Why is Portland one of the greatest cities in all of the states?
Read through my 101 Cool Portland Places to find out.
(Listed in no particular order)
#1. Portland Japanese Gardens: It was a misty day and the ambiance moody yet peaceful. My friends and I walked around for a few hours and we were impressed with all the beauty it had to offer. The building structures, sand and stone garden and the arts center were mesmerizing. The Japanese Gardens is definitely an amazing place full of culture, nature and excitement.
#2. Powell Butte Nature Park: I love the hiking trails in Powell Butte. There are so many different trails to take each with its own spectacular view. Powell Butte is not overly crowded and there are times where it’s just you and nature. It is dog-friendly and perfect for hikers of any skill level.
#3. Sauvie Island: I remember my first time ever visiting Sauvie Island. There was live music performed on a stage surrounded by hay bales and corn stalks. The sun was setting and the mood was forever memorable. So much fun packed on one island: corn mazes, U-Pick blueberry and produce farms, beaches, hayrides, pumpkin patches, fishing, sight-seeing, historical areas. There’s too much to love about this place.
#4. Laurelhurst Movie Theater: The Laurelhurst Theater is an ideal place to relax in a comfy chair, drink beer and watch a great movie. This theater/pub offers mainstream movies after they have left the multiplexes, indie flicks, and classics. First opening in 1923, this theater has 4 different screens.
#5. The Kennedy School: Don’t be fooled by the name of this business. Welcome to the Kennedy School Hotel, located in the Concordia neighborhood of NE Portland. McMenamins has renovated the once-abandoned school and turned it into one of Portland’s favorite hot spots. This hotel turned all of its classrooms into guest-sleeping rooms. There is amazing art throughout the hallways, movie theater, 20-person hot tub and full-kitchen restaurant.
#6. Spice Of Africa: Providing dishes that are fresh and hearty, Spice of Africa is tasty beyond delight. The chef-driven menu highlights seasonal ingredients in simple, handcrafted dishes served straight from the kitchen.
#7. OMSI: Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. What a great place this is…especially if you have kids. There is a planetarium which turns the dome ceiling into the night sky. Plenty of rooms filled with science exhibits and interactive experiments. The massive Empirical Theater and a featured exhibit that rotates throughout the year make this place the perfect family friendly environment.
#8. Portland Saturday Market: Every time I go to the Portland Saturday Market (also on Sundays), I always catch myself in front of the Honey Man, enjoying the multiple samples of fresh honey. With over 400 members, it is the largest continuously operated outdoor market in the United States. Located underneath the Burnside Bridge in southwest downtown Portland.
#9. Saburo’s Sushi: Saburo’s Sushi House in Southeast Portland in the Sellwood neighborhood is one of my favorite sushi bars in Portland. The lines to get in are always long…which is part of the experience. The pieces are so huge that you might need a knife to cut into smaller pieces and yet the prices are very affordable.
#10. Ground Kontrol Arcade: I must admit, I have a soft spot for playing arcade games. Ground Kontrol satisfies that soft spot. They have many of the classics that I grew up with as well as a pinball area. There is a full bar and live entertainment. This is a NW Portland gem.
#11. Oaks Park: Ready to be a kid again? Head down to Oaks Park Roller Skating, slap on a rental and skate till your feet are sore. The last time I was there my friend decided to have a themed birthday party. A bunch of grown adults wearing costumes while roller-skating in circles. Gotta love it. This place is also an amusement park with wild rides and circus-like games. A splendid time is guaranteed for all.
#12. The Goodfoot: I love the Goodfoot. It has been a staple of my nightlife activities since I moved to Portland. I have the option of going upstairs and playing a few rounds of pool while enjoying locally created art covering the walls or going downstairs and listening to live music of many styles. Friday night funk has always been my favorite to dance to.
#13. Powell’s Books: OK, so I walked in with a mission to find books on salmon fishing in Oregon. 10 minutes later I’m lost somewhere in between European travel and cars from Germany. Powell’s is the world’s largest independent book store and after spending some time in there you will definitely agree with that statement.
#14. Springwater Corridor: Ready to have the biking adventure of a lifetime, or at least your favorite bike ride of the week? Oil that chain, tighten the seat, get the map and ride along the Springwater Corridor. This 21-mile path takes you along Johnson Creek and many other beautiful SE gems.
#15. Portland Aeriel Tram: Ready for a super-quick and beautiful sightseeing view? Hop on the Portland Aerial Tram. You will get lovely views of Portland skyscape, Willamette River and many of the tall building that surround downtown Portland.
