Photo: Josemaria Toscano/Shutterstock

What to Do and See on a First Visit to Portland

Oregon Portland Insider Guides
by Henry Miller Mar 28, 2017

Portland’s sudden celebrity may seem to come out of nowhere (or as a direct result of a cutesy indie sketch show), but the folks who grew up here have always known that is one of the best little cities in America. It could be the chillness, could be nature, could be the booze that locals have cleverly dressed up as a cultural amenity, but Portland has an I-don’t-speak-French about it that just keeps drawing shitloads of people.

Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.

Sauvie Island

The prime summer destination for summer fun just outside city limits. Good for berry picking, apple picking, hay mazes, pumpkin patches, and nude sunbathing by the river at Collin’s Beach.

 Sauvie IslandPortland, United StatesSummer/fall playground for locals. Sandy river beaches, hay rides, pumpkin patches, berry patches and pear picking with the chance to see stellar sunsets over skyline ridge. #outdoors #nature #farm #river #beach #fruit #veggies #summervibes #bargins

Crystal Ballroom

 McMenamins Crystal BallroomPortland, United StatesEverybody went to the Crystal for their first show, even if it was just to jump on the spring loaded wood floor. Turns out, it’s just as fun as a grown up #music #dance #party #livemusic #historic #livemusic #downtown #food #club #cover-charge

Growing up it was hard for a Portlander to imagine a cooler venue than the Crystal. Not only does it open its doors to minors so kids can get to see the best visiting acts in town up close, its wooden dance floor is spring-loaded. Jumping around to indie rock in a century-old building never felt so freeing.

Lloyd Center Ice Skating

Look, nobody relishes going into Lloyd center, but being the biggest mall in the state comes with a quality of people watching that you just can’t get anywhere else, and the fake snow makes the ice rink a unique holiday experience in the city. Or is it the shoe-gaze teens throwing up orange soda at the back of the Regal Cinemas theaters?

Dan And Louis Oyster Bar

Una publicación compartida de Tabitha (@tabasauras) el

One of the mainstays of the old Ankeny Alley, which is also home to the original Voodoo Donuts and Kit Kat Club. What makes the old oyster bar stand out, apart from the original décor that makes the dining room look like the hull of a fishing ship, is that it is one of the few places where visitors can see an entrance to the famous Shanghai Tunnels up close.

 Dan & Louis Oyster BarPortland, United StatesOne of the last and best old oyster bars in town. Spectacular for a quick oyster shot and a peek into one of the original #shanghaitunnels #oysters #pub #history #food #open-late #cheap-eats

Blazer Game/Timbers Game

Although it is often left out in our new reputation, Portland is a true sports town, and nothing proves that more than the raucous home games at Providence Park and the Rose Garden. Be sure to get a seat near the Timbers Army for a Portland/Seattle game.

Oregon Historical Society

Sacagawea? Lewis and Clark? The Chinook? Marie Equi? The OHS is the place where all Portland kids go to learn about the history of their home state (partially because all Multnomah County residents get in for free). Still, $11 bucks for an adult ticket isn’t bad considering how much you can learn about The Beaver State in a single afternoon.

Waterfront Esplanade

 Eastbank EsplanadePortland, United StatesOne of Portland’s biggest quality-of-life successes is also one of the best ways to enjoy the Willamette River- the heart of Portland. Good for kids, especially if you rent the frilly quad bikes at the end of Salmon Street #hiking #playground #biking #waterfront #touristspots #parks

One of Portland’s biggest quality-of-life successes is also one of the best ways to enjoy the Willamette River- the heart of Portland. Good for kids, especially if you rent the frilly quad-bikes at the end of Salmon Street.

Oaks Amusement Park

Una publicación compartida de Sasha Anderson (@wanderbilly) el

A local classic, this park showcases all the rides and games of Americana lore. Prices starting at $15.75 will get you on things like the teacup ride and a session at the old wooden roller rink. Pay $31.25 and you get unlimited access to the Screamin’ Eagle, Go Carts, Mini-Golf and the open picnic grounds by the river.

Washington Park

 Oregon ZooPortland, United StatesOne of the best in the Nw. Hosts an immense variety of animals- from polar bears to orangutans. Of zoos aren’t your thing, the free Hoyt Arboretum is nearby and full of fantastic day hikes #zoo #animals #nature #polarbear #arboretum #kidslearning #hiking #funforteens

Not only does this park have top-of-the-line views of the city and miles of foot and bike paths, it is also has International Rose Test Gardens, Portland Japanese Gardens, the Hoyt Arboretum, Oregon Zoo, the Children’s Museum, World Forestry Center Discovery Museum, the Zoo Train, an outdoor amphitheater and an archery range.


McMenamins St. Johns Theater & Pub

 McMenamins St. Johns Theater & PubPortland, United StatesOne of the top #mcmenamins in town. Historic venue with a quirky theater in an old Lewis and Clark Exposition building. Good for pub food, better for bumping into locals. #pub #beer #food #history #independent #theatre #movies #decor #cheap-eats #open-late

There are few images as symbolic of the Rose City as St. John’s bridges with Forest Park rising behind it, and no better place than to see it than from Cathedral Park. While you are in the neighborhood, check out the pub to see the last structure remaining from Oregon’s name-making 1905 Lewis And Clark Exposition.

Portland Swifts

If you are here at the beginning of autumn, thousands of Vaux’s Swifts descend upon the Chapman Elementary School to nest in its unused chimney on their way south for the winter. The helices created by the mass of swirling birds are a sight to behold and draw thousands of locals to watch from a nearby grassy hill every year.

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Gardens

 Crystal Springs Rhododendron GardenPortland, United StatesThe ultimate springtime destination. Cascading waterfalls and fountains lend ambience to some of the brightest natural colors I have ever seen. Top notch. #nature #gardens #springcolor #rhododendron #beauty #meditation #beauty #cityparks

The perfect spring appetizer for the summer’s Rose Garden entree. This botanical garden is loaded with more than 2,500 rhododendrons, azaleas and other plants that begin to “light” up with color at the end of every winter. Thanks to a variety of pools and fountains, this is a fantastic spot to meditate in the middle of a city.

Mt Tabor

 Mount TaborPortland, United StatesBest park on the east side of town and the best spot for a view of the city skyline. Great for summer picnics and morning jogs #hiking #picnic #cityscape #outdoor #park

The East Side’s most illustrious park and best spot for a full view of the city skyline, also just so happens to be a baby dormant volcano. An amphitheater, stone mason reservoirs and statues of locals add spectacle to the park’s series of hiking and biking trails.

Portland Streetcar A or B loop

Lots of folks know Portland as a streetcar city (locals are rightfully proud to have just finished the first pedestrian-bike-streetcar bridge in the modern era), and these two lines are the most fun of the bunch. Not only will you get to go over the Tillicum Crossing, but you will also pass through some of downtown’s best shopping and architectural districts, as well as the core neighborhood of the East Side’s nightlife.

OMSI After Dark

 OMSIPortland, United StatesThe coolest science museum in the state (with its own submarine!). Kids love the planetarium, adults go crazy for OMSI After Dark #science #interactive #museum #planetarium #kidslearning

Nothing beats drinking beer at a science museum. Although After Dark only happens on the last Wednesday of every month, it is a highly anticipated event for local adults who are stoked to play with the logic puzzles, ride the earthquake machine, and trip out in the planetarium without their kids ruining it for them.

Discover Matador

Save Bookmark

We use cookies for analytics tracking and advertising from our partners.

For more information read our privacy policy.