29 Awesome Things to do in Portland, Oregon

Welcome to the hipster haven of Portland.

The city proudly wears the slogan ‘Keep Portland Weird’.

That should give you some indication: what you are about to visit is not a normal city. Expect a distinctly bohemian vibe, a liberal culture, and an informality that makes most other cities seem stuffy and boring!

Portland is definitely weird, however, it is not *as weird* as depicted in one of my favorite TV series, Portlandia! 

Also Read: Best Things to do in Oregon

What makes Portland unique is that it is uber environment-conscious – biking is the preferred mode of transit and public transport takes you where your bike doesn’t.

You’ll find a counterculture of protests and marches and friendly locals who take distinct pride in being eclectic – think man buns and naked bike rides! 

Fun fact: ‘Keep Portland Weird’ slogan was adapted from the original ‘Keep Austin Weird’ slogan of Austin, Texas. However, Portland is definitely weirder than Austin! 

What if you’re not into the whole hip vibe?

Don’t worry, Portland is in many ways your typical bustling American city with the usual cultural attractions of museums and art galleries. There’s plenty of shopping too.

Also Read: Portland to San Francisco Road Trip Itinerary

And with Portland’s cosmopolitan crowd, comes a diverse culinary scene of cafes, restaurants, and food trucks. And if nothing else, you can always go for a glass of cold beer! 

Pioneer Square Courthouse in Portland Oregon.
Pioneer Square Courthouse in Portland Oregon.

Best Things to do in Portland, Oregon

In many ways, you come to love Portland’s weirdness even if you don’t understand it.

What can you not like about a city that is home to magnificent parks and dense forests, that is a stone’s throw away from beautiful waterfalls, that has more craft breweries than most others, and that is the perfect starting point for exploring the Beaver State. 

Here’s a giant list of all fun, quirky, essential, and oh-so-weird things to do in Portland, Oregon on a weekend trip. 

Try out the craft beer scene

Craft beer is a religion in Portland. In fact, the city is lovingly nicknamed ‘Beervana’.

The weather around the Willamette Valley and Portland is perfect for hops production and as a result, breweries have been changing Portland’s landscape since the 1980s.

Pearl District is one of the best places to go for breweries. Lagers, stouts, and ales – whatever your choice, Portland has it all!

The city has innumerable breweries and new ones keep popping up every year.

For German-style beers, try Occidental Brewing Company near the St. John’s Bridge.

For a farmhouse-style brewery, try Upright Brewing or Great Notion Brewing. For all the deets on which breweries to visit, read here.

In addition to breweries, Portland is also home to many gastropubs and even has child-friendly breweries where parents can sip a cold one while their kids have a gala time playing around.

Of course, the city celebrates with beer-themed events, like Beerweek, Oktoberfest, and Holiday Ale Festival!

You can also go on brewery tour.

Tasting at Portland Brewing Company, including Bavarian Style Weizen, Rose Hip Gold Ale, MacTarnahan’s Amber Ale, Imperial IPA, and Snow Cap Ale (Photo – Visitor7/Wikimedia Commons CC3.0)

Spend time at the Washington Park

Located in West Hills, Washington Park is home to a number of Portland attractions.

Sprawled over 410 acres, the park not only has a zoo but many gardens and some of Portland’s best museums.

The park has been around since the mid-1880s and since then, welcomes thousands of tourists every year.

Spring to fall is the most popular time to visit with most people visiting between June and August.

The park is easy to reach via rental cars or buses.

Old Town Portland Sign

Start your visit at the park by visiting the Hoyt Arboretum.

The arboretum is free and has some of the best educational trails in the country. You can see rare plants and trees as well as lots of birds.

The arboretum also offers classes to learn more about bird identification or plant evolution.

For a unique experience, see the World Forestry Center Discovery Museum.

This is a great place to learn about forests, trees, and the environment – there are several interactive exhibits about the world that we live in.

Kids will love the locomotive engine, Peggy! 

If you have kids, then visit the Oregon Zoo.

The zoo is home to many animals including porcupines, crocodiles, beavers, swamp monkeys, and more. The zoo also has a petting zoo, play area, and aviary.

Another fun attraction to visit with the kids is the Portland Children’s Museum.

It offers a variety of activities including boat races, mazes, pet hospitals, and fort building among others.

There are many other things to do in Portland’s Washington Park including hiking trails, memorials, the Japanese Garden, and the International Rose Test Garden.

