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Portland (Oregon)

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Portland (Oregon)

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Portland, "The City of Roses", is the largest city in Oregon and one of the major cities in the Pacific Northwest.


Had a coin flip gone the other way, the largest city in Oregon would be called Boston, Oregon. From that fateful coin flip on, the city of Portland has, for the most part, been the recipient of great fortune.

Portland lies to the far northwest of Oregon, straddling the Willamette River just south of its confluence with the Columbia River at Vancouver, Washington. About 50 miles to the east lies majestic Mount Hood, which forms the perfect backdrop for Portland's skyline. The Pacific Ocean lies about 90 miles to the west over the Coast Range.

As the largest city between San Francisco and Seattle, Portland vies with those cities as the spiritual capital of the laid-back northern Pacific coast. However, it does so in a way that mixes big-city dynamics with small-town friendliness. In contrast to rapid-growing Seattle, until recently Portland avoided the problems that come with fast growth. Although now Portland is experiencing the same rapid growth, it has been able to keep its unique character.

Progressive city planning practices such as an urban growth boundary have made Portland a very compact and user-friendly city. Unlike other metropolitan areas, you can drive 20 miles from downtown Portland and be out in the country. Environmentally friendly practices such as recycling are part of the culture here. It is also known for taking creative and unconventional ideas to solve its problems. For instance, it tore up a downtown freeway and transformed it into Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Its light rail system, originally built in the late 1980s and subsequently expanded, has won nationwide acclaim.

In recent years, the city has become known as much for its microbreweries as Seattle is for its coffee houses. There are many microbreweries around Portland, many of which have won nationwide and international acclaim.

Get in

By plane

Portland International Airport (PDX) is located 9 miles from downtown Portland on the Columbia River. Most major airlines serve Portland from the major airports in the United States. Non-stop air service is also available from Canada, Japan and Germany.

A taxi from the airport to downtown will cost you around $30, while the MAX light rail will set you back $1.70, and take you from one end of the Portland to the other. Plus it goes right down town. All light rail connects with the city wide bus system. You be the one to decide: TriMet or taxi.

If you're renting a car, the best way to get to downtown Portland from the airport is to take I-205 south to I-84 west, then follow the signs to the City Center at I-84's interchange with I-5. This will take you over the Morrison Bridge into downtown.

By train

Amtrak provides service to Portland from all along the west coast. The Amtrak Cascades service runs two trains per day between Portland and Eugene, Oregon to the south. Additionally, there are three Cascades trains between Portland and Seattle to the north. These trains are more reliable schedule-wise than the long distance trains.

For long distance service, Portland is served daily by the Coast Starlight, running the length of the West Coast (Seattle-Portland-San Francisco Bay Area-Los Angeles). The Starlight has earned the nickname the "Starlate", since it is usually delayed for hours running north from California. The Empire Builder (Portland-Spokane-Glacier Nat'l Park-Minneapolis/St Paul-Milwaukee-Chicago) also provides daily service eastward, and tends not to be as delayed as the Starlight.

Portland's Union Station (800 NW Sixth Av) is located north of downtown, about a 15-minute walk from Pioneer Square. It is adjacent to the Greyhound bus station. The bus mall ends at Union Station, so local TriMet Buses run by Union Station very frequently.

By car

From Washington to the north and California as well as most of the rest of Oregon to the south, the easiest way to get to Portland is on Interstate 5. I-5 runs directly through downtown Portland with a number of exits.

From Boise and other points east, Interstate 84 leads along the Columbia into Portland. From the Oregon Coast Highway and other points along the Pacific coast to the west, the easiest approach is U.S. 26. It cuts east towards Portland between Cannon Beach and Seaside.

By bus

Greyhound provides bus service along the West coast as well as from points inland.

By boat

No useful boat lines exist, although you can cruise up and down the river.

