AOL Travel
Print

Best Things To Do in Portland

AOL PICK from our Editors
With an abundance of green spaces, it’s only natural that some of Portland’s greatest attractions would be found in the city’s extraordinary parkland. The 400-acre Washington Park, situated on a hillside overlooking the city, is a remarkable space with gardens and family activities. Within the park are the Oregon Zoo, the World Forestry Discovery Center and the Portland Children’s Museum, as well as some of the city’s best-loved gardens, including the showy International Rose Test Garden, the serene Portland Japanese Garden and the ridgetop Hoyt Arboretum. In Chinatown, the Lan Su Chinese Garden invites visitors to enjoy its tranquil waterways and lush foliage. When locals aren’t skiing at Mount Hood, hiking in the Cascade Range or wave-watching on the coast, they retreat to the city’s numerous coffee shops—the city is second only to Seattle for its coffee consumption—or to the stacks at Portland’s beloved Powell’s City of Books, the world’s largest independent bookstore. The city’s past is evident at the stately hillside Pittock Mansion, and the future is explored at the exciting Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), beside the Willamette. The city’s arts and cultural scene throbs with youthful energy. The lowbrow manifestation is the wildly popular Saturday Market, overflowing with arts and crafts; the highbrow equivalent is the Portland Art Museum, where grand marble halls display peerless regional collections and national touring exhibits.

Lan Su Chinese Garden

Neighborhood: Old Town/Chinatown
In this peaceful haven, Ming Dynasty—style halls and pavilions cluster around a scenic pond, connected by bridges. Beautifully landscaped outdoor “rooms” feature hundreds of native Chinese plant species. While it’s at its peak of perfection in spring, the garden rewards visitors year-round. For a special treat, linger for a cup of green tea in the Tower of Cosmic Reflections.

More Details on

Lan Su Chinese Garden »

Powell’s City of Books

Neighborhood: Pearl District
This independent literary establishment’s name isn’t hyperbole: Powell’s carries more than a million books in a building so massive that visitors need maps to find their way among the many color-coded rooms on multiple floors. The complex takes up an entire city block. The bookstore displays used volumes next to new, providing buyers a range of price options (New York's Strand, take note). It’s easy to spend half day here; a café offers sustenance.

More Details on

Powell’s City of Books  

Pittock Mansion

Neighborhood: West Hills
High in the West Hills overlooking the city, the Pittock Mansion was the home of Portland pioneers Henry and Georgiana Pittock from 1914 to 1919. The mansion symbolizes the era when Portland turned the corner from humble port town to the metropolis of today. The rooms of this architectural grand dame are filled with original artifacts. We love to visit in December, when the house's halls are fully decked for the season.

More Details on

Pittock Mansion »

Portland Saturday Market

Neighborhood: Old Town/Chinatown
The city’s weekly Saturday Market (March through late December) has the freewheeling ambiance of a fair. Musicians, food vendors and rows of craftspeople, selling everything from jewelry to hand-dyed silk scarves, take up residence in Portland’s historic Old City. Visitors and locals alike have frequented the market since 1974; folksy and personal, it's quintessential Portland. The hodgepodge of doodads for sale can sometimes seem like the 1960s have returned, and it can get crowded with good weather, but it’s always entertaining.

More Details on

Portland Saturday Market  

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI)

Neighborhood: Central Eastside
One of the nation’s largest and best science museums, OMSI is fittingly set within a historic power plant. Five exhibit halls overflow with hundreds of interactive displays, offering a chance to do things like design a sailboat or build an aqueduct. (Rumor has it that constructing a robot is the coolest.) OMSI also hosts an excellent planetarium, an IMAX theater and a submarine you can tour—the Navy’s decommissioned USS Blueback.

More Details on

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) »

International Rose Test Garden

Neighborhood: Washington Park
Terraces of ruffled roses of all hues cascade down a hillside with Mount Hood in the background at Portland’s famous International Rose Test Garden. Founded nearly 100 years ago, the garden is an official testing site for All-American Rose Selections. In addition to the test plots where some 200 species are grown each year, the garden features a Miniature Rose Garden, a Shakespeare Garden and a Rosarian Garden. Fragrant pathways and benches provide lovely settings for reflection and, or course, gorgeous views.

More Details on

International Rose Test Garden »

Japanese Garden

Neighborhood: Washington Park
Burbling waterways, a traditional moon bridge and acres of greenery create a hillside haven at the 5.5-acre Japanese Garden. Visitors can amble through five tranquil gardens. Start with the Strolling Pond Garden, with ponds and a dashing stream, then make your way through Natural Garden, which blends Japanese aesthetics and Northwest plants.

More Details on

Japanese Garden »

Portland Art Museum

Neighborhood: Cultural District
Housed in a rambling complex of historic buildings, the Portland Art Museum is the oldest such institution on the West Coast, and it houses a vast collection of everything from ancient Asian art to Van Gogh. It’s also one of the best places in the nation to view the art of native peoples of North America. PAM houses a world-class collection of Northwest coast art, in addition to the artworks of some 200 Native American groups.

More Details on

Portland Art Museum »

Oregon Zoo

Neighborhood: Washington Park
The Oregon Zoo excels in education about the diverse species displayed in naturalistic outdoor exhibits. Asian elephants, polar bears and lorikeets peek through lush foliage, and meandering pathways promise surprises around every bend. The zoo’s new Red Ape Reserve, with orangutans and white-cheeked gibbons, is slated to open by autumn 2010. Its summer concert series and miniature steam train, which connects the zoo with the International Rose Test Garden, are additional family draws.

More Details on

Oregon Zoo »

World Forestry Center

Neighborhood: Washington Park
This engaging museum’s tagline is, "It'll change the way you look at trees." A visit yields the opportunity to learn about trees from multifaceted perspectives. Visitors discover the value of trees both as a basis for consumer goods and as an essential part of our environment. If that sounds as fun as staring at wood, take it from us, the information sparkles thanks to the museum's expert presentation. The exhibits are targeted to kids younger than teens. As a small museum, it gets crowded; check it out midweek.

More Details on

World Forestry Center »
See All Portland Things To Do »
ADVERTISEMENT