With its famously grey, misty weather, Portland gives destinations like Seattle and Ireland a run for their money on lush, green, rainy climes. But the city is well-adapted to its environment, with a host of things to do and see in all seasons, from festivals and outdoor recreation in the sunny summer months to concerts, literary readings, restaurants and museums when the clouds roll in during winter and spring.
Here’s our guide to help you decide the perfect time to visit Portland, Oregon.
Editor's note: During COVID-19, please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip and always follow government health advice. Events may be subject to change.
High Season: June to September
Best time for exploring the outdoors
Everyone’s eager to greet the sun during Portland's summer season. From June to September, there's a wealth of destinations for outdoor recreation where you can take advantage of the warm, cloudless weather. And as summer draws to a close, the city celebrates another great high season with a flurry of festivals well-worth experiencing.
Hiking trails may be more crowded as visitors and locals alike fan out to popular spots in the Columbia River Gorge and on Mt Hood – not to mention coastal towns like Astoria and Cannon Beach. That said, there's plenty of places to find your solitude outdoors, too, from Tryon Creek State Natural Area to the Coast Range west of Portland.
Shoulder Season: March to May, September to November
Best time for photographers, foodies, and wildflowers
Shoulder season can be a mixed bag in Portland – with a chance of cloudy, rainy weather balanced by milder temperatures. In spring, Portland is awash with wildflowers and delicate blooms that draw you outside, while in fall festivals, food trucks, and restaurants provide fun transitions from outdoor to indoor life.
In both shoulder seasons, meanwhile, the slightly diffused light and wide range of activities give photographers ample conditions to work with. You'll find slightly cheaper hotel prices, too, and fewer tourists at popular spots like Multnomah Falls.
Low Season: November to March
Best time for coffee, culture, and concerts
The joke from the popular TV series Portlandia is that the 1990s never ended in Stumptown, and it's easy to see why during the winter months. Coffee shops, concerts, and cultural events like cozy literary readings at Powell's bookshop are the perfect way to dodge rain showers and stay connected to the city's vibrant, diverse scenes.
Portland's live music scene remains rich, too, from classic venues like the Crystal Ballroom to hip spots like Doug Fir Lounge. You can see everything from a Latinx cumbia show to heavy metal to living room indie rock – not to mention the national tours that come through.
Portland kicks off the new year with dreary days and threats of snow. Reflect on your resolutions with a cup of coffee in the countless cafes or head to Mt Hood for winter sports.
Key events: Fertile Ground Festival.
Though ever dark and freezing, the shortest month of the year speeds by as Portland's festivals start to ramp up. You can bet on solid hotel deals, especially at boutiques.
Key events: Portland International Film Festival, Japanese Mochitsuki Festival, Vietnamese Tet Festival, Chinese New Year Festival.
March is a great time to score shoulder season accommodation rates. Weather is a wild card: freezing temperatures and late-season snow aren't completely out of character, but neither are sporadic sunny (but still chilly) days. Almost guaranteed, however, is steady rainfall. Wondrous displays of trillium, a wild marsh lily, appear in Tryon Creek State Natural Area late in the month.
Key events: Portland Dining Month, Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival.
Portland is awash with cherry blossoms, azaleas, rhododendrons, tulips and more. The faucet in the sky starts to slow and sunny days become more frequent.
Key events: The Japanese Currents film festival, the Portland Saturday Market.
With mostly dry days and plenty of sunshine, this is a delightful time to visit Portland. Peep at Mt Hood from promontories like the Pittock Mansion and Council Crest, or take a ride on the Aerial Tram from the south waterfront to Marquam Hill to catch some of the best views. Or make the most of the sunshine and catch an early Timbers or Thorns soccer game at Providence Park. Get here before Memorial Day (last Monday of the month) for the last hotel deals before summer.
Key events: Portland Rose Festival, the Portland Cannabis Cup.
Summer kicks off with plenty of outdoor festivals, queer pride and a flock of naked cyclists in the streets. Days are warm, sunny and long (it's light until 9pm), and nights are wonderfully temperate.
Key events: Portland Pride Festival, Pedalpalooza (aka, the Naked Bike Ride), Portland International Beerfest, Oregon Zoo Summer Concert series, Juneteenth.
From films to music to beer, the city's outdoor festivals really ramp up. Peak summertime in Portland means steep hotel prices.
Key events: Oregon Brewers Festival, Waterfront Blues Festival, Cathedral Park Jazz Festival, The Big Float, Portland Highland Games, Portland Zine Symposium.
The country's greenest music festival, an adult soapbox derby and a community bike ride across Portland's bridges mark the final weeks of Portland's summer.
Key events: Bridge Pedal, Pickathon, Portland Adult Soapbox Derby, the Hood to Coast running relay race.
As summer winds down, Portland soaks up the last of the summer sunshine and starts to transition to indoor activities centered around the cities many restaurants, pubs, breweries, coffee shops, and cozy independent cinemas.
Key events: Feast Portland, Portland Fresh Hops Fest, Art in the Pearl, Rose City Comic Con, El Grito Fiestas Patrias.
The skies cloud back over and it's time to head inside for live music, pub games, and culture series at venues like Wonder Ballroom , Aladdin Theater, Crystal Ballroom, and the Moda Center. There are still some chances to get outdoors, though – like the annual Giant Pumpkin Regatta, an unusual event that, yes, involves watching rowers seated in gigantic pumpkins race across a lake.
Key events: The Portland Film Festival, West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta, Portland Queer Film Festival.
As Portland cozies up for winter, it's time to celebrate the city's bookish nature with literary events at Powell's Bookstore, where it's common to see locals curled up with a tome or two and a cup of coffee. Now's the time to take advantage of the city's museums, whether you're interested in fine art or quirky stops like the Vacuum Cleaner Museum. The low season means hotel deals for bookings before Thanksgiving (the fourth Thursday of the month).
Key events: Portland Book Festival.
Is there a month that goes by in Portland without a beer festival? Technically yes, but this city loves its hops and it's no surprise Portland loves to toast the holidays with a pint or two of craft brews. Be sure to pay a visit to favorites like Deschutes, Ecliptic, Occidental, Breakside, and McMenamins. December days may be damp and overcast, but Portland is set aglow with twinkling lights and seasonal events, including a beer festival under the city's holiday tree.
Key events: the Holiday Ale Festival, ZooLights.