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Road Trip to Portland Oregon USA
Updated September 25, 2017.
It’s time for a road trip to Portland Oregon! With stunning scenery, award-winning food, fun nightlife, classic arts (and some not so classic), professional sports, world-class outdoor recreation . . .
. . . you name it, it’s here!
Located in the Pacific Northwest at the confluence of the mighty Columbia River and the historic Willamette River, Portland sits in the shadow of majestic Mt. Hood.
Known for its unique culture, the “City of Roses” has become an international travel destination.
The folks who live here value the land and wildlife, and take pride in their city. In fact, Portland is known as one of the most environmentally conscience cities in the world. Even so, the population remains generally small town in nature, quite neighborly.
Visitors enjoy the unique culture, sights and sounds of a vacation destination that over-delivers!
Explore a Road Trip to Portland Oregon
Click on the links below to find fantastic places to see and thrilling things to do on a road trip to Portland Oregon.
Travelers worldwide add this signature destination to their road trip to Portland Oregon itinerary, because it's the city's namesake: City of Roses.
Located on the eastern boundary of the Washington Park complex, the International Rose Test Garden is at the height of its blooming season in early June.
This premier location is central in the city's annual Rose Festival, the highlight of which is the Rose Festival Parade.
This garden is more picturesque than most as incredible views of the city and of Mt. Hood are a dramatic backdrop.
Make this garden a definite must-see on your road trip to Portland Oregon.
Visiting zoos is one of our favorite travel pastimes and Oregon is home to one of the best in the United States. Put this place at the top of your list of things to do on your road trip to Portland Oregon!
The Oregon Zoo is 64 acres of child friendly, disabled accessible, amazing wildlife exhibits.
Renowned for Packy the elephant, and incredible exhibits presenting habitats with native ecosystems from all corners of the Earth, The Oregon Zoo attracts visitors worldwide and is a premier vacation destination.
Hop aboard the Zoo Railway. This adventurous train trip skirts the zoo’s perimeter with a line running through Portland’s picturesque West Hills to the east side of Washington Park.
Visitors disembarking onto the station platform are welcomed by a stunning view of the "City of Roses", the International Rose Test Garden, and the exquisite Portland Japanese Garden. Enjoy the return trip through an evergreen forest, an emerald gem in a bustling city.
Events abound throughout the year at the Oregon Zoo
Each year the Oregon Zoo, "Decks the Halls" with Zoolights, a winter festival. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s visitors from around the world flock to this incredible holiday family favorite.
Bundled against the cold, awestruck children skip wide-eyed through a glittering whimsical land. Santa’s emissaries, a polar bear, a lion and elves, touch everyone with magic.
The cheerful camaraderie is heart-warming and the merriness, infectious. Scrumptious treats, lively music and special performances make this occasion a jolly good time.
Who says zoos are just for kids? If this is so, then I don’t want to ever grow up.
Be sure to add this destination to your road trip to Portland Oregon itinerary.
Portlanders are very proud of Union Station, a National Historical Landmark and a significant transportation hub of the west. This is where travelers can catch a Greyhound bus or an Amtrack train. The Romaneque Revival clock tower is one of the Rose City's treasured icons. Building of this station commenced in 1890 with a grand opening celebration on Valentine's Day in 1896. The neon, "Go By Train" signs were added in 1948, and remain operational today. Loving restored for it's centennial in 1996, Union Station is a must-see for history buffs and train aficionados.
"The Crystal Ballroom enjoys national recognition for a reason. No local venue, and indeed few in the nation, can challenge this elegant ballroom’s 90 years as a premier place to hear live music, dance and have memorable experiences. The hall has seen countless first loves unfold, police raids, visits by silent screen idols and Beat poets, psychedelic light shows, narrow escapes from fire, demolition, and neglect, and a listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
'Like dancing on clouds,' is how people describe cutting a rug here. At the time of its construction, the Crystal’s mechanical dance floor (now fully restored to proper working order) was said to be unique on the Pacific Coast. Today, it may be the only one left in the United States. You will also appreciate our gorgeous decor: flamboyant wall sconces and light fixtures, grand paintings and gigantic windows everywhere.
Today, it is a vital, thriving McMenamins owned and operated live music palace that hosts everything from rock ’n’ roll and country, to hip-hop and big band swing." McMenamins.com
"The 1920s were sensational times for the motion picture industry. Movie theatres were grand palaces of entertainment. The Hollywood Theatre is still a movie palace, but it’s become much more than that. The Theatre has earned a national reputation. . . Each year screening nearly 300 of the best films from all over the world." HollywoodTheatre.org
Paul Bunyan Statue
While there are many statues on display throughout the USA of the legendary Paul Bunyan, the most famous is in Portland. Listed in the National Registery of Historic Places, this icon graces a neighborhood typical of residential living in the city.
