart of the city and a boat cruise will include many famous landmarks.

Whether it's a sightseeing tour, or you're looking for a little more luxury with a lunch cruise, a trip down the Willamette is a must for those wanting to experience Portland from all angles!

portland spirit cruise

We loved our tour, and found it to be the perfect way to get a solid overview of the whole city.

In fact, I would recommend you prioritize this early on when planning your visit to Portland, as you'll pick up a lot of ideas of what else to do in the city, based on their useful commentary.

2. Take a Portland Food Tour

portland food tour
Photo by Karen Z on Unsplash

Portland really is a foodie heaven, and is famed around the country for its numerous and diverse food carts.

From humble beginnings selling hot dogs out of the local parks to today’s thriving foodie scene, the food cart is a Portland institution!

There really is no limit to the cuisines on offer, so whether you're looking for Mexican or Mongolian, sushi or a snack, you'll not be left with a rumbling tummy!

Taking a food cart tour is definitely one of the top things to do in Portland for foodies!

Check out this great walking tour that takes in some of the best carts Portland has to offer. 

The tour includes tasting a selection of dishes in some of the city’s off the beaten path neighborhoods.

You also get to sample some of Portland’s world famous beers; a real treat for lovers of craft beers!

If you're a fan of foodie destinations then you should also add Denver, Chicago, and New Orleans to your bucket list.

3. Taste Portland’s Best Doughnuts

voodoo dougnouts portland
Seriously taste as good as they look!

Did you know that before 2003, downtown Portland didn’t have a single doughnut shop?

Thankfully in stepped Keneth Pogson and Tres Shannon to fill this large gap in the market with their Voodoo Doughnut brand.

After almost twenty years Voodoo has a fierce and loyal following thanks to their unique and innovative creations.

They now operate 13 stores across eight states, but Portland is the true home of Voodoo’s fab doughy creations. It's so popular that you'll usually see lines stretching halfway down the street!

portland voodoo

From banana to bacon (yes bacon!) and even chili (the “Ring of Fire”), Voodoo’s weird and wonderful doughnuts will have you coming back for more!

But don’t fret if these flavors are a bit too much for your palette, as they have plenty of classic’s from the frosted “Homer” to chocolate, blueberry, cinnamon and much, much more.

Voodoo has two locations in Portland; Old Town and Davis, so be sure to get on down for that sweet taste of magic!

Lovers of these fried, doughy treats will also be pleased to know that if the queues for Voodoo are a bit much, Portland has plenty of other great options.

Blue Star is another Portland favorite, as well as NOLA Doughnuts, Delicious Donuts and Heavenly Donuts. Check out this coffee and donut tour which takes in many of these wonderful places. 

4. Try Out Craft Coffee

craft coffee portland
We LOVE coffee!

We’ve all heard of craft beer, but what about craft coffee? Just like its boozy counterpart, craft coffee is all about using the best ingredients which are roasted by professionals to bring you the perfect cup of coffee.

To qualify as craft, the coffee must exceed 80% on the Specialty Coffee Association scale.

Only the best coffee beans are selected and roasted in small batches so there is more control over the process, resulting in more pronounced flavors.

But where can coffee lovers indulge in this fine craft in Portland? Well, the city is almost as well known for its fantastic coffee as it is for its craft beers and is packed with independent roasters and cafes!

coffee shops in portland
A great way to escape the heat in the summer!

One of the best ways to experience Portland’s craft coffee scene is to take a tour (which also takes in some of the above mentioned doughnut shops).

If you want to explore on your own, then we’ve listed the cream of the crop below:

5. Go Wine Tasting at Willamette Valley

Willamette Valley

Oregon’s Willamette Valley is home to scores of vineyards and wineries, producing some of the finest wines in North America.

The region is most famous for Pinot Noir, its flagship grape, however the area also sees many different grape varieties grown from Chardonnay and Riesling, to Sauvignon Blanc.

With so many different vineyards, wine lovers are in for a real treat. There are many different tasting tours on offer, such as this Willamette Valley wine tour, where you can see the vineyards, learn how the wine is produced, and sample the finished product.

The day trip from Portland takes in up to five vineyards/wineries and includes lunch. The tour lasts 7.5 hours and is one of the best things to do in Portland, Oregon for wine lovers!

