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Sightseeing in Portland

This is a very abbreviated list. Why? Because I haven't been to most of these places in the last couple years. So these aren't personal recommendations.... For similar, though more detailed information, check out POVA ( and Travel Oregon Online.

And, if you're interested in art, you might also want to check out the gallery & public art section

**Must-dos for anyone visiting Portland**

  1. Powell's BooksVisit Powells
    what, do I have to sell this? They're the largest bookstore in the US, for cripes sakes. They have a coffee shop for reading, wifi-ing, and people watching.
    1. Powell's Technical BooksVisit Powells Technical Store (if you're a techie)
      Our beloved Fup no longer walks among us, but PTS is an awesome place to visit, or camp with your laptop.
  2. go to Voodoo Doughnuts
    No, they're not the world's best donuts, and if that's what you're looking for, you're missing the point. No, this is just the world's funkiest donut shop. You can get vegan donuts, non-vegan donuts, donuts in the shape of unmentionables, and even, a couple of years back, donuts with nyqyil in them. Marc Acito notes, "Let's not forget the donuts with bacon at Voodoo Donuts. Yummy and good for the arteries. LOL."
  3. Leave downtown and visit the east side
    If you're a foodie, know that the majority of excellent food options is on the east. The majority of ethnic food is on the east side (exceptions being Indian most notably). The best pubs, and some of the best brewpubs, are on the east side. The inner eastside is easily and quickly reached using TriMet, our local public transportation.
  4. Go for a ride on the tram
    Portlanders love to complain about the tram, but if you really want a good view of Portland, there is none better. McAuliflower of Brownie Points notes, "The tram is free to ride down (the #8 bus will take you up to the top), otherwise you need to buy a $4 tram ticket to ride it up." Course, if you're scared of heights, how's about checking out Council Crest, the city's highest point, and a lovely one, too, as Randy suggests.
  5. Go for a walk!
    You don't have to go all the way to Forest Park to get a good walk in. I have some suggestions for walks that are adjacent to downtown...

And here are some ideas that aren't for everyone, but, you know, might be right for you

  1. Go to Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade for some classic video-gaming
    home to video games from the 70s on, and the largest and best-maintained collection of pinball machines. After 7pm, you can have a beer with your game...
  2. See a Timbers Game
    The Timbers are our professional soccer league. And they have an army. Just saying.
  3. go to Forest Park
    there are trails, an arboreteum, mountain views, and, um, trails. You can mountain bike on Leif Ericksen, and run and walk just about all the rest
  4. History buffs must check out Pittock Mansion
  5. Check out the liquid of your choice vice
    We are the craftbrew center of the world. We're surrounded by some of the best vineyards (and wine producers) in the world. We're known by coffee lovers around the country as a hotbed of coffee roasters and master baristas. We even have shops devoted to the pursuit of tea, and restaurants that specialize in old-fashioned sodas.
  6. Visit a garden
    We have two rose gardens in Portland. We have a Chinese Classical garden, and a Japanese Garden. We have an arboreteum, and a rhododendron garden. And, we have the world's smallest park -- right downtown.

So, Portlanders, what do you consider the universals, that every visitor should do when they come to town?

filled under Sightseeing in Portland
February 24, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (12)

Architectural Heritage Center

701 SE Grand
(503) 231-7264

aka the Bosco Milligan Foundation
They offer exhibit galleries displaying items from the largest building artifacts collection in the western U.S., a resource library, hands-on workshops in preservation techniques, lectures and tours.

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July 18, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0)

End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center

1726 Washington Street, Oregon City
(503) 657-9336
Official site:

End of the Oregon Trail by Sean Munson
photo by Sean Munson
I'll admit that I've never been here before, though after reading 5 Things I Learned At the End of the Oregon Trail in the always excellent Mental Floss blog, I have to say I'm intrigued.
When my parents are in town (Portland, Oregon), I finally get around to seeing local areas of interest. Yesterday we checked out the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, which was full of Oregon Trail trivia. Here are some of my favorite bits.

1. Awesome hairstyles were par for the course ...
2. Emigrants didn't know how to handle their guns ...
3. Oregon City was a big deal ...
4. The first Oregonian woman to vote arrived via the Oregon Trail ...
5. The Oregon Boot was not something you wanted on your foot ...

