Portland is Oregon’s cultural capital, and the city’s symphony orchestra, ballet, and opera are all well regarded. A lively theater scene includes plenty of mainstream and fringe theater companies that offer classic and contemporary plays. In summer, festivals move the city’s cultural activities outdoors to Tom McCall Waterfront Park, Washington Park, and the Oregon Zoo.
To find out what’s going on during your visit, pick up a copy of Willamette Week (www.wweek.com), Portland’s free weekly arts and entertainment newspaper. The Oregonian (www.oregonlive.com), the city’s daily newspaper, also publishes entertainment-related information in its Friday A&E section and in the Sunday edition of the paper.
It’s All Happening at the Zoo
When summer hits, Portlanders like to head outdoors to hear music. The city’s top outdoor music series is held at the Oregon Zoo, 4001 SW Canyon Rd. (www.oregonzoo.org; tel. 503/226-1561; which brings in the likes of Pat Benatar, Garrison Keillor, Joan Baez, Indigo Girls, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo. You can picnic on the lawn—and, believe it or not, there aren’t any mosquitoes! It’s best to arrive early to claim a good spot. The sound system is state-of-the-art. And the crowd is pure Portland—parents with kids, boomers, hipsters and GenXers, all rolled into one happy summer scene.
The Performing Arts
For the most part, the Portland performing arts scene revolves around the Portland Center for the Performing Arts (PCPA), 1111 SW Broadway (www.portland5.com; tel. 503/248-4335), which comprises five performance spaces in three buildings. The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway, known locally as the Schnitz, is a restored 1920s movie palace that still displays the original Portland theater sign and marquee out front and is home to the Oregon Symphony. This hall also hosts popular music performances, lectures, and many other special events. Directly across Main Street from the Schnitz, at 1111 SW Broadway, is the Antoinette Hatfield Hall. This building, constructed in the 1980s, houses the Newmark and Dolores Winningstad theaters and Brunish Hall. The two theaters host productions by local and visiting companies and performers.
A few blocks away from this concentration of venues is the 3,000-seat Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay St., home of Portland Opera, the Oregon Ballet Theatre, and which serves as a venue for traveling Broadway shows.
One other downtown performing arts venue worth checking out is the Old Church, 1422 SW 11th Ave. (www.oldchurch.org; tel. 503/222-2031). Built in 1883, this wooden Carpenter Gothic church is a Portland landmark and serves as a concert venue; every Wednesday at noon it hosts free lunchtime concerts.
Portland, or “Beervana,” sits at the epicenter of the Northwest craft brewing explosion. Brewpubs of all shapes and sizes have become central to Portland’s identity, and they are great spots to mix with the locals, order some good food, and taste the extraordinary range of handcrafted beers that are now available.
Brewing Up an empire
With dozens of brewpubs in the metropolitan area, the McMenamins chain is Portland’s biggest brewpub empire. The McMenamin brothers didn’t exactly start the Portland brewpub phenomenon, but they have expanded its boundaries and put their stamp on the beer culture of Portland by saving, restoring, and converting several historic buildings—including a former poor farm and an elementary school. They also originated a brewpub concept where patrons can sip beer, eat pizza, and watch a movie. Some of the properties (Crystal Hotel and Kennedy School, for example) now serve as funky hotels with restaurants. The McMenamins’ commitment to architectural preservation and their strong belief in family-friendly neighborhood pubs have made their properties popular among all age groups. If I had to recommend one McMenamins’ property to visit, it would be Kennedy School. McMenamins’ beers can hold their own with any brew in Portland, and the food is filling and tasty, but it’s not haute cuisine. For a complete list of the brothers’ brewpubs, breweries, and historic hotels, visit www.mcmenamins.com.
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.