The Willamette Valley is also a beautiful scenic wilderness spot perfect for hiking, biking, and picnics.

winers in oregon

You can go birdwatching and wildlife spotting, kayak or paddleboard on the rivers, and even take in some amazing waterfalls!

6. Explore Washington Park

washington park rose garden

Portland's 458 acre Washington Park is a large urban park that encompasses a range of smaller parks, gardens, an arboretum, zoo, and mile upon mile of hiking trails.

If you're looking for outdoor things to do in Portland, Washington Park is a must!

Here you can have a go at archery, play tennis, hike, or enjoy a picnic at one of the many picnic benches scattered around the park.

The Hoyt Arboretum is a collection of over 2,000 species of trees with 12 miles of trails, making it a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. 

From May to October, the International Rose Test Garden will see over 6,000 roses of all colors in bloom.

The garden has one of the best views of the city and nearby Mt. Hood, perfect for sunsets (it’s open until 10pm)!

Washington Park really is the perfect escape from the city and offers so much! Be sure to check the official website as the park has countless activities, shows, and festivals throughout the year.

Entrance to the park and trails are free, but some of the museums and attractions located within charge an admission fee. 

7. Discover the Portland Japanese Gardens

japenese gardens portland

Located within Washington Park, you'll find the authentic Japanese Gardens which is an oasis of tranquility within the city.

The gardens were created in 1967 as a symbol of peace and cultural exchange. They're actually one of the the top rated gardens in all of North America. 

Here you can explore different Japanese styles complete with native plants, cooling pools, and bridges in the Japanese architectural style.

Within the gardens you'll find the Cultural Village which hosts art exhibitions and frequent workshops, lectures, and performances.

The onsite Umami Cafe offers a delicious selection of traditional Japanese teas and sweets. 

The gardens are open Wednesday to Monday from 10:00am to 4:30pm. Tickets cost $19.95 per person for adults and $13.95 for youngsters (under 5’s go free). 

8. Connect with Nature at Lan Su Chinese Garden

 The Beautiful Lan Su Chinese Garden

Not only is Portland home to the Japanese Gardens mentioned above, but the city also benefits from another East Asian delight; the Lan Su Chinese Gardens.

If there’s one thing the Chinese do incredibly well (aside from delicious food of course) it’s parks and gardens. 

Lan Su is like a little slice of the Middle Kingdom in downtown Portland’s Chinatown area.

Get lost in the myriad paths or sit and relax under a traditional Chinese pavilion. You can also sample China’s world famous teas in a traditional teahouse!

If you're looking for ultimate relaxation, then a trip to Lan Su is definitely one of the best things to do in Portland, Oregon.

9. Take in the Views at Tom McCall Waterfront Park

Tom McCall Waterfront Park

This pleasant waterside park is named after Oregon Governor Tom McCall who was a champion of the beautification of Portland. 

The 37 acre park sits on the west bank of the Willamette River and is a popular place of recreation for locals and visitors alike.

The Park hosts many events throughout the year including the Oregon Brewers Festival and Bite of Oregon Food Festival.

Within Tom McCall Waterfront Park you'll find statues, memorials, trails for walking, biking and skating, fantastic riverside views, and immaculately kept gardens and fountains.

The park is situated in the downtown area, so makes the perfect pit stop for a picnic lunch while you're sightseeing!

10. See the Multnomah Falls

Majestic Mutnomah Falls in Portland, Oregon

The stunning Multnomah Falls is the most visited attraction in the whole Pacific Northwest and it’s easy to see why! 

The falls are set within the Columbia River Gorge which forms part of the Columbia River National Scenic Area, 30 miles east of downtown Portland.

The falls are a staggering 620 foot high (189 meters) making Multnomah the highest waterfall in Oregon.

They're also steeped in Native American folklore. It's said they were created as a place for a young princess to bathe away from prying eyes. 

There are various viewing areas from which to see the falls including a trail and bridge. The Multnomah Falls lodge has a gift shop and restaurant specializing in Northwest cuisine too!

If you're visiting Portland then you need to leave some time free to visit this magical waterfall! 

11. Trek to Mount Tabor Park

Awesome view from Mount Tabor Park in Portland, Oregon

Mount Tabor is another of Portland’s wonderful public parks. It sits atop a 646 foot (194 meter) tall extinct volcano and offers stunning views across the city.

