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Metro Portland

Get outdoors or to the table in the City of Roses

Once a sleepy industrial town known primarily as a stopping-off point for many of Oregon’s gorgeous national parks and waterways, Portland has reinvented itself as a vibrant city with plenty to see and do in its own right. Today, this city is celebrated for its quirky attractions, ranging from underground tunnels to kitschy donut shops. It also has plenty of bicycle-friendly roads and cycling trails, an excellent and constantly expanding culinary scene and a wide abundance of outdoor attractions.


Book lovers will appreciate Portland’s world-famous Powell’s City of Books, a massive new-and-used bookstore that occupies an entire city block. While there’s no big-league professional football or baseball in this relatively small city, Portland does have its fair share of home teams, including the Trailblazers basketball team, the Portland Timbers soccer team and major junior hockey team, the Portland Winterhawks. It’s also a great place for pet owners, with plenty of pet-friendly businesses (many even offering doggy biscuits and water bowls), off-leash dog parks and dog-friendly hiking trails.

Bridgetown, Oregon

Portland is split down the middle by the Willamette River, which acts as a natural border between its east and west sides (where downtown Portland is located). Because of this natural split, there are lots of bridges—12, to be exact—though only 10 of them are open to vehicular traffic and one of these 10 is part of the Interstate 5 freeway. The oldest is a railway bridge, dating back to 1908 (an era in which most people still crossed the river by ferry). The newest is the Tilikum Crossing: Bridge of the People, which opened in 2015 and is only accessible to pedestrians, cyclists and the city’s light-rail trains.


Each bridge is unique in design and function, and many of the shorter bridges have different draw mechanisms that allow them to be lifted and lowered to accommodate large ships. The best time to see these bridges in action is in early June during the annual Rose Festival, a civic celebration characterized by parades, amusement park-style attractions and a fleet week with visits from merchant navy ships.

Green Spaces

If there is one defining feature of Portland that sets it apart from other West Coast cities, it’s arguably the city’s numerous parks and outdoors spaces. Most visitors head straight to Washington Park, a huge expanse of green parkland and wooded trails on a hill overlooking the west end of downtown Portland. There are numerous Portland attractions inside the park, including the 5.5-acre Portland Japanese Garden, a traditional Japanese garden filled with gorgeous ponds, pavilions, and traditional landscaping.

Another highlight of the park is the spectacular International Rose Test Garden—the oldest in the country—with more than 500 varieties of roses. This is one of the best spots in the city for photography, and on clear days visitors can get postcard-ready shots of the iconic Mount Hood in the distance, framed by a colorful assortment of rose bushes. Washington Park is also home to the Oregon Zoo, which specializes in elephant breeding but provides a habitat for thousands of species from around the world. A three-story Condors of the Columbia aviary allows visitors to observe the big birds from an elevated platform. They also host regular birds of prey demonstrations, and there’s a regular family-friendly concert series that is held here every summer.

Going Green

Portland is known for its surrounding forests, and one institution in the city pays homage to vast green spaces found throughout the rest of the globe. The World Forestry Center is an international non-profit museum dedicated to educating visitors about the importance of forests worldwide. Located in Washington Park, the 20,000-square-foot complex features exhibits on forests in Asia, North America, South America, Europe, Africa and Australia. Educational programs illustrate how forests affect the lives of everyday people.

Other popular Portland parks include Forest Park, one of the largest urban forests in the United States. Forest Park includes part of Portland’s 40-Mile Loop (which is actually closer to 140 miles in length). This extensive and interconnected trail system loops around Portland and includes the Springwater Corridor, a mixed-use bicycle and pedestrian trail that extends over 20 miles and leads from Portland clear out to the town of Boring, not far from Mount Hood. Check out the Hoyt Arboretum, which showcases diverse plant life in the hills above Portland.

Culinary Capital

In the past decade, Portland has carved out a niche for itself in the country’s culinary scene, and today you’ll find plenty of restaurants with food from around the world along with all the classic chain eateries you know and love. The city is peppered with food cart “pods,” essentially vacant parking lots filled with mobile food carts serving everything from burritos to waffle sandwiches—many of these eclectic carts even serve beer and wine, and pets are usually welcome to join in on the fun.

There’s also a coffee scene that rivals that of Seattle, with plenty of local roasters who distribute their beans around the country, including Stumptown Coffee Roasters and Boyd Coffee Company. Travelers with a sweet tooth will surely want to pay a visit to Voodoo Doughnuts, a quirky hole-in-the-wall donut joint with all the regular classics along with unusual concoctions such as Fruit Loop covered donuts.

Lounging in the Living Room

No visit to Portland is complete without a stroll through Pioneer Courthouse Square, an urban park affectionately known as the city’s “living room.” Located in the center of the city, the square is a home for performers, artists and gatherings. Events held in the venue include music festivals, a tree lighting ceremony during the holidays and a volunteer expo.

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