#16. Voodoo Doughnuts: With names such as Bacon Maple Bar, Captain my Captain, Old Dirty Bastard, Gay Bar, Maple Blazer Blunt and Cock-N-Balls, Voodoo Doughnuts not only has great tasting treats, they have great names for them too. Old Town Portland at its finest.
#17. Portland Rock Gym: This place ROCKS! With such a huge diversity of walls and faces to climb you will get the climbing fix your body is craving. At any given time, you’ll find 180 boulder problems throughout the gym. Have you ever been climbing at Smith Rock in Central Oregon?
#18. Glowing Greens mini-golf: Located in the heart of Downtown Portland and under the Hilton Tower, Glowing Greens miniature golf is truly different than any other mini-golf putt-putt course you have ever been to, this place is……WILD!!! It’s a 13-hole, blacklight indoor 3‑D miniature golf course adventure.
#19. Hoyt Arboretum: Located in Washington Park in west Portland, The Hoyt Arboretum is a living laboratory full of over 1,000 plant species from around the world. In the Visitor Center, scientists, students, and lovers of nature can learn about plants that would otherwise not grow in this climate.
#20. Laurelthirst Public House: The Laurelthirst Pub in the Laurelhurst neighborhood is a great place to stop by after work, grab a beer, eat some good food and then just sit back, relax and listen to a local Portland band perform live music. One of my local favorites (not sure if they still play?) are the Freak Mountain Ramblers that performed weekly.
#21. Portland City Grill: The Portland City Grill is one of those places that you should try at least once. Whether you’re on a date or table for 1, this place is just cool. With a view that’s hard to pull your eyes away from and delicious food to enjoy, you are sure to be pleased at your overall experience.
#22. Laurelhurst Park: I love the Laurelhurst Park for so many reasons. My last visit there I brought my guitar and just strummed away along the edge of the pond. The sun was shining and rollerbladers and bikers were everywhere. There is a lovely walking loop around the pond, perfect for everyone.
#23. Restaurant Row: Restaurant Row on NE-SE 28th is one of those places that make Portland GREAT! One of the many beauties of Portland is there are so many hot spots and pockets scattered all over Portland. I like to call them Hot Pockets. Restaurant Row is one of them. So many great restaurants all lined up within a half-mile of easy walking.
#24. The Sapphire Hotel: Bring your date to the Sapphire Hotel. It’s not a sleeping hotel but just the perfect eating and drinking spot in SE Portland. The menu is double-deluxe tasty and the drink list is toasty and tasty. What’s best about this place? The ambience.
#25. Portland Spirit River Cruise: Are you ready for an adventure along a Portland river? Well, the Portland Spirit river boat cruise might be just what you are looking for. With many different cruise options to choose from…this adventure is awesome.
#26. Providence Park: Located in Downtown Portland Oregon PGE Park is a multipurpose stadium that has great sporting events such as Portland’s very own soccer MLS team, the Timbers, as well the Thorns. They house many special events too.
#27. GreenHAUS Gallery: The GreenHAUS gallery is an art and boutique with artisan-crafted goods and gifts, alongside industrial salvage and vintage goods. It was built to positively impact the local community.
#28. Shanghai Tunnels: Beneath Old Town Chinatown in the so-called Shanghai Tunnels, truth starts to mingle with myth. Each tour begins with an above-ground stroll and history lesson of the area before descending into the dust below street level, where your guide will spin yarns of bawdy, criminal activity.
#29. Portland Food Carts: Streetside dining is becoming part of Portland Oregon’s obsessive culture. These mini hot spots are set up in parking lots, sidewalks, and even parks. With the largest selection of foods to choose from and authentic world flavors, these Portland food carts are sure to please.
#30. Pittock Mansion: The Pittock Mansion is a 22-room mansion originally built for The Oregonian publisher, Henry Pittock and his wife, Georgiana. The home can be found in the National Register of Historic Places and offers visitors a uniquely personal look into the past. Built early in the 20th century.
#31. Portland Mercado: Painted in vibrant shades of pink, yellow and turquoise, the Portland Mercado shines brightly as an innovative cultural hub for Portland. Opened in April 2015, the complex provides affordable launch space for local Latino-owned businesses.
#32. Movie Madness: I remember my first time walking into Movie Madness I felt like I was walking into a Hollywood wax museum. This place is filled with great costumes, artifacts and pictures from the stars of the past and present. But of course, it’s all about the movies. Rarities, old cult classics, new blockbusters and everything in-between.
#33. The Oregon Historical Society Museum: This museum in Downtown Portland boasts over 85,000 items, some of which date back to the earliest settlements in Oregon. The museum chronicles the exploration of Oregon Country, the growth of business and industry & the development of local artwork.
