5 Fun Things to Do in Portland

Portland, Oregon is a mid-sized city in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Known for its progressive liberal politics, incredible natural beauty, and amazing coffee, it attracts millions of visitors every year.

Thanks to the Urban Growth Boundary, Portland not only has plenty of forested areas but is also highly walkable. You can get around easily on foot or on any of the local public transit options.

Read on for 5 Fun Things to Do in Portland!

1. Powell’s City of Books

Powell’s is one of the largest independent bookstores in the world and widely considered one of the best. The magnitude of Powell’s cannot be understated: it literally takes up an entire city block! You need a map to get around all the different sections, and they supply shopping carts for your books.

Powell’s main location in the Pearl District
But a tiny part of Powell’s

Walter Powell established Powell’s in 1971, and the store later changed hands to his son Michael, and then his granddaughter Emily. The store achieved its current size with a 1999 expansion, bringing the total floor area to over 68,000 sq. ft. They sell all manner of books and magazines and gifts but specialize in used and rare books.

Powell’s is a genuine Portland institution, but an absolute must-visit if you’re a booklover. It is located in the middle of the recently renovated Pearl District, which is fun to explore in its own right.

1005 W Burnside St, Portland, OR 97209

2. Forest Park

Forest Park is 5,100 acres of happy place.

Nestled in the mountains to the west of Downtown Portland, Forest Park has served as a wonderful reprieve from city life since 1948. With over 70 miles of walking, running, and biking trails, you’ll find plenty of space to enjoy yourself. Be sure to check out the scenic Wildwood Trail, which connects back to Portland’s urban trail network.

Scattered among the Firs, Hemlocks, and Red Cedars, you’ll find the Witch’s Castle. The Witch’s Castle (pictured) is just a short walk in from the Upper Macleay or Lower Macleay traileads. The story goes that a man living back in the mid-1800s murdered his daughter’s husband out of anger. The man at first blamed the murder on his wife, claiming that she was a witch, and had put a spell on him. The courts did not believe his story, and he was hanged for the crime. According to local legend, the ghosts of the family haunt the grounds of the Witch’s Castle.    

With the ability to enjoy the outdoors, relax, and get a dose of local lore, you will love Forest Park!    

3. Bike Tours

Portland is a very bike-friendly city, and bike tours are one of the best ways to explore the town. Head on over to Pedal Bike Tours for an unforgettable experience touring the city on two wheels. Tours take about four hours, and you’ll see a wide swath of Portland. You’ll see Tom McCall Waterfront Park, the famous Portland Oregon neon sign, the Pearl District, and Portland State University campus. If you’ve only got a short time in Portland, a bike tour is the perfect activity to get to know the place.

133 SW 2nd Ave, Portland, OR 97204

4. Portland Japanese Garden

Portland’s Japanese Garden has been delighting visitors since 1963. Its 12 acres are lushly landscaped and replete with places to relax and appreciate your surroundings. According to the website, when former Japanese ambassador Nobuo Matsunaga visited the Garden, he said it was “the most beautiful and authentic Japanese garden in the world outside of Japan.”

The Garden is beautiful year-round, but shockingly vibrant in Fall.

Photo courtesy of JapaneseGarden.org

5. Voodoo Doughnut

While you may not associate Portland with voodoo, Voodoo Doughnuts is another homegrown Portland institution you have to try.

Photo courtesy of Westword.com

They’re not like any old doughnut shop. These guys have original creations that run the gamut from the colorful to the risqué. Founded in 2003 by equally eclectic characters Kenneth “Cat Daddy” Pogson and Tres Shannon, Voodoo has a personality all its own. You can also find them in Denver, Orlando, and Austin.

Please note that Voodoo Dougnut only accepts cash.

22 SW 3rd Ave, Portland, OR 97204

Other Notes on Portland

Portland, like Seattle, Vancouver, and other Pacific Northwest Cities, typically do not offer free public bathrooms. This was something I took to be a given everywhere in the US, but that is not the case here. Many establishments will either require you to buy something first, or they simply will not have restrooms.

One other thing to be aware of is that while Portland has incredible natural beauty, there is, unfortunately, a homeless situation that is hard to dismiss. I still recommend this city to anyone, but I don’t want the sheer number of tents on sidewalks or people sleeping in parks to take you by surprise.

Otherwise, it’s an incredible city to visit! If you have your own favorite place in Portland, add it in the comments below!

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