Get around

Portland is an easy city to bike, walk or use public transport. Much of Portland is a grid, so it should be fairly easy to navigate. In general, east-west streets are named while north-south avenues are numbered. This doesn't hold true in the North Portland neighborhood where avenues are also named, or in the hills where roads are helter-skelter.


Portland is a great city for Walking. Many intersections are designed with pedestrians in mind, and Portland has a lot of street life for an American city. Good mass transit also makes walking more feasible in Portland.


Several streets in Portland are designed to be predominantly for bicycle use. These streets, such as SE Ankeny, SE Salmon, SE Lincoln, and SE Clinton, are usually spaced about halfway between the main car thoroughfares in the grid of East Portland. The bike streets are generally signed with green "Bike Route" signs. Additionally, many major streets have striped bike lanes.

Maps of bike trails can be obtained from Metro, in the Bike There! section.

TriMet and other Public Transport

TriMet maintains Bus and Light Rail throughout the Portland area, and City of Portland maintains a the Streetcar line which runs through downtown and Northwest Portland.

C-Tran runs buses in Clark County, Washington. Fares for TriMet, C-Tran, and the Portland Streetcar are all interchangeable.


Portland is divided into five sections. Burnside Street is the north/south split. The Willamette (pronounced will-LAM-et) splits Southeast and Southwest, but the river takes a turn north of Burnside. Since mother nature wasn't smart enough to use straight lines in her planning, the city decided to split what would be the Northwest quadrant into Northwest (West of the river) and North (East of the River), then divide North and Northeast at Williams Avenue. All Portland addresses contain their designating sector inserted between house number and street name (i.e. 3719 SE Hawthorne Blvd.) This will make it easier to figure out where things are. If you hear Portlanders talking about the Southwest or the Northeast, they're probably talking about the section of the town rather than Arizona or Massachusetts.


  • St. Johns, near the confluence of the Willamette and the Columbia, is more like a small town than a neighborhood. It has a nice line of storefronts.
  • Albina and Mississippi Avenues host a lively little neighborhood.


  • Sellwood once was a rival of Portland. It was later annexed and is now a thriving little neighborhood of its own along with West Moreland.
  • Hawthorne Blvd. has a good collection of shops as well as a branch of Powell's Bookstore and the ornate Bagdad Theater.
  • Belmont St., while not as major as Hawthorne, also has a decent collection of shops, restaurants and entertainment. The greatest concentration of businesses is around 34th Ave.
  • Division St. also has a good deal of sites and activities.
  • The Clinton District, on Clinton St. at 21st and 26th, is a nice little neighborhood center with some decent food and a theater.
  • The neighborhood along Woodstock Blvd., centered around 45th, is more oriented towards residents.
  • 82nd Ave. is definitely one of the seedier parts of Portland, but is a good place to go for anything ethnic, especially Asian.


  • Hollywood is a dense little neighborhood centered around the ornate Hollywood theater on Sandy Blvd. Ironically, the Hollywood Theater kind of goes against the Hollywood grain, and frequently shows great movies that you might not get a chance to see at more Hollywood oriented theaters.
  • Alberta St. has a thriving arts district between Martin Luther King and 30th.
  • Beaumont is a nice little neighborhood along Fremont St. in the 4000's


  • Downtown, the heart of Portland, lies in the Southwest
  • The West Hills, also stretching north of Burnside in the Northwest section, are where the well-to-do of Portland have traditionally lived. You can see pretty large mansions suspended on stilts above the hillside. Because of the geography, the streets in the West Hills are a bit of a maze. If you think you won't get lost, though, the West Hills might be an interesting trek. You'll find lavish mansions, ornate public staircases from several different time periods, and a few good views of downtown. You might also want to see the Vista Bridge. This bridge was once nicknamed the "Suicide Bridge" because of the people that jumped from it during the Great Depression in the 1930's
  • Goose Hollow lies west across I-405 from downtown. This neighborhood is sort of a quieter, more residential extension of downtown.
  • Lair Hill is another quiet but attractive neighborhood south across I-405 from downtown. Look for the Great Northwest Bookstore in an old church in this neighborhood.
  • Multnomah Village is a nice little neighborhood in hilly SW Portland.


