Portland: The Ten Best Things To Do

Portland View from Pittock Mansion | www.rtwgirl.com

Over the last several years, I have visited Portland many times. From when my best friend and her hubby lived there, to work trips, and now to spending the last three months with friends. I have been able to experience a lot of Portland for someone who does not live there. I thought I would put together this list of my top 10 things to do in the “City of Roses”.

10 Best Things To Do In Portland | www.rtwgirl.com

My Portland Top 10!

1.  Pittock Mansion

Pittock Mansion was originally built in 1909 as a private home for newspaper publisher Henry Pittock and his wife, Georgiana. Now the house is a museum. The house has been kept as is and very beautiful inside as well as the grounds. If you want an excellent view of Portland, you can go behind the mansion without charge. There is a gate that closes at night, but you can catch a beautiful sunset here and even see Mount Hood in the distance.

I can never resist a museum and a view!

Pittock Mansion

Pittock Mansion

Pittock Mansion

Pittock Mansion Floors

I have this thing for their puzzle floor!

View from Pittock Mansion

Love this gorgeous Portland view

2. Visit One Of The Many City Parks
Washington Park  

Portland’s Washington Park is an urban oasis right in the heart of the city. You get to the park via the MAX (light rail) if you don’t have a car. Within the park, there is a zoo, two museums, a rose garden, a Japanese garden, and more. Sadly while I was in town the Japanese garden was undergoing some reno and will not be open till March 1, 2016

The photos below were from the International Rose Test Garden in the late summer.

Portland Rose Garden

Portland Rose Garden
Mount Tabor

Mount Tabor is a city park in the southeast of Portland but is also a dormant volcano. If you’re into running, there are trails there. I went to look for some photo opportunities here, but it was too gray out. I did, however, see excellent autumn leaves even at the end of November.

Mount Tabor Mount Tabor

Photo courtesy of Flickr

Rocky Butte Park

One day while having to get my car serviced in the far southeast of Portland, I found a vista online called Rocky Butte Park. There are great views of Mount Hood if it’s a clear day and it’s a cool little spot to shoot photos.

Rocky Butte

There was a great tunnel there and no traffic

Rocky Butte Park

Admiring the surrounding views

Rocky Butte Park

Hanging out at Rocky Butte


Portland- The Top 10 Things To Do | www.rtwgirl.com

3. Get Out In Nature – Hikes, Rivers, And Waterfalls

I spent 3 months in Portland spending time with friends and while I didn’t do enough, hiking and seeing waterfalls was one of my favorite things about being in the area. There are so many places close to the city and if you have access to a car, don’t hesitate, just go.

Multnomah Falls

The popular Multnomah Falls is a must!

Triple Falls Oregon

Heading to Triple Falls

Triple Falls Oregon

Triple Falls

Angels Rest Shot on GoPro

Angels Rest, just 30 minutes east of Portland. A gorgeous November day

I didn’t get to go to Oneonta Gorge while I was there, but I definitely have that on a to-do list for the future as well as many other hikes and waterfall visits.

Since the city is not close to the beach, in the summer my friends go to the river and hang out. It was fun!

River Hangs

My PDX crew going to the river for summertime hangs

River Hangs

My friend Steve hanging out on a pizza float on the river

4. Eat At A Food Cart

When in Rome they say! If you’re going to Portland, you need to try at least one of the over 600 food carts. There are tons of great ones and a lot of average ones. They tend to be grouped in pods around the city in different sections. My favorite is Nong’s Khao Man Gai, although she now has a stand-alone restaurant on SE Ankeny.

If you want my recommendations of where to eat in Portland, I wrote a food post here. Also, the best donuts are Blue Star, no question. That’s all.

Food Carts PDX

Photo courtesy of Flickr

5. Visit one of the many farmers markets 

Portland has several farmers markets and if you’re a fan of markets like I am, it’s worth a visit. Even if you’re traveling, you can pick up healthy snacks and just people watch. I went with some friends to the PSU Farmers Market (SW Park and SW Montgomery) and we picked up some coffee, breakfast, as well as food to cook. Pine State Biscuits as do Olympic Provisions. They had a local kimchi company that sold natural kimchi!

Portland Farmers Market

Portland Farmers Market

Veggies on veggies on veggies

6. Take A Craft Brewery Tour/Visit Breweries

Portland is very well known for their craft breweries. I am not even sure how many in total there are in the city, to be honest. You can either do a self-guided tour or join in on a tour. Since I’m a novice, I joined in on a tour with Evergreen Escapes. It was nice to have a designated driver. If you want to freestyle, you can pick a neighborhood and just walk to several breweries.

