Things to Do in Portland, Oregon

comments: 135


Should you find yourself in the Rose City, here are a few suggestions for you. No list could be comprehensive; I compiled this one from this blog's local reader comments (thank you!), and added several of my and Andy's favorite places and activities. If you have further suggestions, please leave them in the comments for others to find. For more photos and posts about outings we've taken, the Portland and Oregon category (on my right-hand sidebar) may give you some ideas as well. Enjoy!

Must See and Do:

Washington Park ::: Gardens, the zoo, the arboretum, tennis courts, playgrounds
Powell's Books
::: You must!
Farmer’s Market
::: Our favorite is at Portland State University on Saturday mornings
Saturday Market
::: Largest continuously operating outdoor arts and crafts market in the country
Multnomah Falls
::: Take the Historic Columbia River Highway and stop at Crown Point
Timberline Lodge
::: A great historic hotel on Mt. Hood
Cannon Beach
, and anywhere along the Oregon Coast ::: It’s all gorgeous
Clackamas County Fair
and Oregon State Fair ::: In August, though we wait all year


Ace Hotel ::: Hipster heaven, and right in middle of it all
RiverPlace Hotel
::: Fancy, perfectly placed on the river, and within walking distance of downtown
Kennedy School
::: Renovated 1915 elementary school, with a soaking pool and characteristic McMenamins’ flair
The Jupiter Hotel
::: Edgy, pet-friendly, green, and urban cool
Hotel deLuxe
::: Hollywood glamour, and home of Gracie’s restaurant, where we go for lunch during the Christmas season

Fabric stores:

Fabric Depot ::: The largest and most complete fabric store in the country
Mill End Store
::: The best wools, silks, and linens in town, in my opinion
::: A cutting-edge collection of contemporary sewing supplies and gorgeous fabric
Cool Cottons
::: Colorful, well-organized, perfectly chosen quilting cottons
Pendleton Woolen Mill Outlet
::: Wonderful wools in every color
Hollyhill Quilt Shoppe ::: Eeeeee! Cottons, gorgeously displayed
Pioneer Quilts
::: Tiny calicos!!!

Yarn store:

Happy Knits ::: Modern, airy, inspiring and always friendly
Close Knit ::: Warm and cozy collection in a great neighborhood for browsing
Yarn Garden
::: Lots and lots
::: The place for sock yarn!
Knit Purl
::: Small but right downtown and on the streetcar line
Northwest Wools
::: Nice selection in cute little shopping area

Craft stores:

Collage ::: A curated collection of encaustic, mixed media, paper and other crafts
::: Fiber crafts, wool arts, and Waldorf supplies
SCRAP ::: Creative re-use, education programs, and affordable materials
Knittn’ Kitten
::: Vintage fabric, patterns, notions, and supplies
Acorns and Threads
::: Cross-stitch patterns, fabrics, and supplies
Playful Needle
::: Needlepoint and crewel patterns, fabrics, and supplies
Button Emporium
::: Buttons and ribbons galore


Monticello ::: Big and beautiful, with an emphasis on Shabby Chic-type things and great garden accessories and furniture
and Stars & Splendid ::: Across the street from each other, both have a generous mix of great stuff
Dusty Tiger
::: I’ve found the best stuff at the best prices at this place, I tell you! Or maybe I shouldn’t tell you!
Antique Alley
::: Old school, baby.
Found on Fremont
::: Well curated collection of your favorites

Cool new little neighborhood restaurant:

St. Jack ::: Rustic French in a gorgeous space on one of my favorite corners anywhere
::: Industrial + beautiful + seasonal + delicious + recycled materials = gottaloveit
Toro Bravo
::: Spanish tapas
Little Bird Bistro
::: Doesn’t get much cuter, or much more central, than this
::: On a busy street, but still intimate
Pizza Fino
::: Neighborhood pizza and more
::: More neighborhood pizza. Probably can’t have too much neighborhood pizza.

Food carts:

Potato Champion ::: Andy’s favorite
::: Andy’s other favorite
Grilled Cheese Grill
::: Everybody else’s favorite
Koi Fushion
::: Korean-Oregon infusion
Big-Ass Sandwiches
::: Prolly needs no explanation
Khao Man Gai
::: Just one thing on the menu


Slappy Cakes ::: Make your own pancakes, and I really love the light here.
::: My favorite atmosphere and decor in the whole city. Especially wonderful in the morning, for some reason.
::: Classic neighborhood breakfast spot, complete with café curtains and eggs Benedict
The Waffle Window
::: Legendary in our house, and best on a day with no rain
Pine State Biscuits
::: With sausage or mushroom gravy, thick-cut bacon, fried chicken, eggs, grits, and preserves. I think you get it.
La Petite Provence
::: The best -- and best-priced -- French bakery/café in Portland. Don’t leave without taking home an éclair, seriously.
Helser’s on Alberta
::: Crowded but really wonderful

Outdoor restaurant dining:

Meriweather’s ::: Fancy date, or a lovely, grown-up place to take the in-laws
::: Uber swanky rooftop
Piazza Italia
::: My favorite sidewalk dining on Friday nights in the summertime
Por Que No
::: Mexican patio, and I seriously love their summer fruit juice drinks
Tin Shed
::: Playful and fun, kinda like being at great backyard party
::: Romantic and quiet grapevine covered patio

Burger and fries:

Little Big Burger ::: So simple, so perfect, and with truffle-oil fries: Andy’s requested birthday lunch
::: Slow food fast, and in Director Park, a great new location for people-watching
Castagna Cafe
::: This one's good
::: OH, this one is even better, but there is nothing I don’t love about Besaw’s. Stop here after hiking in Forest Park in the fall, and sit in the front room. Love love love.
The Observatory
::: A beloved veggie burger in an up-and-coming neighborhood
Café Nell
::: I haven’t tried this one, but it looks delish


Hopworks ::: And The Derailer is a great chicken sandwich.
::: Our neighborhood joint, so we love it.
::: It’s always good, and the pub is cool.
Captured by Porches
::: Definitely the best name

Coffee shop with a plug for your computer:

Water Avenue Coffee ::: Great coffee, great light, great colors, and not claustrophobic, which is why I love it
Caffe Pallino
::: Bright and streamlined, with gelato, food, and usually decent music
Cloud Seven
::: On a nice day you can sit outside, and this one even has good people-watching in Jamison Square, to boot.
The Press Club
::: With wine, crepes, and great magazines to boot.
::: I haven’t been to either location, but they got several mentions

Coffee shop with people watching:

Stumptown ::: Daily
::: Another several-times-recommended shop I have to try
Fresh Pot
::: Watch the comings and goings in some of our favorite neighborhoods (Hawthorne and Mississippi) here
St. Honore Boulangerie
::: So adorable, so French, so crowded, so expensive, but so delicious


International Rose Test Garden ::: If you do one thing. . . .
Portland Japanese Garden
::: Magical. Go on a weekday morning before it gets crowded, so you don’t have to hear a bunch of other peoples’ conversations. This is a place for quiet.
Lan Su Chinese Garden
::: So very beautiful on a cloudy day, especially
Elk Rock Garden of the Bishop’s Close
::: I love this place. It’s beautiful.

Outdoor fountain:

A walking map of local fountains is here.
Jamison Square
::: Really sweet little setting for kids, like a piazza with a tidal pool
Ira Keller Fountain Park
::: One of Andy’s favorites, an urban warren of waterfalls
Magnolia Park
::: In Hillsboro, with lots to do

Picnic spot:

Council Crest ::: On a clear day, this view is hard to beat
Wildwood Recreation Site
::: This looks gorgeous. Can’t even believe we haven’t been here yet. Will report back.
Commonwealth Lake
::: A suburban park with a lake that looks good for those with small kiddos
Pittock Mansion
grounds ::: I always pretend I’m going to a wonderful party when I’m here. Except that I’m paying to get in. But still – the lawn is free.
Skidmore Bluffs
::: Sometimes I feel claustrophobic in Portland. Not up here. Love the view, and the neighborhood. Always feels like a different town to me.

Day hike:

Anywhere in Forest Park ::: The book Portland Hill Walks by Laura O. Foster is awesome.
Cascade Head
::: The mountains at the edge of the sea, with wildflowers
Angel’s Rest
::: A heavenly view
By the way, the Portland Hikers Field Guide web site is spectacular.

Bike ride through the country:

Springwater Corridor ::: We love to go from OMSI down to Sellwood, or from SE 136th out to Gresham.
Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail
::: Totally wanting to do this from Tooth Rock to the Bridge of the Gods trailhead
Champoeg State Park
::: Such a cool place, with a little of everything

Swimming hole:

Opal Creek to Opal’s Pool ::: Oooo, oooo, oooo – I wanna go here!
Dougan Falls
::: Very pretty, very cold
Eagle Creek Trail
to Punchbowl Falls ::: Quintessentially, gorgeously, lusciously Oregon
Oxbow Park
::: Close to town but feels like it’s a million miles away
Dabney State Recreation Area
::: Close to town, kinda scruffy, but if you find a good spot you’re good to go for an afternoon

Wildflower meadow:

Catherine Creek ::: Go in April or May, even if you’re in a wheelchair – this is a universal access path (yay!)
Mollala River State Park
::: I love this area
Tom McCall Nature Preserve
::: Oh this looks beautiful – a bit past Hood River in the Gorge.
Cairn Basin from Vista Ridge
::: A difficult hike with a creek crossing, but looks incredibly beautiful and includes lupine fields (sigh).
Dog Mountain
::: Another difficult (steep) hike, but wow.
Sauvie Island u-Picks ::: Oh, now these are easy! Try Bella Organic, Kruger’s, or Sauvie Island Farms for flowers.

