How to spend the day in Portland

Portland, OR with Mt. Hood in the background. - Picture of Portland, Oregon  - Tripadvisor

Portland is a beautiful city, and you could explore forever without seeing everything. But what should you do if you only have a day? As a Rose City native, I’ve been asked this a lot.

Here’s my “go-to” list for making the most out of your short time there:


You can Uber just about anywhere, but Portland also boasts a great bus/light rail system that’s worth considering. Click here to get a day pass, a route map, and more.

Make sure to wear comfy shoes; this ride involves a lot of walking.


Start by getting your sugar fix at Voodoo Doughnuts. Yeah it’s touristy, but when in Rome… The varieties are endless. Vegan? they’ve got you covered, too.  Dig in!
Bonus: Co-founder Tres Shannon used to run the late, lamented X-ray Cafe. Many now-famous bands played their early shows at this small venue just around the corner. Want to see where bands like Everclear got their start? Where Green Day once played a matinee in prom dresses? Grab your doughnuts to go, and walk to 214 W. Burnside and check it out. 
Next level: Ask me about when my high school band played there.

From there, walk down to Waterfront Park. It runs along the Willamette river, and is an amazing greenspace. Walk west to the Steele bridge- it’s the black one looming in front of you. Take the pedestrian walkway across to the East Bank Esplanade. From there, head back east toward the Hawthorne bridge- this path provides a LOT of great spots to take pictures of the PDX skyline-and cross back over. 
Bonus: It’s pronounced “Wil-LAM-et.”

Next up is Pioneer square, which has been described as “Portland’s living room” by people that don’t actually live there. Originally a public art installation, today it’s a great space to catch some sun and people watch. 
Bonus: The entire square is made of bricks, and people could buy a brick with their name on it to help fund the project. Mine is on the N.E. part of the floor…next to a garbage can. 


From here, we’re going to the Zoo! We’re taking the light rail to get there. From Pioneer Square, get on the RED line towards Beaverton. You’ll want to get off at Washington Park. Make sure to check out the world-renowned elephant exhibit. Feel free to skip the snakes. No one likes snakes.
Bonus: If you finish early, check out the Vietnam Veteran’s memorial

Next up: The International Rose Test Garden. From the Zoo, take the 63 bus (Washington Park/Arlington Hts.) towards Providence park. Get off at the Rose Garden. Go for the flowers, stay for the view. If you want to take a picture like the one at the top of this article, this is where you do it. 

Bonus: If time permits, make a stop at the Japanese Gardens. At one point, they offered airline employees a discount. If you’re in the industry, it might be worth an ask. Either way, it’s serenity makes it well worth your time.


From here, take the 63 back to downtown, getting off at Providence Park, home of the Portland Timbers soccer team. You can see a lot of the facility from the street, or check out the team store while there. 

Hungry yet? It’s time to hit the Goose Hollow Inn. Just a short walk from Providence park, and plenty of food to fill you up. Vegetarian/Vegan menu options as well.

Bonus: Pair your meal with a Mirror Pond Ale from Deschutes brewing. They’re delicious.

From here, make your way to Burnside, and head east (or “down”) towards the river. It’s time to take in Powell’s books.. A destination all it’s own, the building takes up a full city-block.  How ever much time you plan to allot here, make sure to double it- with 3 million titles, it’s just that easy to get lost in here. 
Bonus: Travel Writing is in the Red Room. 

That’s our last stop on this journey! From here, you can take the Red Line back to the airport, or wherever your next steps may be.

Have somewhere you think should make this list? Something else to add! I’d love to hear from you. Hit me up in the comments, or contact me directly!

One thought on “How to spend the day in Portland

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