There's lots more to learn at the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, should you find yourself near Portland with an afternoon to kill!

filled under Sightseeing Portland
July 22, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Leaving Town By Train: Eugene and Seattle

Union Station
800 NW Sixth Ave.
(503) 273-4865
get there via trimet
find a bike route

If you're thinking about going up to Seattle or down to Eugene, we do have an Amtrak station at Union Station, in Oldtown. It's adorable.

You'll want to take a Cascades train rather than one of the long distance trains (like the Coast Starlight) as those are invariably late. It has to do with Amtrak not owning the rails they use.

There are three Cascades trains a day going North and South and the trip to Seattle takes about 3.5 hours, and a oneway fare is $30-$34. To Eugene, we're looking at 2.5 hours, and a oneway fare of $20-$33.

You'll want to get tickets as soon as possible if you're going north, as those trains are frequently packed. Trains south to Eugene, however, tend to be fairly lightly traveled.

And, if you're bringing your bike, you can make a reservation to hang it on the bike rack. Otherwise, you'll need to box and check your bike.

Getting to Vancouver BC is possible but not as cushy as it involves a change from train to bus once you get to Seattle, or staying overnight in Seattle.

There is a discount for seniors, students and AAA members, and also frequently a discount via POVA (if the discount is available, there'll be a link from

Robert Plamondon has an excellent page on the Amtrak Cascades experience with all sorts of tips and useful information.

Info about Union Station (it's so cute I want to pinch its little cheeks)

filled under Sightseeing Portland
July 30, 2007 | Permalink

National Register of Historic Places Open Houses

Wanna see how the other half live? Or at least check out some homes on the National Register of Historic Places?

Owners of these homes and buildings are obligated to have an annual open house for the public—so if you're into old buildings and free stuff, you win!

Finding out about the open houses has been the hard part. The Oregonian's Homes & Gardens of the Northwest (Thursday insert) has a Historical Home Tours section that runs every first Thursday of the month, but that section is not so easy to find in print or on the website.

Lucky for us, the Oregon Parks & Recreation Department: Heritage Conservation Division also has a listing in the form of a PDF. Not that that's terribly easier to find, but if you know the URL....

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April 7, 2006 | Permalink

Oregon City Municipal Elevator & Promenade

7th Street & Railroad Ave, Oregon City
get there via trimet

The Oregon City Public Elevator!

The observation deck of the elevator

Willamette Falls Locks close-up
When you're looking for something to do around Oregon City, one option is to check out the Municipal Elevator.

First of all, how many places have municipal elevators? Let's see... in the U.S., there's just one. And it's free.

If you drive, there is ample parking in the area (with meters). The entrance to the elevator, as you might imagine, is a tunnel in the side of the bluff. There are handwritten directions outside the elevator door: no bikes, no groups bigger than 10 people, and if you think you'll flaunt this, you'll have to explain it to the elderly elevator operator!

There is also a staircase, if you'd like.

The top of the bluff is about 90 feet up. That doesn't sound like much, but once you're in the star trek like observation pod, everything looks a lot small down there.

The observation deck is glassed in, giving you a nice panarama of Oregon City, the Willamette River, I-205, and the paper plants that line both sides of the river. Crudely painted dioramas give you the short version of OC history.

Step out of the observation deck, and you're on the OC Promenade. Like a lot of parkland in the Portland area, this was donated by a rich robber baron person (in this case, Dr. John McLoughlin who worked for Hudson's Bay Company) before the turn of the last century. There is a stone handrail to keep you out of harms way, and a nice well-maintained paved path along the ridge the bluff. You pass by ancient houses (noted by their original owner and style; after all, OC was the first incorporated city west of the Rockies).

The views of the river, the city, the bridge, and the paper plants is just spectacular. Walk a bit further south on the Promenade, and you get a great view of the Willamette Falls Locks. If you want a better view still, go to the south end of the Promenade to the parking lot of the VFW Bingo Hall (one of several prominent quonset huts in OC) to the pedestrian bridge/catwalk across McLoughlin Blvd.

