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Portland's 10 Best Cultural Events and Festivals this August

Picture of Marcelina Morfin
Marcelina Morfin
Updated: 9 February 2017
Portland is a beautiful city with delectable food, excellent music, a growing arts scene, and verdant parks. Add in friendly people, and it is no surprise that Portlanders know how to put on amazing events. This August is packed with indoor and outdoor celebrations, which includes everything from film festivals to art exhibitions. Here we take a look at some of the best festivities happening in Portland, Oregon.

Art | Oregon’s Painted History

1 August – 30 September

On display at the Architectural Heritage Center this August and September is the art exhibition, Oregon’s Painted History, which seeks to honour Oregon’s past. Featuring the artworks of Portland artist Anna Magruder, who won the 2014 Regional Arts and Culture Council grant to help fund this project, this show explores the livelier and hidden side of the state’s history, more specifically, the period of 1850-1950. Passionate about the ‘bygone days,’ Anna chose a time when many events were occurring in Oregon, including Prohibition and the Portland Underground. The surrealistic paintings, which depict themes, in general, rather than exact stories, are full of symbolism in order to convey a message to viewers and capture the emotions of the time.

Oregon’s Painted History (AHC), 701 SE Grant Ave., Portland, OR, USA, +1 503 231 7264


Music | Oregon Zoo Summer Concerts

1, 8, 13, 16, 22, 23 August

Every summer the Oregon Zoo hosts concerts featuring an impressive array of musical acts. Celebrating its 36th anniversary, the Summer Concerts are nestled inside the zoo on the concert lawn. Primarily a benefit for the zoo, money raised goes towards the care of animals, educational programs, and conservation. Top-notch musical performers this August include singer-songwriter Josh Ritter & The Royal City Band, Huey Lewis and the News, and hometown favourites Pink Martini, to name a few. An on-site café allows spectators to enjoy delicious food, such as gourmet burgers and vegetarian sandwiches, plus cold drinks like micro-brews and wines from the Pacific Northwest before listening to great tunes.

Oregon Zoo Summer Concerts, 4001 SW Canyon Rd., Portland, OR, USA, +1 503 226 1561

Food | Portland International Beerfest

8 – 10 August

Portland International Beerfest is a three-day festival — held at the Holladay Park at Lloyd Center — that celebrates hard-to-find beers. Currently in its 13th year, this event showcases 200 beers from 16 countries giving visitors a chance to sample a diverse group of unique brews. Food vendors will also be plentiful providing a variety of cuisines. Live entertainment in the form of music will be on tap as well with performances by indie folk band The Marvins, Davy Jay Sparrow & His Western Songbirds, and Pagan Jug Band to name a few. Benefiting Pet Cross, a charity that supports animal welfare groups, this is an adult and dogs-only event where people can have fun while supporting a great cause.

Portland International Beerfest, Holladay Park, Portland, OR, USA


Theatre | Original Practice Shakespeare Festival

9, 10, 17, 24 August

Founded in 2009, Original Practice Shakespeare Festival seeks to thrill audiences with performances of Shakespeare’s works; however, this event is not like most Shakespeare festivals. Theatrical events during the 16th century were very different than those today, and this company executes productions in the way they may have been performed during Shakespeare’s time. For example, the rehearsal time is very limited, the acting is fast-paced, plus there is a lot of interaction with the audience. A stimulating event loved by many, this season’s plays include The Taming of the Shrew and As You Like It, which are held in various parks throughout Portland.

Various parks throughout Portland, OR, USA


Music | MusicfestNW

16 – 17 August

MusicfestNW — currently in its 14th year — is a two-day music festival with two stages featuring some of the best musical artists. Taking place at the Waterfront Park along the Willamette River, performances this year include those by Girl Talk, Landlady, Spoon, Haim, and EMA to name but a few. There will also be an art pavilion where Portland-based artists will showcase artworks made specifically for the event plus a temporary wall on which artists will paint a mural over the two-day period. Spectators will also be able to enjoy good eats and drinks as there will be plenty of food and beverage vendors. Children are allowed at this event, making it a fun-filled weekend for the entire family.

MusicfestNW, Tom McCall Waterfront Park, Portland, OR, USA


Culture | Festa Italiana

21 – 23 August

For over 20 years Festa Italiana has been celebrating everything Italian. Each August the Pioneer Courthouse Square turns into ‘Piazza Italia’ where Italy’s culture is promoted and shared with locals and tourists alike. Revellers can feast on delicious fare made by top Portland restaurants and sample numerous wines, plus vendors will be on hand to sell Italian goods. Plenty of prizes and competitions, such a pizza toss and grape stomp, will be available as well, and the atmosphere will be filled with great Italian music provided by Portland State University Opera plus several other musicians, including Elio Scaccio and Joe De Gennaro. A Sicilian marionette show will also take place for children.

Festa Italiana, Pioneer Courthouse Square, Portland, OR, USA


Film | Portland Film Festival

26 August – 1 September

The Portland Film Festival is a newer event — now in its second season — and it is growing fast. Founded by Josh Leake and Jay Cornelius, this festival has grown from a three-day affair to a week-long celebration in one year. With 154 hours of film this year, it is a haven for movie buffs. There will be many other events as well, including talks, workshops, and parties. Numerous special guests will be making appearances, including director Issac Feder, whose movie Sex Ed will have its world premiere at the event, plus the star of the film, Haley Joel Osment. In one week, audiences will be able to watch a variety of films from all over the word representing all genres plus learn about many aspects that go into film making.

Various venues across Portland, OR, USA


Art | Art in the Pearl

30 August – 1 September

Ranked as one of the top 10 arts and crafts festivals in the nation, Art in the Pearl is a festival celebrating the arts in the Pearl District’s North Park Blocks. Currently in its 18th year, this event seeks to give creative types an opportunity to showcase their works, which include a variety of media, plus offers visitors a chance to produce art as well. In addition to the arts and crafts booths, a stage will be set up to provide music and theatre entertainment, and an education pavilion will be available where adults and children are able to participate in hands-on art activities. The culinary arts will also be well represented as plenty of food vendors will be present giving visitors a chance to try delicious international cuisine.

Art in the Pearl, North Park Blocks, Portland, OR, USA

Film | Movies in the Park

Until 13 September

Beautiful and lush parks are dotted throughout Portland where family and friends gather to relax and have some fun. Numerous events take advantage of these great open spaces each year, such as Movies in the Park. During the summer months, many of these areas are turned into outdoor movie theatres where various films are featured. From old musicals to recently released flicks, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Highlights from the August roster include The Wizard of Oz, Frozen, and The Never-ending Story to name but a few. Be sure to arrive early to this free event the entire family will take delight in as there is complimentary popcorn plus live music.

Various parks throughout Portland, OR, USA


Culture | Portland Walking Tours

Ongoing

Often overwhelmed, tourists may not know where to start their journey once arriving in a new place. In Portland, visitors (and oftentimes locals) may book a tour with Portland Walking Tours. Voted as one the top tours in the nation by USA Today, the company offers several excursions from the wacky to the delicious. Go on the ‘Best of Portland’ tour to learn about the history of Portland and see what makes the city so great, or get a taste of the food cart culture with the ‘Portland Food Cart Tour.’ For something unique, there is the ‘Beyond Bizarre Ghost Tour’ where guides equipped with ghost hunting paraphernalia take guests to places believed to be haunted. With other fascinating tour options, everyone will find something of interest.

Various meeting points across Portland, OR, USA, +1 503 774 4522

By Marcelina Morfin