Washington Park Trains

Lose yourself in the Japanese Garden

Portland’s Japanese Garden is one of the best in the country.

The reason behind building the beautiful Japanese garden in Washington Park was to strengthen the ties between Japan and Oregon.

It was opened to the visitors in 1950 and since then has grown to over 5.5 acres of landscaped paradise.

In 2017, it was expanded to include the Cultural Village section where you can explore 5 types of traditional Japanese gardens.

This beautiful garden has many features including ponds, tea houses, zen rock gardens, sculptures, and lanterns.

In the Cultural Village, you can soak in several traditions of Japan and see cultural demonstrations including Japanese harp music, flower arrangements, kimonos, and tea making.

The garden also has a cafe where you can taste authentic food and architecture styles in areas like Tsubo-Niwa, Pavilion Gallery, and the Bonsai Terrace. 

The garden is absolutely stunning in the spring and fall.

During Spring, you can see breathtakingly beautiful blooms of Japanese Iris, Wisteria, Camelias, Azaleas, Magnolias, and many more trees.

In fall, you will be spellbound by the changing color of the leaves.

The bright red and tangerine leaves paint the Japanese garden in a splash of color and this becomes one of the most photogenic spots in Portland.

Portland Japanese Garden
Portland Japanese Garden

Enjoy the fragrance at International Rose Test Garden

Portland is also known as the Rose City due to the presence of the International Rose Test Garden.

The rose garden has a long history that dates back to 1905.

Then the streets of Portland were covered with roses to commemorate the Lewis and Clark Centennial exposition.

The idea of creating an entire garden with roses was conceived during that time and the International Rose Test garden came into being in 1918 to safely grow European hybrid roses during the turbulent times of WWI. 

While you are visiting the garden, stop and smell the roses. Let your eyes feast on the blooms.

There are more than 10,000 rose bushes and a total of 650 varieties being grown there.

If you want to witness the blooming shrubs, the best time to go is in June.

Or else, you can go there anytime between April to October and still be able to smell at least a few flowers.

International Rose Test Garden

Explore the Lan Su Chinese Garden

If you love gardens, then you must visit the Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland.

Opened in 2005, Lan Su Chinese Garden is one of Portland’s newest gardens.

The garden is unique and authentic for the fact that it was designed by architects who flew in from Suzhou, the sister city of Portland.

The Lan Su Chinese Garden draws inspiration from many gardens in Suzhou, China.

For example, the Zither lake that is artificially created in the garden is a replica of an oasis located in the Chinese city.

Apart from that, you will get to see a lot of bridges, pavilions, arcades, and the tower of cosmic reflection that is inspired by Suzhou as well.

Do not forget to try the fabulous tea while you are visiting the garden.

Foggy Morning by Wooden Foot Bridge at Portland Japanese Garden in Autumn
Foggy Morning by Wooden Foot Bridge at Portland Japanese Garden in Autumn

Visit the famous Pittock Mansion

For a Portland history lesson, visit the famous Pittock Mansion. This is a must on every Portland bucket list.

Pittock Mansion is located amidst the gorgeous backdrop of the Willamette river and mountains.

The building has a striking French Renaissance style of architecture and is beautiful to explore.

It was initially built in 1914 for Henry Pittock, the publisher of the Oregonian, and his wife.

The building was opened as a museum to visitors in 1964 and since then attracts a number of tourists every year.

The mansion has over 40 rooms and has beautiful views over Downtown Portland.

The mansion is a popular filming locale and also has the reputation of being haunted.

You can view the gorgeous mansion on a self-guided tour.

Pittock Mansion is the perfect place to understand the story of Portland’s industrialization via the history of the Pittock’s.

From the parking lot and the grounds, you can see beautiful views of downtown Portland and Mt. Hood.

Lawn and building of Pittock Mansion museum, Portland, Oregon
Lawn and building of Pittock Mansion museum, Portland, Oregon

Understand the seafaring history at Oregon Maritime Museum

Located between Pine Street and Naito Parkway of Portland, Oregon Maritime Museum is not only the pride of Oregon but of the entire country.

The museum is located inside a steam-powered tugboat, known as ‘The Portland’, on the Willamette River.

The boat operated from 1947-1981 and is the last boat of its kind in the country. 

If you visit ‘the Portland’, you can tour the entire boat including the engine room and the boat pilothouse.