Tilikum Crossing is the first car-free bridge in the United States, designed for mass transit, pedestrians and bicyclists, only. A beautiful LED light display dances in patterns and color tied to the Willamette River’s water temperature, rate of flow and water level. Opened in September 2015, this attractive bridge continues to garner national attention.
U.S. Bancorp Tower
"U.S. Bancorp Tower is a distinctive landmark that stands tall in the Portland skyline. The largest Class A building in the city, the Tower is known for its distinctive architecture and as a premier location for Northwest business." UniCopProp.com
Enjoy a grand view of the city and of majestic Mt. Hood from the award winning Portland City Grill located on the 38th floor.
Located just off the east end of the Sellwood Bridge on the banks of the Willamette River is a Portland icon serving family entertainment needs since 1905.
Oaks Amusement Park’s historic skating rink is nostalgic and innovative with a floating floor. Open year around the rink has served families for generations. My sweetheart and I, like our parents and grandparents, spent many a romantic evening here.
Midway games and rides are open seasonally. My favorite is the beautiful Merry-Go-Round. It’s like a carnival or fair every day. Picnic grounds along the scenic river, sweet treats and a good time await all.
Jamison Square Fountain
Located between NW Johnson and Kearney, in the Pearl District of downtown Portland, Jamison Square was "named in honor of William Jamison, whose presence was pivotal in the development of the River District.
The focal point of the park is a fountain which simulates a shallow tidal pool. Water cascades from stone joints into low pools as the fountain continuously recirculates treated water. Along the edge of the park, are four 30-foot-tall sculptures covering the streetcar catenary poles; the Tikitotemoniki Totems, also known as Tiki Totems. Another art installation in the park is Contact II, the 1972 metal sculpture." PortlandOregon.gov
Keller Fountain Park
"Designed by Angela Danadjieva, the Forecourt Fountain was completed in 1970. 13,000 gallons of water per minute cascade through its terraces and platforms, suggesting the Northwest's abundant waterfalls. The concrete fountain became an instant city landmark and an internationally acclaimed open space. In 1978, the fountain was renamed after Ira C. Keller (1899-1978), civic leader." PortlandOregon.gov
Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden
"Named for W.S. Ladd's "Crystal Springs Farm," Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden has more than 2000 species & hybrid rhododendrons, azaleas, magnolias and related plants growing in garden arrangements. The garden covers approximately five acres in the Eastmoreland neighborhood of southeast Portland."
This botanical garden is an essential stop on your road trip to Portland Oregon.
"With its fir trees, colorful rhododendrons and other native plants, The Grotto is an inviting destination for all. An internationally-renowned Catholic shrine and botanical garden, The Grotto provides a spiritual and peaceful retreat for more than 200,000 visitors each year from all faiths and all walks of life. Visitors are delighted to discover this 62-acre green space just minutes from downtown ." TheGrotto.org
There is no other place like it in the USA; a must-see on your road trip to Portland Oregon.
Lan Su Chinese Garden
"Lan Su Chinese Garden is one of Portland's greatest treasures and most interesting sites to see while visiting Portland. A result of a collaboration between the cities of Portland and Suzhou, our sister city in China's Jiangsu province that's famous for its beautiful Ming Dynasty gardens, Lan Su was built by Chinese artisans from our Suzhou and is the most authentic Chinese garden outside of China." LanSuGarden.org
Portland Japanese Garden
"Proclaimed the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan, the Portland Japanese Garden is a 5.5-acre haven of tranquil beauty nestled in the scenic west hills." JapaneseGarden.com
Don't miss this spectacular place to see on your road trip to Portland Oregon.
Pioneer Courthouse Square
"Located in the heart of Downtown Portland, Pioneer Courthouse Square is a public space hosting more than 300 programmed events each year. With more than 26,000 people visiting the Square each day, and four transit lines surrounding the park, it is the single most visited site in Oregon’s most visited city." TheSquarePDX.org
"Every house tells a story. This one tells Portland's. Built in 1914 for one of Oregon's first and most influential families, Pittock Mansion overlooks the city's skyline--and is the perfect place to learn how Portland became what it is today." PittockMansion.org
The Westin Hotel
For a luxury experience, this is the place to stay.
Oregon Historical Society Museum
Oregon is rich in history that dates back to the early days in the USA. "Explore the changing and permanent exhibitions at the Oregon Historical Society's Museum." OHS.org
Oregon Museum of Science & Industry-OMSI
"Five unique exhibit halls, eight hands-on science labs, the USS Blueback submarine, Kendall Planetarium, The Empirical Theater and much more!" OMSI.edu
Portland Art Museum
"Founded in late 1892, the Portland Art Museum is the seventh oldest museum in the United States and the oldest in the Pacific Northwest." PortlandArtMuseum.org
Portland Children's Museum
Even young children can enjoy a road trip to Portland Oregon.
