The 20 Best Things to do in Portland for First-Timers

Portland

Are you planning a trip to Portland, Oregon? The Pacific Northwest is a lovely region and there is so much to do that you’ll want to plan to make sure that you don’t miss out on seeing the major attractions. Portland is a clean and interesting city that sits near the Pacific Ocean. There is a lot to do, but you might not be aware of some of the more fun and interesting activities if you’re not from the area. We’ve prepared a list of the 20 best things to do in Portland for first-timers.

MAX

20. Ride the Max

Portland, Oregon has a type of public transportation that is called the Metropolitan Area Express, MAX for short. It’s an economical and fast way to get around the city. The average fare cost is just $2.50 for two and a half hours riding time on the MAX routes. MAX is a light rail system and it can take you to the majority of the major attractions in the city of Portland. If you’re planning to make a day of it filled with site-seeing it cost just $5.00 to ride the MAX all day. The MAX also runs to nearby cities including Gresham, Clackamas, Beaverton, and Hillsboro.

Bailey's Tap Room

19. Visit Bailey’s Tap Room

Bailey’s Taproom is a bar located in the downtown part of Portland. If you enjoy craft beer and/or hard cider this is a must-visit establishment. This is the place that craft beer enthusiasts gather because the bar features a total of 26 rotating taps of hard cider and craft beer. The servers and patrons are friendly and it’s a great place to meet new friends while you’re sampling the local brews.

Powell's City of Books

18. Go to Powell’s City of Books

If you’re an avid reader then you’ll feel as though you stepped into heaven at Powell’s City of Books. This retailer is the largest independent bookstore on the planet. They offer one of the largest collections of new and used books within the enormous structure. You might feel overwhelmed at the sheer size of the store and the volumes of books on the shelves, but the color-coding on the sections make navigating through the categories fairly fast and easy if you know what you’re looking for. There are even maps available as well as helpful staff members. They also have a rare book room. In addition to books, the store also sells notebooks, notebooks, journals, games, souvenirs and of all things, silly socks.

Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade

17. Go to the Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade

Gamers absolutely have to visit the Ground Kontrol. Imagine a two-story bar filled with pinball machines and video games. Now combine that with a full-service restaurant and bar and you have Ground Kontrol. They have some of the latest games but the real attraction is the games that go back to the 1970s. It’s a great place to stir up a sense of nostalgia and you can play the games. Even the bathroom in this classic arcade, bar, and restaurant features a Pacman theme.

Stumptown Coffee Roaster

16. Visit Stumptown Coffee Roasters

Stumptown Coffee Roasters is located in downtown Portland. It’s a wonderful place to find your favorite caffeinated beverages. This retailer began as a single roastery in 1999 and it quickly grew into a chain throughout the entire country. This is one of the best places to find gift boxes for coffee lovers or find some new or unique blends for yourself. They’re open for business Monday through Friday from 8 am to 4 pm. The store and cafe are located just 3 blocks from the Waterfront in an interesting part of Portland in the Old Town District with a large cafe as well as a retail shop. It’s a great place to take a break and enjoy a latte, cup of coffee or other caffeinated beverage.

Lu Lac Vietnamese Kitchen

15. Eat at Lu Lac Vietnamese Kitchen

LuLac Vietnamese Kitchen is a great little restaurant and bar that offers a daily happy hour from 4 to 7 pm every day. Their pho is killer, along with sample plates for $2-$3 during happy hour. It’s one of the most highly recommended Vietnamese restaurants and bars in the city.

Pittock Mansion

14. Tour the Pittock Mansion

The Pittock Mansion is one of Portland’s most famous attractions. It’s a historic building that was constructed in 1904 for Henry and Georgiana Pittock, Portland business moguls. Tours are given of the mansion which features rotating exhibits in the spacious rooms, photography, and artifacts. It’s an excellent way to learn the history of Portland and the state of Oregon as well.

Brewvana Tour

12. Take a Brewvana Tour

Brewvana takes you on a tour of some of Portland’s favorite breweries. The city is known for having more breweries than any other city in the world. There are more than 70. The Pacific Northwest is Best bus tour takes you to a variety of local breweries and pubs for a visit and a sample of some of the best locally brewed beers on tap. If you love beer and you like to try something new now and then we highly recommend this enjoyable tour.

Voodoo Doughnuts

10. Go to Voodoo Doughnuts

Voodoo Doughnut is one of the most famous bakeries in the Pacific Northwest. People would stand in long lines to try their new Bacon Maple Bars when they were first released for sale. The Portland Cream is another favorite of patrons of this extraordinary donut bakery. There are over fifty different types to choose from and Voodoo Doughnut even has artists who are standing by to create custom doughnuts upon request. If you’re a vegan it’s not a problem because they will make them tailored upon request with a variety of different topping selections.