Apart from that, you can also check out all the maritime artifacts, ship models, and wartime memorabilia.

You can read the information on military exercises performed by the ships. The museum also has interesting exhibits geared towards kids. 

Apart from the ship, the waterfront area near the museum has trails and is great for a stroll.

We recommend keeping aside about two hours to explore the area and ask more information to the volunteers if necessary.

The attraction is perfect for families as kids love the thrill of being on a boat. 

Oregon Maritime Museum

Visit the Museum of Science and Industry

The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry is one of the top science museums in the country.

OMSI has a planetarium and many exhibition halls displaying technology, industry, and science exhibits.

The museum is also home to USS Blueback, a naval submarine that was active in waters off the coast of Vietnam.

Visitors can tour the submarine on guided tours led by veterans – this is one of the coolest things to do in Portland.

You can see the torpedo room, see through the submarine periscope, and know more about life on the vessel.

The museum is a popular draw for kids of all ages.

In the Turbine Hall, kids can experience earthquakes and see how storms begin.

The museum also has a science playground where kids can conduct their own mad scientist experiments.

The museum offers many practical science lessons for kids.

The museum also has a four-story-high large screen theatre called the Empirical Theatre.

You can watch educational shows at the theatre during your visit.

We recommend spending at least 2 to 3 hours at the museum to see all the exhibits. 

Main entrance to Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (Photo – M.O. Stevens/Wikimedia Commons Image Source)

See the Portland Art Museum

The Portland Art Museum is the oldest museum of art on the West Coast.

The museum is a paradise for art lovers and has a vast collection of Native American and Asian Art.

A separate modern wing is reserved for contemporary art pieces.

The museum also has many interesting temporary exhibits.

The museum building itself is a well-known Portland landmark. It has striking architecture.

The museum has over 40,000 art pieces and you can easily take a day to see them all.

Some of the famous artwork at the museum includes Water Lilies by Monet, Madonna and Child by Cecco di Pietro, and the Ox Cart by Vincent van Gogh. 

Portland Theatre Sign
Portland Theatre Sign

Check out the Farmers Market

To experience the genuine essence of Portland, you must visit the Portland Saturday Market.

Held on Saturdays, the market has more than 30,000 shoppers every week during the peak seasons.

The Farmers Market has six different locations all over Portland including Shemanski Park, Kenton, King and Lents, Pioneer Courthouse, and the Portland State University. 

Our favorite is the Portland University location. Visiting the Farmers Market is fun.

You can get fresh fruits and vegetables in the market or enroll your kids in a cooking class.

Vendors sell cheese, seafood, baked goods, sausages, and other goodies.

You can also buy craft ciders, distilled vodkas, and beer – because of course, this is Portland.

The market is also great for people watching and listening to live music. 

Take a photo of Portland with Mt. Hood in the background

One of the most popular photographs of Portland is the city skyline with Mt. Hood in background.

There are many locations around the city where you can take in great views of Portland.

For the iconic view with Mount Hood, go to the parking lot of Pittock Mansion in Washington Park.

Or else, visit the award-winning Portland City Grill for a romantic dinner date and to see the panorama from the 30th floor.

Not only will you get to photograph Mount Hood, but also see the Willamette River and its bridges. 

Another great place to see the views is the historic Mt. Tabor park – here you can take a walk while seeing the skyline.

For a unique view from the river, try the waterfront.

Last but not the least, visit James Woodhill Park.

It can be reached by driving up the summit of Rocky Butte, you can see a bird’s eye view of the entire region plus also visit a historic tunnel. 

Sunrise View of Portland, Oregon from Pittock Mansion.
Sunrise View of Portland, Oregon from Pittock Mansion.

Ride the Portland Aerial Tram

The Portland Aerial Tram is a great way to see views of the city from above on a budget.

The tram rises about 500 ft above the waterfront and offers visitors beautiful vistas of the Portland skyline along with the Willamette River and Mount Hood in the background.

The tram cabins have floor to ceiling panoramic windows – which are perfect for taking photographs.

At the top, there is a viewing platform with spectacular views of the city – the platform is located inside the hospital but can be accessed by visitors. 

The Portland Aerial Tram carries commuters from the Waterfront district to Oregon Health & Science University campus and costs just under $6 for a round trip ticket.

The tram runs year-round, even during rain and snow. The trip lasts roughly 4 minutes and is an instant favorite with kids.

We recommend keeping aside half an hour for this attraction.

