Set alongside the beautiful Cascade Mountains of the Pacific Northwest, the Deschutes National Forest is a scenic natural forest and recreation area in central Oregon. The alpine and evergreen forest, lakes, and streams draw those interested in hiking, fly fishing, hunting, river-rafting, mountain biking, camping, and more. An extensive amount of nature trails provide many options to explore the outdoors. The green trees, clean water, and fresh air abound here. In the winter months skiing and snowboarding are popular in the mountains. The five designated wilderness areas, including six Wild and Scenic Rivers, each offer something different. Meadows, caves, and even desert areas are also a part of this diverse landscape. Camping is available during the warmer months of the year at over 125 developed campsites. Overall the forest covers around 1.7 million acres of land, so there’s much to explore.
It’s hard to believe you can drive and walk through the area of a 500-square-mile volcano that remains seismically active today. Up in the high plains of central Oregon, these lava lands are filled with lakes, lava tubes and fascinating geological patterns. Within the Deschutes National Forest and from the highest point, Paulina Peak, there is more than 50,000 acres of unique landscape to explore.
Once the site of the Newberry Volcano, which exploded 75,000 years ago, all that remains today is the caldera and visual evidence of the past lava flows. Here is where you’ll find the most recent lava present in Oregon (around 1,300 years ago) at the Big Obsidian Flow, a large field of shiny, black obsidian rock covering 700 acres. You can also visit the two alpine lakes of the caldera, Paulina and East, which are popular fishing sites, or explore the unique scenery with a hike on one of the many area nature trails.
Designed for science fans of all ages, OMSI features five separate halls, eight hands-on science labs, a real submarine, an OMNIMAX giant-screen theater and a planetarium. Over 200 interactive exhibits focus on subjects like global climate change, chemistry, the human body, technology and more.
For older children, Turbine Hall encourages building, engineering and problem-solving, and for kids six and under, the colorful Science Playground offers art materials, a cave to explore, water and a huge sandbox in which to frolic. On the five-story-high OMNIMAX theater screen, you can see blockbusters and nature documentaries that have been formatted for IMAX, allowing you to virtually soar over mountains and swim to ocean depths.
Portland's most popular commercial area, "The Pearl", as it's locally known, is north of downtown between West Burnside Street, the Willamette River, NW Broadway and the Interstate 405 freeway. Once a lonely industrial district of decaying warehouses and rail yards, a boom in urban renewal in the late 1990s to the early 2000s prompted an allusion to the area's scruffy architecture as crusty oysters containing pearls. These "pearls" were initially artists' lofts and galleries, but the neighborhood now teems with upscale eateries, small performance venues and independent boutiques as well.
The Pearl's biggest attraction is also one of the most-visited spots in Portland: the flagship Powell's City of Books. Spanning an entire city block (between NW 10th and 11th Avenues, W. Burnside and NW Couch Streets), Powell's bills itself as the world's largest independent bookstore.
The most popular landscape in Washington Park, the International Rose Test Garden was originally conceived as a means of capitalizing on Portland's nickname: "The City of Roses." This moniker was coined during the 1905 Lewis & Clark Exhibition, when city officials, eager for their young town to make a good impression on visitors, had many of Portland's streets planted with dozens of rosebushes.
Opened in 1917 during the height of World War I, the Rose Test Garden soon became a safe haven for European rose hybrids that would otherwise have been destroyed by battles and bombs. It's still a working test garden, with bulbs and cuttings sent here from around the world to be monitored for color, scent, disease resistance and more. Now one of the largest rose gardens in America, the Test Garden has over 600 rose varieties and more than 9,500 bushes.
From 1909 to 1919, this 22-room French Renaissance-style estate was the home of Portland's original power couple, Henry and Georgiana Pittock; Henry's business empire included The Oregonian newspaper, and Georgiana championed women's rights and the city's then-burgeoning Rose Festival. The Pittocks' former property, set on 46 acres and perched 1,000-feet above downtown Portland, offers one of Oregon's most sweeping views of the city and the Cascade Range.
By the mid-1960s, the Mansion had fallen into disrepair, the Pittocks' remaining family members couldn't find a buyer, and it seemed fated for bulldozing; but local preservationists managed to raise the necessary funds to save it, and by 1974 it was named to the National Register of Historic Places. The Mansion now attracts over 800,000 visitors a year.
Inner Northwest Portland – specifically around NW 21st and NW 23rd – is one of the most popular in the city center for shopping, entertainment, and dining. It also has a memorable nickname: the Alphabet District.
You might not notice the reason for the name immediately, especially if you're taking your time meandering from one shop-lined block to another, but the streets in the quadrant that run east-west are in alphabetical order – from Burnside, Couch, Davis, Everett, and Flanders on up through Wilson. There's an A street further east (Alder), but it doesn't continue up far enough to be part of this district. The Alphabet District is historically one of Portland's most desirable neighborhoods – there are beautiful Victorian-style houses in the residential blocks and sought-after condo buildings. One of the city's oldest independent movie theaters, Cinema 21, is on NW 21st Avenue.