#34. The Grotto: The Grotto, the National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother, is a Roman Catholic ministry of the Order of Friar Servants of Mary. The 62-acre shrine is located in NE Portland. The Grotto offers a sanctuary of peace, prayer and natural beauty for all people.
#35. Montavilla Farmers Market: I frequent this market at least once a month. The selection of fresh pasture-raised meats, organic produce and locally made alcohols is excellent. I love the mushroom guy, the Buddha Chocolate guy and the honey lady. Many fresh fruits and vegetables…I love it all.
#36. Tree to Tree Adventure Park: Are you ready to live like an Ewok? In the setting of nature, this is an adrenalin packed adventure that thrill seekers are searching for. Tree to Tree is a playground in the trees featuring aerial ropes courses, zip lines and tree top obstacles unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
#37. Pioneer Square: While walking around and enjoying the sounds of an afternoon concert in Pioneer Square, I got challenged by a local who was playing chess on the sidewalk chess boards. The last thing I remember saying was…”Checkmate!”. Pioneer Square always has so many fun and interesting things going on. You might find some local artists and big-named musicians, political activists and live performances.
#38. Profile Theater: Profile’s mission is to produce a season of first-class productions and community engagement activities centered around a single writer whose vision broadens our perspective on our world and deepens our collective compassion.
#39. Portland Art Museum: When it’s time to broaden my creative and cultural horizon I head to the Portland Art museum to get inspired. How can one not fall in love with everything it has to offer?
#40. Albert St. Last Thursday: Albert St. from NE 15th to NE 30th closes down to automobile traffic and that section turns into the most eclectic taste of Portland culture. Only taking place during the summer months, Last Thursday (happening every last Thursday of each month) has booths selling locally made crafts and locally made food. The live entertainment is so diverse. I’m sure I’ve seen March Fourth Marching Band there many times.
#41. Dante’s: Dante’s live music is a great place to go in Downtown Portland. Great live music of many styles and genres though harder rock seems to be the more frequent. A pizza pub located within the music venue makes your stay that much better.
#42. Portland International Raceway: By 1965 the Portland International Raceway track was hosting regular drag races as well as motorcycle and kart races. Part of the Delta Park complex, this is a great place to watch drag racing, motocross and much more.
#43. Multnomah Falls: Probably one of the most famous falls in Oregon, Multnomah Falls is just absolutely gorgeous. There is a pretty intense hike to get to the top of the falls, not for the faint of heart. The lodge has all of the perfect gifts and trinkets and the view from Benson Bridge….SPECTACULAR!
P.S. I know….it’s not in Portland, but it’s the falls.
#44. Harvey’s Comedy Club: Sometimes you just need to get out for a good laugh. Sometimes it just feels good to giggle the night away. Harvey’s Comedy Club will help accomplish just that. They feature some of the best local talented artists, as well as those traveling in.
#45. Portland Chinatown Museum: The Portland Chinatown Museum is Oregon’s first museum about Chinese American history, art, and culture. Opened to the public in December 2018. Located in Old Town Chinatown, this museum is filled with Chinese culture and interesting facts.
#46. Mt. Tabor Park: There’s so much to do and enjoy at Mt. Tabor Park. Miles of easy-to-moderate hiking trails, tennis courts, kids playground, caldera amphitheater, spectacular views of Portland east and west, dog park, kids play area, basketball courts and covered picnic areas all sitting on-top of a volcano.
#47. Keller Auditorium: My most favorable performance at the Keller Auditorium was watching Hamilton live. It was so great. With a stellar line-up of major touring performances, you can be assured that you will be fully entertained.
#48. Walker Stadium: In March 2015, Rose City Baseball, LLC, Portland Parks & Recreation and the Portland Development Commission announced that baseball is returning to Portland with a new college wood-bat team based in east Portland. This 1500-capacity is home of the Portland Pickles.
#49. Alberta Rose Theater: The Alberta Rose Theater is home to many great local and touring acts. My all-time favorite act to see there is the White Album Christmas show featuring The Nowhere Band. Ear and eye candy.
#50. The Old Church: The Old Church, a non-religious events venue that has stunning architecture, state-of-the-art sound and lighting and an intimate 300-seat space provide the perfect setting to experience live performances.
#51. Cathedral Park: Located in North Portland, Cathedral Park sits beneath the St. John’s Bridge.Walking beneath the towering cathedral-like footings of the St. John’s Bridge is an experience in it self. Relaxing in the park and enjoying the views of Forest Park can make for the perfect daytime adventure.