Mount Tabor became a city park in 1909 and is dotted with hiking trails, reservoirs, benches, and features sweeping panoramas of the Portland skyline.

There are three main trails; the 3 mile blue trail, 1.7 miles green trail, and the 1 mile red trail.

All of the trails are easy going and suitable for everyone with a moderate level of fitness.

The park has various rest and play areas, public restrooms and is a great place for picnics or watching the sunset.

Mount Tabor park is open seven days a week from 5:00am to midnight and there is no charge, making it one of the best free things to do in Portland.

12. Day Trip to Columbia Gorge

Amazing view of  the Columbia River from Columbia River Gorge

The stunning Columbia River Gorge is located within a National Scenic Area (the largest in America) within easy reach of Portland.

This area is home to a stunning wilderness area with many waterfalls, including the Multnomah falls mentioned above.

This excellent tour, which starts and finishes in downtown Portland, takes in the Columbia River Gorge and many of its waterfalls, including Latourell and Multnomah.

This four-hour tour takes in some of the most stunning scenery in not only Oregon, but the whole of the USA.

No trip to Portland is complete without discovering the stunning wilderness on its doorstep, and the Columbia Gorge is one of Oregon’s must-visit sites!

Here's some more information on the best things to do in the Columbia River Gorge...

13. Tour the Hoyt Arboretum

A walking trail at Hoyt Arboretum in Portland, Oregon

Another of the jewels in Washington Parks’ crown, the Hoyt Arboretum, is home to over 12,000 trees made up of 2,000 different species.

For the uninitiated, an arboretum is “a place where trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants are cultivated for scientific and educational purposes” (definition from Webster’s dictionary). 

This 190-acre “living museum” was founded in 1928 to preserve endangered plants from around the globe.

The arboretum is just 2 miles from the downtown area making it one of the top Portland attractions as it's so easy to get to!

Whether you drive, take public transit, walk or cycle, you can be enjoying the tranquility of the PNW’s nature within mere minutes of leaving the city.

There is a visitor center with tourist information, restrooms and maps of the trails (a handy digital map to help conserve the environment).

The arboretum is open daily between 5:00am and 10:00pm, and the visitor center from 10:00am to 4:00pm. 

14. Explore the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden

The Lake at Crystal Spring Rhododendron Garden

You must be getting the hint by now that Portland is a very green city. In fact, there are over 200 parks and green spaces in and around Portland, so for nature lovers, it's the perfect destination!

Another of these great green spaces is the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden on 28th Avenue.

This 9.5-acre garden is home to a large variety of rhododendron species, azaleas, and other rare plants. 

The garden is also home to native wildlife from green herons to otters, muskrats and beavers amongst many others.

Crystal Spring offers the opportunity of photoshoots within the gardens, so if you're looking for some professional shots for “the gram”, then it’s a great place to go! 

The garden is open from Thursday to Tuesday, 10:00am to 3:30pm and Wednesday 1:00pm to 3:30pm. 

Entrance is just $5.00 for all ages, and is free on Mondays (though consider a donation considering the great work the garden does).

15. Take a Sustainable Farm Tour with Farm 2 Fork

Sustainably herded ships in Portland

Farm 2 Fork offers a range of educational tours which tells the story of how your food is sourced to how it ends up on your plate.

Their goal is to connect people to sustainable farming methods to foster better community development and growth. 

You'll learn all about Oregon's sustainable farming, fishing and growing methods used by artisan producers. 

Not only that, but you'll get to see how the farmers connect with the local community and see the benefits of their work first-hand. 

So whether you want to visit a local dairy farm, or learn how the Pacific Northwest fishermen go about their dangerous job providing the freshest seafood, there is a tour for you.

16. Take a Day Trip to Mount Hood

Hiking Route to Mt. Hood in Oregon

At a staggering 11,239 feet (3,425 meters) Mount Hood is Oregon’s highest peak.

The mountain is actually a stratovolcano that's considered potentially active, however the last eruption was some 170 years ago.

Thanks to Mt. Hood’s height, it's the only mountain in North America with year-round ski-lifts enabling skiers to hit the slopes any time.

