12 Fun Things to Do in and around Portland

by Paul Joseph  |  Published March 31, 2023

Oregon’s largest city, picturesque Portland offers visitors a wealth of fun-packed attractions and activities to enjoy.

A dinosaur skeleton at Oregon Museum Of Science And Industry (Photo: Oregon Museum Of Science And Industry)

Encircled by a full gamut of eye-catching natural beauty, including snow-capped mountains, abundant forests, and idyllic beaches, much of the city’s magic lies in its sheer diversity. And this is as much true of the individuality and creativity that runs free here as the physical landscape itself. If you’re planning a trip to Portland, we’ve put together a list of some fun and amazing ways in which to spend your time.

Spend the day at a world-class museum

Encompassing eight laboratories, five halls and an endless array of interactive, hands-on exhibits, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry is rightfully considered one of Oregon’s most prestigious cultural institutions and educational centres. Covering topics such as technology, paleontology, physics, the ocean,  outer space, and reproduction, a visit here makes for a fabulous day out for families, helping to spark kids’ imaginations when it comes to complex concepts of science and innovation. There’s also an IMAX theatre and a planetarium that add to the immersive experience.

1945 Southeast Water Avenue / Tues-Sun 9.30am-5.30pm

Enjoy a river lunch cruise 

Portland is a sight to behold from any vantage point, but in particular from the water. This 2-hour boat cruise and lunch excursion invites visitors to admire the city’s distinctive downtown skyline while gently traversing the Willamette River. After boarding your vessel dockside, you’ll be escorted to a private table for a leisurely lunch. After you’ve eaten, you’ll have the chance to venture out onto the observation deck to admire the views with the wind in your hair. Along the way, you’ll learn more about the landmarks and places of interest that you pass courtesy of historical audio narration.

Book at GetYourGuide

A tourist boat cruises along the Willamette River (Photo: Portland Spirit Cruises / Courtesy GetYourGuide)

Head to a park

In a city with no shortage of vast green public spaces, Washington Park stands out from the crowd. Drawing huge numbers of tourists and locals alike who come to escape the hubbub of its urban surroundings, the park is jam-packed with activities and attractions across its 410 acres. There are museums, zoos,  playgrounds and even an archery range, all surrounded by fountains, flowers and other scenery, making it the perfect place to either relax and unwind or be as active as you please.

4033 SW Canyon Road / Mon-Sun 5am-10pm

Attend a fun-packed festival

Thanks in large part to Oregon’s climate that is so conducive to their growth, Portland is widely known as the “City of Roses”. Each year the city celebrates this geographical quirk at the captivating Portland Rose Festival, featuring fireworks, dragon boat races, parades and plenty more. Among the event’s main highlights is the Grand Floral Parade, which delights crowds with around 20 meticulously decorated floats, marching bands, equestrian units, vintage vehicles and colourful dancers.

Venues across Portland / June each year 

A lady on horseback at a Portland Rose Festival parade (Photo: April L. Sanders via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Check out the world’s largest book shop

A book store isn’t an obvious candidate to make a list of fun things to do in a city – but Powell’s City of Books isn’t just any ordinary book store. Opened in 1971, this vast emporium takes up an entire block of the city’s West Burnside and lays claim to being the biggest used and new bookshop anywhere in the world, housing more than one million books across three floors of retail space. On one of the upper floors is a Rare Book Room dotted with antiques and artwork and featuring an assortment of signed first editions. The store also hosts regular author visits as well as behind-the-scenes tours on Sundays.

1005 West Burnside Street / Mon-Sun 10am-9pm

Inside Powell’s City of Books (Photo: ocean yamaha via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Join a wine tour

Less than an hour’s drive south of Portland is Willamette Valley, Oregon’s most famous wine region, where Pinot Noir, Rose, Chardonnay and other varietals are produced. Visitors can immerse themselves in the region’s verdant wine-making landscape on this full-day wine tour. After morning collection from your Portland accommodation, you and your small group will depart by road for the valley, where you’ll visit several select wineries, explore the grounds and learn about the wine production process. Later, you’ll stop for a gourmet lunch at an acclaimed local market before drop-off back in Portland late afternoon.

Book at Viator

Get up close to a magical waterfall

A 30-minute drive east of Portland, the Multnomah Falls are among the region’s most impressive natural attractions. Stretching a remarkable 620 feet high, the cascading falls flow throughout the year and can be visited by climbing the Benson Bridge, which leads you to two superb viewing points – one offering a close up look and another at the peak which lets you peer down over the falls and the Columbia River Gorge. At the bottom of the falls, there’s an eatery and a gift shop.

Columbia River Gorge

The sublime Multnomah Falls (Photo: John Fowler via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Explore the city by bike 

The unusual bridges, charming neighbourhoods, evocative poetry, and gorgeous roses that characterise Portland can all be explored on this 3-hour bike tour. Accompanied by an expert guide, you’ll navigate the city by bicycle, covering up to 11 miles and passing some of the city’s most picturesque and interesting spots along the way. Highlights include crossing a river via a bike-friendly bridge, riding past beautiful art pieces, and stopping at a local donut store for a much-needed sugar hit.

Book at Viator

Pick up some produce at a  farmers market

Hosted at the campus of Portland State University every Saturday, Portland Farmers Market sees vendors assemble to sell a huge variety of fresh and locally-made produce, with everything from baked goods, eggs and craft chocolate to grass-fed meats, cheese, charcuterie and seasonal fruits on offer. But more than a chance to pick up some local food stuffs, the market lets visitors really delve under Portland’s skin and take in the sights, sounds, smells and  chatter that exemplify the city.

 Portland State University campus / Saturdays 8.30am-2pm

A typically busy day at Portland Farmers Market (Photo: Mack Male via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Delve underground to traverse a historic network of tunnels

One of Portland’s most unique attractions, the Shanghai Tunnels are a group of underground passages that date back to the mid-19th century, a time when the city was considered a particularly dangerous place, with all manner of illicit activities rife. During this time, the tunnels were built to connect the docks of the Willamette River to basements of hotels and bars, where goods could be kept safe from both the elements, the busy traffic above, and, legend has it, the nefarious characters keen to get their hands on them. Today, visitors can explore the tunnels for themselves by joining guided ghost, heritage and cultural tours.

120 Northwest 3rd Avenue / Mon-Thurs 11am-9.30pm Fri-Sat 11am-10pm Sun 11am-6.30pm

Sample the local beer scene

Portland has a thriving beer brewing scene and one of the best ways to discover it for yourself is by booking onto a fully guided brewery tour. Run by City Brew Tours, patrons will visit a renowned local brewery by bus where they’ll get to learn about producing beer, see the brewing process behind the scene, sip on a hand-picked selection of craft beer, snack on tasty food samples, play trivia and – if they’re really lucky – achieve the state of beer-born elation dubbed “brewvana”.

Book at Groupon

Guests raise a toast during a Portland brewery tour Photo: City Brew Tours Portland)

Discover the city’s best donuts 

Combine sightseeing around Portland with trying some of the best sweet treats the city has to offer on this tantalising two-hour donut tour. Over the course of the tour, you and your group will be shown around Portland by an expert guide, stopping off at some of the city’s most famous sights such as Pioneer Square, Chinatown, and the PSU Campus. You’ll also visit a total of four donut shops – including the legendary Voodoo Doughnuts – to sample some sugar-laden fried doughy delights and celebrate all things donut with like-minded, sweet-toothed aficionados.

Book at GetYourGuide