  • Chinatown and Old Town lie north of Burnside between the Park Blocks and the river. This area has a sort of old, seedy feel. However, as the Pearl District expands its tentacles outward, the fringes of this neighborhood are experiencing some regentrification. True to the name, this is really the oldest section of Portland.
  • The Pearl District lies between I-405, Burnside and the Park blocks. This is where you want to go if you want to get your trendiness in. The Pearl was once a half abandoned warehouse district, but in recent years has been given a fresh new coat of make-up by those wanting to live in a more urban environment close to downtown.
  • NW 23rd and NW 21st have a good deal of shops and the like. Like the Pearl, this area is a bit more on the trendy side. You will sometimes hear this area referred to as the Alphabet District (because the east-west streets run alphabetically), although most people seem to call it simply "the Northwest".


  • Saturday Market, SW 1st Ave. under the Burnside Bridge. Sa 10AM - 5PM and Su 11AM-4:30PM, 1st weekend in March to December 24. This market and craft fair, where everything sold is handmade, is the largest open-air crafts market in continuous operation in the U.S. Free.
  • Pioneer Courthouse Square, SW Broadway and Yamhill, (503) 223-1613. Every day, 24 hours. Known as "Portland's Living Room," this is the central courtyard of downtown Portland. Notable sights in the square is the Weather Machine, a machine that predicts the weather every day at noon. Many other sculptures and art elements surround the square. Free.
  • The Public Services Building (1120 SW 5th Avenue), aka The Portland Building, is considered an architectural icon. Designed by Michael Graves and built in 1982, its coloring and embellishment marked the arrival of postmodern architecture and the end of stark glass and steel edifices. The statue in front, "Portlandia", is the second largest copper statue in the United States--only the Statue of Liberty is larger.


  • Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), 1945 SE Water Ave., (503) 797-6674. Tu-Su 9:30AM - 5:30PM (after Labor Day to mid-June). OMSI is great for kids. It has hundreds of hands on activities and you can spend a full rainy day there and not get bored. But if all you want to do is see an awesome movie check out the IMAX theater that gives you a 360 view of space travel, scuba diving, race car driving, or an Africa safari. Museum admission: adults $8.50, seniors (63+) and youth (3-13) $6.50. OMNIMAX theatre: separate admission charge, adults $8.50, seniors (63+) and youth (3-13) $6.50.

Public art

  • First Thursday of every month all art galleries in the Pearl district are free, and many serve wine and cheese. Pearl as the locals call it is a newly remodeled and redeveloped area across from downtown P-town. It was old warehouses just five years ago and now it is posh high rises and condos that have trendy shops and galleries at street level. A modern new city park sits in the middle that includes a boardwalk, grass, trees, waterfall which fills a pool every half hour or so. Little kids love the water on a hot day.
  • The bronze statue of a woman on 5th & Washington is titled Kvinneakt, created by sculptor Norm Taylor. But everyone knows it as the "Expose Yourself to Art" statue, after a popular poster featuring a flasher facing this work. The flasher was a tavern owner named Bud Clark, who went on to become mayor of the city.


