From the theaters and museums of the Cultural District to parks that play host to festivals and farmers’ markets, downtown puts a wide range of entertainment within easy walking distance.
The long green lawns, riverside paths and refreshing fountains of Waterfront Park are a magnet for joggers, cyclists and Frisbee flingers; they also set the stage for a full slate of summer festivals, including the century-old Rose Festival (May-June) and the legendary Oregon Brewers Festival (July). For a quick workout, skip the hotel treadmill in favor of the Waterfront Park-Eastbank Esplanade Loop. The 2.9-mile (4.7 km) circuit traces the banks of the Willamette River and links the Steel and Hawthorne bridges, all while delivering nonstop city and river views.
Nicknamed Portland’s Living Room, red-brick-lined Pioneer Courthouse Square is a hub of civic fun. The most-visited spot in town hosts some 300 events each year, including a farmers’ market on summer Mondays, free concerts, movies and a grand holiday tree-lighting party.
Director Park, located just a block from Pioneer Courthouse Square, is a former parking lot that was converted into a public square in 2009. The park features a café, ample outdoor seating and a fountain, and plays host to occasional events in the summer. It’s also a great place to sit with your lunch from the Alder food cart pod.
A short walk away, the Portland Art Museum showcases a top-notch collection of Asian and Native American artifacts and frequent touring exhibits. And just across the South Park Blocks (a shady, inviting attraction in their own right), you’ll find the Oregon History Museum, with its extensive collection of artifacts and exhibits tracing the region’s history back to its first inhabitants.
Surely one of Portland’s most-photographed features, the Broadway marquee of the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall is crowned by a 65-foot-high “Portland” sign illuminated with 6,000 lights. Known as “the Schnitz,” this historic theater (part of Portland’5 Centers for the Arts, which also has a complex with multiple performance spaces next door) is home to resident companies like the Oregon Symphony and regularly hosts touring artists, from Jack Johnson to Wynton Marsalis. Several blocks south, Keller Auditorium is the home stage for the Oregon Ballet Theatre and the Broadway Across America series.
Dating back to 1992, the Portland Farmers Market (three seasonal downtown locations) is a dazzling — and palate-pleasing — display of Oregon’s bounty, with dozens of growers and food vendors. And the market’s not just for folks with kitchen access; you’ll find a variety of prepared meals, from tamales to biscuit sandwiches.
For directions, recommendations and information on downtown, stop by the Visitor Information Center in Pioneer Courthouse Square, or look for the green-clad Sidewalk Ambassadors on the move and always ready to assist.