* Walking around downtown: Portland’s downtown is compact and complex, with an attractive mixture of buildings, bridges, architectural styles, parks, and plazas that makes it wonderful for walking. From Tom McCall Waterfront Park right along the Willamette to Pioneer Square and the South Park Blocks, this is one of the most attractive, human-scale downtowns you’ll ever see.
* Sipping a latte at Caffe Umbria in the Pearl District. It’s the best latte in Portland, and the most attractive and congenial cafe in the upscale Pearl District. Order your coffee, a panini, a pastry, or a gelato, take a seat, and people watch. Caffe Umbria is a good rest stop while you’re exploring the rest of the Pearl.
* Browsing through Powell’s City of Books: Even if you’re totally committed to reading on your tablet, you shouldn’t miss Powell’s. One of the world’s largest bookstores, Powell’s is visited as a tourist attraction as well as by readers who love books and know they will be able to find a new or used copy of just about anything in one of Powell’s color-coded rooms. But beware: Once you’re inside and start browsing, it’s difficult to tear yourself away.
* Enjoying a microbrew in a brewpub: Everyone in this metropolis of microbrews has their favorite brew and brewpub. In fact, as you’ve probably heard, there are more microbreweries in Portland that any other city in the world. Portland’s numerous brewpubs are typically casual and super-friendly spots with good food (often but not always on the order of pizza and burgers) where Portlanders of all stripes congregate.
* Hiking in Forest Park: Few cities can claim, as Portland can, to have one of the largest urban forests in the world within its city limits. Giant Forest Park covers thousands of acres in Northwest and Southwest Portland and forms part of a wildlife corridor that stretches all the way to the Coast Range. Put on your hiking boots or a pair of comfortable walking shoes and hook up to one of the many trails that crisscross this vast urban green space.
* Sniffing the roses at the International Rose Test Garden: The City of Roses loves its roses, and nowhere else in Portland is a rose more of a rose more of a rose than at the International Rose Test Garden. Visitors are wowed by the fragrant spectacle of tens of thousands of roses in all shapes and colors growing on terraces in beautiful Washington Park. Residents come for a hit of roses from late May through September, but especially during the annual June Rose Festival.
* Strolling in the Portland Japanese Garden: It’s considered the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan, and in 2017 it expanded to include a new building and plazas by famed Japanese architect Kengo Kuma. So slow your pace and see the world around you with new eyes.
* Riding the Rails: Take your pick: MAX, the light-rail train, or the Portland Streetcar. Buy a ticket, hop on, and go for a ride—it hardly matters where. Portland is way ahead of the curve when it comes to providing public transportation, and if you are coming from a place where you are a prisoner of your car, what could be more enjoyable than to let someone else do the driving?
* Nosing Around North Portland: The transformation of North Portland over the last decade has been truly astonishing. North Mississippi, North Russell, and North Alberta have all become destination neighborhoods loaded with shops, galleries, and restaurants in neighborhoods (now branded as “districts”) that were once off the grid but are now squarely in the center of what’s happening in Portland.
The Best Natural Wonders
* Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area: Carved by ice-age floodwaters, the Columbia Gorge is a unique feature of the Oregon landscape and begins just a few miles east of Portland. The Historic Columbia Gorge Highway winds past waterfalls cascading down the basalt cliffs of the gorge, passes memorable viewpoints, and ends near Multnomah Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in the country.
* Mount Hood: As Oregon’s tallest mountain and the closest Cascade peak to Portland, Mount Hood is a recreational paradise 12 months a year. Hiking trails, alpine lakes, free-flowing rivers, and year-round skiing make this one of the most appealing natural attractions in the state.