Planning a solo trip to Portland, Oregon? Here’s everything you need to know for your visit:
- Oregon’s most populous city, Portland has more than 650,000 residents.
- Known for its liberal atmosphere, and natural beauty of its surroundings.
- The unofficial capital of hipsterdom thanks to the TV show Portlandia.
- Has one of the best mass transit systems in the United States.
- Nicknames: PDX, City of Roses, Beervana, Microbrewery Capital of the World, America’s Bike Capital, America’s Greenest City
- Currency: U.S. Dollar (USD)
- Spoken languages: English.
- Best time to visit: Summer is the peak season (many festivals take place at this time), while winters in Portland can be gloomy. If you don’t mind the slightly chillier weather, visit in November or May.
- Arriving via airport: The Portland International Airport is located about 30 minutes from town, reachable by taxi for about $30-35. The MAX Light Rail red line will take you there for $2.50 and operates until midnight.
WHERE TO STAY
- A handful of budget hostels (with private rooms) can be found around downtown, with some cheap accommodations in the form of motels located further out.
- Stylish boutique hotels and five-star options can be found throughout downtown too, while mid-range hotels are generally centered around the airport.
- The city is wonderful to see on foot, in fact, brass water fountains can be found throughout.
- It’s almost obligatory to ride a bike in Portland, so don’t shy away from this activity. Bike lanes are easily marked and there are tons of neighborhood rides to join during your stay.
- The MAX Light Rail Line is convenient and clean. Fares are $2.50 for one trip at $5.00 for an all-day pass.
- The Portland Streetcar operates 3 different lines and runs about every 15 minutes.
- Instead of taxis, consider taking an Uber or Lyft (it’s often faster and cheaper).
- A vintage trolley service runs on Sundays for free.
- Drinking age is 21, and last call is at 2 AM (state law prohibits serving alcohol after 2:30 AM).
- As the “Microbrewery Capital of the World,” Portland likes its beer. 58 microbreweries operate in PDX, more than in any other city in the world. Many bars in Southeast serve beers from local breweries.
- Much of the city’s nightlife centers around the Pearl District, where you can find anything from flashy clubs and gay bars to indie rock brewpubs and jazz halls.
- Some great old school bars to stop at in Portland: Horse Brass Pub, CLAUDIA’S Sports Pub and Grill, Kelly’s Olympian (live music), Slim’s Restaurant & Lounge.
- Looking for a classy cocktail bar? Head to Driftwood Room.
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
- The Japanese Garden in the West Hills of Portland has 5 collections on 5.5 acres of perfectly-manicured land.
- Powell’s City of Books is the flagship shop for the largest independent chain of bookstores in the world. It takes up one full city block and requires a map to find your way around.
- The International Rose Test Garden was born in 1917 to preserve European roses that might have been destroyed by bombings during WWI. What results has to be the most impressive rose garden in the world. June is the best time to go, and you can see Mt. Hood from the top on clear days.
- For something completely different, head to Voodoo Doughnut in Southwest and have the wackiest food experience of your life. Some varieties include Nyquil, Pepto-Bismol and bacon toppings.
- Stroll through the Portland Saturday Market (which also operates on Sundays), the largest continuously operated outdoor market in the U.S. Open from March to December.
- A former warehouse district, The Pearl is now an upscale neighborhood full of wine bars, art galleries, and condos. Gallery walks run every first Thursday of the month.
- Head to Distillery Row in the Lower Eastside Industrial District for tastings of unique spirits from five local distilleries. Try potato vodka, marionberry whiskey, fruit brandies or spiced coffee rum. Open Friday through Sunday, with tours at the top of every hour.
- Take a self-guided Food Cart tour in one of the many ‘pods’ (collection of food carts set up on lots) around town. Expect locavore ingredients, plenty of vegan options, and a range of internationally-influenced carts by entrepreneurial expats and immigrants (poutine, khao man gai, goulash, etc.)
- Portland is all about eating, drinking and listening to music. If you could do all this on a bike, you’re practically a local. Jazz, blues, folk, punk and indie rock are big here, so be sure to check out a show at the McMenamins Crystal Ballroom, Rontoms (pub) or McMenamins Edgefield, a giant outdoor venue in nearby Troutdale (to the east).
- Great restaurants in Portland that locals love: Malka, Eem – Thai BBQ, Toki Restaurant (Korean), Gracie’s ($$$), Hat Yai (Thai), Canard ($$$ – French), Boxcar Pizza (vegan).
- Where to find good cheap eats: the food cart pods at SE 12th and Hawthorne and SW Alder between 9th and 11th streets serve a mind-boggling range of fare on the cheap. Great cheap restaurants include Phở Hùng (Viet), Stretch The Noodle (Chinese), and Enat Kitchen Restaurant (Ethiopian).
- Dangerous areas: the city is generally safe. 82nd Avenue, Sandy Blvd., and parts of Old Town can see some sketchy types at night. If in doubt, stick to well-lit crowded areas and don’t flash your cash.
Recommended trip duration: 1-2 days