Best coffee. Most food carts. Top craft breweries. Number-one hipster haven. Portland is a city of indie-spirited superlatives and humble, off-beat charms.
Portland has a long-held reputation as one of the country's top culinary destinations – James Beard was born here, after all. The city's location north of the agriculturally fertile Willamette Valley and its close proximity to the Pacific Ocean yields a bounty of fresh ingredients, and a roster of top chefs makes for quality execution of innovative concepts. Compared to other major US cities, great meals don't have to break the bank, either, thanks to lower food shipping costs plus a wealth of affordable fast-casual establishments, a flourishing food-cart scene and hoards of cut-price happy-hour specials.
Portland has an almost unfair abundance of natural beauty – perfect parks, leafy trees, vibrantly flowering shrubs lining pretty residential streets, the Willamette River meandering through town, and Mt Hood on the horizon. On a national scale, Portland is a pioneer in environmentally conscious public policy and progressive urban planning, and with some 30% of the city blanketed in tree canopy, the place literally feels like a breath of fresh air. The metro area boasts 37,000 acres of green space – which you'll catch Portlanders enjoying any time of the year, rain be damned.
City of Small Towns
Scattered across five quadrants (yes, five; with a sixth in the works) Portland's neighborhoods are unique microcosms of hyperlocal culture. It's almost as if the city is made up of tons of small towns that got stapled together – each has a distinct sense of community and special character, and with just about everything you may need in each, you'll find locals hard pressed to venture far from home. From the hippie haunts of the Hawthorne District in Southeast to the upmarket eateries and boutiques of the Pearl District in Northwest, there's a 'hood for everyone here.
'Keep Portland Weird' – the slogan is plastered around town on bumper stickers, murals and signs, and in this bizzaro city, individuality, creativity and atypical lifestyles are celebrated. Naked bike rides, a vacuum cleaner museum, an adult soap-box derby, phallus-shaped doughnuts and a Darth Vader mask-wearing, flaming bagpipe-playing unicyclist for a local celeb are just a few examples of Portland's freak flags at full mast. In a city this open minded, self expression that can border on eccentric is met with a live-and-let live attitude, and oddballs are free to take up space.
The 7 best beaches near Portland
6 min read — Published Feb 16, 2021
Lonely Planet EditorsWriter
Portland, Oregon has some incredibly unique beaches, whether you're into surfing, sunbathing, or snapping photos of sea stacks. These are the best.
Discover some of the most unique and fulfilling experiences your next destination has to offer.
Tips & Travel trends to help you pick the perfect time to visit this destination.
Add visiting these must-see local hot spots and culture centers to your next travel itinerary.
Plan a day trip full of local flavor and get back in time with these same-day options.
Browse the various transportation options to make your trip that much easier when you arrive.
Ways to maximize the fun without spending a dime on your next great adventure.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Portland.
Abutting the more manicured Washington Park to the south (to which it is linked by various trails) is the far wilder 5100-acre Forest Park, an urban Northwest forest in the Tualatin Mountains. The main built sight in the park is Pittock Mansion, a grand mansion built in 1914 by Henry Pittock, who revitalized the Portland-based Oregonian newspaper. It's worth visiting the grounds (which are free to enter) just to check out the spectacular views. Take a picnic. Trails The Portland Audubon Society maintains a bookstore, wildlife rehabilitation center and 4.5 miles of trails within its Forest Park sanctuary. The major trail here is the 30-mile hiking trail that runs the length of Forest Park. It’s open to walkers, and dogs on leads. Other shorter walks are signposted with trail markers. Download the Forest Park Trails printable map from the Portland Parks & Recreation website to find out more. Animals As well as an avid hiking fraternity, Forest Park is an oasis of plants and animals, with ferny shrublands, meadows, evergreen and deciduous forests as well as streams. This ecological diversity sees a mix of wildlife in the park: 100 species of birds, 50 species of mammals, and 400 species of invertebrates. You may come across elk, deer, porcupines, and mountain beavers to name a few. It also draws bird species like bald eagles, great horned owls and hairy woodpeckers. Trees you’ll encounter include firs, big leaf maples, red alders, and Western red cedars. Parking Parking is limited, but there is information on the Portland Parks & Recreation website on where to park, and car-parking capacity, at each trailhead.