Aerial Tram in Portland Oregon, view of the city from the top
Aerial Tram in Portland Oregon, view of the city from the top

Explore the Witch’s Castle in Forest Park

Portland’s Forest Park is a large forested area that is full of trails crisscrossing the old-growth trees.

The park is home to many species of birds and animals and is a favorite place to catch beautiful views of Portland.

However, the most unique thing about Forest Park is the Witch’s Castle. 

The Witch’s Castle is an old ruined building located near the junction of the Wildwood Trail and the Lower MacLeay Trail.

The structure was built in the 1950s as a ranger’s station but fell into disuse.

It was soon covered by moss and all that remains visible are the old stone walls.

The vibe of the place is wild and eerie but charming – and something to be experienced for yourself.

The building is said to be haunted – you can read the full story here – and a hike to the Witch’s Castle is a great way to get some exercise while learning about the local folklore.

The hike is roughly half a mile long one way from the Upper MacLeay parking lot near Portland Audubon Society. 

People watch at Tom McCall Waterfront Park

Portland’s Tom McCall Waterfront Park was voted among the country’s top ten public places.

With a history like that, visiting the park is a must. It is located in downtown Portland, by the west bank of the Willamette River.

Popular things to do along the waterfront include walking by the esplanade, attending the famous Symphony concert at the park, and taking pictures in front of the beautiful Salmon Street Springs – the park’s famous water fountain.

It has three different water displays and is a great attraction to spend time in the park.

Waterfront Park is also home to many festivals.

Some of the popular city events that take place in McCall park are The Big Float, where everyone can float down the river in a tube and the annual Oregon Brewers Festival in July, where you can sample craft beers.

Portland downtwon waterfront along Willamette river, with cherry blossom
Portland downtwon waterfront along Willamette river, with cherry blossom

The park also hosts the Rose Festival in May, the legendary Portland Pride in June, and Cinco de Mayo celebrations in May.

These events are well attended by locals as well as tourists and are a great way to enjoy the city and the park. 

The park is well landscaped and looks beautiful year-round.

McCall Waterfront Park is one of the places in Portland where you can see a glorious display of Cherry Blossoms during spring.

The cherry trees are located close to the American-Japanese historical plaza.

While you visit the park, you should also check out the memorials including the famous Battleship Oregon Memorial and the memorial dedicated to Japanese Americans who were held in internment camps during World War II. 

See the rhododendron bloom at Crystal Springs

If you haven’t had your fill of cherry blossoms at the Japanese garden and the roses at the International Rose Test garden – and want to see even more flowers – then visit the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden.

Located in southeast Portland, this garden is most delightful in spring when thousands of rhododendrons and azaleas are in bloom from March to July.

The garden is also a great place to relax by the lakeside and birdwatch. 

A path in Portland's Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, Oregon
A path in Portland’s Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, Oregon

Spend a day reading at Powell’s City of Books

Book lovers rejoice!

Portland’s Powell’s City of Books is one of the largest independent bookstores in the country.

It is comparable to New York’s Strand bookstore and stretches over a huge area.

It has multiple floors and you actually need a map to locate different sections in the color-coded rooms!

Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

They sell new as well as used books plus things like rare books, magazines, cards, and more – and are the perfect way to fit in some reading during your Portland trip. 

Venture down into the Shanghai tunnels

Did you know that there is an underground group of passages known as the Shanghai Tunnels in Portland?

The tunnels were originally built under restaurants, hotels, and pubs to move goods transported via the Willamette River in the 19th century.

Legends say the tunnels were increasingly used for shanghaiing – abducting and selling men to sea captains and forcing them to work as crew on voyages across the Pacific.

Hence the name Shanghai tunnels.

Today you can take a guided tour of these tunnels that extend mostly from Downtown to Old Town (Chinatown) neighborhood to discover the truth of the tunnels for yourself.

Exploring the tunnels is one of the best things to do in Portland with older kids/teens. 

Portland skyline waterfront views
Portland skyline waterfront views

Pick your side in the epic doughnut battle

This may come as a surprise, but among other things, Portland is known for its doughnuts!

Portland has perfected America’s favorite snack and elevated it to a cuisine. Yes, we are still talking about fried dough.

There are bakeries in Portland that specialize in doughnuts, the two most popular being Voodoo Doughnuts and Blue Star.

This legendary battle is as popular as Giordano’s vs Lou Malnati’s for Chicago Deep Dish Pizza or Cafe du Monde vs Cafe Beignets for New Orleans beignets. 

