Any time you visit Portland, Oregon, you can anticipate having a memorable time, thanks to the myriad of attractions nestled in this Pacific Northwest city. Read on for tips to plan the perfect trip to Portland, including the best time of the year to go, must-see attractions, and what to avoid.
Portland by Season
It’s worth noting that each season of the year has something to love, so to determine the best time to visit Portland, it’s wise to do your homework.
Spring in Portland
The spring months in Portland will see daily high temperatures rising from the low 50s in March to near 70 degrees by May. Portland’s springtime tends to have cloud cover and rain, which can put a damper on outdoor recreation. Visiting Portland in the spring gives vacationers a chance to enjoy the blooming flowers, bushes and trees. It’s possible to be outdoors during the spring months, but you’ll need to dress warmly. Local hotels and vacation rentals frequently offer discounts during the spring, so deals on lodging will likely be available.
Summer in PDX
Summers tend to be short, somewhat warm and dry in Portland. Between mid-June and mid-September, average daily highs reach into the mid-70s. The hottest part of the year comes in early August when the mercury climbs into the mid-80s. Overnight lows at this time of year are generally in the upper 50s. The generally pleasant weather makes summer the peak vacation time for Portland. This is the time you’ll find annual events like street fairs and summer concerts. Local lodging fills quickly, and prices are higher during the summer.
Autumn in Portland, OR
Autumn in Portland is generally a time of moderate temperatures with some chance of precipitation. Temperatures range from daily highs in the mid-70s in mid-September to dipping down around 50 degrees by early November. November is also usually the rainiest month of the year in Portland. Although the weather is cooler, it’s still possible to enjoy the outdoors in Portland during the fall. End-of-summer events are common, which pull tourists into the city. Lodging rates may fall slightly, but they remain higher than they will be during the winter and spring.
Winter near Mt. Hood
Winter takes hold of Portland between mid-November and mid-February. Daily highs generally don’t exceed the low 50s during the winter months, and the coldest days of the year happens at the end of December with a high in the mid-40s. Rain is likely, and snow is a possibility during the winter, with the most significant chance for snow from mid-December to mid-January. Skiers arrive to enjoy the slopes on Mount Hood. The good news is that lodging rates take a major dip during the winter, so it’s possible to get a deal on a vacation rental or hotel.
Must-See Attractions Around Portland
#1: Get Active at Mount Hood – Mount Hood is in close proximity to Portland and can be viewed from many parts of the city. You can hike, climb or ski here where trails and slopes abound. The ski resort is open all year long so you can snow ski anytime. This snow-topped mountain is credited as the second most climbed mountain around the globe.
The alpine lakes on the mountain provide fishing opportunities and ideal spots for panoramic photos to preserve the memories. Be sure to check out the more than 10 glaciers at Mount Hood. In warmer months, Mount Hood’s hiking trails are lined with colorful wildflowers. If you rent a vacation home in this area, you’ll get to see nature’s beauty right at your doorstep.
#2: Browse Powell’s City of Books – The headquarters of Powell’s City of Books takes up a corner block in Portland and might be one of the largest independent bookstores in the world. Book lovers, book clubs and wordsmiths gravitate to this well-known bookstore with volumes of books lining the shelves. It’s open every day of the year and carries both new and used books.
The store carries books that are out of print, rare editions and current titles. Author events, writing workshops and storytime for kids are a few of the events offered regularly. Powell’s City of Books promotes books and the love of reading with a knowledgeable, helpful staff. In addition to the classic headquarter store, there are four other bookstores throughout the city. This successful bookseller, which continues to be family-operated, has more than two million books to choose from. It’s definitely a bookstore to linger in while taking your cerebral time.
#3: Urban Adventure Quest – Your scavenger hunt with Urban Adventure Quest begins downtown at Pioneer Courthouse Square. Smartphone clues lead you on a city tour. You’ll solve clues and complete challenges to learn secrets of the city. Optional hints assure that you can find a location or solve a challenge to move forward. Your adventure will take you to the Portlandia sculpture, Ira Keller Fountain, Powell’s Books and other city attractions. You can play the 18-challenge, two-mile Urban Adventure Quest at any time.
#4: Visit an Asian Garden – The climate in Portland is ideal for Asian gardens. The consistent rains let nature water the flora and greenery so they can thrive and grow. Take a walk through the authentic Lan Su Chinese Garden that features causeways, a lake, manicured landscape and a tea house with snacks. A Chinese New Year celebration includes two weeks of festivities with lion dance performances and paper lantern hangings.
The Portland Japanese Garden is located to the west of the city. Five different gardens include a sand and stone garden, a tea garden and a strolling pond garden situated on more than 12 acres. Each garden has its own touch of tranquility and provides variety and interest for mesmerizing tours. A Cultural Garden exposes visitors to Japanese art and music with performances and demonstrations.