  • Washington Park, SW Park Place (off Highway 26), 503-823-PLAY. sunrise-sunset, every day. Washington Park is a classic urban park. Sprawling over about 140 acres just west of downtown Portland, the park encompasses a Japanese Garden, the Oregon Zoo, the International Rose Test Garden (with beautiful views of Portland and Mount Hood), a Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and a Lewis and Clark Memorial. Free (some attractions charge admission).
  • Forest Park, (in the northwest of the city) is about 20 km2 (7.7 mi2), or 5000 acres. It is the US's largest urban park, and possibly the largest in the world. Many great hiking and biking trails to be found.
  • Play with the kids in the Salmon Street Fountain in the Waterfront Park
  • Portland Rose Festival. June 2-12, 2005. This award-winning festival, held in early June, is Portland's largest event. The Portland waterfront is turned into a carnival for a week as military ships moor alongside Waterfront Park. The world-famous Grand Floral Parade is on the 11th. This festival has decreased in size in recent years and now consists of a few naval vessels and a large fairground with the usual assortment of rides. In 2005, it no longer appeared to be charging admission for the whole festival week, (although had been earlier in the week.)
  • Chinese Classical Garden, NW 3rd & Everett. Tour recommended (12pm and 1pm) however an audio tour looks to be in the works. Don't go expecting peace and solitude. Large groups, traffic, helicopters (and on this wikitravellers visit a hendrix impersonator across the street!) contributed to a less than reverent atmosphere. If you are on a budget (time or financial) you can peek in through the ornate open windows and see much of the gardens content without paying admission. Students receive concessions. Guides can be recycled on leaving. Disembark Old Town/Chinatown on the MAX. If of interest see also Japanese Garden.
  • Oregon Zoo, 4001 SW Canyon Road, (503)226-1561. Everyday (except Dec. 25), 9AM-4PM (Sep 16 - Apr 14), 9AM - 6PM (Apr 15 - Sep 15). The Oregon Zoo is the largest zoo in Oregon, and is known for its elephant breeding program. Adults $9.50, seniors (65+) $8.00, children (3-11) $6.50.
  • Pittock Mansion
  • Portland and its suburbs supposedly have one of the highest concentrations of exotic dancer bars and adult bookstores in the country. See if you can count the number you see while you're in Portland.




  • Powell's City of Books, 1005 West Burnside, 503-228-4651. 9AM-11PM every day. Powell's is a landmark in Portland, and most residents are proud to let you know that this is the biggest independent bookstore in the entire world. Covering an entire city block, the store stocks over a million books in 3500 sections. And that's not counting the 5 other branches in Portland (travel bookstore at Pioneer Square, technical bookstore in the north Park Blocks, the airport bookstore, and...)! The store can be imposing (get a map from the front desk), but it's a don't-miss for anyone who loves to read.
  • Sellwood One word, Antique, if you love old vintage furnishings than you need to head towards Sellwood. Plus there are some great new restaurants that serve fancy Thai or Indian food without breaking the bank.
  • NW 23rd, north of Burnside. Mostly (not completely) yuppie junk, but one of the most densely populated shopping/eating districts in Portland.
  • Columbia Sportswear Company, 911 SW Broadway or 1323 SE Tacoma Street (outlet store, much cheaper prices). Columbia produces outdoor sports wear with an emphasis on cold and rainy weather clothing. You may need some sort of rain protection if visiting during the fall, winter or spring. Portlanders look upon umbrellas with mild disdain.
  • Hawthorne District, east side of the Willamette. Head shops, microbreweries, and craft stores.



  • New Seasons supermarket. They make the best sandwiches and have an awesome deli counter. You choose your bread, meat/tofu pate, veggies, and spreads. Quality that you've never seen before. Every one will love it. Five locations and more on the way, Concordia, Orenco Station, Raleigh Hills, Sellwood, and Seven Corners on SE division.
  • The downtown core is home to a small army of Food Trailers. With less overhead than the traditional indoor restaurant, you can pick up a delicious meal on the cheap. Choose from a wide variety of ethnic foods including Indian, Mexican, and hot dogs.
  • A staple in Seattle, Taco Del Mar serves up a 2 lb. burrito for around $5. The ingredients are fresh and the staff are mostly laid-back hipsters. Try the fish taco (their namesake). Various locations around the downtown area. Better, more authentic Mexican can be found scattered about the city.
  • The Delta at 46th & SE Woodstock Street. Southern food (chicken fried steak, jambalaya, grits, etc.) on the cheap. Reed College is nearby and, as such, The Delta is often populated by vaguely poor but very interesting people. The food is excellent and in large portions.