Voodoo Doughnut is the one that started it all, with their cereal topped, Portland cream, and bacon maple versions.

You need to try Voodoo doughnuts for their assorted flavors and delicious taste.

But if you are looking for something exotic, make a beeline for Blue Star Donuts.

Carry a decent amount of cash – these are pricey – but totally worth it.

Where else can you get a blueberry bourbon doughnut!

Some of the other doughnut shops to try out include Donut Queen and Heavenly Donuts. To see other recommendations, see here.

Shopping Tip – Looking to buy Portland souvenirs or gifts or shop locally? Head over to our favorite, MadeHere PDX!

Enjoy the culinary scene

Portland is much more than doughnuts. The city is famous for its culinary scene.

It is one of the best cities to travel for foodies and you can easily spend a weekend in Portland trying its culinary delights.

You will find everything in Portland including farm to table restaurants, vegan food, exotic animal meats, food carts, and shacks specializing in a single thing: doughnuts, ice-cream, chicken wings, dumplings, and so on.

You will find all the cuisines from around the world and can take guided food tours or DIY walking tour around the city’s famous eateries and restaurants.

And of course, there are visits to the local wineries, distilleries, and breweries to wash all down all the food.

The city has many food festivals round the year.

To know more about Portland’s favorite foods, read here and here.

Feast on the food trucks

Portland’s food trucks and food carts deserve a separate mention just because there are so many of them.

You can visit Portland area and survive just on the food trucks yet experience a variety of cuisines.

Arguably, you will find more food carts than trucks, and they are located adjacent to each other in a single location called a pod.

The city has many such pods and by visiting one, you are promised a heavenly experience.

Portland’s quirky side is fully reflected here and you will find some really weird dishes along with the usual fare of sandwiches and lamb over rice.

To spot the essential pods and know where to go, read this excellent guide by Eater

See the world’s smallest park

While Portland is quite green and has parks such as the Japanese Garden, International Rose Test Garden, and the densely wooded Forest Park it is also home to the world’s smallest park, the Mill Ends Park.

This park is actually a non-park – it is two feet wide and located on the median of Nato Parkway.

But the Guinness Book of World Records mentions it’s the smallest park and so it is!

Oh, and btw, the park is dedicated to leprechauns of Ireland! You can read all about the story here.

The park is a popular spot for St. Patrick’s Day festivities in Portland. 

Tillicum Crossing Bridge in Portland Oregon
Tillicum Crossing Bridge in Portland Oregon

Take a photo of the bridges

Portland has some really pretty bridges on the Willamette River.

We would encourage you to go exploring these, take their photographs, and walk across them to East Portland – if they are open to pedestrians.

Start at the pedestrian-friendly Tilikum Crossing, the newest bridge in the city that was completed in 2015.

This cable-stayed bridge is a beauty and unique in the sense that it doesn’t allow private cars.

Then go see the rustic engineering marvel, Steel Bridge.

Last but not the least, walk across the St. Johns Bridge.

This bridge has striking Gothic architecture and beautiful views of the city.

This bridge was built by David Steinman, the same architect who built the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan.

You can read more about Portland’s bridges here

St Johns Bridge Portland Oregon in the fall
St Johns Bridge in the fall

Go hiking at Mount Tabor

Want to explore an extinct volcano near Portland? Go hiking at Mount Tabor Park!

This is one of the locals favorite Portland activities.

The volcano is named after Mount Tabor of Israel.

The volcano is a cinder cone that has been dormant for many years.

The park is located in the Boring Lava Field, a big volcanic field of cinder cones, lava flows, and small volcanoes.

The park is quite popular for those interested in the geothermal phenomena as visitors can actually see the cut cinder cone.

The highest point of the peak is located 636 feet above the sea level and the park has great views of the city.

Find your way to the top of the volcanic cone by hiking Mt. Tabor trail.

There are several trails to the summit – the three popular ones are the Green trail, the Red trail, and the Blue trail.

Mt Tabor Reserve

We recommend taking the Blue hiking trail. Most people can reach the summit without any difficulties on this easy, paved hike.

The trail is about 2 miles roundtrip and makes a great stroll throughout the year.

You can also get a trail map at the park visitor center.

Fun fact: Mt. Tabor Park has a statue of The Oregonian’s editor, Harvey Scott. This statue has been sculpted by Gutzon Borglum – the sculptor behind Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota!