In addition to year-round skiing, the mountain and surrounding forests are perfect for all sorts of outdoor activities from hiking, camping and fishing to kayaking, rafting, snow-shoeing and climbing.

The legendary Pacific Crest Trail passes through the forests of Mount Hood, so for hikers, you couldn’t ask for better!

As Mount Hood is a real wilderness area, ensure you're prepared if you would rather set off on your own.

Have enough warm clothes, water, maps and compass, and let someone know of your proposed route and estimated time you are due back.

Mount Hood is just a 90-minute drive from Portland, but one of the best ways to experience the mountain is to take a day tour, which takes the hassle out of getting there.

17. Get Views of the City from the Portland Aerial Tram

Beautiful view of the Portland Skyline and The Portland Aerial Tram

The Portland Aerial Tram (well, really it’s a cable car) connects the South Waterfront area with Marquam Hill, and runs year-round thanks to a special design for severe weather

Portland’s aerial tram is used by thousands of people each day traveling between downtown and the university, so it's very much part of the city’s public transport system. 

Taking a trip on the Tram affords perfect views across the city and over to Mount Hood and is definitely one of the most fun things to do in Portland for visitors (unless you're afraid of heights).

The short ride takes just four minutes and the service runs from 5:30am to 9:30pm Monday to Friday, and Saturday 9:00am to 5:00pm. A round-trip ticket costs just $5.65!

Portland Travel Tips & FAQ

portland Oregon travel tips

When is a good time to visit Portland, Oregon?

June to September is considered the best time to visit Portland, as the summer months are perfect for exploring the city’s parks, gardens, and nearby national parks.

As Portland is the “city of roses”, this is also the time to see thousands of these beautiful flowers in bloom at the Test Garden.

In summer, the city plays host to various festivals from flower shows to food stalls and much more. 

The weather is consistently warm, though be sure to bring wet weather gear as the Pacific Northwest is famed for its sometimes sullen skies and downpours.

That being said, Portland can also be enjoyed at any time, and those looking for a winter destination can’t go wrong thanks to the skiing and winter activities on offer. 

How long should I spend in Portland?

One week is a good amount of time for exploring the city and surrounding wilderness areas.

The beauty of Portland is that many of the National Parks are within a short drive from the city so can be visited as day trips. 

With all the city has to offer from museums, parks and gardens, to food, craft beer and coffee, you don’t want to short change yourself on a trip here!

However, for those short on time, you can just about squeeze in all the city’s main attractions in a long weekend if need be. 

What is a good budget for Portland?

Budget Your Trip recommends a daily budget of $142.00 for Portland, however this can be reduced by using a few money saving tips.

Consider buying supplies from local supermarkets and picnicking in the city’s many parks, gardens and green spaces.

Swap restaurant dining for some of Portland’s famous food carts and you won’t be disappointed, as well as saving a few bucks.

Some museums also offer free entry on Monday’s so check websites before visiting!

If you rent a camper van or motorhome, you can save on accommodation and cook meals yourself, as well as having the ultimate freedom to explore on your own.  

Can I just book a tour to Portland, Oregon?

Most Portland tours are for day trips or to specific attractions in and around the city.

Here are some of the best options:

It may be possible to book a bespoke tour with a travel agent, but we recommend a mixture of exploring the city on your own combined with some of the great tours mentioned above.

Where to go After Portland, Oregon

Before we take a look at where to go after Portland, it's important to note that tours in this incredible city can sell out fast! 

So, for popular tours like this sightseeing cruise, I'd recommend checking the availability and booking them in advance.

Portland makes a great base for exploring Oregon and the wild and rugged Pacific Northwest. 

After exploring all this region has to offer, consider heading north to Seattle in Washington State. The 175-mile journey takes just three hours by road.  

There are many similarities between Portland and Seattle, not least the location on the PNW. Both cities have a much more relaxed and bohemian feel than some other places in the United States.

Those looking for international travel can head up to Canada, as Vancouver is just over 300 miles to the north!

However, if you're looking to stay in the United States then here are some other travel guides that you may find helpful:

Disclaimer: Fully research your destination prior to travel, or any products prior to purchase. We can accept no responsibility for anything you experience as a result of the information found on this website. Some posts may contain affiliate links, which means we receive a small commission for some purchases, at no additional expense to you. Read more here
Some images courtesy of Deposit Photos.
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