Portland is one of the Pacific Northwest’s most popular destinations, thanks in no small part to the great laid-back atmosphere and excellent food and drink. This city isn’t just for foodies and craft beer tourists; however, there are all kinds of fun adventures waiting for you if you know where to look. A high-adrenaline Portland, Oregon vacation is 100 percent possible.
Traveling on a budget? Get a ton of great ideas on things to do and neighborhoods to stay from our complete guide to traveling around Portland on a budget. Here are several ideas to get you started.
White Water Rafting
The Clackamas River is just an hour from downtown Portland. Get your gear on, pick up the oars, and hit the white water from March-August. The rushing waters take you right through the Mt. Hood National Forest, making this one of the most stunning river rafting backdrops in the world. Some of the best rafting is just 30 minutes outside of the city on the Sandy River.
Pro traveler tip: It’s a good idea to go rafting with a guide. There are a ton of services to choose from in this area. We’d suggest checking in with Blue Sky Rafting. They offer a ton of different options for varying skill levels and will be able to suggest something for everyone, from the beginner to the most advanced of rafters.
Ski Mount Hood
When the snow falls and stays put, it’s time to get your skis (or snowboard) on and hit the slopes of Mount Hood. If you get tired of your skis, change things up a bit and head to Mount Hood Ski Bowl to slide down the hill in an inner tube. Better yet, do it on the weekend when music and light shows come into play. There are a ton of lesson options and even all-day clinics and camps available. So even if you’ve never skied before, you can make this your first time.
Pro traveler tip: Renting skis and taking lessons can happen at the same spot. Get more information here.
Explore the Shanghai Tunnels
Portland has a widespread system of tunnels that were originally created to connect various bars to the ship docks. The Shanghai Tunnels were used to store ship goods out of sight. The tunnels are rumored to have been used by human traffickers in the 19th and early part of the 20th centuries. Come on down and hear the stories for yourself while you explore the maze of tunnels. Portland Ghosts offer a few different types of tours to you and your traveling companions. Opt for either a 60 or 90-minute tour. The first has 8 scheduled stops along the route. The extended tour has 12 schedule stops and is about a mile and a half of tunnels.
Pro traveler tip: The tours fill up quickly, so be sure to get your tick in advance here.
Play in the Willamette River
Anything goes when the sun is hot and the water is cool. Go swim and splash around in the clean waters of Portland’s Willamette River, or rent a kayak and go looking for wildlife like beavers, otters, and deer. They’re regularly sighted in and around the water. You can even fish for Chinook salmon, try stand-up paddle-boarding or take a boat tour. Take a kayak out for a spin on the river. Get more details about rentals here from Portland Kayak Company. They also offer a wide range of tours.
Pro traveler tip: Walk the entire loop at Riverfront Park. Take in all the beautiful sites and enjoy the cool breezes.
Explore a Haunted Café
The Rimsky-Korsakoffee House, according to its owner, is haunted by the spirits of its previous owners — witnesses to the Russian Revolution. The café is filled with obscure art, dolls, pictures of faces, and a baby grand piano usually occupied by a classical musician. Patrons claim that the tables move of their own volition and sometimes grow or shrink unexpectedly. The cakes and desserts are as delicious as the atmosphere is spooky. Aside from all the myth and folklore surrounding this café, it does have a ton of delicious pastries to offer, as well as excellent coffee. Listen to the ghost stories, but make sure you eat and drink something while you’re there! Looking for more food? Check out this guide to guilty pleasures in Portland for more information on where to eat.
Pro traveler tip: Be careful if you’re traveling with kids. This place can be a little spooky!
Cruise the City on Bike
Portland is a cyclist’s paradise, with a wide network of bike trails and bike paths that take you almost anywhere in the city. Renting a bike on your weekend getaway in Portland is a surefire way to keep you out in the open air, and it can help you cover a lot of ground during your trip. You can find lots of places to rent bikes, and the city offers a wealth of online resources such as maps and safety tips. If you don’t want to explore on your own, there are plenty of tour operators that can show you around on two wheels.
Pro traveler tip: Renting a bike and tasting beer is a pretty popular activity in Portland. Check out this guide to some of the tasty brews you can encounter in Portland.
Discover Freakybuttre Peculiarium
Enjoy a bunch of interactive art installations. This place is basically an art gallery that dedicates itself to horror, scary stuff, and learning. A quick walk through the Freakybuttre Peculiarium lets you discover tons of comic books, old film memorabilia, exhibits dedicated to urban legends, and more.
Pro traveler tip: If you’re traveling with children, be sure to keep them under close supervision, as there is a ton of old and possibly expensive, fragile stuff in this place.
Endure a Hike
Visiting Portland without going on at least one hike means missing out on a big part of the city’s culture. If you want to stay within the city limits, Tryon Creek State Natural Area, Forest Park, Powell Butte Nature Park, and Mount Tabor offer lots of trails. You can even find some easier trails in Washington Park. Once you start heading into the Cascades, there are even more options. Head over to Mount Hood National Forest, Silver Falls State Park, or the Columbia River Gorge. There is a ton of great hiking around Portland. Get some more ideas for day trips from Portland here with our day trip guide.
Pro traveler tip: Bring your dog with you, and hike the Wildwood Trail. This trail is just outside the city and might be one of the best in the area. Go see for yourself!
Pack a Picnic
Picnic lunches aren’t only great for enjoying the fresh air, but they’re also a way to save saving money during your getaway in Portland, Oregon. The city has over 200 parks, so it’s easy to find a green space to layout your blanket and sit down for a nice meal. If you want to pick up some food on the go, you’ll be overwhelmed with takeout options. From delicious pastries to mouthwatering burgers, there’s something for everyone in this city.
Pro traveler tip: Check out this article for a full list of great take-out in the city.
Check Out an Unusual Statue
In the spirit of public art, the city of Portland has erected some pretty interesting statues over the years. Portlandia stands outside the Portland Building and is beloved by locals and visitors alike. A giant figure of Paul Bunyan from the 1950s stands in Kenton and commemorates Oregon’s statehood. A figure of the Virgin Mary rests peacefully in a sanctuary known as The Grotto and still operates as a religious site.
Pro traveler tip: Check out this article for the full rundown of the top 10 best takeout joints in the city to prep you properly for your picnic.