See the Victorian homes on Nob Hill

Nob Hill located in Portland’s northwest neighborhood is home to many beautiful ornate Victorina mansions.

They have now been repurposed and are home to boutiques, upscale restaurants, dive bars, and other attractions.

This area is great to walk and enjoy at a leisurely pace and enjoy the hipster vibe.

Pick berries on Sauvie Island

Located in the waters of the Columbia River, Sauvie Island is one of Portland’s best-hidden gems.

The Island is located 10 miles to the north-west of Portland at the intersection of Columbia and Willamette rivers.

It is named after a French Canadian, Laurent Sauvé dit Laplante, who managed a dairy on the island.

You can easily reach the island via car or buses from Portland; it makes a great day trip during your stay.

The island is quite different from the busy city – in Sauvie Island, you will find rolling farmlands, forested areas, and secluded beaches.  

This Manhattan sized island is one of the best wildlife-spotting spots around Portland.

Over 250 species of birds can be observed in the refuge including bald eagles, cranes, hawks, chickadees, nuthatches, finches, and many species of songbirds and waterfowl.

For a visitor’s guide and the best times to go, read this.

The island is also a paradise for outdoor activities.

Sauvie Island bird sanctuary and wilderness Oregon.
Sauvie Island bird sanctuary and wilderness Oregon.

Most people explore the island via hiking and biking trails.

The popular trails include Warrior Rock lighthouse trail and Oak Island nature trail.

You can also go kayaking, fishing, hunting, and boating on the island.

Other things to do on Sauvie Island include visiting the historic Bybee-Howell House, berry picking, produce picking, and spending time on the beaches.

There are several farms located on the island that allows visitors to pick strawberries, blackberries, peaches, corn, pumpkins, and even Christmas trees during the holiday season.

For renowned farms, try visiting Bella Organic Farm, Sauvie Island Farm, and Kruger’s Farm.

The island has many public beaches for swimming and sunning.

It also has a nude beach, so be aware before you go. 

Photo of the historic Bybee-Howell House on Suavie Island near Portland, Oregon
Historic Bybee-Howell House on Suavie Island near Portland, Oregon

Take a scenic trip along the Historic Columbia River Highway

The Historic Columbia River Highway is one of the most scenic byways in Oregon.

The length of the entire highway is just 70 miles but you will need a minimum of 4 to 5 hours to complete this enchanting drive.

On the road, you can enjoy the views of towering mountains, densely forested trees, and the river for hours together.

Most people prefer to drive down the road from spring to fall because of mild weather conditions and scenic vistas.

Fall is especially a beautiful time to visit as the trees along the highway are colorful with vibrant fall foliage.

In summer, you will find a swathe of wildflowers along the highway.

Since its opening in 1922, the highway has been attracting visitors to the Columbia River Gorge area.

Vista House & Crown Point

There are many things to do along this route connecting Portland and Mt. Hood / Columbia River Gorge.

Apart from the beautiful road, you can visit a bevy of sites including waterfalls, charming bridges, and historic buildings.

The waterfalls are most frequently visited by visitors, especially Multnomah Falls.

Other attractions include the city of ‘The Dalles’, Troutdale Visitor Center, Crown Point, Vista House, and Chanticleer Point.

There are many trailheads located along the route – a stroll along these will take you through the forests of maples and spruce.

You will walk through moss-covered canyons and soak in the beauty of waterfalls like the gorgeous Bridal Veil Falls, Shepherd Dell falls, Wahkeena falls, and others. 

Historic Columbia Scenic River Highway from Overlook

Experience the magic of Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge deserves a special mention.

With a total height of 611 feet, Multnomah Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Pacific Northwest.

A tragic legend related to the Multnomah People is said to be associated with the waterfall, which makes it even more beautiful – you can read the story here.

To reach the Multnomah Falls, drive along the scenic Historic Columbia River Highway from Portland.

You can visit the falls year-round, with spring to fall being most popular.

The Multnomah Falls is often frozen in winter and looks fantastic.

However, the best time to visit is in fall when the fall foliage is vibrant on both sides of the waterfall. 

The Multnomah Falls is a two-tiered fall.

The Upper fall cascades over the cliff from a height of 542 feet while the lower fall drops down 69 feet.

The iconic Benson bridge overlooks the bottom of Upper falls.

The best way to see Multnomah Falls is by hiking.