The Promenade is not strenuous or long. Round trip is probably less than half a mile. But it is quite visually interesting.

filled under Siteseeing! Portland Oregon: the usual touristic things to do
August 29, 2006 | Permalink

Oregon Historical Society

1200 SW Park
(503) 222-1741
get there via trimet
find a bike route

The OHS artifacts collection comprises over 85,000 artifacts, including ancient objects from the earliest settlements, and objects that illustrate exploration in the Oregon Country, the growth of business and industry, the development of artwork and crafts, and maritime history, among many other topics.

The OHS Research Library contains one of the country’s most extensive collections of state history materials, including approximately 25,000 maps, 30,000 books, 8.5 million feet of film and videotape, 16,000 rolls of microfilm and 12,000 linear feet of documents. The Research Library’s photographic archives include over 2.5 million images from pre-statehood to the present day.

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March 19, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI)

1945 SE Water Avenue
(503) 797-OMSI (6674) or (800) 955-OMSI (6674)
get there via trimet
find a bike route

The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry is rated in the top ten science museums in the country. OMSI is great, especially for kids, with lots of hands on stuff. There's also the submarine, and the OMNIMAX theatre.

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Oregon Zoo

4001 SW Canyon Rd. (Washington Park)
(503) 226-1561
get there via trimet
find a bike route

Like most zoos these days, the Oregon Zoo is working on particular collections. It's not huge, but that may well be a bonus.

The Oregon Zoo/Washington Park MAX stop is the deepest train station in North America -- only Moscow's Metro Subways are deeper, at 260 feet. Like the Moscow Subways, the Oregon Zoo/Washington Park is chock full of interesting things to look at, for only the cost of a MAX ticket.

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March 20, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Portland Art Museum

1219 SW Park Ave
(503) 226-2811
get there via trimet

Our local art museum...

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March 19, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Portland Classical Chinese Garden

NW 3rd & Everett
(503) 228-8131

Open 7 days a week, with tours at noon & 1pm, this walled Garden encloses a full city block. It was built to represent a Ming dynasty Suzhou-style garden (Suzhou is a city renowned for its exquisite gardens). 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.

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March 29, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (1)

SW Terwilliger Blvd Parkway

terwilliger map

get to Duniway Park via trimet
find a bike route to Duniway Park

get to Terwilliger & Capitol Hwy via trimet
find a bike route to Terwilliger & Capitol Hwy

Looking up Terwilliger


more pictures of Terwilliger Blvd
If you need to incorporate some hills into your walk, run, or cycling, and you'd like to do it relatively close to downtown, and you'd like it to be gorgeous and wooded, with views of the city, the bridges, Mt. St. Helens and Mt Hood, Terwilliger Blvd was made just for you.

This route features wide sidewalks for walkers, runners, skaters, skateboarders and the like, as well as bike lanes on both side of the Boulevard. It is largely wooded, so it's generally a bit cooler than walking/running downtown.

Some fun features include the staircase to the old Veterans Hospital and the Portland Health Course. There are also benches, several water fountains, and a bathroom.

If you're coming from downtown, start at Duniway Park, just south of PSU. Walk west, past the lilac garden, and then up the hill at the aptly named Terwilliger.

It's not a terribly long scenic byway: roundtrip from Duniway Park to Capitol Highway and back is about 5 miles. Proceed on to Barbur Blvd, and roundtrip, you have 6 and 2/3 miles.

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September 1, 2006 | Permalink

Shanghai Tunnels

under most of Old Town
Cascade Geographic Society: Michael Jones, (503) 622-4798.

I'm not sure how the term became Shanghaied, but in the earlier days of the city, it was dangerous for a man to get drunk in the city. If you did, you might get dragged into the tunnels, and onto a boat, for
the next six years or so.

REVISION: Chris writes:

Just went on the tour last night. There's not much here, most of what went on in the tunnels is left to your imagination. The tour guide spins a good tale but it takes too long and there's really nothing to see, just the basement of the Old Town Pizza. Not worth 10 bucks.


