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6 Non-Touristy Things to Do in Portland, Oregon

AAA/Katie Broome
By AAA Travel Editor Katie Broome
April 23, 2019
You’ve browsed the shelves at Powell’s City of Books, smelled the roses at the International Rose Test Garden and sampled the sweets at Voodoo Doughnuts—now you’re ready to explore Portland like a local. Here are a few of the best places to go off the beaten path on your next trip to Portland, Oregon.
Directional signs pointing to Forest Park's Wildwood Trail and Upper Macleay Trail in Portland, Oregon.
AAA/Katie Broome

Forest Park

Accessed from various locations, including N.W. Cornell Road and N.W. Thurman Street
(503) 823-7529
Did you know that Portland is home to one of the largest urban forests in the United States? Lace up your hiking boots and hit the trails in Forest Park, a natural woodland just 15 minutes northwest of downtown. There are more than 70 miles of trails to explore, but if you only have a morning or an afternoon to spare, consider a 1.5-mile section of the Wildwood Trail that climbs from N.W. Cornell Road to Pittock Mansion. The well-maintained trail is popular with walkers and joggers on weekends and has plenty of directional signs along the way.
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A pavilion overlooking a pond in Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland, Oregon.
AAA/Katie Broome

Lan Su Chinese Garden

239 N.W. Everett St.
(503) 228-8131
Occupying an entire city block in downtown Portland, Lan Su Chinese Garden offers a peaceful space to wander and also learn about Chinese culture and history. Things to see within the garden’s walls include koi-filled ponds, tree-shaded courtyards, intricately carved pavilions and a two-story teahouse—all designed and built by artisans from Portland’s sister city of Suzhou, China. Textures, scents, sounds and views all contribute to a feeling of harmony within the greenspace.
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city views at Mount Tabor Park in Portland, Oregon
AAA/Frank Swanson

Mount Tabor Park

S.E. 60th St. & S.E. Salmon St.
(503) 823-7529
If you’re looking for hikes near Portland, consider a trip to Mount Tabor Park. Located on a dormant volcanic cinder cone on the city’s east side, the park is one of the best places to watch a sunset and soak up views of downtown and beyond. The scenic viewpoints are reachable by foot (via paved and unpaved trails), bicycle, or car (except on Wednesdays when the park is closed to motor vehicles). Locals head here for the hiking trails as well as the off-leash dog park and many sports courts and fields.
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pizzeria, pizza
AAA/Inspector 19

Nightlife on North Mississippi Avenue

Between N. Skidmore and N. Fremont streets
A roughly five-block section of North Mississippi Avenue promises a night full of uniquely Portland experiences. First grab a bite to eat—Mississippi Pizza Pub has cheap pizza by the slice, Por Que No serves up tacos worth the wait and German beer bar Prost! has nearly a dozen food carts surrounding it—then stroll the commercial strip to find quirky boutiques, hip cocktail lounges, dessert shops, breweries and a few outdoor patios. If enjoying some live music is on your list of things to do in Portland, check the schedule at Mississippi Studios, an intimate venue in the center of the district.
view of roses and other garden plants
AAA/Frank Swanson

Peninsula Park Rose Garden

700 N. Rosa Parks Way
(503) 823-7529
Pay a visit to Portland’s first public rose garden at Peninsula Park during peak blooming season (late May through October) and you’re in for a treat—both for the eyes and the nose. The Elizabethan-style garden features more than 60 varieties of floribunda and tea roses in what is said to be one of the largest sunken rose gardens in the country. Brick walkways connect the formal gardens with grassy areas, a music pavilion and a century-old fountain.
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Exterior of the House of Vintage store against a blue sky in Portland, Oregon.
AAA/Katie Broome

Shop Local

Various locations
Oregon is one of five states with no sales tax, so take advantage of the savings and support local makers and brands by shopping at places off the beaten path. A few of our favorites: Boys Fort (1001 S.W. Morrison St.) for cheeky gifts and novelty items; Crafty Wonderland (808 S.W. 10th Ave.) for Sasquatch-adorned things and handmade goods; and Hello From Portland (514 N.W. Couch St.) for curated souvenirs, apparel and iron-on patches. If upcycled items are more your thing, head to the Hawthorne District where vintage shops and record stores line Hawthorne Boulevard.