One of the best aspects of Portland is that there is truly something for everyone. You can take a lengthy stroll through the woods in the afternoon and then sip cocktails at a chic bar, with just enough time in between to change out of your hiking boots and into your high heels. Are you a city dweller who appreciates urban landscapes, great restaurants, and unique shops? Are you someone who prefers to visit the city’s tranquil parks and museums? Or are you looking for the best neighborhood bar or sports venue? Portland can accommodate all of those traits and more.
Portland’s city parks are many and diverse, ranging from grassy old-school parks with jungle gyms and baseball diamonds to urban parks with warm brick surfaces and seats that appeal to both young and old. Portland is home to the biggest urban park in the United States, Forest Park, which is located in the city’s northwest corner and is a popular hiking destination. Pioneer Courthouse Plaza, often known as Portland’s Living Room, is the primary square in downtown Portland. It drops from street level into an amphitheater shape, making it perfect for summer festivals and concerts. These are just two of the many parks that dot the landscape of Portland.
Forest Park is the largest urban park in the United States, covering over 5,000 acres. It’s a favorite hangout for Portlanders, especially those who live within walking distance of the park, as a place to unwind after work and still get home in time for supper. Hikers, runners, walkers, mountain bikers, dogs (on leashes), and children of all ages are all invited to enjoy the nearly 70 miles of trails and gravel roads in Forest Park.
Portland is home to a plethora of microbreweries – some say more per capita than anyplace else in the world – and beer enthusiasts always enjoy sampling the local variations. Many of the local breweries’ beers have earned national and international honors. Some are so unique to Portland that you can only locate them in one or two locations, while others are synonymous with the city. Bridgeport Brewing and Widmer are two of the larger brewers to seek for, but don’t be hesitant to sample some of the smaller producers as well, such as Lucky Lab and Laurelwood. Trust your bartender when in doubt.
Powell’s City of Books
Powell’s is a Portland tradition, and you’re not alone if you’ve traveled to town with an empty suitcase solely to fill it with books. It is the world’s largest independent bookstore, selling new and secondhand books across a whole city block in NW Portland. This does not include the store’s branches that stretch from suburbia to the airport. When was the last time you needed a map in a bookstore? Well, you will in Powell’s – but if you’re even somewhat interested in books, you’ll happily spend hours there without a care in the world. Except for how you intend to transport all those books home.
Oregon’s largest zoo is located on a hill off Highway 26 west of downtown. The zoo is located within Washington Park, which also contains various other attractions. The Oregon Zoo has included species from Africa, Asia, and the Amazon, as well as a long series of Pacific Northwest-themed exhibits. Asian elephants have been a big attraction at the zoo since the early 1960s when the Oregon Zoo welcomed the first elephant born in the western hemisphere in more than 40 years. Aside from the obvious appeal of the animals, there are summer concerts and a small train that rounds the zoo – it’s truly entertaining for the entire family.
The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, or OMSI (pronounced AHM-zee), is a fun and instructive place for kids of all ages. Many Oregon schoolchildren visited OMSI on field trips, but that hasn’t lessened our enthusiasm for this hands-on science lesson. There are hundreds of interactive activities throughout the museum, and due to its riverbank position, there is also a submarine that is permanently tied to the museum and may be toured. OMSI also houses IMAX and OMNIMAX theaters, as well as a number of temporary exhibits throughout the year.
The Portland Art Museum is the Pacific Northwest’s oldest art museum and is located in downtown Portland. It was founded in 1892 and now houses a permanent collection of over 35,000 works from Europe, Asia, and Africa, as well as a significant quantity of Native American and Pacific Northwest art. There are also a number of temporary displays throughout the year.
Portland does not have its own professional football or baseball club, which some citizens find annoying, but we do have a professional basketball team, the Portland Trailblazers. The Blazers play their home games in Portland’s Rose Quarter at the Rose Garden (this Rose Garden bears no resemblance to the actual garden of actual roses in Washington Park). The team’s original home arena, Memorial Coliseum, was not demolished and now sits directly next door. Both stadiums host sporting events, concerts, and shows throughout the year, and the Rose Quarter neighborhood surrounding them contains a few eateries and a couple of water fountains that are nice to play in when the weather is hot.
Waterfront Park & Eastbank Esplanade
A good river town does not ignore its river, and Portland is one. The Willamette River passes through the city center, with recreational opportunities on both sides. Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park (called simply as Waterfront Park by locals) is a stretch of grassy lawns and fountains extending down the river right close to downtown on the West side. It is recovered land from a former motorway, and Portlanders utilize it year-round for personal enjoyment as well as the various concerts and events held here. The Eastbank Esplanade, which was added relatively recently, has revived the opposing view of the river on the east side. It is a long pedestrian and bicycle path that runs along the Willamette River and is not only a nice area to walk but also has a view of the downtown Portland skyline.