As Oregon’s biggest city, Portland attracts visitors from all over the region. It’s easily reached from Seattle, making it an excellent place for a day trip. While Portland has enough attractions to keep you busy for multiple days, you can get a sense of what makes this city unique in a single day.
The city’s unofficial slogan is Keep Portland Weird, and the residents do their best to follow this mantra. Home of the Urban Iditarod, the 24 hour Church of Elvis, and the World Naked Bike Ride, Portland revels in the fact that it isn’t quite like any other city on earth.
Whatever you’re into, you’ll probably find it in Portland. But here are some of the most iconic destinations to check out in this strange place.
International Rose Test Garden
If you had a long drive to get to Portland, you might find yourself longing for some tranquil surroundings to take a breath and relax. If so, there are few places better to do this than Portland’s International Rose Test Garden.
Started in 1915, the Rose Garden was intended to be a haven for unique varieties of flowers endangered by the First World War. Currently, the garden is home to 10,000 rosebushes representing 650 different varieties. The Rose Garden is open to the public for tours, and it’s a perfect place to enjoy serene surroundings before plunging yourself into the city.
Sterling Coffee Roasters
Portland isn’t short of coffee shops. In fact, it even rivals neighboring Seattle for the quality and variety of its coffee houses. One of the premium places in the city to get a cup of Joe is at Sterling Coffee Roasters.
This iconic coffee shop is a favorite with both locals and visitors. Try their famous Blendo Stupendo, or sample Peruvian, Colombian, and Ethiopian beans. If you find some you like, you can buy a bag of coffee beans to take home with you. The store also sells branded merchandise to remember your visit.
Powell’s City of Books
If you love to read, you can’t miss a trip to this legendary bookstore. Spread across multiple floors, this is the world’s largest independent bookstore. If you can’t find something worth reading here, you’re not going to find it anywhere.
Powell’s sells both new and used books, and the knowledgeable staff can help you discover a new favorite. The store is also a hub for events such as book signings, readings, and other cultural highlights. The most challenging part of a visit to the store is not blowing your budget on the incredible selection they offer.
Rather than lugging your possessions around the crowded aisles of the bookstore, consider dropping them off with a luggage storage service in Portland first. That way, you’ll be able to browse more efficiently and have less to carry as you explore the city.
OMSI, more formally known as the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, is an extremely popular attraction for any day trip in Portland.
OMSI may be a museum, but the exhibits here are anything but dry. The museum exists to educate and inform through interactive exhibits that help you to really understand the science behind the world we live in. This makes a great place to visit with kids, but even adults are likely to both learn something and have a great time.
With a paleontology lab, a physics lab, a planetarium, and a range of traveling exhibits, you could easily spend hours wandering the halls of this attraction.
If you haven’t been to voodoo donuts, have you really been to Portland? A lot of locals would say no. This celebrated shop is an institution in the city, and about as Portland as it gets.
The popularity of Voodoo Donuts has led to four branches throughout the city, so it’s easy to find a location wherever you end up. The donuts are made fresh throughout the day, so you never really know what they’re going to have on hand at any given time.
But with donuts like the Grape Ape, the Bacon Maple Bar, and the Voodoo Doll, you can be confident your tastebuds will get to try something they’ve never had before. Voodoo Donuts epitomizes Portland’s weird and quirky vibe, and a donut or two can make a great appetizer before you start thinking about dinner.
Third Avenue Food Cart Pod
Portland doesn’t lack fancy restaurants. Establishments like Nomad PDX or The Observatory offer all the bells and whistles you could want. But if you’re looking for a dining experience that’s more quintessentially Portland, head down to Alder Street and get your food from a cart.
Thanks to their lower startup costs, food carts are often places where exciting new chefs get to try out culinary creations outside of the regimented environment of a restaurant. Food carts are perennially popular in Portland, and the city hosts over 60 of these unique businesses.
Food cart pods like the one on Third Avenue allow you to sample treats from a range of different carts and decide which you like the best. This is especially helpful if you’re traveling in a group because everyone can choose something different.
If the weather cooperates, there’s no better dining experience than sitting out under the sun and trying out the best of what Portland’s food scene has to offer. And like everything else in Portland, the food carts do their best to keep everything just a little bit weird. A little bit quirky. A little bit more interesting than you would find anywhere else.