Whether you know Oregon from its Trail or Portlandia, you should also know that some of the best things to do in Portland are free. Portland is Oregon's biggest city. Conscious of its effect on the environment and its residents, it's one of the greenest cities in the world. So much so, Portlandians eat green - at their famous farmer's markets. In Portland, you're more likely to see people cycling than driving. Walking is also huge in Portland, and understandably so. There are so many beautiful forest walks and parks scattered around the city to visit.
Just outside of Portland, in the Tualatin Mountains, is Forest Park. Stretching for 8 miles, over 5,000 acres, Forest Park is one of the biggest urban forest reserves in the country. With more than 70 miles of trails for people of all ability levels to explore, the beauty of Oregon is rampant in this beautiful park. It truly gives you a feel of the state without having to wander too far from Portland. In part overlooking the Willamette River, the park's pure beauty will steal your heart. Bird watchers will also be in their element and should bring their binoculars. You never know what incredible species you'll see.
The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, also known as OSMI, is a world-renowned science center. Initially hosted in businessman Ralph Lloyd's dwelling, it boasted the first planetarium in the Northwest. It was such a popular attraction that when the house was set to be demolished, Oregon City Council stepped up. Leasing land in Washington Park, 400 volunteers helped to make the museum what it is today. OSMI offers a barrage of hands-on science exhibits for kids and adults alike as well as exciting temporary exhibits. Serving more than a million visitors per year, the museum is one of the most popular in the Northwest.
Covering over 400 acres of land, Washington Park is home to most of Portland's best attractions. As well as the science museum, there's a children's museum, a zoo, and an arboretum. For those who don't want to spend time with lots of other people, there are plenty of other activities. With picnic areas, playgrounds, and a large plot of green land and forest, there's something for everyone in Washington Park. Hikers can indulge in more than 15 miles of trails where they can walk or jog, and some of the trails connect to landmarks like Pittock Mansion.
The Pittock Mansion sits in the hills to the west of the city. Built in 1909, it was originally the home of Oregon pioneer Henry Pittock and his wife. With 46 rooms, the French Renaissance-style property sits within 46 acres of land. The city of Oregon now owns the mansion which became open to the public in the 60s. These days, around 80,000 people visit the home every year. If you think the building looks familiar, that might be because you've seen it before. Pittock Mansion was a star in several movies. TV aficionados might also recognize it as the finish line for the 13th season of The Amazing Race.
The highlight of downtown Portland is Pioneer Courthouse Square. Known by locals as Portland's Living Room, this public square has tons of cool features. At approximately 40,000 square foot, there's a lot of room for attractions, and it certainly doesn't let anyone down. In the center of the square, there's an area that looks like an amphitheater, and performances do happen there. There's also a fountain, an outdoor chess table, and plenty of spots to hang out with friends at any time of day.
Ask anyone in Oregon what their favorite attraction is, and they'll probably say Oregon Zoo. The zoo was opened in 1888 after a private animal collector donated all of his animals to the City. There are now nearly 2000 animals to see at the zoo. 21 of the zoo's 232 species are on the endangered species list, and so the zoo has them on a breeding program. One notable success is the breeding of the African elephants who are the zoo's most popular residents.
One of Portland's slogans is, "Keep Portland Weird!" and its art museum reflects that in all its glory. The Portland Art Museum is the oldest art museum on the West Coast. To this day, its mission is to enrich the diversity of Portland's communities through art. Open six days a week, there's ample time to visit this expansive museum housing pieces by Van Gogh, Cézanne, and Renoir. Alongside these incredible works, the Portland Art Museum is also home to one of Monet's Water Lilies paintings.
A mere 6-minute walk from Portland's Living Room, The Benson Hotel is an upscale historic hotel. Originally called the New Oregon Hotel, The Benson is one of Portland's finest hotels and the 7th largest in the city. The Benson's most lavish suites offer city views of the highest caliber. Other rooms in the hotel have flat-screen TVs, coffee machines, and free WiFi throughout. With its elegant lobby, cigar bar, and live music, guests may never want to leave the hotel at all. If you're looking for a luxury stay in the heart of Portland, look no further than this beautiful building.
Nature lovers will never be lost for things to do in Portland. On a ridge in the west hills of the city, Hoyt Arboretum is just two miles west of downtown Portland. Hosting 6000 trees and shrubs of over 2000 species from all over the world, the Arboretum also has a gorgeous magnolia collection. The arboretum's extensive conifer collection includes a dawn redwood, which is one of the only conifers that lose their leaves in the winter. Although it was once thought to be extinct, the specimen was rediscovered in China during WWII. The arboretum even has a bamboo garden that features more than 30 species of the plant.
Experience a day in a scenic traditional Japanese garden right in the hills of Portland. The Portland Japanese Garden is one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan and a haven of tranquility. Featuring an authentic Japanese tea house, streams, and intimate walkways, you might think there's nothing else left to see. You'll also be wrong. Along with the beautiful maples, there's also a view of Mount Hood unlike any you'll see anywhere else.