20 Things That Are Keeping Portland Wonderful (and Weird)

Nov 19, 2015
Portland is a breath of fresh air, literally and figuratively.

Nature puts on quite a show in the green urban spaces. The Columbia River Gorge is less than an hour away. There's fantastic, fresh organic grub and even better wine and beer. There's bike paths, there's hiking, there's shopping... oh, and there's no sales tax! There are hotels, dining and activities at 55% off. But the best part are those only-in-Portland moments you can only find in the "capital of West Coast urban cool" (New York Times).

Here are just a few of the unique things that are keeping Portland wonderful and... well, a little weird:

1) International Rose Test Garden

Established in 1917, this is the oldest official, continuously operated public rose test garden in the U.S. It's also home to 7,000 unbelievable rose bushes. Portland's nickname is the City of Roses, after all...
Flickr/Ben Grantham

2) Columbia River Gorge

This gorge-ous landscape (see what I did there) spans 292,500 acres from the mouth of the Sandy River to the Deschutes River and is one of the most uniquely beautiful stretches of landscape in the U.S.

3) Food Carts

On the run? Don't worry, there's OVER 600 tiny kitchens throughout the city that make incredible food from Korean-style tacos to avocado-cream-cheese-and-turkey crepes. My stomach is rumbling just thinking about them...

4) Powell's City of Books

This 68,000-square-foot book haven is the largest independent new and used bookstore in the country. It's an entire city block of books. Need I say more?
Flickr/IK's World Trip

5) Movie Brewpubs

Portland's brew-and-view movie theaters give you the opportunity to watch everything from recent releases to cult classics, handcrafted beer and pub grub in hand. Start at one of McMenamins' properties -- they've transformed local landmarks into artful entertainment centers and they've done it well.
Flickr/Tom Hilton

6) Stumptown Coffee

Portland takes its coffee culture very, very seriously. There's literally a coffee shop around every corner and one of the of the most beloved is Stumptown. Since 1999, Stumptown has kept Portland on the coffee map with their bottled cold brew, espresso and Costa Rican, Ethiopian and Indonesian blends. They've also brought living wages to coffee farmers around the world through their financially transparent supply chain and nothing tastes more delicious than that.
Flickr/Sean Davis

7)The Portland Farmers Market

This nonprofit organization operates seven farmers markets throughout Portland, providing visitors and citizens connection to over 200 vendors with deep roots in Oregon and Southwest Washington. It's got basically any and all of the fresh food you could dream of and more.
Flickr/Sharat Ganapati

8) Portland Japanese Garden

Did you know that Portland is the sister city to Sapporo, Japan? Well, they are and Portland's reverence for Japanese culture is on display when you visit the giant, authentic Japanese garden, located in the southeast portion of Forest Park.
Flickr/Paul VanDerWerf

9)  Old-School Arcades

The advent of the Xbox, Playstation and Internet has changed the social landscape of video game playing across the world. Well, everywhere except Portland. Throughout the city you can participate in the remains of arcade culture at arcades like Ground Kontrol by playing classics like Pac-Man, Mortal Kombat and NFL Blitz. Flickr/Duncan Rawlinson

10) Micro-breweries

Portland, known by some as "Beervana," houses 67 microbreweries and counting -- that's more than any city on earth. I could go on for hours telling you about my favorites, but really, you gotta drink the beer for yourself.
Flickr/Ruth Hartnup

11) Crystal Ballroom

For more than 100 years, this venue has been the premier place to hear live music, dance and, do irresponsible things you can't do anywhere else. Throughout its history, it's seen the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Tina Turner, Billy Idol and James Brown. Oh, and it's also one of those McMenamins properties we already clued you in on.
Flickr/kerosene rose

12) The Timbers

Want to watch a jacked dude chainsaw a piece of wood every time a soccer player scores a goal? Go to a Timbers game! Portlanders love their MLS team -- nearly every home game sells out, so be sure to get your tickets in advance.
Flickr/Sherat Ganapati

13)Donuts (or Doughnuts)

Blue Star or Voodoo? Donuts or Doughnuts? It's probably Portland's biggest rivalry and once you bite into one of these outrageous creations, you'll see why. I had a cream filled, Oreo-frosted doughnut the size of my fist when I was there and it kind of changed my life.
Flickr/Eugene Kim

 14) Forest Park

Forest Park is one of the country's largest urban forests, covering more that 5,150 acres of the city. It's also worth noting that there are more than 80 miles of recreational trails that crisscross the park, so no need to hop in the car to get an incredible and relaxing forest experience.
Flickr/Mike Rohrig

 15) Bridges, Bridges and More Bridges

The snaking of the Willamette River throughout the city makes it necessary to have not one or two, but 12 bridges throughout the downtown area. St. Johns Bridge is probably the most famous in Portland, but there's also other awesome bridges like Tilikum Crossing, the first major bridge in the US designed to allow access to light rails, buses, cyclists and pedestrians, but not cars.
Flickr/Sam Churchill

16) Wine

Portland is about an hour away from the Willamette Valley, which is spectacularly beautiful and also home to more than 250 wineries. So yes, Portland's wine is amazing. Pop into one of the city's 25+ wine shops and see for yourself.

17) Tax-Free Shopping on Mississippi

Looking for a new guitar? A funky new outfit perhaps? Some original prints for your home or maybe you're looking for a new sweater for your furry friend? From vintage masks to beard oil, Mississippi Avenue's got it all.  Bonus: it's all tax-free!
Flickr/Mike Rohrig

18) The Smallest Park in the World

Nestled in the median strip of SW Naito Parkway, Mill Ends Park is literally the smallest park in the world - it's 452 square inches in area. So cute, right?!

19) Last Thursdays on Alberta

Every month on -- you guessed it -- the last Thursday, Alberta Street transforms into a 15-block-long artistic celebration, free to all artists and art vendors, musicians and visitors who want to join the fun. It's a year-round event, but it's best during the summer months (May-September).
Flickr/Ray Terrill

20) Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

From Science Playgrounds to retired navy submarines to "After Dark" events that pair science talks with tasty adult beverages, the OMSI appeals to visitors of all ages. It's made up of three auditoriums, including a large-screen theater, planetarium and exhibition halls focused on the natural sciences, technology and industry.
Flickr/Benjamin Chan

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