Rented canoe ride:

Blue Lake ::: Close to town, and such a fun way to spend an afternoon together
Detroit Lake
::: Lots of things to do here: swimming, boating, camping, hiking, too.
Trillium Lake
::: On Mt. Hood, doesn’t get more beautiful

Waterfall hikes:

Trail of Ten Falls hike ::: Here are 10 falls, including the majestic and wonderful Silver Falls, in 8.8 miles.
Pool of the Winds
::: Short and pretty
Wahkeena to Multnomah Falls
::: Described as a waterfall lover’s paradise
Horsetail Falls
::: Family-friendly, low-elevation, and only 2.6 miles roundtrip
Oneonta Falls
::: Challenging to get to (you’ll be in the water), but it is my dream to figure out how to get my bad foot to this spot someday. Someday.


Thank you Alicia! Your timing couldn't have been more perfect. I'm having out of town guests soon and was trying to think of things to do! Not much going on in the burbs (Beaverton).

It may not be completely comprehensive, but for this young adult who moved here late last summer and has been trying out new things as much as possible, it certainly gives direction! Thank you so much!

Love your blog by the way - I love reading local bloggers. :)

You are AWESOME Alicia - thank you for compiling this list. So many places to check out!!! Next time I attend Sock Summit - I'm going to stay for a WEEK!!! :) Thank you!!!!

Thank you SOOOOO much! I've been eagerly awaiting this list. Just in time for summer!

Wow - Portland sounds like an awesome place for me to visit - you covered all my interests with one exception! Any great bookstores?

Lynda M O says: May 15, 2012 at 02:43 PM

Alicia, you have done a Yeoman's job with this compilation. Many thanks.

Kathy McDonald says: May 15, 2012 at 02:47 PM

WOW! Makes me want to hop in my car and head south! We LOVE Portland, and now we have many more reasons to visit! If I couldn't live in Seattle, Portland would certainly be my next choice. THANK YOU!

mrsbris says: May 15, 2012 at 02:50 PM

Metaphorically packing my bags now! Living as I do in England I love funny places names, Nempnett Thrubwell being one near me! But I absolutely love Skidmore Bluffs! And I want to visit.

are you crazy?! this is unbelievable! thanks. i just moved here. i'll be busy.

Did I miss Powell's bookstore in the mix f all those great things to do and see? Or, heaven forbid, has it closed???
I haven''t been in Portland for over 20 years, but i can't imagine the city without it, used to have a nice little cafe inside too.

What a fantastic list!! I want to visit SOOOO BAD!! xxoo

What? No Powell's Books? It's not an outdoorsy place or activity but definitely someplace to see! It was the only place our family went on our way through Portland on a trip to Washington a few years ago. We were there for several hours and all 4 of us walked out with stacks - LOL

What a great great list! We've lived here for almost six years now, and have visited quite a few of the places on this list, but it's always fun to discover more! My husbands birthday is next week and I think a trip to Little Big Burger is in order (especially when I tell him it's your hubby's favorite). Also, our little one has her annual visit to OHSU on Monday and I always think of that photo of Andy and the rainbow when we ride the tram. Thanks for making a tough day a little brighter :)

Ach! Makes me just wanna jump on a plane and visit your fine sounding city!

one more time, i'll try here.
corgi coming to live with my mother on thursday - 4 years old. callie. thought you'd like to hear the news...

Oh, how I wish we would have had this list when we were visiting friends there (a little over a year ago). This would have been perfect to whip out when they asked us what we wanted to do besides sit inside all day (as the only non-gamer, I was a bit bored with their activities).

Oh, well, now I have it for next time!

I *love* you for doing this :-)....better than ANY guidebook.....because you have knitting and fiber sources!!!! Can it be that you linked in every, single web site? Amazing. Thank you thank you thank you. I will share this list with friends!!!

JoEllen says: May 15, 2012 at 03:25 PM

Even for native Portlanders, we have not seen it all!!! What a wonderful list of neat places to see and have a meal in -- you did a terrific job of organizing all the ideas. Especially liked the synopsis of each one -- that really helps to choose -- but they are all so great maybe we should go to one a week!

Juliene says: May 15, 2012 at 03:27 PM

YES!!!!! I cobbled together a list from your blog and your comments. So glad it's consolidated - THANK YOU!

Thank you so much!! We went to Portland for the first time last summer, and still have loads to see and do. Thinking of retiring there in a few years.

that is one heck of a kick @$$ list alicia!! thank you for putting your beautiful heart into it xo

Reading this seriously made me teary! I am sooo homesick, and not just personally. Your list makes me realize of the amazing things Coralie is missing out on. One day, I swear I will get off this rock!

Toast is my favorite breakfast joint ever! The menu is limited but delicious, and worth the limitations. Neighborhood owned and operated. :)

Ramona Falls is a spectacular alpine hike with amazing waterfall, high on Mt. Hood. So worth the drive. Alicia, the rise is not terrible and is very gradual, so maybe your foot could hack it? 7 miles though... ;)

Ice cream: Cool Moon in the Pearl district, right next to Jamieson Park!

Oh how wonderful! I was just thinking of planning a trip up north and this will come in handy! Thanks so much!

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About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at