If you are looking for the best things to do in downtown Portland, we’ve got a great list of top things you should check out. Thankfully, many of Portland’s must-see attractions are close to the downtown area, making it an easy city to see if you don’t have much time. From Powell’s Books, to the Oregon Zoo, to Voodoo Donut, there are so many fun things to see and do in Downtown Portland.
If you are staying in Portland a bit longer, you should check out our exhaustive list of the 29 best things to do in Portland that showcases all the top things in and around the Portland area. With the right list of things to see and do, we know that you’ll love your time in Portland.
1. Powells Books
Powell’s Books is a massive independent bookstore located downtown is very popular with locals and visitors alike. The store contains over 68,000 square feet of space and takes up an entire city block. There are over 4 million books displayed for sale here and are categorized into 3,500 various book sections. These books are spread throughout the store in color-coded rooms to help you navigate the sprawling expanse of literature. Powell’s regularly hosts book-related events and book readings by various authors.
Since CNN has called it one of the “Coolest Bookstores in the entire World”, you should probably head downtown to see what everyone is talking about Powell’s Books!
2. Oregon Zoo
The Oregon zoo is located close to downtown Portland in Washington Park and has a large collection of plants as well as animal exhibits. With a collection of over 1,800 animals, you can see elephants, penguins, hippos, monkeys, and hundreds of other species. The zoo is one of the top tourist destinations in Portland and once you visit, you’ll see why. It’s easy to get to the zoo from downtown, with easy access via the Washington Park light rail train.
3. Voodoo Donut
For something on the fun and wacky side, you should visit Voodoo Donut. This local chain of donut stores is something of a legendary experience for anyone visiting Portland. With never-seen-before donuts and fried creations, you’re sure to join the ranks of fans who can’t get enough of this unique donut shop. If you’re downtown, you can visit the Old Town Voodoo Donut location, but be prepared to wait in a line of tourists who are busily taking photos of this wacky Portland favorite.
4. Portland Japanese Garden
For a quiet zen experience, we’d recommend a visit to Portland Japanese Garden. Spread over 12 acres, this garden is close to downtown and features a traditional Japanese village set amongst multiple themed garden areas. With waterfalls, streams, lakes, and lovingly manicured bonsai trees, this garden is an escape from the current day Portland just down the street.
5. Washington Park
Washington Park is Portland’s signature park, located on the hills surrounding downtown portland covering over 400 acres. The park is home to many of Portland’s top attractions, such as the Oregon Zoo, Forestry Museum, Children’s Museum, and more. With many picnic areas, tennis courts, trails, and open spaces, Washington Park is a great destination for many activities and would take many days to fully explore.
6. Ground Kontrol
For another unique thing to do in Portland, we’d suggest a visit to Ground Kontrol, a video arcade bar and DJ venue in downtown. With many retro arcade games and a full bar, this venue is sort of a “Arcade for Adults” and has a cult following of locals from around Portland who come to play games from the “golden age” of video arcade games. For something interesting to see downtown, we’d recommend you stop by Ground Control.
7. Portland Timbers
While Portland isn’t known as a big “sports town”, you can find the communal athletic spirit alive at a Portland Timbers game. The Timbers are Portland’s official professional soccer club and have a large and rowdy fanbase. they play their home games at the Providence Park stadium and you can check the calendar of events to see what games are coming up. If you want to experience a fun soccer match with a lively atmosphere, then we’d recommend looking into getting in to see the Timbers play.
8. Stumptown Coffee
If you are into great coffee, then the Portland Coffee scene is a dream come true. Standing at the top of the must-visit coffee establishments is Stumptown Coffee. With five locations around Portland, this coffee shop is considered one of the city’s finest with beans roasted on site at many of their locations. We’d recommend starting your day off with a coffee from Stumptown – you won’t be disappointed.
9. Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
A fun thing to do in Portland with kids, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, or OMSI, is packed full of interesting science exhibits and industrial machinery. Located on the Williamette River, this museum even showcases the partially submerged USS blueback submarine that’s available for daily tours and even sleepovers for kids that want to know what life was like onboard. Other features of the museum include a retired steam turbine for viewing, a planetarium, and a large theatre for showing films. We’d recommend a visit to the OMSI if you’re visiting portland with kids and want
10. Lan Su Chinese Garden
Located in Downtown Portland, the Lan Su Chinese Garden is an interesting destination if you want to experience the serenity of an exquisitely manicured Chinese garden. With some plants that are over 100 years old, this garden displays many different plant species, 90% of which are native to China. For an unusual thing to do in Portland, we’d recommend a visit to Lan Su Chinese Garden.
11. Portland Aerial Tram
The Portland Aerial Tram is a unique elevated cable tramway that was built primarily for commuters to shuttle workers between the waterfront district and the Oregon Health and Science University located 500 up the hill from Downtown Portland. Operated by the city of Portland as part of the public transportation system, this tram is a fun way to see Portland from the air and is only a 3-minute trip. For a quick and fun thing to do in downtown Portland, we’d recommend taking a roundtrip on the Portland Aerial Tram.
12. Old Town Ghost Tour
For a spooky thing to do in Downtown Portland, you should look into buying a ticket for a Portland ghost tour. On these themed walking tours, you’ll be taken on a tour of the shadier side of historic Portland and learn about some of the ghost legends from around the local area. Check out a list of current Portland ghost tours that you can get tickets for here.
13. Portland Saturday Market
For a fun and interesting thing to do in Downtown Portland, we’d recommend a visit to the famous Portland Saturday Market. This outdoor market is located along the waterfront in the Tom McCall Waterfront Park and showcases hundreds of vendors selling homemade arts and crafts. Seeing nearly 1 million visitors each year, this weekend market is a fun Saturday activity and is open from 10am-5pm.
14. Pearl District
Home to some of Portland’s most famous destinations, such as Powell’s books, the Pearl District is another cultural hotspot. With many upscale restaurants, boutiques and art galleries, the Pearl District is a great shopping destination in Portland. If you want to see the upscale side of Portland, then we’d definitely recommend a visit to the Pearl District.
15. Portland Art Museum
For an immersive art experience, you need to visit the Portland Art Museum. This very large museum houses over 42,000 pieces of art feature native American art, Asian art, and contemporary art among others. The museum also has an outdoor sculpture garden.
16. Oregon Maritime Museum
The Oregon Maritime Museum is located on the Columbia River in downtown Portland is an interesting destination in Downtown Portland. The museum features multiple restored historic ships, a library, and many maritime artifacts that tell a story of Portland’s rich maritime history.