Where to Go and What to See in Portland, Oregon

© Melissa Jensen / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Kevin Johnson
18 August 2020

Powell’s City of Books and Voodoo Doughnut are just a couple of must-visit destinations in Oregon‘s largest city.

Downtown/Riverwalk Waterfront, for an introduction to the Rose City

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Oregon Maritime Museum ship in the Tom McCall Waterfront Park, Willamette River, Portland, Oregon, USA
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If you’re just getting started on your visit to Portland, there’s no destination with a higher density of exciting activities than the downtown and riverfront areas. There’s plenty of room in the downtown areas north and south of Burnside Street, and a host of the city’s best stores, restaurants and attractions. With shopping opportunities at the Pioneer Place Mall, museums along the South Park Blocks, hotels and restaurants along Broadway and a riverwalk alongside the Willamette at the Tom McCall Waterfront Park, find something for everyone at this top Portland tourist spot.

The city’s numerous breweries, for beer lovers

Pub, American, $$$
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Think you love beer? Come test your devotion at any of Portland’s 75+ breweries within the city limits. Spread across the city’s neighborhoods, brewers serve to fulfill the city’s nickname, Beervana, in both micro and macro fashion. While it might be hard to reach all of them in a single visit (even a majority of locals haven’t paid a visit to every brewery), standouts include Widmer Brothers Brewing, Hopworks Urban Brewery and the Deschutes Brewpub.

Powell’s City of Books, for a burgeoning bookworm

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Powell's City of Books, This landmark, multi-level source for new & used books also houses a cafe & selection of gifts. Portland, Oregon
© Jorge Garrido / Alamy Stock Photo

To many Portlanders, Powell’s City of Books is a second home. Its popularity is pervasive: visitors can be found lingering around the shelves or thumbing through new and used selections, rain or shine, any time of year. If you’re visiting for the first time, experiencing the color-coded floor plan and and 1.6 acres (0.64 hectares) of retail space in the downtown location might seem overwhelming at the start, but spend some time in each section, and you’ll understand why this is often the first location people point to as a must-see in Portland.

McMenamins Kennedy School, for a bit of Portland’s weirdness

Boutique Hotel
The McMenamin brothers, Portland natives and brewpub entrepreneurs, are no strangers to transforming old venues into unique destinations. Northeast Portland’s Kennedy School might just be their most impressive job to date; formerly home to Kennedy Elementary School, the scholarly site now pairs a hotel, restaurants, bars, movie theater and pool. The revamped school is a must-see to wander the hallways lined with eccentric decor; to visit pubs and restaurants themed after the original location’s cafeteria, auditorium and boiler rooms; and to discover some hidden secrets all your own.
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The Old Town Entertainment District, for quality nightlife

Historical Landmark
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Neon sign for Old Town, Portland, Oregon, US
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Whether you’re looking to cap off a full day of activity or you’re just in Rose City for one night, hit the town at the city’s most popular bars and nightclubs in Portland’s Old Town neighborhood in the central west side. Party with Portlanders at places such as The Barrel Room piano bar and historical gay bar CC Slaughters, or dance the night away at the Dirty Nightclub, which are all within a few blocks of one another.

Voodoo Doughnut, for a sweet retreat

Dessert Shop, Bakery, American, Dessert
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"Voodoo Doughnuts" store, Portland, Oregon, USA. Image shot 10/2012. Exact date unknown.
© Jack Sullivan / Alamy Stock Photo
Portland’s infatuation with doughnuts is well documented, but Voodoo Doughnut stands as the face of the doughnut revolution in Stumptown. At the shop’s most popular location just south of Burnside Street on SW 3rd Avenue, visitors can expect a host of unique flavors, including the eponymous Voodoo doughnut, in the shape of a voodoo doll complete with jelly-filling blood. Anticipate a line during peak hours, but plan ahead and snag a half-dozen during your night out in Old Town before their 9pm closing time.
These recommendations were updated on August 18, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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