16 best things to do in Portland on your first trip
As the largest city in Oregon, Portland is a ‘big town’ with a ‘small town’ feel. The locals manage to resist gentrification, have plenty of tattoos, are socially-minded, environmentally-responsible and are big supporters of the arts.
The shops are independent, everyone gets around on bikes and the food is out of this world. Oh, and there’s no sales tax! Are you starting to see why everyone wants to go to Portland? When you’re ready to see what the obsession is all about, here are all the best things to do in Portland on that long-awaited trip:
1. Grab a breakfast sandwich
Portland is a foodie’s dream! Keeping with their no-frills approach, you’ll find a lot of farm to table spreads and locally-grown meals on the menus, dishes from every nation on the planet, as well as a huge food truck scene – in fact they’re the third biggest food cart city in all of America! Pine State Biscuits serves huge bacon-and-fried-chicken biscuit sandwiches dripping in cheese and gravy every morning. Go extra big and get a fried egg added.
2. Grab some Spanish coffee
You can’t go to Portland and not experience a Spanish coffee service. Warning: this isn’t your morning coffee! The rum drink is prepared at your table and then set on fire. It’s made with coffee liquor, coffee and a dash of whipped cream. The perfect pick me up after a big meal.
3. Rent a bike
The roads are very bike-friendly and you can go wherever the wind takes you (or join a tour) and see the many bridges and cool locations in the city.
4. Check out some art
Art is big business in Portland and it’s your job to discover it! From art galleries to street art, you’ll find something to tickle your fancy. PLUS, the first Thursday of every month is known as First Thursday (go figure) and many galleries allow viewings and offer free beer and wine while you browse.
5. Try Apizza Scholls
This pizza place is synonymous with Portland and beloved by locals. Order the margherita pizza with capicollo.
6. Find the smallest park in the world
Once you’ve seen the big park, go find the Guinness World Record holder of the smallest park in the world. Mill Ends Park is only 452 square inches. That’s Portland for you!
7 Can you say Voodoo Donuts?
These guys only seem to operate in the coolest cities, so be sure to get a sweet treat from the Portland store. Our pick: the Portland Cream.
8. Go to the zoo
The Portland, Oregon Zoo is one of the most popular around and they have some of the coolest animals.
9. Get a taste of the Viking Soul Food
This food truck is unique even in an eclectic city like Portland. The Scandinavian food offerings include plenty of seafood, meatball-laden plates and ‘lefse’ – a Scandi style wrap.
10. Visit the Starks Vacuum Museum
This one is super-weird but a quick visit that you’ll remember for being so unique! This vacuum store has over 300 varieties of old, random, funky, modern vacuum cleaners on display.
11. Enjoy some fried chicken at Hat Yai Restaurant
This Malaysian joint has cult-like status here. All the food is incredible but the fried chicken with roti and Malaysian curry is 10/10.
12. Watch the Rocky Horror Picture Show
Seeing this cult-status musical in a theatre that allows interactions (look it up before you go, it’s a whole thing) is bucketlist-worthy. Clinton Street Theater has been showing it every Saturday night for 40 years for a measly $9.
13. Check out Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden
This magical garden is the perfect picnic spot. With flowers for every season and cute duck ponds, it’s worth the $5 entry fee (although it’s free on Mondays!).
14. Walk up Mount Tabor
Get some great city views and a nice leg stretch by climbing Mount Tabor in Southeast Portland. With a paved pathway it’s an easy walk and from the top you can check out the sprawling city.
15. Pretend to be a scientist at the OMSI
The OMSI (aka) Oregon Museum of Science and Industry is one of the most intriguing museums in the city and covers all things physics, chemistry, biology and astronomy. They also have an After Dark experience with drinks for adults.
16. Visit a microbrewery, distillery or urban winery
Portlanders love to create a tipple! Whether it’s a craft beer, homemade vodka or wine grown in the city centre, there are plenty of niche ventures for you to taste.