#5: Lan Su Chinese Garden – Lan Su Chinese Garden features rare plants native to China, decorative stonework and a tea shop. The garden was built by Chinese artisans from Suzhou, location of China’s famous ancient gardens. Lan Su Chinese Garden melds design, art, architecture and nature in perfect harmony. Activities at the garden include guided tours, calligraphy, mahjong, tai chi, art shows, musical performances and tea tastings. The Chinese New Year is celebrated with glowing lanterns, lion dances, cultural activities and more.
#6: Grab a Doughnut – For a sweet taste sensation try an exotic doughnut at one of the three Voodoo Doughnut locations in Portland. The doughnuts are baked fresh each day. The availability of a particular doughnut may vary, but the mouth-watering menu includes creative options like a yeast bar-shaped doughnut with maple icing and bacon on top or a chocolate cake doughnut with vanilla icing topped with crushed Butterfinger candy bars. This is no ordinary doughnut shop.
With a name like “voodoo,” there’s sure to be a doughnut shaped like a voodoo doll. This one is stuffed with raspberry jelly and covered in decadent chocolate icing with a clever pretzel stick protruding from the belly of the doughnut. Many of the doughnuts are made with popular breakfast cereals crushed on top like Froot Loops, Captain Crunch and Cocoa Puffs. The unique flavors and designs have made them famous, so a line is likely to form round the clock.
#7: Explore Portland Art Museum – Portland Art Museum is a must for art lovers and enthusiasts. It’s located in the Cultural District and considered to be the largest art museum in the Northwest. This expansive museum opened in 1892 and carries a lot of history within its walls. Six stories of galleries include modern art, European collections, photography and Native American art as some of the featured artwork. Permanent and rotating exhibits keep visitors content with some of the finest and most diversified artwork. The museum campus also houses a Masonic temple and an outdoor sculpture garden. There’s a convenient coffee shop on site and a museum store to pick up some souvenirs.
#8: Pittock Mansion – Pittock Mansion, built in 1914, is a French Renaissance-style chateau that is a historic house museum today. The 23-room mansion has a unique oval shape, and curved wooden floors in the oval rooms are one of its many artistic features. The Gate Lodge, an Italianate-style craftsman home, sits next to what was the original gated road that leads up to the Mansion. The grounds include gardens and a viewpoint that overlooks Portland’s skyline. The woods behind Pittock Mansion are a part of Forest Park.
#9: Portland Spirit Cruises – Portland Spirit Cruises offers several cruises including the Cruise Downtown Portland, Cruise The Columbia Gorge and Portland To The Gorge Bigfoot Adventure. Specialty cruises include the Flashback Dance Cruise and the Winter Lights Festival.
Downtown yacht cruises take you along the historic Milwaukie Waterfront and under the bridges that make Portland famous. Cruises on an authentic Sternwheeler along the Columbia River run through the Historic Scenic Area.
#10: Washington Park – Portland day trips to Washington Park are packed with adventure. Washington Park encompasses the following sites: Hoyt Arboretum, International Rose Test Garden, Portland Japanese Garden, Portland Children’s Museum, World Forestry Center, and the Oregon Zoo and its railway.
You’ll also find an outdoor archery range surrounded by the forested park as well as a children’s playground and adjacent Elephant House, available for picnics. Memorials in the park include the Oregon Holocaust Memorial.
What To Avoid
As a city, Portland has a lot to offer. It has a low-key vibe, it’s easy to get around and it has a thriving arts scene. Basing yourself in a Portland vacation rental gives you a local’s perspective on this city, which is a one-of-a-kind experience. However, if you want to fit in and make the most of your time while you’re in town, there are a few things you should avoid.
#1: Formal or Dressy Clothing – As far as fashion is concerned, Portland just isn’t a conservative city. If you’re setting off on a Portland vacation, pack your suitcase with jeans, tees and outdoor clothing and leave your suits and fancy dresses at home. Even if you want to go out at night, you’ll fit in well in a nicer pair of jeans.
#2: Sticking to the Inner City – Portland’s central neighborhoods have tons of things to see and do, but if you stick to the inner city, you’ll miss out. The Alberta Arts District to the north and Richmond and Southeast Portland to the south offer lots of interesting galleries, music venues and fascinating outdoor spaces. If you expand your horizons past the city limits and check out Hood River, Mount Hood or Sauvie Island, you’ll find lots of ways to experience the natural beauty of the Northwest.
#3: Limiting Yourself to Famous Names – Stumptown makes some great coffee and has earned its claim to fame. However, there are countless independent coffee shops in the city that are well worth your time. Likewise, if you want to try some local craft brews, check out some of the smaller names in town.