I guess I should start by saying that we weren’t in Portland, Oregon for a true 24hrs. Friday after work we hopped on a plane from Los Angeles and landed in Portland late that evening. By the time we got our rental car and checked into our hotel, it was after 11pm. Early the next morning we left Portland and drove to the coast for the day to attend Robbie’s mom’s wedding, and then spent the night in Eugene with family. Sunday morning we left Eugene early and returned to Portland. We were left with a few hours to explore before catching our flight home. So really, we had a late night and half a day in Portland. But we sure packed in as much as we could!
Portland is one of the fastest growing cities in the country, and it’s easy to see why. It has the thrill of a large metropolitan city mixed with the charm of a small town (hello farmer’s markets). Combine that with bike and pedestrian-friendly streets, good-natured residents (something unheard of in other big cities like LA and New York), access to some of the best craft beer in the US, a bustling art and music scene, and tons of amazing food options. In addition, it’s on the cutting edge of society: popular with start-up companies, dedicated to recycling and helping the environment, tolerant of race/gender/sexuality/religion/everything else, and marijuana-legal. Plus it’s super close to awesome hiking
That being said, you could easily spend a whole week in Portland without ever getting bored. You’ll probably fall in love with it and want to move there. But if you only have a day to spend there, or even just a few hours like us, here’s what I recommend doing:
1. Buy handmade goods at The Portland Saturday Market: The largest continuously operating open-air arts and crafts market in the country, the Portland Saturday Market is definitely worth stopping by if you’re in town on a weekend. Stroll down row upon row of unique handcrafted items, listen to live music, grab lunch or a snack from one of the dozens of food vendors, and pick up some souvenirs that you’ll actually still like after getting back home.
Hours: Open rain or shine from March through Christmas Eve. Saturdays 10-5, Sundays 11-4:30
Location: 2 SW Naito Parkway Portland, Oregon 97204
2. Stroll along the Willamette at Tom McCall Waterfront Park. This urban park was built alongside the Willamette River and is a perfect place to take a stroll. It’s a popular place for jogging and in-line skating with the locals, and everyone can enjoy cooling off in Salmon Street Springs (a fountain whose water patterns change with the city’s mood) on a hot afternoon. The park hosts many events throughout the year, so it’s a great place to check out and hopefully run into something cool happening. But even if you’re there on a regular day, it’s still a beautiful walk.
Location: NW Glisan St, Portland, OR 97209
3. View the iconic Portland, Oregon Sign near Burnside Bridge. If you fly into Portland and drive into the city, this big sign welcomes you as you draw near. This sign has been on display in the Skidmore Old Town Historic District since 1941, and became a historical landmark in 1978. Over the years it has become a bit of an icon for the city, and is definitely a must-photograph for your Instagram. You can see if from many different spots in the city, but it is actually located on Burnside Bridge if you want a close look.
Location: Burnside Bridge, on the west bank of the Willamette
4. Cross any of the 12 bridges over the Willamette for great city and river views. Bridges are cool. Enough said. But if you need more reasons than that to check out these bridges, then how about because there are so many of them, including the longest tied arch span bridge in the world? And there is no better vantage point to photograph the city and the Willamette. Here is a list of all the bridges crossing the Willamette in Portland:
Bridges over the Willamette River, listed north to south:
- St. Johns Bridge – U.s. Route 30/N Philadelphia Avenue
- Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge 5.1
- Fremont Bridge – Interstate 405
- Broadway Bridge – Broadway
- Steel Bridge – Pacific Highway West/former Oregon Route 99W
- Burnside Bridge – Burnside Street
- Morrison Bridge – Morrison Street
- Hawthorne Bridge – Hawthorne Boulevard
- Marquam Bridge – Interstate 5
- Tilikum Crossing: Bridge of the People – MAX Orange Line, Portland Streetcar, TriMet busses, walking and biking
- Ross Island Bridge – U.S. Route 26/Powell Boulevard
- Sellwood Bridge – SE Tacoma Street
5. Eat at Voodoo Doughnut. Easily the most legendary thing to come out of Portland is Voodoo Doughnut. These are world renowned doughnuts we’re talking about here. What sets them apart from your standard doughnut is their inventive and eclectic creations. Think doughnuts topped with cereal, cookies, candy, rice krispy treats, or bacon. Doughnuts shaped like a cock and balls or a blunt. However they also have regular doughnuts for the less adventurous. Top recommendation to try? Their classic Voodoo doll doughnut, a raised yeast doughnut filled with raspberry jelly and topped with chocolate frosting and a pretzel stake. Just be prepared for crazy looooooooong lines.
Locations: 22 SW 3rd Ave, Portland, OR, 97204 & a food truck parked at 8145 SE 82nd Ave,
Portland, Oregon 97266
Hours: Open 24/7
*** CASH ONLY ***
6. Explore the city on foot. One of my favorite ways to explore a new city? Just get out and walk around with no destination in mind. See the people, smell the smells, hear all the sounds, look at the non-tourist stuff. Portland is definitely a city meant for walking. Obviously stay safe and use your best judgment though. If you want your walk to feel more purposeful and have an end destination in mind however, here is a list of self-guided walking tours created by Portland Metro.
7. See the giant Portlandia Statue. Made famous by its cameo in the “Portlandia” opening credits, the giant Portlandia statue is a must-see for fans of the show. But even non-fans will want to check this one out. This is the 2nd largest copper statue in the United States, second in size only to the Statue of Liberty. It was built in 1985 to adorn the front of the Portland Building, and was modeled after the city’s seal. Believe me when I say the photos do not do this thing justice. It is massive.
Location: 1120 SW 5th Ave, Portland, OR
8. Grab a beer at Deschutes. Oregon is a big craft beer state, and Portland is one of the main epicenters of their craft beer scene. There are 58 breweries in the Portland area alone. Swoon. So stop in for a pint at one of them! You can’t go wrong with Deschutes, but if you fancy something else, here is a list of all the breweries in Portland: List of breweries.
Location: 210 NW 11th Ave, Portland, OR 97209
Hours: Sunday – Thursday 11am-11pm, Friday – Saturday 11am-12am
9. Check out the nightlife. There is definitely no shortage of nightlife options in this city. No matter what you are into, there’s bound to be dozens of options on any given night. We didn’t get a chance to party too hard on account of having to wake up early for a wedding (and being tired from our flight), but we did sneak over to Kelly’s Olympian for some late night bar food and drinks. Super cool place, tasty food. And we were able to walk there from our hotel and people watch on our walk over. So we may not have been able to join in the apres hours fun, but we did get to see others enjoying it!
Location: 426 SW Washington, Portland, OR 97204