Portland, Oregon is known for many different things: rain, craft beer, coffee, food trucks, all things vintage, and the famous hipster Portland vibes. These are some of the things people envision when thinking of Stumptown.
But how do you experience all Portland has to offer while visiting? Well, it’s not easy but as a local Portlandian, I can definitely point you in the right direction. First of all consider staying at one of the many cool and unique Portland hotels like McMenamins or Ace Hotel.
To start with you have to understand the diversity of Portland. The city offers a large variety of shops, restaurants, bars, parks, public art displays, and events. But it’s also the headquarters for Nike and Columbia for a good reason. The people of Portland, and Oregon state as a whole, love the outdoors and enjoy vibrant and active lifestyles in all seasons.
They also love the weird and unique and are some of the most open-minded and accepting people in the country. Put it all together and you have the opportunity for a fabulous rainbow of experiences. Although there are a tons of Weird Things to do in Portland, we decided to put a little local falre into this list below.
Coffee, Tea, Doughnuts & Bookstores
One of the number one hypes of Portland has to be Powell’s Bookstore. There are five total Powell’s locations, but the must-see location is on Burnside Street. This location houses over one million books, and their store is an entire city block with five floors! And this doesn’t even include the large separate building that houses all their textbooks.
If you find yourself near Burnside Street, Powell’s Bookstore is a MUST stop location.
If you enjoy books with a nice cup of coffee or tea, you’re in luck. Not only does Powell’s have an instore coffee shop, but it’s hard to go more than a block without seeing a small local coffee or tea shop.
If you go to Division Street you should stop by Stumptown Coffee and if you’re near Salmon Street, then I recommend stopping by the Stumptown Coffee Headquarters. This coffee shop is Portland-based, but over the years they have spread over the west coast.
Even if you stop at Stumptown in a different state, you’re still getting a little taste of Portland.
Are you more of a tea drinker? Then I would recommend The Hazel Room. Located on SW Hawthorne Boulevard, this tea shop & brunch cafe is a quaint and warm place to go on a dreary day. They offer a large variety of teas, tea lattes, coffee, and a good brunch menu.
On the subject of food, if you like donuts and sweets, then you should join the Portland tradition of waiting in line at Voodoo Doughnuts. They only allow 10 people in the store at a time, and there’s almost always a lineup, sometimes up to 3 city blocks long. But it’s more than worth it.
Voodoo is known for its very unique donuts. Give the “Old Dirty Bastard” a try featuring Oreos and peanut butter. Then there’s “Oh Captain, My Captain” which has vanilla frosting and Captain Crunch cereal or the “Voodoo Bubble” that comes with a piece of bubble gum in the center.
There are two locations in Portland but the most popular is located on 3rd Street right near the waterfront where Portland hosts their Saturday & Sunday market!
The Saturday & Sunday market in Portland is huge! Hosted in Old Town Portland, this event happens every weekend from March to December with over 250 vendors featuring all local Portland items and foods. You’re sure to find some good Portland souvenirs, and try some amazing food while enjoying the beautiful architecture of the Old Town.
Shop, Shop, Shop!
If you like shopping for clothes, then you’ll love Portland, Oregon. Many small boutiques and thrift shops find their home within Portland’s city limits.
On Alberta Street, we have EcoVibe Apparel, which is a clothing store that focuses on their environmental impact. (This is VERY common in the city as Portlanders love their environment).
Anthropologie is located on Couch Street, and a big hit among locals and visitors alike. A big thrift store in Portland is Buffalo Exchange, which is located on Burnside Street, right down the road from Powell’s Bookstore. They sell at affordable prices and have a lot of nifty donated clothes.
Make sure to check out these stores, and all the other cute clothing shops around town!
So what is there besides shopping at food? Tons of things! Portland has a zoo, a children’s museum, a forestry center, and (my personal favorite) The Portland International Rose Test Garden.
Roses & Art
The rose garden is the oldest official rose test garden in the United States and features over 10,000 roses that all bloom in the springtime! It’s free to enter and walk around, and even has a gift shop to purchase souvenirs. There’s also a giant cement stage and stone stairs for events and a smaller garden called The Shakespeare Garden. This is a beautiful place to visit while in Portland, and it’s perfect for photos! The Rose Garden is located on Kingston Ave.
Portland is also home to many public art displays that can be found around the city. Some of my favorites are “Facing the Crowd” which is a metal sculpture outside of PGE Park Stadium. Also, “Bronze Elephants”, a depiction of a mother and baby elephant located in the North Blocks of Portland.
These are just two of hundreds of sculptures and statues posted all over Portland’s streets. They’re great for selfies!
So what is the “vibe” of Portland? There are a lot of stereotypes of Portland — we’re all hipsters, it’s always raining, we only drink coffee, the show Portlandia describes Portland to a tee, and everyone is super granola.
Well, I hate to disappoint you but that’s not all entirely true. Believe it or not, there are people in Portland who aren’t hipsters. We see more cloudy days than rainy. Tea is just as popular as coffee. Portlandia is dramatized, and not everyone in Portland is obsessed with uber-healthy eating habits.
The more accurate statement would be that Portlanders enjoy a healthy environment, love diversity and acceptance, and enjoy being themselves.
Open & Diversified
One of the things that’s definitely true of Portlanders is their casual friendliness. You will probably have an experience, as I did when I first moved here, of strangers randomly starting a conversation with you as if they’ve known you all their lives. This isn’t uncommon. If you make a statement while in a public place, you may get a funny response or two from some of the locals around you.
You can also expect next to zero tolerance for any hateful speech or actions although many Portlanders like their jokes and dark humor. Portland, Oregon is a very safe and accepting community. The city holds many rallies and events to support women’s rights, people of other cultures and ethnicities, and LGBTQ+.
Speaking of Portland events, depending on the time of year you’re in Portland, there are some awesome festivals that take place. Some of the best known are Beer Fest, Portland Rose Festival, Portland Marathon, Funklandia, PDX Jazz Festival, Portland Winter Light Festival, Portland’s International Film Festival, Mt. Angel Oktoberfest, and Portland Fashion Week. You can pretty much count on a great festival or event almost every month of the year.
A final thing you can expect is to have all expectations broken. Something that makes Portland so special is all the different ideas, people, cultures, and values found within the community. When you go to Portland, just open yourself up to experiencing something new and different around every corner. Enjoy events, try the food, read some books, and check out our outdoor attractions. You will love Portland and it’s people!
Written by Sable Josephine. See her on Instagram!