Portland, OR

Neon Old Town Sign The Iconic Portland Old Town Neon Sign. Photo by Zack Spear on Unsplash

City Life

Portland is not the capital of Oregon--that's Salem--but it is the state's largest city. Of course, that's not necessarily something to write home about. In 2017, its population was just under 650,000, while truly big cities like Chicago and New York City are into the millions. It may not be setting any records for size or joining the ranks of the country's most famous metropolitan areas, but Portland is certainly unique. Portland has plenty to offer, even if you don't like sampling local beers in your best hipster glasses, or arguing about which coffeehouse is the best while typing up your novel on your vintage typewriter.

Museums

So you like museums? Portland's got 'em. When I was a kid, my favorite museum was OMSI, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. If I'm being honest, it would probably still be my favorite museum today. Hands-on, goofy science is fun at every age, and anyone who says otherwise is lying to you.

Science isn't all they have to offer. When talking about a city known for art, I would be remiss not to mention the Portland Art Museum. It's the seventh oldest museum in the United States and the oldest in the Pacific Northwest! The Portland Art Museum has an impressive collection that's always worth a visit.

Other Portland museums include:

  • Oregon Historical Society
  • Portland Children's Museum
  • Museum of Contemporary Craft
  • World Forestry Center
  • Pittock Mansion
  • Oregon Zoo

Saturday Market

Easily one of the best things about Portland, if you ask me--and you did, you're on my website. Portland Saturday Market is the largest continuously operating open-air arts and crafts market in the country! Every Saturday and Sunday from March through Christmas Eve, the Old Town neighborhood transforms into a marketplace full of booths and stalls selling everything from hand-crafted soaps to beautiful glass work to genuinely the best spring rolls I've ever had in my entire life. There's music, art, food, and a lot of tie-dye. Admission is free, and it's absolutely worth visiting even if you don't intend to buy anything. Every booth offers something interesting to look at, and there's an undeniably welcoming and creative atmosphere.

Food

Portland is a town full of foodies, and that's a fact. If spring rolls and funnel cake at Saturday Market don't do it for you, don't worry; there's definitely more to be had. For fine dining, try Andina Restaurant for Peruvian cuisine, or maybe Le Pigeon if you're feeling a little bit French. Voodoo Doughnuts is sort of famous now, with locations in other states, but it was Portland that started it all. Try a breakfast burrito at the PSU Farmer's Market, maybe get some ice cream at Salt & Straw, or, if you're feeling really decadent, grab a handcrafted ice cream sandwich at Ruby Jewel. My favorite restaurant in Portland is Chang's Mongolian Grill. It's decidedly not fancy, but I have never had a meal there that wasn't delicious.

Fountains & Parks

Growing up in Portland taught me a lot of things, and this fact is chief among them: every fountain is for playing in. That's not strictly true outside of Portland, but I still have to shake the urge to start splashing whenever I'm near one.

Regardless of whether or not you want to play in them, Portland has no shortage of fountains and parks. My favorite is Keller Fountain Park. Pioneer Courthouse Square, sometimes known as the city's living room, is certainly worth a visit, too.

Finally, I can't talk about parks without talking about Washington Park International Rose Test Garden. You can't visit Portland without seeing the roses that it's so famous for--or at least, you shouldn't, I think--and there is no better place to see them. The Rose Test Garden is free and has over 7,000 rose plants, typically in bloom from late May through September. There's a great view of the city from the garden, and it is undeniably beautiful.