As much as you may research things to do in Portland before you jet off, this effortlessly cool city will still find a way to surprise you. Even the beaten path is sprinkled with things like unexpected musical performances and pop-up restaurants serving creative dishes. That’s why you don’t need to arrive with a detailed itinerary of the best things to do in Portland. Start with our favorite five and you’ll stumble upon plenty of other worthy experiences along the way.
You don’t have to be a bookworm to appreciate this store. Actually, store isn’t even the right word. Powell’s City of Books is more of an emporium, with close to a million new and used books and an impressive Rare Book Room featuring collectibles like autographed first editions. With so much inventory, it’s not surprising that the building occupies an entire city block. There’s also a cafe inside, where you can enjoy a refreshment and rest your feet after perusing the shelves.
Just over the Willamette River and in the Tualatin Mountains is one of the nation’s largest urban parks. Forest Park boasts more than 80 miles of trails across 5,200 acres that are teeming with native flora and fauna. It’s also filled with history. The Forest Park Conservancy notes that Native American settlement in the area may have begun as many as 10,000 years ago!
Support local businesses and bring home a handcrafted gift or souvenir from this popular open-air market. Dozens of creative vendors show up from 10am - 5pm to sell everything from art to tasty treats to home decor. As you might expect, the market is only open on Saturdays, and from March 5 to December 24. To get there, plug this address into your navigation app: 2 SW Naito Parkway Portland, OR 97204.
Visiting the Pittock Mansion is one of the top things to do in Portland, even if you aren’t a big history buff. It was built in the early 20th century for Henry Pittock, a successful publisher of The Oregonian newspaper who sadly only lived in the mansion a few years before his death. It later sat vacant, fell victim to intense wind damage, was saved from demolition by the city of Portland, and went through a 15-month restoration before opening to the public. Today, you can tour the estate, picnic on the grounds around the mansion, and enjoy the view of Portland’s skyline from 1,000 feet up.
Although it’s an easy 45-minute drive to the incredibly scenic Columbia River Gorge, you’ll want to spend at least half a day hiking to waterfalls and generally exploring the area. Washington is on the north side of the river, but there’s no need to cross state lines — all the waterfalls worth a visit are in Oregon due to the steepness of the cliffs there. When you plot your itinerary, be sure to include Multnomah Falls (620 feet high), Latourell Falls (249 feet high), Wahkeena Falls (242 feet high), Horsetail Falls (176 feet high), and Bridal Veil Falls (there’s an upper and lower section).