Often called the most authentic Japanese garden outside Japan, this tranquil escape recently underwent a $30-million expansion under the guidance of renowned architect Kengo Kuma. Completed in 2017, the expansion added three new buildings to the already impressive array of water features, koi ponds, ornamental cherry trees, a ceremonial teahouse and a sand garden. Free tours run daily at noon. To maintain the serenity and beauty of this space, visitors are asked to maintain some important courtesies. Stick to the approved paths and don’t step on raked sand gardens or moss. Turn your phone off. Don’t smoke or vape. And don’t feed or try to touch the koi. Gift shop and cafe If you want to soak up more Japanese culture on your visit you can also head to the Garden Gift shopin the Cultural Village and pick up a souvenir. There is also a gorgeous glass-framed cafe onsite, Umami Café, which serves Japanese tea sets with treats like mochi icecream and umami popcorn. Parking Located inside Washington Park, Japanese Garden has similar pressures on car parking spaces. For this reason visitors are encouraged to catch public transport and either walk or take the free shuttle on to the gardens. See Washington Park for more information on transport options.
West of the city, Washington Park is a lush destination with 410 acres of green space, well-manicured gardens and forested trails. Within the parkland are a bunch of great Portland attractions. Several are perfect for travelers with children, including an excellent playground, and the Oregon Zoo and Hoyt Arboretum, which feature more than 1000 species of native and exotic trees from around the world. All are linked by a free shuttle bus. Beyond Hoyt Arboretum, the World Forestry Center is an educational museum exploring forests and their trees. Rose Garden The International Rose Test Garden is the centerpiece of Portland's famous rose blooms (and where it gets its nickname Rose City). There are more than 700 varieties on show here, plus great city views. Japanese Garden Further uphill, the Japanese Garden is another oasis of tranquility. Part of a post-WWII restoration of relations with Japan, the US has many beautiful Japanese gardens, but this is considered one of the very best. It has an impressive array of water features, koi ponds, ornamental cherry trees, a ceremonial teahouse and a sand garden. Hiking trails Washington Park Loop is a 6.4 km loop trail popular with locals for walking and mountain biking. It’s best in spring and summer, with wild flowers dotting the meadows you’ll pass. There are shorter trails for people shorter on time (or fitness levels). Download a map from the Washington Park website, though trails are also signed. Can I take my dog? Yes, you can take your dog to Washington Park and on the trails, but they have to be on a leash. Is there parking? Parking here is limited so you’re strongly recommended to take public transport or perhaps even cycle here (it's a few miles from downtown). Plus it's the greener option—and this is Portland. Real time parking information is available online so if you must drive, keep abreast of how busy it will be. Ride the free shuttle The Washington Park Free Shuttle operates daily from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. You can also track the free shuttle online. It usually comes by every 15 to 30 mins. TriMet’s Blue and Red MAX Light Rail lines serve Washington Park MAX station by the park. Trains generally run every nine minutes, but only during the day.
The best time to walk along the Portland Waterfront is on a weekend, when you can catch this famous market showcasing arts and crafts, street entertainers and food carts.
This classical Chinese garden is a one-block haven of tranquility, with a traditional teahouse, reflecting ponds and manicured greenery. Guided tours are available with admission. Check the website for special events, including cultural lectures and culinary tours.
These gardens practically gave Portland its 'Rose City' nickname. They sprawl across 4.5 acres of manicured lawns, fountains and flowerbeds, and on a clear day you can catch peeks of downtown and Mt Hood. Over 700 rose varieties grow in the permanent gardens, including many old and rare specimens, and from April to September the scent and colors are intoxicating. From June to late September, volunteers lead tours daily, starting from the Rose Garden Store at 1pm (call ahead to confirm).
This beautiful zoo features a primate reserve, a 'penguinarium' and a large African animals area, among many other impressive exhibits and a train that does a 1-mile loop around the grounds. Enclosures are spacious and seminatural. Big-name concerts take place on the zoo's lawns in summer.
Twelve miles of trails wind through this 189-acre ridge-top garden above the city zoo. It's home to over 6000 native and exotic plants and trees representing 1100 different species, and it offers easy walks any time of year. Take the MAX light-rail to Washington Park station.
This grand and beautiful 1914 mansion was built by pioneer-entrepreneur Henry Pittock, who revitalized the Oregonian newspaper; his wife, Georgiana, also a pioneer, started the earliest of Portland's annual Rose Festivals. Guided tours are available, but it's also worth visiting the grounds (free) simply to have a picnic while taking in the spectacular views. If you're up for a wander, the mansion lies along the Wildwood Trail in Forest Park, with dozens of miles of connecting trails branching off it.