Evergreen Escapes Portland

Evergreen Escapes Brewery Tour Portland

7. Do A Self-Guided Distillery Tour

My friends from Chicago who own Chicago Distilling came out for a liquor tasting event and to explore Portland. While they were in town, I joined them when they visited a handful of local distilleries. It was a self-guided tour. I have to say though that they kept their liquor down. I, on the other hand, got really drunk. If you’re into craft liquor, visit the many local distilleries in town.

Burnside Distillery

Burnside Distillery

New Deal Distillery

New Deal Distillery

8. Powells Books

No trip to Portland is complete without a visit to the popular bookstore, Powells. The downtown or main location is called Powell’s City of Books and is supposedly the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world. It’s a must do!

Powells Books

Courtesy of Flickr

9. Visit The Many Bridges Of Portland

Also known as “Bridgetown”, Portland has 12 bridges that cross over the Willamette River. I visited and drove over a handful. Here are my favorites:

St Johns Bridge

St Johns Bridge – this was taken from Cathedral Park below

Tilikum Bridge Portland GoPro

The new Tilikum Crossing which is only for cyclists, pedestrians, and public transit

Tilikum Bridge

Just shortly after dark on the Tilikum Bridge

10. Drink coffee!

If you love coffee, you will be very happy in Portland. There are great roasters in the city like Stumptown, Coava, and Heart along with loads of coffee shops in every neighborhood.  I was in heaven! If you love good coffee, there’s no reason to purchase average coffee in this town.

I wrote this more detailed post about my favorite roasters and cafes in the city!

Stumptown Coffee

The Portland classic…Stumptown!

Coava Coffee

A lovely latte at Coava

Additional suggestions:

My local friends took me to Loyly. It’s a Nordic-style spa. While it’s nothing like Scandinave Spa in Whistler, which is set in a forest, it’s an amazing place to pamper yourself for a really great price. It was under $30 to do the whole soak, steam, and shower.


Photo courtesy of Loyly

Take Photos Of The Popular Signs

There is a handful of popular signs which I didn’t get good ones of. I drove by (as a passenger) the sign below and they were blurry!

Portland Sign

Photo Courtesy of Flickr

Keep Portland Weird

Photo courtesy from Flickr

Where to stay in Portland

I’ve stayed at a handful of hotels in Portland over the years, but my favorite to date was the Kimpton. I have stayed another boutique hotel in the city, but their room was so tiny. If you’re with a friend or partner/spouse, it’s way too small and not very comfortable.

The Kimpton Hotel Monaco was roomy, had great robes (I’m obsessed with hotel robes), amenities like free bicycles to use, and great bathroom products, as well as a complimentary happy hour. It was walking distance to many great restaurants and cafes too.

For a more detailed review, click here.

Kimpton Hotel Monaco

Kimpton Hotel Monaco

Where happy hour happens!

Helpful tips
  • If you are driving, be sure not to leave anything in your car. My car was broken into (window smashed in the night) and my suitcase was stolen and then the thieves went and sold my things at Buffalo Exchange. So don’t leave any valuables in your car!!!
  • Avoid passing under the bridges at night. I tried many times to look for good places for night photos and the only place was Tilikum because it was well lit and lots of other pedestrians, cyclists, and transit. Everywhere is pretty bleak and dark.

I have not taken the “Max” or the bus but can recommend the following to get around:

Radio Cab is the local cab company. They have an app and the first time you use it, you’ll get a $10 credit.

Uber exists in Portland but isn’t as common yet. I used it once or twice, but it didn’t seem like they had too many cars at the time. It’s becoming more popular, though! Click here to get an Uber credit by using my referral code! 

Car2Go is more is more of a local thing, but I’m a huge fan of the service when I travel. I’ll often drive a car one way and then take a taxi or Uber home if I’m drinking. If you know where you’re going and there’s a car near you, it’s so much cheaper than a taxi. I’m a huge fan.

Tax-Free Shopping is one of the best things about Oregon in general. No tax! So many savings! Buy everything and anything here. I bought my camera at Shutterbug last year to save money and I would buy everything else if I could. Some of my favorite places to shop were the Adidas and Nike Employee stores (a handful of friends work there) but otherwise, I would recommend downtown as well as NW 23rd for stores. There is room for improvement with boutiques but if you know you’re going to be in Portland for a while, online shop and have it delivered to you because there’s no tax if your address is in Oregon!

If you’re in the Southeast and happen to pass by Zupan’s Market, go inside and try the Ellenos Yogurt. It’s a brand from Seattle but they have a kiosk and it’s seriously my jam. I am addicted. Do it and tell me what you think!

And there is my best of Portland!! Do you have any recommendations?! Please leave them in the comment section below and I’ll be sure to check it out the next chance I get.

**Many thanks to Kimpton Hotel Monaco, Pittock Mansion, and Evergreen Escapes for their hospitality. As always opinions stated are my own.**

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