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Editor Pick

6 Non-Touristy Things to Do in Portland, Oregon

Updated: May 18, 2023

Written by

AAA Travel Editor, Katie Broome

You’ve browsed the shelves at Powell’s City of Books, smelled the roses at the International Rose Test Garden and sampled sweets at Voodoo Doughnuts. Now you’re wondering what to do to experience 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.

Forest Park

Accessed from various locations, including N.W. Cornell Road and N.W. Thurman Street

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. In the park are more than 70 miles of trails to explore.If you only have a morning or an afternoon, 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. Don't worry about getting lost; the trail has plenty of directional signs along the way.Read More

Lan Su Chinese Garden

239 N.W. Everett St.

Occupying a city block in downtown Portland, Lan Su Chinese Garden offers a peaceful space to wander and learn about Chinese culture. Inside the walled-off garden you'll see koi ponds, shaded courtyards, carved pavilions and a two-story teahouse. All were designed and built by artisans from Portland’s sister city of Suzhou, China. Textures, scents, sounds and views contribute to a feeling of harmony within the space.Read More

Mount Tabor Park

S.E. 60th St. & S.E. Salmon St.

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.

Scenic viewpoints are reachable by foot on paved and unpaved trails. You can also reach them by 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, sports courts and fields.Read More

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, while Por Que No serves up tacos worth the wait. German beer bar Prost! has nearly a dozen food trucks and food carts surrounding it.

Stroll the commercial strip to find quirky boutiques, hip cocktail lounges, craft beer bars and a few outdoor patios. If live music is on your list of things to do in Portland, check the schedule at Mississippi Studios. The intimate venue is in the center of the district.

Peninsula Park Rose Garden

700 N. Rosa Parks Way

Pay a visit to Portland’s first public rose garden at Peninsula Park when everything is in full bloom (late May through October). Your eyes and nose will be in for a treat. The Elizabethan-style garden features more than 60 varieties of roses in what is said to be one of the largest sunken rose gardens in the country.

Brick walkways connect formal gardens with grassy areas, a music pavilion and a fountain. It's the less-crowded alternative to the International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park.Read More

Shop Local

Various locations

Oregon is one of five states with no sales tax, so take advantage of the savings in the Pacific Northwest. You can support local makers and brands by shopping at places off the beaten path.

Pop in to Crafty Wonderland (808 S.W. 10th Ave.) for Sasquatch-adorned things and handmade goods. Hello From Portland (514 N.W. Couch St.) is a great place to go for curated souvenirs, apparel and iron-on patches.

If upcycled items are more your thing, head to the Hawthorne District. Vintage shops and record stores line Hawthorne Boulevard, so you're sure to find things to see and do.

Written by

AAA Travel Editor, Katie Broome

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