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Downtown Portland Attractions

Ask a Portlander about the city’s must-see attractions, and you’ll probably be directed to the Portland Japanese Garden, the International Rose Test Garden, and the Lan Su Chinese Garden. Gardening is a Portland obsession, and thanks to the moist and mild weather here, you’ll find some of the finest public gardens in the country. Visiting all the city’s noteworthy parks and gardens can easily take up two or three days. Seattle, and not Portland, is the place where you’re more likely to encounter big museums and splashy traveling art exhibitions. This isn’t to say that the Portland Art Museum, which often hosts interesting traveling exhibitions, isn’t worth visiting, or that the Oregon Historical Society Museum is not worth your time. They are, but they have a local rather than an international focus. The city’s really not so much about spending hours in museums as it is about exploring neighborhoods, parks and gardens, and nearby nature.

Attractions in and Around Downtown Portland

Tea in the Chinese Garden

Tea has been a part of Chinese life and culture for over a thousand years. Introduced first as medicine, tea later became associated with Taoist philosophy. Monks used tea to stay awake during long meditation sessions. By the time teahouses became popular, during the Ming dynasty, tea was firmly established as a social beverage, and serving tea had taken on its own elaborate etiquette. The teahouse located in the two-story Tower of Cosmic Reflections in the Lan Su Chinese Garden is a perfect spot to sample authentic Chinese tea and teacakes while enjoying a view of the garden.

Along the Willamette River.

The Bridges of Multnomah County

Six Portland bridges can be seen by strolling the length of Tom McCall Waterfront Park. The three most notable are the buff-colored Hawthorne Bridge (1910), the oldest lift-bridge in the country; the Morrison Bridge, which opened in 1887 as a wooden toll bridge—the first span across the Willamette—and was replaced in 1905 and 1958; and the Steel Bridge, the world's only telescoping double-deck vertical lift bridge.

Washington Park Attractions

Washington Park Choo-Choo

Beloved by generations of kids, the little Washington Park and Zoo Railway travels between the zoo and the International Rose Test Garden. Tickets for the miniature railway are $5, free for children 2 and under. There’s also a shorter route that just loops around the zoo. It’s a kid-sized train, just big enough for adults, with open windows, and it winds its way through the forest.

Portland Rose Festival

The Portland Rose Festival (www.rosefestival.org), held every year in June, coincides with the roses in the International Rose Test Garden’s peak blooming period. It is one of the largest floral-themed extravaganzas in the country, with two parades, the crowning of a Rose Queen (a high school competition), and a fun fair set up in Tom McCall Waterfront Park  . This Portland tradition dates back to 1907.

Northwest Portland Attractions

You might want to explore urban Northwest Portland by strolling through the Pearl District, or down NW 23rd Avenue from East Burnside to NW Thurman Brief. But if you want to enjoy the natural side of Portland, put on some good walking shoes or hiking boots and head up to giant Forest Park.

Southeast Portland Attractions

Urban adventurers will enjoy southeast Portland’s hopping neighborhoods, including SE Hawthorne, SE Division, Sellwood, and Eastmoreland/Westmoreland . There is also a heritage amusement park, a superlative garden, and a popular science and technology museum on the east side by the river.

Walking Along the willamette

It’s pronounced Will-am-ette, not Will-a-met, and it flows right through the heart of Portland. This river played an important role in the lives of the Native American Multnomah tribe (Portland is in Multnomah County) and was an essential route for the pioneers who trekked across country on the Oregon Trail and poured into the Willamette Valley in the mid-19th century. Pioneers took boats and rafts down this tributary of the Columbia to Oregon City, which marked the end of the Oregon Trail. It was in Oregon City that land claims could be made. The river was deep enough to allow Portland to become a major inland port—hence all the historic drawbridges that you can see downtown. On the west side, you can stroll along the river downtown at Tom McCall Waterfront Park  . On the east side, a paved pathway connects OMSI to the Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade to the north. The path from OMSI also heads south 3 miles to Oaks Amusement Park. Along the pathway beside the museum, several interesting informational plaques tell the history of Portland and its relationship to the Willamette.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.