Cosmopolitan culture and breathtaking landscape mix perfectly in Portland, Oregon. The result is a modern, forward-thinking city, dominated by water, music, and greenery. I was lucky enough to visit this amazing city in spring 2014 and had the chance to explore the city’s natural beauty and quirky charm.
The “City of Roses” features countless gardens, parks, and outdoor activities, in addition to nearly a dozen bridges that crisscross the Willamette River. By night, the place transforms into a musical destination alive with indie bands and karaoke bars. Portland has long attracted artists, writers, craftspeople, counterculturists, techies, and other creative types who give the city its famous funky vibe and energy.
Things to See and Do
No mundane “to do” list could ever do Portland justice. The city truly has a never-ending variety of entertainment, museums, art shows, nature outings, and so much more. Any attempt to capture the essence of Portland will necessarily fall short.
However, you have to start somewhere. When I was in Portland, I was able to take in some of Portland’s most famous sights and sounds, as well as few lesser known attractions. Of course, it’s impossible to do it all in one trip– which means there’s plenty left for another visit!
Portland constantly buzzes with music, film festivals, art shows, and more. It has been a film-making powerhouse for over 100 years, and is widely known as a hub for indie rock, jazz, and blues music. Several authors have also called Portland home, including fantasy writer Ursula K. LeGuin, Chuck Palahniuk of “Fight Club” fame, and longtime children’s series writer, Beverly Cleary.
Laurelhurst Theater. This art deco mainstay has been entertaining Portland film buffs since 1923. Today, it serves as a popular “brew and view” where movie-goers can enjoy a cold beer while watching childhood favorites and cult classics.
Karaoke. I absolutely love karaoke, and so enjoyed the many opportunities I got to belt out a few hits at local bars. There are so many venues, in fact, that Portland is often called the “capital of karaoke” in the US.
The Oregon Film Museum. Located in nearby Astoria, this museum highlights the century-old film-making industry in Oregon. Fans of the 80s movie, “The Goonies,” will especially appreciate this stop, since this former jailhouse served as set for the opening breakout scene in the film.
Nestled among the rainy forests of the Pacific Northwest, Portland is one of the greenest cities in America, with a long tradition of outdoor life. Despite a busy itinerary, my friend and I still managed to kick back and relax at a few of the town’s scenic nature spots.
Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. Quiet paths wind through thousands of gorgeous flowering rhododendrons and azaleas in this lovely botanical garden. With several lakes, waterfalls, and fountains, this is the perfect place to enjoy a serene afternoon among flowers – and maybe to practice some photography!
Multnomah Falls. A short drive from downtown Portland, this spectacular waterfall is one of the region’s iconic nature sites. Though a washed-out bridge kept us from making it all the way to the top, the views were still absolutely breathtaking.
Shopping and Eating
If Portland is nothing else, it is eclectic. This citywide appreciation for the offbeat is highlighted in some of town’s renowned eateries and shopping experiences. Here are a few of my favorites:
Saturday Market. Every weekend from March through Christmas, innumerable craftspeople, performers, cooks, and artists converge on Portland’s historical district. Amongst the colorful commotion, visitors can have a great time buying a mind-boggling variety of wares and sampling unique culinary delights, all while enjoying some of the city’s best music.
Voodoo Doughnuts. A local icon since 2003, Voodoo Doughnuts is famous for the edgy names on its menu and the delectable variety of doughnuts on offer. The namesake “Voodoo Doughnut” is man-shaped, chocolate-glazed, raspberry-filled concoction with a pretzel stake driven right through its pastry heart – delicious!