  • Great brunch at Henry's on SE 26th and Clinton.
  • Byways Cafe, 1212 NW Glisan St. A very '50s-style diner in the middle of the trendy Pearl District, with spectacular breakfast eating and enormous portions. Get a serious blast from the past, and enjoy the food too.
  • Excellent thin-crust pizza at Pizzicato or Hot Lips Pizza. At Pizzicato try the faux-Italian options, and at Hot Lips get any of the surprisingly good veggie pizza toppings like artichoke. Pizzicato is throughout the metro area; Hot Lips is at 1909 SW 6th Ave. downtown near Portland State University and in the Pearl District at 710 NW 10th Ave.
  • For New York-style pizza, it's hard to beat Escape from New York at 622 NW 23rd., and New York, NY at 7737 SW Barbur Blvd. uptown. The restaurants are shrines to New York, unlike their chain-restaurant counterpart, Pizza Schmizza, (also quite good and spread throughout Portland). Also worth checking out are Bella Faccia at 2934 NE Alberta St. and Pizza A Go-Go at 3420 N Williams Ave.
  • Kornblatt's Delicatessen at 628 NW 23rd Ave. serves up a mean corned beef sandwich, better than most of what you'll get on the West Coast, not to mention their famous bagels. Outside tables in the summertime add to the pleasure.
  • Portland is famous for its bread, and the bakery that started it all, Pearl Bakery, anchors the Pearl District. The bread is rightly acclaimed as the best in town, and you can eat in and get a variety of sandwiches or even excellent breakfast pastries. 102 NW 9th Ave., in the Pearl District.
  • Mio Sushi, near NW 23rd St., is a great and constantly crowded place to eat sushi. It's also pretty reasonably priced. The sushi is fresh and even when crowded the service is pretty quick. 2271 NW Johnson St.


  • Basta's Trattoria, at 410 NW 21st Ave., serves excellent Italian food in a rustic-style decor. The wine list is extensive, and the menu is long but not overwhelming. Try the ragout over rigatoni or the lamb.
  • Portofino Caffe Italiano is a very small restaurant with attentive service and solid northern Italian and French Riviera cuisine. 8075 SE 13th Ave., in Sellwood.
  • Pazzo Ristorante, downtown, has both an excellent location near several movie theaters and the shopping district and solid Italian-Pacific Northwest fusion cuisine. It gets quite crowded on Friday and Saturday nights, however, so be forewarned. 621 SW Washington St.
  • For a more bistro-like atmosphere Southpark Seafood Grill & Wine Bar is located in the southwest corner of the shopping district and near a few movie theaters and the main Portland Center for the Performing Arts facilities. The food is, again, excellent Mediterranean-Italian fare with a regional seafood twist. 901 SW Salmon St.
  • McCormick and Schmick's has now expanded across the U.S., but way back when it was just four (now five) Portland fresh-seafood restaurants. They still serve fresh seafood, too, and it's excellent almost any way they prepare it. Downtown at 235 SW First Ave. (McCormick and Schmick's Seafood Restaurant), 0309 SW Montgomery St. (McCormick and Schmick's Harborside at the Marina), 401 SW 12th Ave. (Jake's Famous Crawfish), 611 SW 10th Ave. (Jake's Grill), and in Beaverton at 9945 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy. (McCormick's Fish House and Bar).
  • El Gaucho, a chain with other restaurants in Seattle and Tacoma, serves what The Oregonian sometimes calls the best steak in town and has one of the darkest interiors in town. The steak and ambiance don't come cheaply, however, so be prepared. 319 SW Broadway Ave., downtown.
  • Ringside is El Gaucho's local competition, also an on-again, off-again champion of the Portland steak contest. It, too, is dark, but fully local and noisier. Expect to spend here as well. 2165 W Burnside, downtown.
  • For a more ethnic experience, Plainfields' Mayur is well-known for both good Subcontinental food and good overall experience, in a big house at the edge of the West Hills. 852 SW 21st Ave., near downtown.
  • If you like dessert, Papa Haydn is the place to go. Although the entrees aren't all that impressive, sometimes there are four different lemon desserts, not to mention a plethora of chocolates of every kind, on the menu. Either at 701 NW 23rd Ave., near downtown, or 5829 SE Milwaukie Ave., in Sellwood.


