Top sights in Portland

Portland's unexpected attractions range from gardens and museums to retailers of coffee, doughnuts and books.

Photo courtesy of Portland Japanese Garden, Denise BoberThe Portland Japanese Garden is considered one of the most authentic outside of Japan.
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    Photo above courtesy of Portland Japanese Garden and Denise Bober.

    Portland’s fun and unexpected attractions range from gardens and museums to (tax-free) retailers of coffee, doughnuts and books. Here are a few must-sees.

    Powell’s City of Books

    From humble storefront beginnings in 1971, Powell’s has grown into a Portland landmark and one of the world’s great bookstores. Covering an entire city block, Powell’s City of Books contains more than 1.5 million books in 3,500 different sections. Get a cup of joe at the in-store coffee shop, grab a map to the nine color-coded rooms, and lose yourself in the largest used and new bookstore on Earth.

    Open 9 a.m.-11 p.m., 365 days a year; free.

    Lan Su Chinese Garden

    A year-round wonder, the Lan Su Chinese Garden is an authentically built Ming Dynasty style garden. Covered walkways, bridges, pavilions and a richly planted landscape frame a picturesque lake in this urban oasis built by artisans from Portland’s sister city of Suzhou. Public and audio tours are available, and the garden’s teahouse serves light snacks and traditional teas. Lan Su hosts many events, including a two-week Chinese New Year celebration and summer concerts.

    Open daily; admission charged.

    Portland Saturday Market

    Enjoy a distinctive experience at Portland Saturday Market, the nation’s largest weekly open-air arts and crafts market. Stroll down row upon row of unique creations made by the people who sell them, and enjoy live music and international snacks. Located in Waterfont Park, at the Skidmore Fountain MAX station. Make a $25 purchase and receive a free TriMet ticket or a two-hour parking validation at any Smart Park garage.

    Open rain or shine, Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., March through December 24; free.

    Stumptown Coffee Roasters

    In 1999, Stumptown Coffee took Portland caffeine lovers by the storm. What started as a single roastery on Southeast Division Street quickly expanded to the rest of Portland and, more recently, New York City and Seattle. Stumptown emphasizes direct trade and highlights the different flavor profiles of coffee varietals. While grabbing a latte from Stumptown may take longer than going to Starbucks, the gorgeous latte art, not to mention the singularly Portland vibe, will more than make up for it.

    Oregon Zoo

    At the Oregon Zoo, you can travel around the world in an afternoon, observing more than 2,000 animals from around the world, from agouti (a rainforest rodent) to zebra. This conservation zoo is renowned for its Asian elephant breeding program.

    The zoo is located in Washington Park, five minutes from downtown on Highway 26 West, or about 10 minutes via MAX light rail (Blue or Red line, Washington Park stop).

    Open daily except Dec. 25; admission charged. Discounted admission ($4) is offered on the second Tuesday of each month. Save $1.50 off admission with proof of transit ridership.

    Pittock Mansion

    High in the West Hills of Portland, Pittock Mansion soars 1,000 feet above the city’s skyline. A century-old symbol of Portland’s dramatic transformation from a small lumber town to a bustling city, it’s an architectural wonder. With picture-perfect views of rivers, forests, bridges and mountaintops — and 23 storied rooms teeming with treasures — no other place in town offers a more breathtaking view or a more revealing glimpse of Portland’s past.

    Open daily; admission charged.

    Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI)

    One of the nation’s leading science museums, OMSI is 219,000 square feet of brain-powered fun. Five enormous halls bring science to life with hundreds of interactive exhibits and displays. You can experience an earthquake, take part in live lab demonstrations, see a movie in the Empirical Theater, explore the universe in a world-class planetarium and even tour a real submarine. Located on the east bank of the Willamette River.

    Open daily; admission charged.

    Portland Farmers Market

    Widely considered one of the world’s finest farmers’ markets, the Portland Farmers Market operates eight weekly markets, spring through fall. In addition to fresh produce, the market is a go-to spot for prepared food items, as well as cheeses, meats, flowers and more.

    The flagship market is held on Saturdays in the South Park Blocks at Portland State University, March-December. On Mondays, the market comes to Pioneer Courthouse Square (June-September), and Wednesday’s market is held in the South Park Blocks of the Cultural District (May-October).

    Voodoo Doughnut

    Located in Old Town’s popular nightlife district, Voodoo Doughnut is one of the city’s most unusual and delicious culinary destinations. The doughnuts, topped with creative ingredients such as bacon, Captain Crunch and Oreos, are almost as fun to look at as they are to eat. Locals and visitors line up 24 hours a day for what may be the most innovative doughnuts in the world. Be prepared for adorable mustached faces to look up at you from your food (mirroring the many bearded young men you’ll encounter biking around Portland).

    Open all day, every day. Two locations.

    International Rose Test Garden

    Portland’s International Rose Test Garden is the oldest official continuously operated public rose test garden in the United States. Each year hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world enjoy the sights and scents of the gardens. The garden’s spectacular views and more than 8,000 roses make it one of the city’s most notable signature landmarks. Located in Washington Park. The best rose-viewing months are May-September.

    Open daily; free.

    Portland Art Museum

    Find out why the oldest museum in the Northwest, the Portland Art Museum, is internationally renowned for exciting art experiences. Located in the heart of downtown’s cultural district, the museum campus includes an outdoor sculpture court and historical interiors. Tour the world and travel through history in magnificent permanent collection galleries (featuring an extensive collection of Native American art), six stories of modern art and special exhibitions. Each Sunday features activities for families.

    Open Tuesday-Sunday; admission charged. Children 17 and under free. Admission is free on the fourth Friday of every month from 5-8 p.m. The museum also offers free admission and special family programming several times a year (check calendar).

    Portland Japanese Garden

    In the scenic hills above Washington Park, the Japanese Garden is a haven of tranquil beauty which has been proclaimed one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan. Encompassing 5.5 acres and five separate garden styles, the garden includes an authentic Japanese Tea House, meandering streams, intimate walkways and an unsurpassed view of Mount Hood. Guided tours are included with cost of admission.

    Open daily; admission charged.

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