Portland dragon boats
Portland is a very easy city to get around in. There are many inexpensive parking lots in the downtown area, so park your car and venture out on foot. Maps and self-guided tours are available at the Visitor Information and Services Center located in the Pioneer Courthouse Square complex. When visiting neighborhoods, you can drive, park, walk, or consider public transportation. A good bus (Tri-Met), light-rail (MAX), and a vintage trolley system work in tandem so that you can use tickets interchangeably, and itâs free in the downtown area.
This is a city that goes to great lengths to ensure that nature plays an active part in daily life. Over 200 parks grace the city and an ordinance prohibiting the construction of buildings higher than 40 stories guarantees that the Cascade and Coastal mountain ranges are never obscured by âprogress.â Take a drive up to Council Crest Park set over 1,000 feet above the city and accessed via Fairmount Blvd, itâs a wonderful spot for viewing all five Cascade peaksâweather permitting, of course.
No self-respecting lover of books would consider missing a turn of several hours at Powellâs City of Books, 1005 W. Burnside Street. It takes up an entire city block (in a building that once served as a used-car dealership and car repair shop) and holds a computerized inventory of over one million titlesâthe largest used and new book selection under one roof in the world. Color-coded maps are available at the front desk for making your way through literally thousands of sections. The Seattle Times has aptly called Powellâs âa place of staggering ambition, hidden in the very humble wrapper of a worn-out warehouse.â
Take a self-guided tour through the Portland! exhibit at the Oregon History Center located at 1200 SW Park Avenue. Itâs a marvelous orientation to the areaâs history, beginning with the 1840s when the first European and American settlers arrived, and continuing to the present day. Notice the âcopperâ displayed at the exhibit entrance. It was used in the now-famous coin toss of 1845, by which city builders Asa Lovejoy of Boston, Massachusetts and Francis Pettygrove of Portland, Maine decided the name of their new city!
Art lovers will enjoy the renovated Portland Art Museum at 1219 SW Park Avenue. Founded in 1892, the museum has (over many loving years) amassed a diverse collection numbering over 32,000 works of art. A $45-million renovation and construction project resulted in over 50,000 square feet dedicated to the Centers for Native American Art and Northwest Art. Additional renovation projects account for new permanent galleries, a community education center, a new museum shop, and a cafĂ©.
Washington Park can easily occupy the better part of a day if youâre inclined to enjoy all it has to offer: an arboretum, a zoo, a forestry center, and much, much more. Two gardens in particular make for rejuvenating contemplative strolls. The enchanting Japanese Garden (611 SW Kingston Avenue) occupies nearly 6 undulating acres and provides an authentic look at the genius of Japanese landscape masters. Enjoy the Tea Garden, the Strolling Pond Garden, and the Zen-inspired Sand and Stone Garden. Also worth the time is the International Rose Test Garden, on Kingston Avenue, where more than 8,000 roses representing hundreds of species grow in terraces overlooking the city and Mount Hood.
Washington Park rose garden
One of our favorite picnic/viewing spots is the lawn area in front of Pittock Mansion (head west up Burnside, turn right on NW Barnes, then follow the signs). Completed in 1914, this fine home was built for Henry Pittock who came west on the Oregon Trail in 1853. Pittock made his fortune through a variety of wise and timely investments and became publisher of the Oregonian. On a good day, the views of Mount Hood and the city from this spot are wonderful.
The Lan Su Chinese Gardens (formerly the Portland Classical Chinese Gardens) occupies an entire city block between NW Third Avenue and NW Everett Street. Itâs a unique urban garden patterned in a 15th-century Ming style and designed by architects and artisans from the Chinese city of Suzhou. Created to inspire residents living in busy cities, Chinese gardens were meant to offer respite in the center of activity. Todayâs visitors to this setting will find a garden little changed from what would have greeted them more than 500 years ago in dynastic China.
For over one hundred years the city has adopted the rose as a symbol of its continuing growth and renewal. If youâre visiting in June, find a schedule of Rose Festival activities, which start with the coronation of the Rose Festival Queen on or around May 31st. Fireworks, parades, boat races, musical performances, and special art exhibits make for a month-long celebration of the cityâs favorite time of year.
Want to tour Oregon wineries without leaving downtown? Then the place to go is Oregon Wines on Broadway at 515 SW Broadway. Itâs a charming wine bar where you can sample two dozen or more of the stateâs finest wines. Beer aficionados may want to find out how Portland got its title of âMicrobrewery Capital of the World.â On Saturday afternoons, Brewbus offers a four-hour, behind-the-scenes tour of various breweries in town.
Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park gives you the chance to stroll alongside the Willamette River for an easy mile and a half, with a view of eight Portland bridges if you walk from one end to the other. This park is often the venue for summertime concerts.
Reserve a spot on a Portland Spirit River Cruise from the Salmon Street Springs dock along the waterfront walk. Itâs a fun, two-hour cruise on a 150-foot yacht. Youâll sail up the Willamette and past Ross Island, home to bald eagles, great blue herons, ospreys, and private riverside estates. Choose from sightseeing rides as well as lunch and dinner cruises.
The Pearl District, bounded by W Burnside, NW Lovejoy, NW 8th Avenue, and NW 15th Avenue, is getting a great deal of attention these days. Formerly an industrial area, it has been transformed in the last ten years into a popular spot for upscale lofts, art galleries, boutique shops, great restaurants, and sidewalk cafĂ©s.
The neighboring Nob Hill District bordered by NW 15th Avenue, NW 23rd Avenue, W Burnside, and NW Lovejoy, is absolutely charming, especially for its mid-19th-century homes. Wander in and among these neighborhood streets, pausing when something takes your fancy. Make your way down NW 23rd and NW 21st Streets.
Forest Park offers some 50 miles of interconnected trails that wind up and down the slopes of this 5,000-acre wonderland, the largest urban park in North America. Maps are available to give you options. The Wildwood Trail extends for 33 miles from Forest Park to Washington Park.
The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry at 1945 SE Water Street offers excellent exhibits in a contemporary building right on the Willamette River. It features the Murdock Planetarium, an Omnimax Theater, and tours of the submarine used in the movie The Hunt for Red October.