Portland is a utopia for those who are different. Non-normal is the new normal. So when you plan a visit to Portland, you better be planning on seeing some weirdness. If you’re packing anything less than a unicorn suit and roller blades, you’re underprepared for Portland. When a city embraces its cultural oddities as powerfully as Portland has, you’re guaranteed to get some unusual neighborhoods. However, Portland’s strangeness does vary a bit from ‘hood to ‘hood. While every Portland neighborhood has valuable experiences available, it’s Downtown and the Pearl District that are the best destinations for tourists. If you run with a rowdy crowd, you can’t go wrong with a stay in the bustling Downtown suburb. If you run with a more relaxed crew, the Pearl District offers up plenty of low-key weirdness to appreciate. No matter which of these places you end up in, you’ll have a blast getting to know Rose City.
Defining Downtown Portland as a “neighborhood” is not entirely accurate. When one pictures a neighborhood, one sees rows of similar looking houses, each with a picket fence and a flower garden. Downtown is more of a metropolis, bursting with goods and services just waiting to be discovered by tourists. See the shops, eat the foods, and explore Downtown for all you’re worth; there’s something new and cool around every corner. Let’s dive into a few of Downtown’s best attractions…
Union Way Shopping Arcade
Union Way Shopping Arcade clearly prides itself on reflecting Portland life. Otherwise, why shove nine different shops into one small alley? Union Way doesn’t offer one thing – it offers everything. The shopping arcade is at once reminiscent of Paris streets, bazaars, and Scandinavian architecture. To get a real feel for this place, you’ll just have to visit it in person. If you dig a weird place like Union Way, and you want to keep Portland weird, that article should help keep you entertained.
Another Believer [CC BY-SA 3.0]
Portland Art Museum
With age comes beauty. This adage is certainly true of the Portland Art Museum, one of the ten oldest museums in America. Founded in the later part of the 19th century, the Portland Art Museum tackles all kinds of difficult subject matter. The Museum strives to “engage diverse communities through art and film of enduring quality, and to collect, preserve, and educate for the enrichment of present and future generations.” Interested in learning more about the Portland Art Museum and taking in some famous works of art? Sign up for a guided tour, free with the price of admission!
Q Restaurant and Bar
Finding tasty eats and delicious drinks is never going to be a problem in any Portland neighborhood. Between the city’s love for restaurants and its obsession with food trucks, a good bite is never far away. That said, in the heart of Downtown is the always impressive Q Restaurant and Bar. Considered one of the top Portland restaurants, Q is a chef-driven restaurant specializing in locally sourced hyper-seasonal food. This means that everything on the menu is sought out in the Pacific Northwest and served fresh to your table. Don’t forget to try their drinks menu too!
The Pearl District is often considered to be the pearl of Portland. This neighborhood hosts some of Oregon’s best chefs, beautiful parks, countless learning opportunities, and of course the nationally recognized Powell’s City of Books. If this is your first time in Rose City, there’s truly no better place to stay than the Portland Pearl District. Time to take a look at just a pinch of what the Pearl proffers to Portland visitors.
Portland Center Stage at The Armory
The largest theater in the city, Portland Center Stage at The Armory has earned itself a top spot in the list of popular Portland attractions. Distinguished directing and powerful performances, along with the sheer beauty of The Armory, keep over 160,000 people coming to see Portland Center Stage every year. Take some time to see what shows will be performed at The Armory during your stay in Portland – your favorite Broadway show might just be available!
Ian Poellet (User:Werewombat) [CC BY-SA 3.0]
Powell’s City of Books
Powell’s City of Books is without a doubt the most famous tourist destination in Portland, and for good reason. “City” isn’t much of an exaggeration for the largest bookstore in the world. As long as you can read, there’s something in Powell’s for you. From manga to World War II nonfiction, from children’s books to teen dramas, Powell’s has it all. Heck, even if you hate anything to do with reading, you can still have a good time at the Powell’s Cafe. Grab yourself an espresso and wait for all the nerds to finish up their shopping!
Michael Barera [CC BY-SA 4.0]
Remember that Portland has lots of other great neighborhoods as well. Although a stay in Downtown or the Pearl District is what we most highly recommend, that doesn’t mean you should stay away from the other parts of Portland. Set up shop in the Pearl and then go explore the rest of Rose City! In a place like Portland, half the fun can come from the surprises you encounter unexpectedly.