14 Reasons Why You Should Visit Portland, Oregon

Portland is a city of hidden gems
Portland is a city of hidden gems | © Jon Bilous / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Kevin Johnson
4 August 2020

Since well before the media caught on, Portland has been staking its claim as America’s destination for weirdness. A visit to this city in Oregon both fulfills expectations and reveals hidden gems, all worthy of a return trip. If you’re in need of excuses to visit, here are some of the best.

Hiking and nature are everywhere

View of Mount Hood from Mount Tabor in Portland | © Jon Bilous / Alamy Stock Photo

Whether you’re the outdoorsy type or not, a visit to Portland is best accompanied by a sample of the Pacific Northwest’s natural beauty. From the southeast’s scenic Mount Tabor to the down-and-dirty rigor of the northwest’s Forest Park, there are countless ways to hit the trails and experience urban nature unlike anywhere else.

The restaurants are among the West Coast’s best

Despite the smaller population, the eyes of the foodie world rarely overlook Portland as one of the West Coast’s most popular restaurant hubs. Portland’s specialty isn’t exclusively fine dining, classic joints or total dives, but a comfortable mixture of the three, giving visitors a range of beloved establishments to choose from. Prime yourself with this list of Portland’s best restaurants.

Experience the rain (and its payoff)

Not many places will claim inclement weather enhances a city, but Portland isn’t like many other places. Portlanders pride themselves on thriving in the rain, and visitors should expect to pack a raincoat if they want to get a sense of the city at its most honest. If a daytime drizzle interrupts plans, let restaurants, cozy cafés and other indoor delights act as a backup. For visitors who can’t bear the rain as much as locals, the summer months have significantly fewer rainy days, and the city blooms from the season-long watering of winter and spring.

It reigns as the most bike-friendly city in the US

Proving you don’t have to be an older city like Amsterdam to make cycling accessible, Portland punches above its weight to support a devoted bike culture. Don’t stress about bringing your bike; Oregon-based athletic brand Nike sponsors the inexpensive bike-share program Biketown, available on bike racks across the city.

You’re never far from an outdoor adventure

Few outdoors towns in the US have the small-town spirit and big-city attractions that Portland does, making this an ideal visit for those seeking outdoor thrills. Hitting the coast (don’t call it the ‘beach’ around locals) for surfing just over an hour away is a common day trip in the warmer months; if you’re more of a winter person, head to one of Mount Hood’s three ski resorts for another great day trip.

Enjoy coffee like nowhere else

Stumptown coffee is synonymous with Portland | © David Hancock / Alamy Stock Photo

Head in any direction in Portland, and you’re sure to pass a number of cozy coffee shops that invite visitors in for anything from a quick stop to hours spent in coffee paradise. Some of the city’s best include the now-famous Stumptown Coffee Roasters, boutique newcomers Push x Pull, and the aesthetically quirky Rimsky-Korsakoffee House.

Doughnuts are an elevated art form

Portland’s unquestioned love for the doughnut influences any visitor no matter how long they stay, and with good reason. Whether you go to the popular Voodoo Doughnuts downtown or scale it up at Blue Star Doughnuts, your first bite is sure to be a memorable experience. Essential reading to get to the heart (or should we say, hole) of Portland’s doughnut craze is this list of Portland’s best doughnut shops.

It’s home to the world’s largest indie bookstore

While it’s certainly a bookworm’s dream, Powell’s is much more than a simple bookstore; the shop occupies an entire city block and 1.6 acres of retail space in downtown Portland, ruling as one of the top reasons to visit the city. Browsing the shelves can be an all-day activity, so don’t be surprised when your suitcase is suddenly too small for your new souvenirs.

Witness the ‘Rose City’ live up to its nickname

Portland was set on its course to become the ‘City of Roses‘ more than 100 years ago, as beautification efforts led to an all-out infatuation with the bloom. Today, more than 10,000 individual roses rest in the International Rose Test Garden, the city’s top spot for a flowery walk near the top of Portland’s Northwest Hills. Visitors should plan to see the multitude of bushes and garden varietals scattered about the city as most hit their peak in June, aligning nicely with the annual Portland Rose Festival.

The airport (yes, really)

Once you’ve been through it for yourself, it’s not hard to see why it’s so beloved (and possibly even worth a layover). It has received domestic acclaim for its comfort, design, environmental efforts and food – and the carpet has a cult of personality. It also features a rotating crew of musicians stationed at concourses throughout the complex, playing day and night to greet and bid farewell with a tune.

There’s never a bad time to catch a sports game

The energy of the Timbers Army is infectious | © ZUMA Press / Alamy Stock Photo

Portland’s history with organized sports is an interesting one. While some teams fell to the wayside (and others just can’t seem to get going), the local passion around the current lineup is worth seeing for yourself. The energy of the Timbers Army, the excitement around the dominant gold-medalists of the Thorns, and the Trail Blazers’ NBA star power each draw fans across the city and state, and are some of the best ways to spend a weekend in Portland.

Shopping locally is more than just a trend

Farmers, jewelry makers, knitters and artisans of all sorts are never far out of reach in Portland. The well-established Portland Saturday Market, held on the waterfront just steps away from downtown, is a must-see hub for the kinds of quirky gifts visitors dream of finding. Beyond that, farmers’ markets are spread out in neighborhoods across town, bringing locals and tourists alike together.

You won’t break the bank

What’s one of Portland‘s most remarkable features? It manages to expand and add on new amazing reasons to visit without losing its affordable charm. Some of that is owed to Oregon’s lack of sales tax on most goods, but the city’s love of dive bars and cheap eats from food carts is as strong as ever.

Portland’s general weirdness

Above all else, the city’s emphasis on the eccentric is what keeps residents and newcomers interested in every new day. Helping to keep Portland weird is as much a reason to visit as any restaurant, bar or festival. Next time you’re there, look for the ‘only in Portland’ moments that are treasured by so many.

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