Portland, Oregon was on my bucket list for many years, and I’m so glad I took this solo trip. It’s a beautiful city, with cool art, vegan and vegetarian food, thrift shopping, and an overall hippie vibe. Like any good adventure, I came home feeling completely revived and inspired.
I prefer to take 6-7 days to explore a city, so I don’t feel too rushed. Having a whole week allows you to take your time, see all parts of the city, and actually enjoy your time without too much hurry.
Here’s a list of 10 fun things I did in Portland, and I hope it inspires your next adventure!
There’s something so special about parks in the middle of a city. Washington Park is like the Portland version of Central Park. The Alphabet District feeds directly into this park, and it feels like you’ve just escaped the city. The trees are enormous, like they had been there hundreds of years. I recommend checking out the Alphabet District, and then walking to Washington Park.
The International Rose Test Garden is located inside of Washington Park, and the roses are in bloom from May-September. I visited in July, so the gardens were in full bloom! There are 10,000 rose bushes and 650 varieties. The garden takes up 4.5 acres, and the roses are absolutely beautiful!
The entry is free, and it’s the perfect place to bring a picnic lunch. It’s located on a hill, so the views are nice too. Now I understand why one of Portland’s many nicknames is “the city of roses.”
It took me less than 5 minutes to walk from the Rose Gardens to the Portland Japanese Gardens. I used my student ID for a discount, but the full ticket price is $16.95 for adults. It was a very peaceful experience, and there’s an amazing view of the city within the park. The coy pond was pretty awesome too!
4. Shopping in the Alphabet District
The Alphabet District is walking distance from Washington Park, so I recommend checking it out. This area, specifically Northwest 23rd and Northwest 21st Street, is filled with local boutiques, Victorian style homes, restaurants, lots of clothing stores, and a Salt and Straw location. The Portland Street Car has several stops that run through here, so transportation is very simple.
I stopped at a local boutique called Like Nobody’s Business,where I bought this adorable backpack! It’s handmade, and I’ve received so many compliments on it! Actually, the entire store is full of local art and hand crafted items from around the world. If you’re looking for something unique to bring home with you, I recommend stopping here! The owners were extremely friendly, and they gave me some great local tips for the rest of my trip.
5. White Stag Sign
I love taking photos when I travel, and the White Stag Sign (also known at “the Portland sign,” is an iconic symbol of Portland. It’s located downtown on the waterfront, and it lights up from 4pm to 7am. There are two ways to view the sign. One way is on the waterfront, and the other way to view it is from Burnside Bridge. You can access Burnside Bridge from SW 1st Avenue. Also, you can take the train car downtown, which was very convenient.
While the sign is really cool to see, the area can be sketchy. I recommend visiting the sign in the morning or early afternoon. You don’t want to be downtown when it’s getting dark. Hopefully the area improves, but it’s also the main reason I chose to stay east of the river, instead of downtown.
6. Cannon Beach Day Trip
Visiting Cannon Beach was the best thing I did on my trip. I rented a car for the day, and drove out to the coast with some friends I met at my AirBnb. My friend Emily also flew out to meet me, and we had an amazing day. It took us about an hour and half to reach Cannon Beach, but it only felt like 20 minutes. The drive through the mountains was so beautiful that it should have been on my bucket list all along.
I’ve been to a lot of beaches, but Cannon Beach is in its own category. It was amazing to see Haystack Rock and the reflections of forest in the water. A lot of people had tents set up, and the dog watching was definitely a plus. It’s the kind of place you’ll want to spend the whole day.
We left at sunset and we drove over St.John’s Bridge on the way back to our AirBnb. St.John’s bridge is located in North Portland, but it was totally worth the detour. If you have time, I’d recommend spending some time on the waterfront there. I’ve also heard there’s some great food trucks in North Portland. Overall, it was a perfect way to end my solo trip.
7. Hiking in Corbett, Oregon
Portland has a lot to explore, but you can’t miss out on the gorgeous scenery surrounding the city! I came to Portland on a solo trip, but I quickly became friends with the other people staying at my AirBnb. They invited me to join them on their day trip to Corbett, and we spent the entire day driving around the mountains in their rental car. I’ll never forget that drive through the steep mountainside, listening to Avicii with the windows down.
We stopped at viewpoints, hiked to two waterfalls (including Latourell Falls), and laughed until our faces hurt. Sometimes unplanned days turn into the best ones. The hiking was so incredible. I felt like I was in a movie, and I kept having to remind myself that what I was seeing was real.
8. Thrift Shopping in Southeast Portland
If you’re into thrifting, Portland is the ideal place! I spent an entire day thrifting in Southeast Portland during my solo trip, and I highly recommend it. Whether you’re looking for vintage or new, the Portland thrift scene has what you’re looking for. Here’s a list of the thrift stores I went to, with honest reviews in each place.
9. Street Art in Alberta Arts District & Boise
If you love street art, you have to check out the Alberta Arts District and Boise. (There’s street art all around the city, but I really enjoyed biking around these areas.) The Alberta Arts District is located in the Vernon, Concordia and King neighborhoods, and it spans about 1.5 miles. I roamed the area and checked out the local shops, ate some Salt and Straw ice cream, and enjoyed the creative and local vibes.
After exploring the Alberta Arts District, I rode a bike to the Boise area. It’s another fun neighborhood to roam around. N Mississippi Avenue has some food carts and really cute local shops. I bought some of my favorite jewelry in one of the shops here. (I wish I could remember the name of it!)
10. Food Cart Pods
One of the coolest things about Portland is the food cart pods! It’s like a food court, but with lots of food trucks in one outdoor area. There’s always lots of outdoor seating, and some food pods even have fire pits, so you can hangout all evening. You really can’t visit Portland without experiencing this!
My favorite food pod is Hawthorne Asylum, and I ate there 3-4 times during my trip. You can also check out my Portland food blog, to get some inspiration for your trip!
11. Biking Around the City
Portland is extremely bike friendly, so I recommend taking advantage of this in Portland!
I rented a bike several days in a row, and it’s how I was able to see so much of the city on the days I didn’t rent a car. I’d highly recommend using Biketown when you’re in Portland. There are bike lanes everywhere, and biking is a common way for locals to get around too. It’s easy to download the Biketown app, which shows you where the closest bike stations are. (There’s stations all around the city, so it’s easy to switch out bikes.) It’s also cheap transportation and great exercise!