Take advantage of the Northwest's famous microbrews - small breweries that serve their own (and other's) craft beers. A world away from the generic beers that are the mainstay of America (comparable to 'real ales' in the UK).

  • Bagdad Theater and Pub, 3702 SE Hawthorne, 503-228-4651. 2:30-midnight every day (depending on feature). The Bagdad is one of the great things about Portland: a 700-seat second-run movie theater serving a selection of regional craft brews you can drink while you watch. Add on top of that a good selection of pizza (slice or pie), sandwiches, and other brew-pubby foodstuffs, and you've got a great place to blow an evening. Movies start around 5:30PM, and run about every two hours after that. $3 (admission; beer and food extra).
  • Likewise the Mission Theater (1624 NW Glisan) and Kennedy School Theater (5736 NE 33rd) are part of the McMenamins Empire.
  • The Delta Cafe on SE Woodstock, serves messy Barbecue Pork sandwiches, lemonade in a jar, mixed drinks and 40oz Mickey's.
  • Dots on SE Clinton and 26th, a funky night spot.
  • Coffee People, with locations throughout the city, is Portland's answer to Starbucks' empire, except the coffee is better. Try a Velvet Hammer if you need caffeine.
  • Silverado, Stark and 12th in SW. Gay bar, strippers. Always a fun crowd.
  • Rose and Raindrop, 532 SE Grand. A vaguely English-style pub. Very relaxed, many places to sit and accommodating of large (6-8 people) groups. A good selection of beers and food.
  • Horse Brass Pub, 4534 SE Belmont. Another English-style pub that also serves a range of English-style food.
  • Red and Black Cafe, 2138 SE Division. A Worker owned collective in SE.



  • Portland has two hostels. Hostelling International-Portland, Hawthorne District is located at 3031 SE Hawthorne Blvd. 503-236-3380 [1] Hostelling International-Portland, Northwest Neighborhood is located at 1818 NW Glisan St. 503-241-2783 [2]



  • Embassy Suites Portland Downtown is in the renovated Multnomah Hotel and boasts good location and nice decor for the money. 319 SW Pine St., 503-279-9000,


Portland is home to one of the largest community wireless networks based on the works of The Personal Telco Project. Check to find one of nearly 100 spots you can log onto the Internet free of any charge. Many major attractions such as Pioneer Square, PGE Park and many local parks are covered.

Stay safe

While not overly dangerous, you should still be cautious and keep your street smarts with you, especially if you're a young woman out at night. Old Town-Chinatown, North Portland (NoPo) and outer Southeast Portland can be bit sketchy. In general, though, coming from most other big American cities, Portland will feel about as dangerous as Mayberry.


As in other places in the Pacific Northwest, there is abundant rainfall in the autumn, winter, and spring. However, the rain is usually a fine mist or fog; total precipitation in Seattle and Portland can be less than other cities on the East Coast. Nonetheless, a sunny day in the rainy season can seem to be very rare. Bring or buy an umbrella if you're in Portland between September 25th and June 25th. Wear a rain jacket if you don't want to stand out so much as a tourist.



Portland has a pretty vibrant lesbian and gay community. Most of the gay bars are found either in Oldtown/Chinatown or along Stark Street around SW 12th, but Portland gays and lesbians aren't really cooped up in a ghetto like in most other cities. Try counting the number of rainbow flags or HRC stickers you see while you're in Portland.

Get out

Located just 50 miles from the Cascade Range and 90 miles from the Pacific Ocean, Portland is the perfect home base for day trips to Mount Hood, Mount St. Helens, the Columbia River Gorge, the northern part of the Oregon Coast, or the wineries in the Willamette Valley.

External links

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