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Portland, OR Grain Tracks | © Ian Sane / Flickr
Portland, OR Grain Tracks | © Ian Sane / Flickr

10 Non-Touristy Experiences in Portland, Oregon

Picture of Anna Kramer
Anna Kramer
Updated: 20 April 2017

Portland isn’t just hipster coffee shops, vegan eateries, and microbreweries. There’s plenty of greenery to explore beyond the renowned rose garden and much more to see than the inside of a museum. Here are some ideas for how to venture off the beaten path.

Take in the views at Mount Tabor

Grab a latte at Rain or Shine Coffee House and climb Mount Tabor—which just happens to be a dormant volcano—for a panoramic view of downtown Portland. On a clear day, Mount Hood reveals itself in the distance, snow-capped and breathtaking. If you’re a dog lover, all the better; Mount Tabor Park is home to one of the largest off-leash areas in the city.

Mount Tabor, Portland, OR, USA

Clear your mind in a natural sanctuary

Southeast of the famed International Rose Test and Japanese Gardens, visitors will find another, lesser-known urban oasis: the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. Take a stroll along the water and across the bridge, weaving your way through wooded patches and various native Oregonian plant life. Admission is $5, except for Mondays and Tuesdays when folks may enter free of charge.

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, 5801 SE 28th Ave, Portland, OR, USA, +1 503 771 8386

Explore the Columbia River Gorge

Leave town and head west along the Columbia River. Hidden treasures await, like creaky old railroad towns; beautiful green hiking trails dotted with dazzling creeks and cascades like Bridal Veil, Horsetail, and Multnomah Falls; the inviting waters of Trillium Lake; and Mount Hood itself.

Pick your own produce

Portlandians love their fresh produce, and never more so than in the summer—the perfect time of year to pick your own berries. Fruit farms surround the city, but Sauvie Island is a particularly popular spot for both locals and visitors to stock up on nature’s candy.

Sauvie Island, OR

Or buy some straight from the source

Make a meal from ingredients sourced solely from items you find at one of Portland’s many farmers’ markets. Stay for a bite of freshly baked bread and local cheese or whatever treats the season’s vendors have in store. You might even catch some music; this city takes its farmers’ markets seriously.

Catch a flick on the big screen

There’s no shortage of movie theaters in Portland, Oregon—and not the kind you find at the local mall. The city’s full of historic cinemas playing your pick of vintage, indie, and foreign films—sometimes even on actual film. Living Room Theaters is a local favorite, offering comfy recliner seats and food and wine service.

Living Room Theaters, 341 SW 10th Ave, Portland, OR, USA, +1 971 222 2010

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Get lost in the woods

If you’d rather stretch your legs, Forest Park is a literal urban forest in Northwest Portland. It might be on most people’s list of places to go, but no one gets to enjoy its leafy green refuge like local Portlanders. Hike or bike your way through the park’s many trails, which natives take full advantage of, rain or shine. Or rain.

Forest Park, Portland, OR, USA, +1 503 823 4492

Bike everywhere

Portland’s one of the country’s bike-friendliest cities, and with traffic getting worse thanks to an influx of inhabitants, bicycles are an ever-increasingly popular mode of transportation. Hop on one of Biketown’s orange set of wheels (the city’s bike share), or rent one from a shop. And remember: it doesn’t have to be a fixie.

Drink like a local

Walk or pedal yourself through a few out-of-the-way neighborhoods to get a true sense of everyday Portlandian life. You’ll find quiet corner cafés, hole-in-the-wall shops, and you’re bound to stumble upon a local dive or two. One such place? Northern Portland’s Red Fox bar, which offers a roofed patio for outdoor imbibing and is a perfect spot for people-watching.

Red Fox, 5128 N Albina Ave, Portland, OR, USA, +1 503 282 2934

Grab a bite at the Portland Mercado

Locals have to eat. When they’re craving something south of the border, there’s only one place to go: Portland Mercado. This place is an insider favorite, self-proclaimed as Portland’s Latin America, and boasts Mexican, Colombian, Salvadoran, and Argentinian food trucks—and as many churros as you can fit in your belly.

Portland Mercado, 7238 SE Foster Rd, Portland, OR, USA