Experienced and beginner hikers alike will love this 2.4 miles long round trip trail to the top of the upper falls.

Alternatively, you can also hike partway, up to the first stop located at the Benson Bridge.

You can click beautiful pictures of the falls from the bridge, after which you can proceed to the top of the waterfalls if you wish.

The view from the top is utterly breathtaking. If you are lucky, you might also spot wildlife while hiking near the waterfall.

Multnomah Falls in Autumn colors
Multnomah Falls in Autumn colors

After you see the Multnomah fall, there are many other things to do in the area.

You can spend time exploring the historic Multnomah Falls Lodge.

This stone lodge was designed in 1925 by the Portland architect Albert E. Doyle and has striking architectural features.

The rustic style beautifully complements the surrounding landscape.

Check out the Visitor Center to learn more about the falls’ and lodge’s history.

Pick up a trail map and if visiting in fall, ask the rangers for peak foliage dates.

Dine in the restaurant.

Then after getting rejuvenated, visit the gift shop and buy souvenirs including magnets, postcards, and more.

Spend time outdoors in Mount Hood National Forest

Mt. Hood, located close to Portland, is the highest mountain in the state of Oregon.

It is located at an altitude of 11,249 feet and 50 miles away from the city.

The drive is almost two and a half hours long, accounting for the scenic stops.

You can either drive to Mt. Hood or take the Mt. Hood Express bus from Portland.

Mt. Hood is located in the Cascade range and is an active volcano.

There are over 12 glaciers located in the area, and the surrounding forest is extremely scenic.

Mt Hood and River Valley
Mt Hood and River Valley

The area surrounding Mt. Hood is a great weekend getaway from Portland.

The road Mount Hood Scenic Loop is beautiful to drive. Many quaint hotels and bed & breakfasts are located in the region.

Several hiking trails of varying difficulty can be found near Mount Hood.

Many first time visitors like to hike the popular Trillium Lake trail.

You can also meet backpackers on the Mount Hood portion of the Pacific Crest Trail.

If visiting in winter, you can ski at the Timberline Lodge Ski Area. 

Go wine tasting in Willamette Valley

Willamette Valley is Oregon’s top wine-producing region.

There are over 600 wineries located in the roughly 150-mile long region.

The Valley is also home to many of Oregon’s cities – including the charming Eugene.

Some of the renowned wineries located in this wine region are Adelsheim Vineyard, Raptor Ridge Winery, and Brooks Wine.

All of the wineries offer wine tastings where you can sample some of the estate’s finest along with cheese and fruits.

The valley also holds many wine-related events that are worth a visit.

Harvest season is a great time to make the trip to the wineries.

Willamette River wineries
Willamette River wineries

Besides the wineries, there are many other things to do in Willamette Valley.

The Valley is located right by the gorgeous McKenzie River and one of the fabulous ways to spend your time is on the water.

You can go fishing, kayaking, or on a boat cruise.

You can also see a variety of birds of prey including eagles, falcons, and hawks on a visit to the Cascades Raptor Center.

Other popular activities in the valley include foraging for mushrooms, picking berries and produce, checking out the street art in Eugene, etc.  

Drive down the Oregon Coast

Portland is the best place to drive down the Oregon Coast along Highway 101.

You can make this drive even if you are in Portland just for a few days.

If you have a full day, start your trip to the charming town of Astoria.

It is located on the mouth of the Columbia River and has many historic attractions including shipwrecks, towers, filming locales, and more.

Then drive down along the coast towards Cannon Beach.

This is the most photographed part of the Oregon Coast and is famous for its fog-covered sea stacks.

For more information on planning an Oregon Coastal road trip, read our itinerary now.

If you are short on time, then we recommend skipping Astoria and making the 1.5 hrs long trip to Cannon Beach.

You get to see the famous sea stacks, play on the beach, and enjoy a day along the coast in Pacific northwest.  

Best Things to do in Portland, Oregon
Best Things to do in Portland, Oregon

We hope you liked our post on the Best Things to do in Portland Oregon on your first visit & hope it helps in planning your Portland itinerary.

We have tried to list as many attractions as we could experience, however, Portland is a big city and we may have left some off.

Did we forget to mention your favorite attraction? Send us a photo or some details and we will add it in!

Let us know in the comments, thanks!

This article first appeared on PCH1 Road Trip: Pacific Coast Highway & Travel Guide and has been republished with permission.