Things to Do in Portland, OR
I’ve lived in Portland, Oregon for most of my life. There was a brief foray during the college years to do the pop-punk thing and get out of the town I grew up in, but I always end up finding my way back. There’s just something about the city, the people, the way of life, that fits so well with my personality. It’s home. With the popularity of Portlandia I’ve gotten more questions about the city than any other time in my life. Everyone wants to know how accurate the show is (some of it is pretty damn dead on), and quite a few others ask about things to do if they ever visit. I’ve got a few recommendations for if you ever visit the city, but take it as a very incomplete list, there’s always new things showing up and there are plenty of things I don’t cover here. This is also mostly confined to the Portland area and doesn’t expand out to the fantastic hiking, wildlife, and nature that so much of Oregon is known for — I always highly recommend finding a good hiking trail when you visit, it’s beautiful.
Portland is basically split up into four quadrants (NW/NE/SW/SE), and I live in the NW part of town, so many of my recommendations are in and around that area. I’ve included some 21 and over stuff here as well as I’m a big fan of the local breweries.
Powell’s Book Store: Powell’s is kind of a city landmark now. It’s a great local book store that I think is one of the top places to spend an afternoon if you’re in the city. Grab some coffee and get lost in the shelves. There’s quite a few other places near-by to swing in after as well.
Stumptown Coffee: Quite a few places around town serve Stumptown. It’s one of my personal favorite coffee roasters in the city and when you’re looking for a cup try to find this instead of a Starbucks. (A couple coffee place I like: Coava Brew Bar, Barista.)
Saturday Market: This is a really fun outdoor local market. There’s a whole bunch of hand-made items, local food, and you can make an entire day out of walking around. Make sure to check the dates and times that it is open.
Portland Farmers Market: If you’re around the PSU area on a Saturday this is a great farmers market with food, local produce, homemade condiments, and all sorts of great stuff.
Blue Star Donuts: These are the donuts you want. Voodoo is tourist shit.
Salt & Straw: Like ice cream? There will probably be a line here but it’s absolutely worth the wait. The flavors are all over the map but even the weird-looking ones are usually damn good. Ask for some tasters.
Super Deluxe: A really good simple burger place. Kind of like In ‘N Out.
Ground Kontrol: First, it’s pronounced “Cooch Street” – I know, it’s weird. It’s basically an 1980’s style arcade and bar. There’s two stories of classic videogames, pinball, and good drinks.
Cascade Brewing: Fun brew-pub with good beer and small plates.
Deschutes Brewing: One of my favorite breweries in Portland. They’ve got great beers, a pretty good taster price, and decent food. If you hit up Powell’s in the afternoon it’s a simple walk to be enjoying happy hour just a few hours later.
Lucky Lab: Another fun brewery with good beer, good pizza, and it’s dog friendly.
Break Bread: A very good little sandwich shop.
10 Barrel Brewing: Some good beers but the rooftop in the middle of the summer is a really fun location to have some food and drinks. (NW Flanders St)
Breakside Brewery: Great beers, cool location, really good giant pretzels. (NW 22nd)
APEX: A really fun taproom and beer garden. Bring cash. (1216 SE Division)
Lompoc Tavern: A small little local tavern with good beer and food.
Jake’s Grill: A nice restaurant for a more fancy evening.
Paymaster Lounge: A fun dive bar. The back patio is a great place to hang out and have a beer. (NW 17th)
NW 21st and 23rd: There’s a whole bunch of cool shops, restaurants, and stuff to walk around and do up in this area. There’s a Salt and Straw for ice cream, Blue Moon has good American food, and Pepinos is a great little Mexican place. You can find all kinds of stores, tons of little shops, and good food of all variety. North 45 was our favorite happy hour place for years.
Pope House Bourbon Lounge: It’s basically a Kentucky-themed bar in a Victorian house. There’s whiskey, beer, and a southern-influenced menu. (2075 NW Glisan Street)
Coopers Hall: It’s a winery dedicated to keg production. Yep, not something you usually see. It’s unique and a really cool location. (404 SE 6th Ave)
The Liquor Store: I think they make the best gin and tonic in the city.
Pioneer Courthouse Square: There’s a whole bunch of shops, stores, a mall, and good restaurants in this area. It’s closer to the waterfront and feels very much “in the city.”
Waffle Window: Really good breakfast place. Very Portland.
Portland City Grill: Probably my favorite place to go for a nice (expensive) dinner to celebrate a birthday or anniversary — the view and atmosphere are something special.
Tilt: Great burgers, good beer, cool location. One of my favorite burger places in the city.
Bamboo Sushi: Very good sushi.
QuickFish: Poke bowls.
Ringside Steakhouse: Great steakhouse with an old school vibe.
Alberta Arts District: Very arts driven part of Portland. It might feel a little too Portlandia for some, but there’s a lot of really cool stuff over there.
Hawthorne District: A very walkable street full of vintage shops, cafes, and hidden gems.
American Dream Pizza is good, Laughing Planet has really good food, and if you see a McMenamins around you should definitely stop in. They’ve got their own local beers, a pretty good menu for almost any time of day or craving, and their cajun tots go great with the Hammerhead ale. I’m a big fan of the Blue Moon location, but if you can get out to Kennedy School for a night it’s worth it (it’s an elementary school they’ve turned into a series of bars, restaurants, and cigar rooms).
If you have other questions or comments, please feel free to reach out, I’ll try and keep this post updated on a semi-regular basis to add new things and other recommendations. If you’re ever in the area just know that it’s a laid back city, people tend to be themselves and not worry too much, but we’re a loving bunch. Support the local restaurants and shops, avoid big chains, and expect a little rain. If you’re not able to visit, but have access to a good place to buy beers from all over, I’ve posted up some of my favorite (local and non-local) beers in our forums.