"Bring your kids to the Portland Children's Museum for family fun, exhibits, birthday parties, camps, classes and more!" PortlandCM.org
World Forestry Center
"Located in Portland’s beautiful Washington Park, our 20,000 square foot museum is sure to delight anyone from ages 3 to 103. Visitors will be both educated and entertained as they learn about the importance of forests and trees in our lives, as well as environmental sustainability."
"The site which now bears the name Cathedral Park is steeped in history. It is believed to be one of the 14 Lewis and Clark landing sites in the Vancouver-Portland area: William Clark and eight men camped there on April 2, 1806. This spot had been a fishing and camping site for many area Indian tribes. In 1847, the founder of St Johns, James John, settled on the site and operated a ferry to Linnton across the Willamette River. In 1931, the St Johns Bridge was built on the site with 400-ft towers and a main span of 1,207 feet. It is the only steel suspension bridge in Portland." PortlandOregon.gov
"At 5,157 acres, Portland's Forest Park is the largest urban forest in the United States. With more than 80 miles of soft-surface trails, fire lanes and forest roads, Forest Park stretches for more than seven miles along the eastern slope of the Tualatin Mountains, overlooking Northwest Portland and the convergence of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. Forest Park offers an unparalleled opportunity for visitors to experience a true northwest forest without leaving the Portland city limits." ForestParkConservancy.org
As one of the most beautiful parks on the West Coast, Laurelhurst Park was the first city park to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The park is highly prized by Portland's citizens and plays an important role in the city's culture.
Mount Tabor Park
Mount Tabor Park is a wonderful inner city escape with lots of beautiful green space for picnicking and hiking. Trail maps are available at the visitor center located at SE 60th Avenue and Salmon Street.
Tom McCall Waterfront Park
Built along the seawall of the beautiful Willamette River, Tom McCall Waterfront Park is the perfect venue for celebration. With a long history dating back to 1903, Tom McCall Waterfront Park is a hallmark of the downtown area and is a significant part of Portland living.
Visit the Battleship Oregon and Police Memorials.
In spring be awed by the 100 ornamental cherry trees in bloom.
Tarry-a-while in the Friendship Circle and listen to music from Japanese instruments emanating from a stainless steel sculpture, a tribute to Portland's sister city, Sapporo, Japan. Another sculpture adorns the the Japanese American Historical Plaza.
After visiting the Founders Stone on a warm summer's day, cool off at the Salmon Street Springs, a dancing fountain.
No road trip to Portland Oregon is complete without a tour of Washington Park.
"Whether you are seeking excitement or tranquility, Washington Park is the place for you and your family. With over 400 acres of trees, gardens, attractions, playgrounds and 15 miles of trails, this is an oasis of green space just minutes from downtown Portland."
One of the best family parks in the city; located in S.E. Portland. Once you visit this scenic park with lots to do for everyone, you'll never want to leave!
Points of Interest
Audubon Society of Portland-Nature Sanctuary
Have you considered including bird watching on your road trip to Portland Oregon?
"Portland Audubon's 150-acre Nature Sanctuary is nestled against Forest Park just five minutes from downtown Portland. The free-to-the-public sanctuary has more than four miles of forested hiking trails and is a showcase for native flora and fauna. You can visit and enjoy the trails year 'round, from dawn to dusk every day."
"Hoyt Arboretum is a living laboratory where scientists and students can study trees and plants that would not otherwise grow in our climate and habitat. Features at the arboretum include: a unique collection of trees and plants from around the world, a living laboratory for preservation and research, a vital resource for conserving plant biodiversity, a peaceful urban oasis, a 187-acre refuge with 12 miles of hiking trails." HoytArboretum.org
Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge
"Oaks Bottom is a floodplain wetland located along the east bank of the Willamette River. . . . Hawks, quail, pintails, mallards, coots, woodpeckers, kestrels, and widgeons are just the start of the list of birds that one might encounter in Oaks Bottom. Scores of great blue heron are found in the area because of its proximity to one of the rookeries on Ross Island." PortlandOregon.gov/parks
Vietnam Veterans of Oregon Memorial
"Inspired by the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, in 1982, a group Oregon Vietnam veterans conceived of the idea of a veterans memorial in Oregon.
The wall also chronicles three years of the conflict and concurrent local events, providing a poignant contrast.
Its location in the arboretum provides a serene setting for reflection. The memorial also includes several symbolic components: a bosque of pear trees at the entrance symbolizes life and sacredness; water elements in the Garden of Solace signify life, purity, and hope."
This is without a doubt the best bookstore in the USA! Used and new books, hardback reside together on the same shelves.
Another Portland icon and a must-see to add to your itinerary for a road trip to Portland Oregon. Wear comfortable walking shoes, as this place is huge!
For book lovers only.
This 'weird" donut shop has become a Portland icon. Located in the Old Town section of the city, Voodoo Doughnut proprietors dish up sweet treats with an outside the box presentation. No two donuts are ever the same!
Be prepared to stand in line, sometimes around the block--they're that popular!
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