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Best things to do in Portland

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Where in the world: USA  /  Oregon  /  Portland
Things to do in Portland include many activities sure to appeal to travelers eager to escape the mundane tourist attractions of other major urban centers. The big city with a small-town feel is famous for its coffeehouses, microbreweries, and verdant parks like International Rose Test Garden, which helps Portland live up to its nickname the "City of Roses." Bookworms shouldn't miss Powell's City of Books, the largest independent bookstore in the U.S. To explore a sprawling world of pristine forests, lakes, and wetlands outside the city borders, take a side trip to Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

Portland is best known for its Gardens, Gift & Specialty Shops, and Zoos.

Top 15 things to do in Portland

1. Portland Japanese Garden

Portland Japanese Garden sits nestled in the hills of Portland, overlooking the city and providing a tranquil, urban oasis for locals and travelers alike. Designed in 1963, it encompasses eight separate garden styles and includes an authentic Japanese tea house, meandering streams, intimate walkways, and a spectacular view of Mt. Hood. In 2017, the garden created the cultural village, a place where visitors can immerse themselves in traditional Japanese arts through seasonal activities, performances, and demonstrations. Finally, visitors can relax and refresh while at the umami cafe. Here, visitors can experience the pairing of Japanese tea with traditional gracious, attentive service, and delicious edible delights.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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2. Powell's City of Books

Powell's City of Books fills an entire city block, where it sells new and used books. The company claims to be the largest independent bookstore in the U.S. It buys over 3,000 books every day to sells in its used and rare book sections. Be sure to stop by the rare book room where autographed copies and rare editions are displayed. Called "the coolest bookstore in the world" by CNN, the store hosts art exhibits and author events. Visit the website for a list of upcoming book signings.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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3. Pittock Mansion

Nestled in the hills and commanding a wonderful view of the city, Pittock Mansion is a window into Portland’s affluent past. The 22-room chateau with surrounding gardens was built in 1909 for Henry Pittock, a successful publisher, pioneer, businessman, and politician, and his wife Georgiana, a skilled fundraiser, philanthropist, and the founder of the Portland Rose Festival. After the couple passed away, the house went through a period of dilapidation until the City of Portland acquired it. Today, you can tour the fully restored home. Take in the interior's large collection of vintage furniture and artwork, as well as some of the most innovative technical solutions of the period. On a nice day, you can have a picnic in the gardens and enjoy the view of the city skyline. Keep an eye out for ghosts who are rumored to haunt the house.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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4. International Rose Test Garden

Boasting about 7,000 rose plants in 550 different varieties, International Rose Test Garden helps Portland live up to its nickname "the city of roses." The city set up the rose test garden during World War I to protect hybrid roses grown in Europe, which rose lovers feared would be destroyed in the bombings. You can see roses from all over the world, as the public garden receives a steady stream to test. Explore its 1.8 hectares (4.5 acres) and discover the amphitheater, Shakespeare garden, and Gold Medal garden of award-winning plants. If it is a clear day, you can admire superb views of the Cascade Mountains. Bring along a picnic to enjoy in the spacious grassy area; the gardens do not have a restaurant.
Suggested duration: 30 minutes
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5. Wine Tours & Tastings

Suggested duration: 8 hours
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6. Oregon Zoo

Oregon Zoo is possibly the most popular tourist attraction in Portland, hosting well over a million visitors each year. Inside Washington Park, discover animal exhibits and large plant collections at this zoo, which has been operating since 1888. Explore wildlife, enjoy concerts, or stop by for seasonal events. No matter the time of year, the zoo is committed to conservation and has species survival plans for a number of endangered animals. Take the railway from the zoo to reach the park's International Rose Test Garden.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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7. Volcano Lands - Private Tours

Suggested duration: 2 hours
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8. Lan Su Chinese Garden

The walled Lan Su Chinese Garden is a result of the friendship between Portland and its sister city in China, Suzhou. The gardens are intended to provide insight into both Chinese culture and nature. Suzhou artisans built the 3,700 sq m (40,000 sq ft) garden using 454 metric tons (500 tons) of rock brought from China. It features mostly indigenous Chinese plants. Stroll through the peaceful gardens to discover more than 400 species, including, orchids, bamboos, and water flowers. You can also find a number of typical Chinese garden structures, such as covered walkways, water features, and bridges. Stop in the teahouse to experience Chinese tea culture.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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9. Beer Tastings & Tours