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May 26, 2002 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Small Museums & Collections

Carye Bye has been leading monthly bike tours of Small Museums & Collections in the Portland area. Each month they pedal to unique collections, enjoy presentations by experts, and have a fun, yet educational outing by bike.

To my great pleasure, she's created an online resource: a listing of small museums and collections in and around Portland. There's all sorts of things you might not know about: the Architectural Heritage Center, the Cal Skate Museum, Ground Kontrol Arcade, The Historic Belmont Firehouse, Kidd's Toy Museum, Lilah Callen Holden Elephant Museum, and much more.

filled under Sightseeing Portland
July 25, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Stark's Vacuum Cleaner Museum

107 N.E. Grand Ave.
(503) 232-4101
get there via trimet
find a bike route
M-F 8a-7p and Sat 9a-4p

cartoon about Stark's

The walls of a long, well-lit room are stacked with models of vacuums, from durable wooden devices made in the 1800s to chic, space-age cleaners from the 1960s. The gray industrial carpet is, of course, spotless.

The 300 vacuums in the collection were donated, traded in, or sent by people who had heard about Stark's museum and just couldn't bear to scrap their grandmother's old Electrolux. Highlights include the two-person-operated Busy-Bee (he pumped, she vacuumed) and the Duntley Pneumatic. The salesman would attach it to the ceiling and do chin-ups from it to demonstrate its air-pump suction seal.

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October 5, 2005 | Permalink

The Church of Elvis

is no more.

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May 26, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (2)

The Eastbank Esplanade-Tom McCall Waterfront park loop

2.66 miles
Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade:
Gov. Tom McCall Waterfront Park:

map, Esplanade-Waterfront loopalso known as the Steel Bridge to Hawthorne Bridge loop, this is a nice short distance, easily walkable for most folks in an hour. It is completely ADA-compliant and wheelchair friendly. Between the river, the river traffic, the homeless folks and the bits of art and history, there is always something to look at.

Waterfront park is the "older" portion of this loop. The path lines the seawall, giving you an almost continuous view of the river. The park contains the Battleship Oregon Memorial, the Founders Stone, Salmon Street Springs, the Oregon Maritime Center & Museum, and the Japanese American Historical Plaza.

The Eastbank Esplanade is the new portion with many art projects, historical markers, docks, and a floating walkway. Benches line portions of Esplanade, and at Madison Plaza, there is even a tiny park as well as a statue of former mayor Vera Katz. There's lots to look at, but keep sharp! Lots of traffic from bicyclists, runners, skaters, and walkers.

A wide walkway/bikeway on the Hawthorne Bridge allows passage on the south side of the loop, and the Steel Bridge pedestrian and bicycle walkway, level with the pathways on both side, allows passage on the North.

To access the loop from downtown:

walk east towards the river until you come to Waterfront park. The loop is right along the seawall and bollards.

To access the loop from Rose Quarter or the Convention Center

The NE entrance is at Interstate/Lloyd Blvd at the base of the Steel Bridge.

filled under Waterfront loop, close to OCC, things to do
July 14, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2)

getting to the coast... without a car

Cape Kiwanda, by Paul A. Fagan
photo by Paul A. Fagan
Catch the wave! non-stop Portland Express Service

Once you get to Tillamook, you can go as far west as Oceanside, as far north as Manzanita, or as far south as Pacific City. The prices are reasonable: $10, one way, or $15 roundtrip. The trip takes 2 hours and there are two trips a day Monday-Saturday. However, buses run only once on Sundays, and buses don't run at all on most holidays.

The "in-town" stops are the Greyhound Station, Union Station, the Sunset Transit Center, and 185th near Highway 26...

Tillamook County Transportation District (TCTD)

The Portland-area's connection to the Oregon Coast, the Tillamook County Transportation District (TCTD) provides two round trips daily to Portland's Union Station. For more information call 503-815-TCTD (8283). More on TCTD at

Like Trimet, the Tillamook buses have bike racks... Unlike Trimet, you can make reservations for the bike rack, and it is a good idea. That way, you'll know if both slots have been reserved, so you can make other plans.

If you're leaving from downtown, Union Station is a much nicer place to wait than the Greyhound Station.

filled under Sightseeing, Portland
August 2, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0)



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