With a compact central area and quick access to the surrounding Pacific Northwest landscape, Portland is an ideal city to explore in just one day. From historical architecture to a hip culinary scene to nearby waterfalls, there are a variety of ways to make the most of your limited time.
Things to do in Portland
Welcome to Portland
Oregon's largest city, Portland sits at the confluence of two major rivers. The Willamette River runs through the city center, while the Columbia River is north of the city on the border with Washington. Portland is a haven for outdoors enthusiasts, foodies, and beer lovers. It's the ideal base to explore the gorgeous Pacific Northwest scenery, and a reliable tour guide will help you find that frame-worthy photo op. Just an hour away, you’ll find the Columbia River Gorge with its numerous waterfalls (including the iconic Multnomah Falls) and the famous wineries of the Willamette Valley. If you’re up for a workout, do some hiking, paddle-boarding or even white-water rafting. The Oregon coast, another great day trip option, offers miles of public beaches to explore. In Portland itself, join locals on a jog or bike through Forest Park, the largest urban park in America. Stop at Powell's Books to browse the stacks; do a bike tour of the many breweries in the area; or sample a wide variety of international cuisines from the city’s famous food carts. Comedy fans won’t want to miss a tour of the local landmarks that serve as the backdrop for the hit IFC sketch show, “Portlandia.”
Top 10 attractions in Portland
Portland is a city of bridges, and each bridge has its own story. The Steel Bridge has the distinction of being the only double-decker bridge in the world with independent lifts and was opened in 1912, spanning the Willamette River connecting Northwest and Northeast Portland. It carries not only car traffic but also pedestrians, bicycles, light rail, and trains. It was originally built to replace an 1888 bridge which had the same name....
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....
Find your zen at downtown Portland’s Lan Su Chinese Garden, an oasis of Chinese art, design, and architecture. Modeled after the ancient gardens of the Ming Dynasty, the garden has carefully landscaped elements that invite you to relax, reflect, and engage with Chinese culture through tea ceremonies, workshops, and performances....
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....
Locally known as “Portland's Living Room,” Pioneer Courthouse Square sits at the heart of downtown and takes up an entire city block. Pioneer Square was officially opened in 1984. Prior to that, it had been the site of a hotel (built in 1890) and later a two-story parking garage. When a new and much larger parking garage was proposed in 1969, the idea of creating a public square instead gained momentum, and was the beginning of Pioneer Square. The square takes its name from the nearby Pioneer Courthouse, built in 1875....
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....
Top activities in Portland
Frequently Asked Questions
The answers provided below are based on answers previously given by the tour provider to customers’ questions.
What are the top things to do in Portland?
What are the top activities in Portland?
Top activities in Portland include:
Discover the top things to do in Portland.
- Mt Hood Day Trip from Portland to Multnomah Falls and Hood River
- Morning Half-Day Multnomah Falls and Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls Tour from Portland
- Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls Tour from Portland
- Best of Portland Afternoon City Tour
- Willamette Valley Wine-Tasting Tour from Portland
Discover the top things to do in Portland.
What are the top things to do near Portland?
What do I need to know before visiting Portland?
Things to do near Portland
- Things to do in Oregon
- Things to do in Seattle
- Things to do in Victoria
- Things to do in Vancouver
- Things to do in Vancouver Island
- Things to do in Whistler
- Things to do in Santa Rosa
- Things to do in Napa & Sonoma
- Things to do in Sausalito
- Things to do in San Francisco
- Things to do in Washington
- Things to do in British Columbia
- Things to do in Calgary
- Things to do in Alberta
- Things to do in Nevada