Welcome to Portland! (PDX as you will see everyone around town calls it) I am SO happy you are here and get to explore this awesome city!
I have lived in Portland for about a year now and finally feel like I have done enough exploring to offer a pretty fun guide for travelers.
During my year in Portland, I have lived on an AmeriCorps stipend, so believe me when I say this guide is everything uber cheap, and uber fun to do around town!
This is by no means a comprehensive guide, but it does offer some fun ideas about music, neighborhoods, food, attractions, and more!
So first things first, the tunes. Portland is bustling with a hip and diverse music scene. You can find shows almost every night and there are TONS of different venues that offer pretty fun vibes.
I highly suggest just googling “Music this week in Portland” when you get here and just see what kind of strange, fun, and totally out of this world music will be available for you. The great thing is that a lot of shows around town are free at bars or sell tickets for as cheap as 10 bucks, can’t beat that!
Portland has SO MANY radio stations but some of my personal favorites happen to be:
89.9- All classical Portland, classical commercial-free
94.7- It’s different here, alternative rock
95.5-Live 95, alternative and indie
96.3- WE 96.3, hip-hop/rap
I know that is quite a wide variety and it is missing some genres but I have found those to be my go-to’s while cruising around town!
You will quickly learn that Portlanders are all kinds of crazy about their FOOD. There are so many different restaurants in Portland it still blows my mind a year later.
Also, food carts are KING in Portland and you can find just about any flavor of anything made out of a food cart in this town. Challenge accepted.
Here are some of my favorite spots to munch (keep in mind that I am vegan so these favs are absolutely skewed in that direction because Portland has SO MUCH VEGAN FOOD):
Harlow– located in the Hawthorne district, Harlow is a gluten-free, organic hotspot that offers american food and other fun seasonal treats both in food and smoothie form.
Fuel– Fuel is an absolutely adorable little breakfast bistro/cafe in the NE Alberta arts district. They serve breakfast and lunch and the staff is SO nice.
The Bye and Bye– an edgy little bar in the Alberta district that serves all vegan food and has a huge and cozy patio to relax on with a brew.
Screen Door– on of Portland’s most popular brunch spots. All southern goodness but definitely a traditional southern food style and lengthy lines sometimes.
Food Carts Downtown PDX– there is a cute little pocket of food carts lining around a couple city blocks in the center of downtown. A taste of everything you can imagine.
Like I said, there is SO MUCH FOOD in Portland, this is just a small taste of what is available. Do a simple internet search for the type of food you are feeling and you will be guaranteed to have a plethora of options to choose from.
My absolute favorite activity while living in Portland has been to go explore the different areas available.
Every area of Portland has a little different vibe and fun attractions or neighborhoods to peruse.
The perk of this activity? It is absolutely free! (Granted you find parking and you use self control when visiting the cute boutiques and walking by restaurants/coffee shops.)
Here a few of my favs with brief descriptions:
Hawthorne District– the 90’s is alive in the Hawthorne District…seriously. This grungy
fun little area holds an impressive number of people sporting black Levi’s. Full of vintage shops, fun bars, cute boutiques and tons more, this is one of my favorite areas of Portland!
Alberta District- The Alberta Arts District is a street-art appreciator’s dream. There are murals all over the place and little studios and galleries lining the streets. This area of town has strong historic black roots and an amazing vibe.
Mississippi District- This area also has strong black roots but has been a sight of extreme gentrification in recent decades. It currently boasts fun shops, good eats, and a classic Portland quirky vibe. Be sure to check out Williams & Vancouver Aves. while you’re in the area.
Northwest Alphabet District- this is a super trendy and old part of town. There are plenty of old mansions to wander about and cute shops lining about 20 blocks. Be sure to check out the bustling shops of NW 23rd Ave and the grungy bars of NW 21st.
Pearl District- the Pearl District is basically the north side of downtown Portland. This area is super fancy and feels recently upgraded. There is tons of good shopping, food, and skyscrapers!
Downtown Portland- this area has pros and cons in my opinion. Still plenty to see and do, this is home to the Portland Art Museum, many performing arts centers, and Chinatown. This area does attract a large
amount of homelessness which is very disheartening.
Belmont District- this is a fun slightly less-grungy area of Portland that offers delicious eats and fun bars for nightlife away from downtown.
Division District- I love to cruise down Division and see the wide variety of stores, restaurants, and beautiful houses.
Portland is full of fun things to do on a budget but I thought I would list a few that are on my must-see list!
Portland White Stag Sign- this is the iconic Portland, Oregon neon sign.
Best viewed while driving across the Burnside bridge from east to west at night!
Powell’s City of Books– this is the world’s largest independent bookstore and it takes up an entire city block in downtown Portland and is 4 stories! Readers unite!
Salt & Straw– iconic PDX ice cream shop with regular and vegan flavors! There are multiple locations and always lines but it’s worth it. My fav is on NW 23rd.
Portland International Rose Test Garden– this is one of my go-to spots for a relaxing morning. Located in beautiful Washington Park, the roses will AMAZE you.
Oregon Zoo– I have mixed feelings about zoos in general, though friends tell me this zoo is simply amazing and a must see. (visit for “Zoo lights” during the holiday season!)
Tom McCall Waterfront Park- this is a fun little walk along the river on the west bank. Also super close to the iconic Portland Saturday Market if you around during a weekend.
Multnomah Falls– an BREATHTAKING waterfall about 30 miles from town. If you have the means of getting there, DO IT. (Pro tip: take exit 28 on I-84 and see bonus waterfalls!)
Cannon Beach, Oregon– okay so technically not a Portland attraction, but this town is my absolute favorite town on the Pacific Ocean. Worth the 90 minute drive from PDX any day.
And of course, this wouldn’t be the Pacific Northwest if we didn’t mention the coffee. I would happily drink Folger’s before moving to Portland…yeah now that seems like craziness…ew. I’m now a coffee snob.
There is an overwhelming number of coffee shops in this city and I am still trying to make my way through trying as many as possible. Here are a few of my favorite coffee spots:
Portland Roasting Coffee– this is a local all organic (and some fair trade) roaster who has recently opened up some shops around town and you will be sure to see it if you visit the PDX airport!
Sisters Coffee– based in Sisters, Oregon, this cute little spot in the Pearl District is so cozy!
Barista– there are many Portland Barista locations and they totally rock the simple, minimalist vibe that is so at home in Portland.
Stumptown– one of the city’s most iconic coffee brands, be sure to check out their shop in the Ace Hotel…so pretty!
Here are some other fun coffee stops I’ve enjoyed:
Well, I hope this guide helps you digest Portland the best you can while you enjoy your stay in the amazing city.
Portland is a wonderful place for anyone to visit in order to open their minds to new, different, and slightly strange things! All while enjoying amazing food, coffee, sights, and some of the happiest and friendliest people I’ve ever met.
I hope you love your time here and that you see as much as possible but also find time to just chill…as Portlanders so love to do!
Be sure to check out my Instagram and tag your Portland travel photos with #theperpetualpioneerpdx I can’t wait to see all the amazing things you do!
Forever moving forward,