Portland, the largest city in Oregon, straddles the Willamette River and is considered by many to be one of the most desirable places to live in the United States. Discover the best places to visit in this lush state with our list of the top attractions in Portland, Oregon.
ATTRACTIONS TO VISIT IN Portland
1. Washington Park
Portland's Washington Park contains a number of tourist attractions, including the famed International Rose Test Garden, a zoo, and museums. A one-time wild land first purchased by the city in 1871, it is located to the west of the city center. Visitors can spend a day exploring the park's attractions, and another strolling through the unusual gardens.
The well-known International Rose Test Garden is where new varieties of roses are grown. In the city's mild climate, roses continue to flower into autumn, though visitors can catch an annual Rose Festival in May and June. Another escape, the Portland Japanese Garden, is one of the largest outside Japan and is landscaped on the grounds of an old zoo.
2. Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
The Columbia River marks the Oregon-Washington state border, and its entire length is a remarkable sightseeing region ideal for leisurely drives and enjoying the outdoors.
One of the top day trip destinations from Portland, the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area covers an immense 292,500 acres along the Pacific Northwest's largest river. The trip takes in locks, viewpoints, and hiking trails.
3. Pittock Mansion
Just west of downtown Portland, this grand home was built in 1914 by Henry Pittock - founder of the Oregonian newspaper. Pittock lived here for only five years until his death in 1919 at the age of 80.
The house, set for demolition in the 1960s, brought the community together as they persuaded the City of Portland to purchase the home. Through private fundraising, the mansion was restored to its full glory, and it is because of the forward thinking of local residents that visitors have a chance to tour this impressive and eclectic home today.
4. International Rose Test Garden
The Rose Test Garden in Portland's Washington Park was founded in 1917 and is the oldest continuously operated public rose test garden in the United States. Developing new rose varieties and even miniatures, the grounds are divided up into several sections with many interesting plants and spaces to explore. Award winners are planted in what is known as the Gold Award Garden, which also features a lovely gazebo.
It's best to visit during the late spring bloom. On blue sky days, Portland's city center and Mount Hood are in clear view from the gardens. Parking is often competitive at the International Rose Test Garden, and the city provides expansive public transit options to reach the park.
5. Forest Park
For an easy escape from the urban environment, Forest Park flanks the west side of the city and provides more than 5,000 acres of Northwest forest to explore. Covering the eastern slope of the Tualatin Mountains, Forest Park is one of the largest urban parks in the country and contains more than 80 miles of hiking and walking trails. It's easily accessible by car, bike, or public transportation.
The park is home to many of the best hiking trails in the Portland area, and first-time visitors should bring a map to help navigate. The 30-mile Wildwood Trail is popular, as it connects with other pedestrian paths that circumnavigate the city.
6. Powell's City of Books
Bibliophiles will love exploring more than a million books at this legendary used bookstore. Shelves mix new titles with used copies for a slightly haphazard but welcoming feel.
Staff picks, clever displays, and plenty of space to lean against a corner and read make choosing a book easier to do. The Burnside location also features a roomy coffeeshop with plenty of space to sit and read your new book selection.
7. Portland Japanese Garden
Encompassing 12 acres within Washington Park, Portland's Japanese Garden is located on the grounds of an old zoo. First opened to the public in 1961, the Japanese Garden was built to give the citizens of Portland a place to find serenity in their day and to recognize the growing cultural ties between Oregon and Japan. Both of these impressions remain today at the Japanese Garden, and the area is beautifully laid out in a variety of styles that offer a uniquely peaceful experience for visitors.
Garden spaces include the picture-like Flat Garden, the Strolling Pond Garden, and a Tea Garden complete with a lovely ceremonial teahouse. Events at the garden include cultural demonstrations, lecture series, and mindfulness tours. The Umami Café at the garden features tea and Japanese finger foods served in a bright and modern cafeteria.
8. Portland Art Museum
The oldest museum in the Pacific Northwest, the Portland Art Museum was founded in 1892 and has since amassed a substantial and varied collection. The number of items exceeds 50,000, and only a small portion is displayed in more than 112,000 square feet of gallery space. Highlights include Native American artifacts, graphic arts, English silver, Asian art, photography, and Northwest art.
One of the Portland Art Museum's most notable pieces is Vincent Van Gogh's Cart with Black Ox. Also part of the museum is the Northwest Film Center and the visual-arts focused Crumpacker Family Library. Free days are offered at the museum in the evenings on the first Thursday of every month.
9. Lan Su Chinese Garden
The Lan Su Chinese Garden opened in the year 2000 to shed light on Chinese culture and history after the city developed a relationship with its sister city of Suzhou, China.
This tranquil environment blends rocks, plants, trees, gardens, and a lake on about 40,000 square feet, roughly a city block, of land in central Portland. Artisans came from Suzhou to construct traditional buildings and walkways, and native Chinese plants were imported.
Completing the garden is a lovely tea house. Guided and self-guided tours are available, and special events like mahjong, tai chi, and tea tastings also occur at the Japanese Garden on a regular basis. Personal cameras are encouraged at the gardens, but tripods are not allowed.
10. Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
The OMSI complex in Portland includes a theater with a four-story screen, a planetarium, a US Navy submarine, and educational hands-on displays. Among the galleries, visitors will find colorful, entertaining, and educational exhibits for young children, as well as hands-on and interactive displays for all ages. Some of the fields covered may include energy, the environment, health, chemistry, engineering, and technology.
Docked just outside the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry is the USS Blueback, a non-nuclear submarine that was in use for more than 30 years. This submarine was featured in the movie Hunt for Red October. Today, visitors can climb aboard for a guided tour.