21 Places to Go in Portland, Oregon

Photo by Anuli Akanegbu

Photo by Anuli Akanegbu

Two weeks ago I wrote about my birthday anxiety and how instead of celebrating with friends and family, last year I started a new tradition of celebrating with a solo-trip to a new-to-me city in the US. This year's birthday trip was to Portland, OR and was the second time in my life that I've traveled to the West Coast. 

I absolutely had a blast in Portland and highly recommend that everyone consider taking a solo-trip as soon as possible. Traveling alone is a great way to reconvene with yourself. It takes you away from your usual distractions and forces you to think about what you want, not what anyone else wants. Call it selfish, but I call it self-care. 

Portland is very much an outdoorsy city. The Willamette River cuts through the city making the city an ideal location to bike, hike and even take a boat cruise while you're there. I probably ate my weight in food and then burned those calories quickly exploring the sights. I was absolutely exhausted each night because I made it my mission to make the most of my visit. I stayed in a fantastic Airbnb on the East Side and often walked or biked across the Burnside Bridge over to the West Side which is where Downtown Portland is located. Prior to visiting Portland, I associated the city with the Nike brand. I wasn't surprised to see a lot of people sporting Nike gear and riding around in Nike BIKETOWN bikes (they're like CitiBikes, but sponsored by the big swoosh). I rode BIKETOWN bikes all over Portland while I was there. Who wouldn't? They only cost $12 to use for 24 hours. With the close association of the Nike brand to the city I expected the downtown Nike store to have a wider range of sneakers. I didn't know before that Nike is actually located in Beaverton, OR which is right outside Portland. That's where to go if you want that real, real. I didn't make the trip this time around, but I've heard good things about the Nike store there. 

One thing that struck me while I was in Portland was the homeless population. Sure, it is a beautiful city, but you can't help but notice the stark economic differences when you turn the corner from a high-traffic gentrified shopping area to see tent homes. Recent news reports exclaim that Portland has a "Homeless Crisis." That much was evident during my visit. The Portland City Council declared a housing emergency just this week. A Lyft driver told me that unemployment is high in the city. He moved to Portland from Chicago last year in hopes of creating a more affordable life for himself, but even he has to live outside the city limits just to make due. "I could never afford to live here. I live forty minutes away," I remember him saying. A man visiting with his wife from San Francisco told me that he heard that in Portland some people are homeless by "circumstance" and others, generally younger people, are homeless by "choice." At first, I was puzzled by the idea of choosing to be homeless, until later that day I went to a vintage market where I bought a beautiful vintage Lanvin (yes, the designer brand!) trench coat for $60 from a couple who mentioned that they recently visited New York and stayed under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE). I thought to myself, "What do you mean you stayed under the BQE?" and then I realized that we were standing inside of a trailer lined with vintage clothing where in the back was the bed she shares with her partner. Now this may technically not be considered "homelessness," but talking to them provided me with an example of young adults choosing not to live a traditional lifestyle. They travel from city to city in that trailer and take on small jobs in addition to scouring for vintage to sell in order to afford basic needs like food and gas. 

Overall, I enjoyed my time in Portland, so I put together the following guide of things to do if you ever find yourself in the city of roses. This is not a comprehensive guide of everything there is to do in Portland. It is list of things I was able to do while I was there. 

In case you're wondering...yes, I watched some episodes of Portlandia before visiting. Research, ya know. #putabirdonit 

Click the interactive map below to learn more about each place I visited while in Portland.