#52. Forest Park: At 5,200 acres, Portland’s Forest Park is one of the largest urban forests in the United States. With more than 80 miles of trails, fire lanes and forest roads, Forest Park stretches for more than seven miles along the eastern slope of the Tualatin Mountains.
#53. Batting A Thousand: I grew up playing baseball for over a decade of my youth. Batting cages were always important to keep my skills growing. The batting cages here on SE Stark is the perfect opportunity to grow your skills as well.
#54. Portland Escape Rooms: Coming to this place was one of my favorite decisions in a long while. A group of friends and I were placed in a room and we had to escape given the clues that strategically lay around. If you are looking for a great evening, I strongly recommend an escape room.
#55. Columbia River Fishing: Are you ready to catch some salmon, steelhead or sturgeon? The Columbia River has some excellent world-class fishing. You can fish from the shore or connect with this boating company to take you to the hot spots down river to better your dinner odds.
#56. Avalon Arcade and Theater: Is it time to get the kids out of the house. Yes. Yes it is. Bring them to Avalon Arcade and Theater. Spend some time playing all of the fun video games you can imagine and then end the day watching the perfect kid-friendly movie on their big-screen.
#57. Mississippi Studios: The sound system of Mississippi Studios is one of the best. I had the pleasure of seeing one of my favorite local acts, Ages and Ages, perform there. It’s located on Mississippi St in North Portland. Definitely one of Portland’s better music venues.
#58. Eastbank Esplanade: The Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade is such a great place to go for a nice summer walk, a breezy bike ride or relax on the benches to enjoy the view of the Willamette River. There is a great bike path that offers some of the best views.
#59. Portland Paintball/Impact Action: Playing paintball is one of the most exhilarating sports I’ve played. An adrenaline-rushed good time is sure to be had. Impact Action Sports is the perfect place to go to strategize on the field. They accept birthday parties and walk-ons.
#60. Pickathon: Pickathon music festival, located on the Pendarvis Farm, is one of the largest NW independent music festivals we have to brag about. I have gone many years and seen so many great bands. Though some of the bands are national acts, most of my favorites reside right here in Portland.
#61. Compound Gallery: Compound has established itself as a staple in the Portland streetwear market. It is a destination for streetwear enthusiasts to shop a curated selection of toys, accessories, sneakers, and apparel.
#62. South Park Blocks: South Park Blocks is spread out along 12 city blocks in downtown Portland and basically forms what is known as the Culture District of Portland. Every block contains public art.
#63. Doug Fir Lounge/Jupiter Hotel: The Doug Fir Lounge is a smaller-in-size venue that hosts larger in size bands. This makes it perfect to feel more intimate in such a great venue. The restaurant has a wide selection of tasty meals and the attached Jupiter Hotel is perfect for those overnight visitors.
#64. Disjecta: As stated in their vision, Disjecta provides a catalytic platform for forward-thinking work by visual and performing artists. Dynamic programs showcase new ideas and engage new audiences while fueling collaborations between artists, curators, and viewers.
#65. International Rose Test Garden: Get ready to blow out the senses of your eyes and nose. The smells and beauty of this garden are beyond comparison. The site is popular around the globe and is the oldest, continuously operated public rose test garden in the United States.
#66. Portland Children’s Museum: The perfect place to bring your young ones. The kids will have an endless adventure of fun things to learn about and play on. It’s playful learning experiences that strengthen relationships between children and their world.
#67. Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden: This Crystal Springs garden is the perfect place to leisurely spend the day walking around and taking in all of the beautiful views.
#68. NW 23rd Ave: Get ready to shop till you drop. Let your shopping adventures begin as there are more stores than you can ever fit into one day. The wide variety of restaurants and bars along NW 23rd will also keep you coming back again to try out another favorite.
#69. Salt & Straw: Seasalt and Caramel ice-cream. That’s all I have to say. If you have not tried it yet, I do believe it is the best in the…world. Their unique variety of flavors such as Peanut Butter Strawberry Crumble, Honey Lavender and Pear & Blue Cheese make this ice-cream shop one for the records.
#70. Bamboo Sushi: Bamboo Sushi only uses sustainable fishing practices.The food is amazingly fresh and the choice selection is surprisingly diverse. The combination of flavors is unlike no other I’ve tasted before. If you love sushi, then it’s time you try Bamboo.
#71. Breakside Brewery: If you love your beer, then you’re gonna love Breakside Brewery. I’ve enjoyed many pints and each one is better then the next. I believe this company is named after an Ultimate Frisbee team…but I would need to speak with the owner to confirm that.
#72. Underdog Sports/Recesstime: I am a big fan of extreme sports. I grew up playing competitive sports of all kinds and I guess I still have that competitiveness in me. If you love Ultimate Frisbee, dodgeball, kickball, flag football and others, then check out both of these links.
