One of the best ways to occupy some of your leisure time while on vacation is to go shopping. In fact, shopping is one of the main draws to some popular tourist destinations. While it can be a chore to do at home, shopping in new and exotic locations can make an otherwise mundane chore fun again. Besides being able to purchase unique items not available in your local area, you can sometimes find extraordinary deals on just about anything from clothes to food to furniture and antiques.
Portland is the most populated city in the state of Oregon, with just over 2 million people calling the city home. Portland has been known for many years as the City of Roses, due to its number of rose gardens. It’s also known for its breweries, food cards and for being one of the most environmentally friendly cities in the world.
There are many reasons that tourists return to Portland year after year. Some of them being the many festivals and music venues that go on annually in the city. Another big draw for Portland is its tax free shopping. That’s right – there is NO sales tax in the city of Portland so you can shop to your heart’s content – tax free! Shopping isn’t the only thing there is to do in Portland. We’re going to show you the ten best things to do the next time you’re in town.
1. Taste test some of Portland’s finest beer – Various parts of the city
There are a number of breweries in the city that offer tours and tastings daily. This is a great chance to experience different kinds of brews that aren’t available to you otherwise and maybe buy some to take home with you or to give as gifts. Finding a brewery that offers tours and tastings won’t be a problem. However, you will have to contact each one individually to find out their schedules, fees and other pertinent information before you go.
2. Visit a monthly Art Gallery Walk – Old Town, Pearl District
If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in Portland on the first Thursday of the month, a stroll through the monthly Art Gallery Walks is a must-do. That’s when all the local shops stay open late and invite shoppers to meet and greet with local artists, whose work is on display and for sale. It’s a great time to be had by all, with lots of street vendors, performers, sidewalk artists, food, wine and other assorted entertainment and exhibits.
3. Tiptoe through the roses – International Rose Test Garden, 850 SW Rose Garden Way
The International Rose Test Garden got its start when the wife of a local pioneer invited her friends to display their best roses in her garden in 1888. Today, it’s home to 10,000 rose plantings in 500 different variety and serves as one of the 24 testing grounds for new varieties of roses by the All-America Rose Selections (AARS), which is dedicated to cultivating and promoting only the best of the best in roses. They are open daily from 7:30am until 9:00pm, with the exception of December 23 – March 12, when they close for the winter season. Admission is free.
4. Sing the blues – Waterfront Blues Festival, Portland’s waterfront
If July finds you in Portland, don’t miss the chance to attend the annual Waterfront Blues Festival. It began as a local effort to help the homeless and raise money for the local food bank in 1987 and has since evolved into one of the country’s premier blues festivals. Portland’s Waterfront Blues Festival has received many awards and accolades over the year, including being named one of the Top 10 USA Festivals by Essentials Travel Magazine in 2011 as well as one of the Top 10 Outdoor Festivals in 2009 by Outside Magazine.
5. Stroll through the City of Books – Powell’s City of Books, 1005 W Burnside
Powell’s City of Books is the largest new and used bookstore in the world. Their collection of reading materials contains more than one million titles sorted into 3,500 categories that span nine color-coded rooms and the store encompasses a full city block of space. Thousands of people visit their store daily, with some coming to buy while others just coming to have some coffee and sit for a bit. They host many events each month that feature authors and other artists that are free and open to the public. Powell’s City of Books is open daily from 9am until 11pm, with holiday hours varying.
6. Shop the Saturday Market – Old Town, Chinatown districts
Each Saturday (and Sunday, too) during its peak season, you can find this open air market thriving with hundreds of vendors selling their unique and crafty creations. You can mingle with the artists and the locals, perusing everything from fine art to jewelry to handicrafts. This is a great opportunity to take home something that’s one of a kind and truly Portland as a souvenir of your trip. The Saturday Market is open on weekends from 9am until 6pm March through December.
7. Visit the Dark Side and have a doughnut – Voodoo Doughnuts, (two locations) 22 SW 3rd, 1501 NE Davis Street
You’ve never seen doughnuts like these before. Try the Maple Bacon Bar – topped with maple frosting and REAL bacon. The Dirt Doughnut and the original Voodoo Doll doughnut are classic favorites, too. Hey, try them all and then buy some to bring home. Voodoo Doughnuts is open 24 hours every day – except major holidays – and is completely different than any doughnut shop you’re used to.
8. Find solitude in The Grotto – 8840 NE Skidmore Street
The Grotto is a 62 acre Catholic shrine. It has many gardens, statues and sculptures – including a life-size marble replica of Michelangelo’s Pietà carved into the base of a 110 foot cliff. The Grotto covers three levels and houses a monastery on the top tier. There is always something in bloom in The Grotto and is has become known as a sanctuary of peace among locals. It’s open daily from 9am until 5pm, except for major holidays. Admission is free.
9. Take a cruise – Portland Waterfront, Portland Spirit Cruise
Seeing the city sights by boat is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon or evening. The cruise lasts two hours and includes either lunch or dinner. Prices for the lunch cruise are $44 for adults and $23 for kids. Prices for the dinner cruise are $75 for adults and $72 for kids. Portland Spirit Cruise is open daily and reservations are recommended.
10. Grab a bite to eat from a food cart – Various points around the city
Portland is known for its food carts and there’s no better way to experience Portland like a local than to partake in some local fare. You’ll find all kinds of cuisine in these street side vendors – from tried and true American favorites to exotic cuisine. Hours, locations, prices and menus will vary, but finding the ones you like is part of the fun.
As you can see, there’s no shortage of things to do in Portland. This guide is just a sample itenerary and doesn’t even scratch the surface of the expansive list of activities in the city. To get the most out of your visit, pay attention to local activity calendars to see which events are going on during your visit to Portland. Some events happen just once a year so if you’re there, you should definitely experience those in lieu of attractions you can see any time.