Top 10 Things to do in Portland, OR

Portland is known for being a well-developed, green, and beautiful city in Oregon. Portland boasts of a large number of gardens & parks, breathtaking views, and interesting little spots scattered all over the city. Here are top 10 things to do in Oregon, which is also known as The City of Roses.

1. Go see what the famous Portland Rose Garden is all about

One of the foremost things to do in Portland, OR is to go see the place that awarded it with the nickname The City of Roses. It’s simply known as the Portland Rose Garden and officially the International Rose Test Garden. It’s situated in the city’s larger Washington Park. 

The International Rose Test Garden is one of the main attractions of Washington Park. It’s known for being the longest continuously operated rose test garden in the United States and its large collection of roses. There are over 10,000 rose shrubs here and the roses here span over 650 varieties. 

The idea of this garden came about thanks to rose-aficionado and one of the editors of Oregon Journal, Jesse Currey, who got the city to agree to safe-keep hybrid roses from Europe that had chances of being destroyed during the bombings of World War I. Today, the place continues to curate roses and also tests them for commercial uses, and studies the flowers. There are several smaller sections of the garden that you might like to explore. 

2. Enjoy the tranquility of Portland Japanese Garden

Another of the popular gardens of the city, and another must-visit attraction here, is the Portland Japanese Garden. Often considered to be the best Japanese Garden outside Japan, this garden in the Pacific Northwest is also in Washington Park and just a short walk from the International Rose Test Garden. 

Designed in 1963 and set in an area of 12 acres, the Portland Japanese Garden, like other gardens of its kind, was meant to provide a zen-like atmosphere for visitors. It has all of the features of a Japanese garden. There are many walking paths, bridges, koi ponds, sand gardens, waterfalls, and all. There’s a cultural village, a tea house, & a gift shop as well. 

It’s also a great place to see some Cherry Blossoms in the spring and fall colors in autumn. 

3. Tour Pittock Mansion

Also in the same part of town is the renowned Pittock Mansion. This mansion on the West Hills is a French Renaissance-style mansion that was built in 1914. The chateau belonged to a wealthy couple of the time: Henry Pittock & his wife, Georgiana Pittock. 

The 46-room mansion tells the story of Henry Pittock who was born in England but grew up in Pennsylvania and moved west along the Oregon Trail to settle out west. He once worked for the publication The Oregonian and later came to own the newspaper. 

Now under the National Register of Historic Places, the Pittock Mansion is a museum showcasing artwork, furniture, and other artifacts. This house on the hill also comes with some good views of the Willamette River and even the Cascade Ranges. 

4. See the attractions of Tom McCall Waterfront Park 

For a closer view of the Willamette — the river that divides the City of Portland into its east & west portions — visit Tom McCall Waterfront Park. There you can walk along its esplanade and take in sights of the Willamette River & the downtown area. 

Situated on the west bank of the river, locals & visitors enjoy walking, biking, picnicking, and enjoying the fountains, lawns, & events held in the park from time to time. This is the venue of popular local events like Oregon Symphony, Pride Festival, Waterfront Blues Festival, Rose festival events, Oregon Brewers Festival, and even the Portland Saturday Market. Go in spring and you’ll see some cherry blossoms too. 

Also at the park are other attractions like the Battleship Oregon Memorial, which was built in honor of a battleship called the ‘Bulldog of the United States Navy.’ There’s also a Japanese Historical Plaza constructed in the name of those who were sent to internment camps during the Second World War. You might also want to see the Founders Stone that pays respects to Willam Pettygrove & Asa Lovejoy who were the founders of the city. The penny that they tossed so as to pick a name of the city, can be seen at the Oregon Historical Society in downtown Portland.

5. Explore Forest Park & Witch’s castle

Not very far from Washington Park & Pittock Mansion is an urban park that Portland is proud of. In fact, it is said to be the largest forested natural area within a city’s limits. All of 5000 acres, Forest Park up in the Tualatin Mountains has over 70 miles of hiking trails, many of them crisscrossing one another and sharing with hikers with the fauna & flora of the area. 

Many hikers who come this way find their way to a stone building now in ruins and covered in moss. It’s called the Witch’s Castle and is a much-photographed location in the southern part of Forest Park.

6. Stroll through Lan Su Chinese Garden

Yet another place of beauty, great for photography, and also an urban oasis is the Lan Su Chinese Garden. Situated in Chinatown, the garden sits on a block of walled land and in it are a lake, walkways, & pavilions. 

You’ll find plants native to China, rocks brought from there, and some Chinese architecture. This garden was born out of a coming together of two sister cities, Portland and Suzhou in China. Built by Chinese artisans, the garden has a traditional touch and is meant to show & teach people more about Chinese culture & traditions. 

There’s a tea house as well as a gift shop there and the garden also hosts events. You can do an audio tour to understand the place better. There’s also a scavenger hunt that kids will enjoy. 

7. Take in the views from the Portland Aerial Tram

There are several attractions in Portland that shows you great views of the city of Portland. Of them, one exciting option is to see it from the Portland Aerial Tram. This tram goes from the South Waterfront District to the top of Marquam Hill. 

Set up by the Portland Bureau of Transportation and operated by Oregon Health Science University, this tram is mostly used by the OHSU’s employees & patients. However, it’s open to the public and those who choose to get on, get a 22 mph ride up to the hill, covering a distance of 3300 ft. in 3 minutes. 

Each of its cars can carry 79 people to the top where there is an observation deck that presents grand views of the city, Mt. Hood, & Mt. St. Helens in Washington. 

8. Go Wine Tasting in Willamette Valley

When you’re in Portland you might also want to visit Oregon’s wine-growing region that lies just adjacent to the city in Willamette Valley. This region is known world-over for its Pinot Noir cultivation. 

Willamette Valley also grows Pinot Gris, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, & Chardonnay among other varieties grapes. This is a great place to go wine tasting. There are over 500 wineries in this region. 

9. Visit Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

Science enthusiasts will enjoy a visit to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. This interactive museum in Portland has a few laboratories, a number of exhibit halls, & many hands-on activities for visitors. 

The exhibits here cover several fields: engineering, space, technology, environment, agriculture and the sort. One of the biggest attractions at this museum is the USS Blueback, which is also on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors can get onto the submarine, take a guided tour of it, see its radio room, & look through its periscope. 

 10. Check out Mill End Park before it loses its record

One other attraction in the city that’s easy to miss but you won’t want to miss is Mill End Park, which is the smallest park that’s made its way into the Guinness Book of Records. 

‘The Smallest City Park’ is 2ft. wide and spread over 452 sq inches. It is situated on the median on Naito Parkway not very far from Waterfront Park.

The park owes its being to columnist Dick Fagan who once saw a depression on the road and decided to plant some flowers in it. It was given the status of ‘city park’ in 1976 and it continues to be cared for. However, there’s another tiny park in the southern part of the state that’s vying for the record of the smallest park.