A leisurely tour of Portland's finest breweries is probably the most genuine way to explore a city famous for its beer culture. Follow your expert guide to award-winning microbreweries, including historic 19th-century pubs in the Old Town, echoing eerie stories of gangs, prostitution, and opium dens of the Prohibition era. Nibble on the complementary pretzel necklace while sampling a few iconic local craft brews--Irish reds, pale ales, and creamy stouts. Most tours take 3 hours and include a tasting of a number of varieties.
Suggested duration: 3h 30 min
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10. Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Oregon

A popular destination for hiking, snowboarding, skiing, biking, and fishing, Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area transitions from temperate rainforest to dry grasslands in just under 130 km (80 mi). Up to 1,200 m (4,000 ft) deep, the gorge stretches along the boundary between Washington and Oregon and contains a high concentration of waterfalls, with nearly 100 on the Oregon side alone. An important water transportation corridor for millennia, this river canyon offers you a chance to discover a sprawling world of pristine forests, streams, lakes, wetlands, and prehistoric sites. Take advantage of scenic drives, picnic areas, hiking trails, and panoramic lookouts. You can set up a tent or trailer at one of the area's designated campgrounds.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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11. Multnomah Falls, Bridal Veil

The tallest waterfall in Oregon, and the second-tallest year-round waterfall in America, Multnomah Falls is a natural wonder imbued with Native American legend. Supposedly, the waterfall was created to woo a young princess who wanted a private place to bathe. Find the bottom of this 186 m (611 ft) icy fall after crossing the Benson Footbridge, and then continue up the trail for different views of the spectacle. After your hike, head to Multnomah Falls Lodge, a relaxing restaurant, gift shop, and information center built in 1925 from every type of rock found in Columbia Gorge.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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12. Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry is home to exhibit halls, science labs, a planetarium, theater, and more. Exploring the realms of science and technology, the museum has an array of artifacts and more than 200 hands-on learning activities. Subjects such as renewable energy, health, chemistry, engineering, and the global climate are made accessible and fun. Outside, you can tour a historic submarine, the USS Blueback. Those with children under 6 shouldn’t miss the science playground. The fully enclosed area encourages scientific learning through play. The onsite restaurant boasts a superb riverfront view.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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13. Portland Children's Museum

Portland Children's Museum was a children's museum located in Portland's Washington Park, adjacent to the Oregon Zoo. Founded in 1946, Portland Children's Museum was the sixth oldest children's museum in the world and the oldest west of the Mississippi. The 50,000 sq ft (4,600 m2) museum received over a quarter of a million visits from children and their families every year. It was a non-profit organization with tax-exempt status and member of the Association of Children's Museums. In March 2021, the museum announced it would permanently close at the end of June, due to the financial loss brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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14. Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach

Rising 72 m (235 ft) above the Pacific shoreline, Haystack Rock serves as one of the Oregon Coast's most iconic monuments. You can reach the formation, known as a sea stack, at low tide from the beach. It plays home to an array of tide pool-dwelling creatures like crabs, starfish, and anemones. Visit the monolithic rock and the surrounding seaside area and partake of beachfront activities, such as picnicking, kite-flying, and enjoying nature. Bird-watchers should keep an eye out for the great number of species that periodically nest on and near the sea stack. Be sure to check local tide tables to ensure your safety and access to the rock.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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15. The Grotto - National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother

Admire The Grotto - National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother, a sanctuary spanning several floors with a rock cave carved into the base of a cliff. A life-sized replica of Michelangelo's Pièta sits as a centerpiece in the cave's shrine. Set amidst 25 ha (62 ac) of botanical gardens, the tranquility of the 34 m (110 ft) grotto serves as a place for reflection away from downtown Portland. Visit the large meditation hall that occupies the main chamber, and enjoy impressive views from the cliff top overlooking the Columbia River Valley. Wander through well-groomed parks home to several chapels and statues. You can also explore hundreds of trails through nearby forests.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
Learn more about The Grotto - National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother