Portland, Oregon, known as the City of Roses, is also known for its beauty, lush climate, and friendly people. Surrounded by tall trees, snow-capped mountains, green fields, gently flowing rivers, and bountiful flower gardens, Portland has drawn people to it for centuries.
The Portland metropolitan area is located at the North end of the Willamette Valley where the Columbia and Willamette Rivers meet. It is about 65 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean on the Oregon-Washington State border and is nestled between the Cascade mountain range to the east and the Coast Range to the west. On a clear day no fewer than four Cascade volcanoes are visible: Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Rainier.
The list of activities in and around Portland both cultural and recreational is quite large.
Portland is home to one of the largest City parks in the nation: Forest Park. Located near Forest Park in the West Hills of Portland, the Oregon Zoo encourages visitors to understand and experience the natural world and our place in it. The zoo’s 64 acres are home to animals from all corners of the world including Asian elephants, Peruvian penguins and African rhinos. One of Portland’s best family attractions located in SE Portland, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) offers a variety of interactive science displays in six exhibit areas and includes an OMNIMAX Theater, Murdock Planetarium and the U.S.S. Blueback submarine.
Just a few miles east of Portland is the breathtakingly beautiful Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The Columbia River Scenic Highway, often running parallel to Interstate 84, provides access to the river beaches, waterfalls, trails and stunning viewpoints in this compact scenic area. The most impressive of the falls and perhaps the most viewed sight in the state is the 620-foot Multnomah Falls . On Mt. Hood, also east of Portland, is Timberline Lodge, a Works Progress Administration project built during the Depression. Timberline Lodge is a National Historic Landmark that serves one of the mountain’s five ski areas and offers the only lift-serviced summer skiing in the United States.
Less than 80 miles west of Portland is the Pacific Ocean. With 326 miles of public ocean beaches, the magnificent Oregon coast is a major year-round attraction. From art-center towns to wide-open beaches, the northern Oregon coast offers limitless activities. Rated one of the top 10 aquariums in the nation by Parade magazine, the Oregon Coast Aquarium, located in Newport, showcases more than 10,000 marine creatures. Outdoors are six acres of high cliffs, caves and rocky pools. Indoors can be found the largest jellyfish collection in the world. Within a short drive of Portland are dozens of small, internationally acclaimed wineries, picturesque farmland in the Willamette and Tualatin Valleys, a historic six-vehicle ferry, and acres of orchards and flower fields and more.
The metropolitan area has more than 37,000 acres of parks owned and operated by more than 25 government agencies. Recreational opportunities are limitless. Playing fields are available for soccer, volley ball, baseball and football. Tennis courts, swimming pools, gardens, picnic grounds, jogging paths, golf courses and river beaches offer endless opportunities for the outdoor enthusiast. Many of the city and state park facilities offer tours, field trips and other activities. The area also offers camping, hunting, fishing, mountain climbing, sail boarding, water and snow skiing, hiking, rock climbing, white water rafting, bicycling touring and more.
Approximately 5,090 acres acquired in 1947, the Forest Park Neighborhood/Natural Habitat includes hiking, bicycling, and equestrian trails (part of the 40-Mile Loop).
In 1803, William Clark (of Lewis and Clark fame) paddled far enough up the Willamette River to see Forest Park’s present location. He described this forest as having Douglas Fir as its predominant tree, with trunks ranging from five to eight feet in diameter. Even in the 1800s, when downtown Portland consisted of just a handful of blocks, the hills west of Portland were noticed for their recreation potential. The Olmsted Brothers, an architectural landscape firm from Brookline, Massachusetts, submitted in its comprehensive plan for Portland’s parks, “… no use to which the land could be put would begin to be as sensible or as profitable to the city as that of making it a public park or reservation…” Forest Park is located along the eastern slope of Portland’s northwest hills, which Native Americans called the Tualatin Mountains. The roads crossing the park were old trails built for farmers to bring their wheat to the river for shipping. In the 1940s, citizens began taking an active interest in seeing the Olmsted Plan come to fruition. In 1946, after overcoming rumors of oil existing in the hillside of what is now Forest Park, a public meeting was held to discuss the project. In 1948, Forest Park became a reality. Over 110 different species of birds and 50 different species of mammals have been seen in Forest Park. Within Forest Park are seven other parks, but Forest Park as a whole is the largest wilderness park within city limits in the United States.
Explore a world of trees at Hoyt Arboretum . Perched on the ridge overlooking the Oregon Zoo, this 175-acre arboretum displays more than 900 species of trees and shrubs, including one of the nation’s largest conifer collections. Ten miles of gentle trails wind through this living exhibit past hundreds of plants from distant places.
Portland’s Rose Gardens
Portland Parks & Recreation is the proud steward of three acclaimed rose gardens. As the ‘City of Roses,’ we take this job very seriously. Each garden is different from the other with an essence all its own. Take a leisurely stroll, have a picnic, bring your camera! Time spent in the Portland Rose Gardens is indeed a pleasurable experience!
International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park Portland is home to one of the world’s most famous rose gardens, the International Rose Test Garden . Each year hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world visit this garden. This popular tourist site with spectacular views and more than 8,000 roses, is one of Portland’s most notable signature landmarks.
Also located in Washington Park. Once the site of the Washington Park Zoo, this spot is perhaps one of the most tranquil in all of Portland. The Japanese Garden , proclaimed one of the most authentic outside of Japan, is situated just above the International Rose Test Garden. The Garden was founded as a nonprofit organization in 1962. Designed in 1963 by Professor Takuma Tono, an internationally renowned authority on Japanese garden landscaping, the Garden opened to the public in 1967 as a place of serene beauty. Also, in 1963, Yokohama City’s mayor presented Portland and the Japanese Garden with a peace lantern to commemorate the first landing of a ship on the West Coast after World War II. In 2002, the Garden changed its logo to the Peace Lantern as part of its 40th anniversary celebration. The Garden is composed of five separate garden styles: the Flat Garden (Hiraniwa), the Strolling Pond Garden (Chisen-kaiyui-shiki), the Tea Garden (Roji-niwa), the Natural Garden (Shukeiyen), and the Dry Landscape Garden (Karesansui). There is also a Pavilion which houses events and exhibits.
Lan Su Chinese Garden
Created to nurture and inspire all who visit, the Lan Su Chinese Garden is little changed from what might have greeted you during the Ming dynasty in China. Portland’s is an authentic Suzhou-style garden. It grew out of a friendship between Portland and Suzhou, a city renowned for its exquisite gardens. This walled Garden encloses a full city block. Serpentine walkways, a bridged lake, and open colonnades set off meticulously arranged landscape of plants, water, stone, poetry, and buildings. Architects and artisans from China who designed and constructed the Garden mean for each aspect of the Garden to convey artistic effect and symbolic importance. The design embodies the duality of nature, yin and yang. When these are balanced, harmony results. The delicate balance in the Garden affects all your senses. Hear the sound of water dripping from the crescent-shaped tiles onto a banana leaf; enjoy the fragrance of jasmine or wintersweet; feel the sensation of each footstep on the mosaic stone paths. The Garden unfolds a changing look by season. Each one as lovely as the last. It is home to hundreds or rare and unusual plants, nearly 100 specimen trees, water plants, bamboo and orchids. Taihu rocks symbolize high mountain peaks and frame a waterfall. Nine pavilions offer places to rest and contemplate. Couplets of poetry speak to the interplay with nature.The yin and yang of the Garden take you to another place and time. Location: The Garden is located between NW 2nd and 3rd and NW Everett and Flanders in Old Town/Chinatown.
The Eastbank Esplanade provides visitors with a unique and distinctively urban experience. Tucked between Interstate 5 and the Willamette River, the Esplanade is 1.5 miles long, extending from the Hawthorne Bridge to the Steel Bridge with connections to eastside neighborhoods as well as across the river. Primarily a pedestrian/bicycle corridor, it offers unparalleled views of downtown Portland and leaves visitors with a whole new perspective of the river and the eastside.
The Portland metropolitan area is truly a shopper’s paradise. The vital downtown area serves as the hub of retailing with major shopping centers conveniently located throughout the area. In addition, there are numerous smaller shopping areas and community malls located close to most neighborhoods. Downtown Portland includes Pioneer Place, a modern enclosed shopping center. Two of the region’s major department stores – Meier & Frank and Nordstrom – are located nearby. Further west is The Galleria, a remodeled department store which houses dozens of specialty shops.
Portland Saturday Market is the largest weekend open-air crafts market in the nation that operates Saturday and Sunday from March through Christmas. Just across the river from downtown Portland is Lloyd Center, a Pacific Northwest landmark for nearly 40 years. Originally opened in 1960, it was then the nation’s largest urban shopping center. With more than 175 specialty shops and four major department store anchors Lloyd Center’s amenities include a food court, an ice pavilion, an eight-screen cinema and parking for about 7,500 cars.
Portland is known as the city of festivals; during the summer months one can almost always find some event around the region to entertain the whole family. Downtown Portland’s Tom McCall Waterfront Park is the site of many of these celebrations.
The Portland Rose Festival , now in its 94th year, is Portland’s most famous festival. Held each year in June, it spans 25 days and features more than 70 events. The Festival’s cornerstone event, the Southwest Airlines Grand Floral Parade, is just one of three colorful parades.
Held in August in Tom McCall Waterfront Park, Bite of Oregon is Portland’s premiere food, wine tasting and musical entertainment festival. Produced by Oregon Special Olympics, The Bite is a major fund-raiser for the organization.
Portland is home to Fiesta Cinco de Mayo, Oregon’s largest multi-cultural event. Sponsored each year by the Portland-Guadalajara Sister City Association, the five-day May celebration showcases Mexican food, a family carnival, music, dance and Latin rhythms featuring popular Mexican and Hispanic artists and groups and much more.
Held each year in August at Mt. Hood Community College, the outdoor Mt. Hood Jazz Festival offers good food, good weather and a good time for all. The event has attracted dozens of jazz superstars and rising stars in both mainstream and contemporary jazz to its stages.
Each year, 70+ breweries from Oregon and across the country bring their best beers to the Oregon Brewers Festival , the largest beer festival – in terms of attendance – in the country. The festival features more than 17 different beer styles and attracts more than 90,000 attendees.