Portland food trucks

9. Visit the famous Portland food trucks

There are more than 500 food carts within the city of Portland, Oregon at any given time. They are organized into what city officials call “pods.” A pod is a surface lot that is populated with several different food carts. The map of the food cart locations helps you to find some of the most unique food vendors and there is even an app for iPhone and Android with daily updates to let you know the current location for each cart.

Blue Star Donuts

8. Visit Blue Star Donuts

Another popular attraction in Portland, Oregon is Blue Star Donuts. It’s nearly as famous as Voodoo. Blue Star Donuts was established when professional Chef and founder Katie Poppe created Blue Star Donuts to make her dream of owning an award-winning business come true. She and former quarterback Dennis Dixon had some unique ideas for donut magic. Blue Star, similar to Voodoo offers some of the most unique donut creations in the world and if you’re a fan of donuts, you’ll want to include a trip to one of the several locations in Portland, and give them a try.

Pine State Biscuits

7. Catch breakfast at Pine State Biscuits

Pine State Biscuits is another highly popular place to visit for first-timers in Portland. It’s a restaurant chain that features Southern-style biscuits and gravy, along with biscuit sandwiches and a host of other southern style treats. While you’re enjoying the hearty fare, you can wash down the meal with your choice of locally roasted coffee brews or try one of their interesting cocktail creations. This is a restaurant that everyone who visits Portland must try at least once because that’s all that it takes to get you hooked.

Lan Su Chinese Garden

6. Visit the Lan Su Chinese Garden

Another popular attraction in Portland is the Lan Su Chinese Garden. It is an oasis with reflecting ponds, a traditional teahouse and some lovely and serene winding paths that get you back to nature for a bit of relaxation and repose. This is one of the most authentic Chinese gardens in the United States. The garden was created in a collaborative effort between the city of Portland and its sister city in China, Suzhou in the Jiangsu province of China. While you’re there you can visit the Tao of Tea teahouse, the Tower of Cosmic Reflections, learn about organic tea and traditional methods of making teas throughout different regions in China or if you’re there at the right time, you can even get in on a feng shui, Chinese brush painting or tai chi educational program. This visit is highly recommended for tea enthusiasts or anyone who has an interest in learning more about tea or Chinese customs for that matter.

Visit Forest Part

5. Visit Forest Part

Forest Park is one of the Pacific Northwest’s most beautiful natural attractions. Forest Park is filled with a wonderful collection of easy to access hiking and running trails. It’s a 5,100-acre lush space that is located on the northwest side of Portland with 70 miles of wooded space and trails. The park was first developed in 1903 and it stands as a natural sanctuary for wildlife and the plants and trees that are native to the Pacific Northwest. The Wildlife Care Center is located beside Forest park and they treat injured native wildlife at the site. There is a Nature Store, and occasionally there are birds of prey you can visit if there are any patients who are nearing the end of their treatment for release back into the wild.

Washington Park and the International Rose Test Garden

4. Visit Washington Park and the International Rose Test Garden

No trip to Portland is complete unless you’ve paid a visit to the International Rose Test Garden that is located inside Washington Park. If you’re visiting the area between May and September, you’ll find over 10,000 rose bushes that are in full bloom. You can easily drive to the location or even take the MAX Light Rail to Washington Park. There are 1.7 miles of wooded trails that lead from teh Washington Park stop to get to the rose garden. You can also rent bicycles to access the park from downtown or Northwest Portland. If you enjoy walks in serene settings, the walk is magnificent.

Japanese Garden

3. Visit the Japanese Garden

While you’re visiting Washington Park, another lovely attraction is the Japanese Garden. You can make a day of it at the Park and enjoy a quiet and calm retreat with the Zen garden, lush greenery and a variety of water features. The garden was recently expanded in April of 2017 with a multi-million dollar update that added a lot of amazing new features and it doubled the size of the already popular attraction.

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden

2. Visit the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden

This is yet another of Portland’s famous attractions. The Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden is located in the southeast part of town in the residential district. If you’re in Portland between late March or early April through the end of the summer months, this park features huge rhododendron bushes that offer a variety of vivid colors. There is also a lagoon in the garden that is filled with baby ducks in the spring. This is a wonderful place for families with children because the shady path that leads through the garden is kid-friendly and it’s a natural wonderland.

Hikes for Tykes

1. Take the kids on the Hikes for Tykes

The Tryon Creek State Natural Area is the best place to go if you have children. The area features approximately eight miles of trails for hiking and bicycling. Three miles of the winding paths are paved. While you’re there you’ll want to take the kids to the Junior Ranger educational program for kids through the on-site nature center.they also offer guided hikes of a variety of difficulty levels plus great educational opportunities for learning about the flora and fauna of the region.


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