#73. Crystal Ballroom: If you love music and you love to dance, then the Crystal Ballroom is exactly what you are looking for. This venue is now over a century old. Just imagine the music from the 1930’s performing in here.
#74. Oregon Zoo: This 64-acre park has located in the west hills of Portland since 1954. The Oregon Zoo aims to be a model of sustainable conservation of natural resources. There is a nice eclectic mix of animals to sightsee. For those that don’t mind caged animals, it’s always a family pleaser.
#75. Lan Su Chinese Gardens: Once inside the garden’s walls, you’ll feel as if you’ve traveled through time to another era in a faraway world. Lan Su is a window into Chinese culture, history and way of thinking.
#76. The Fubonn Market: This market is more like an adventure then just a store. I love cooking with an Asian theme, and if you do too…The Fubonn Market on SE 82nd is the perfect place to go. This place is huge. I mean…HUGE. Everything you can imagine to spice up your dinner table is sold here.
#77. Waterfront Blues Fest: If you love the blues, then the Waterfront Blues Fest is just what the Dr ordered. Directly along the Willamette River, this blues fest is diverse in musical arts, culture, and entertainment.
#78. Oregon Brew Fest: Ok, I must admit. I am a big fan of beer, especially locally made IPA’s. They are strong, hoppy and delicious. The Oregon Brew Fest is always a fun weekend adventure to go on usually taking place in late July. Get your tokens and experience multiple different varieties to choose from. Yum!
#79. Assembly Brewing Company: Do you love deep-dish Detroit-style pizza? Do you love locally brewed IPA’s? Well then you are sure to love Assembly Brewing. This SE Portland 15-barrel capacity brewpub is Oregon’s first Black-owned and operated brewery.
#80: Peculiarium: Located in NW Portland, currently this is the world’s only Freakybuttrue Peculiarium. For lovers of sci-fi, horror, urban legends, and cryptids.
#81. Helium Comedy Club: I’ve had many a belly roll here. Seriously, a good laugh is what keeps me stress-free. Touring comedians, as well as local acts, have all had their night on the town here at Helium Comedy Club.
#82. Guardian Games: Here’s a little secret: I love playing Magic: The Gathering. I have many great commander decks. Guardian Games has a huge selection of Magic cards as well as every single board and card game you can ever imagine. This place is mega-huge. They even have weekly competitions that you can sign up for. If you are a gamer of any type then you will love this place.
#83. Lucky Labrador: How can you not love a place that encourages you to bring your dog? Lucky Lab serves great food and beers as well as the perfect outdoor patio for your 4-legged friend to enjoy as well. This place is also perfect for large groups of people given the spacious layout.
#84. Playdate PDX: This place has saved me when it comes to finding the perfect party place to bring your kids and their friends. Tons of space for the kids to run, jump, slide, climb, shoot, yell, dance and wiggle. All the while the parents can hang out and choose from the many food and drink items.
#85. Imago Theater: If you are looking for a venue to watch a musical or a theater performance, then the Imago Theater is an excellent place to go. They allow rentals for local acts. Founded in 1982 this Inner SE Portland gem is worth looking into.
#86. Alberta St. Art Gallery: Alberta Street Gallery is an artist collective showcasing high-quality art from local, professional artists. The gallery was born in 2004 when a number of Saturday Market artists wanted to showcase their work for more than one day a week.
#87. Songwriter Soiree: The Songwriter Soiree is a monthly event that allows singer-songwriters to get up and perform a song for everyone to listen to. This soiree greatly inspired me to pick back up my guitar and start songwriting again. I’ve performed at this monthly gathering several times starting from the very beginning of its creation. Robin Jackson has taken this musical gathering to a new level bringing in more people and also creating a retreat for those especially eager.
#88. Portland Food Cart Pods: I feel that the food cart pods that are scattered all around Portland are what makes Portland so great. They are often a mix of delicious cultures all clumped together in one area. I have frequented the Hawthorne Asylum Food Carts, Cartopia and Portland Mercado food carts many times and I’m always pleasantly surprised.
#89. Multnomah County Central Library: This three-story Georgian-style structure, now on the National Register of Historic Places, serves as the central library for the Multnomah County Library System. It is the oldest public library west of the Mississippi, with a history that reaches back to 1864.
#90. Washington Park Archery Range: Surrounded by forest, this outdoor range is free for drop-in use. Bring your own equipment and get ready to shoot some targets.
These last 11 will be dedicated to the Portland community to include their thoughts and ideas to finish off this list.
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