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Fun Things to Do in Portland Oregon

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Portland is an attractive and vital place for both natives and visitors. The unique character and planning of each district has earned urban Portland both national and international acclaim. Public green spaces and clean and convenient public transportation serve as a shining example for any progressive and vibrant city.

Here are my recommendations for fun things to do in Portland, Oregon:

1. Washington Park and the Oregon Zoo

Zoo Train Station for the Washington Park and Zoo Railway in Portland's Washington Park
Washington Park and Zoo Railway (©Angela M. Brown)
Washington Park is a large complex of attractions, including the popular Oregon Zoo, the International Rose Test Garden, the World Forestry Center Discovery Museum, the Portland Japanese Garden, the Portland Children's Museum, and the Hoyt Arboretum. At the Oregon Zoo you'll have a chance to see critters from around the world and from the Northwest. Washington Park is a great place to enjoy spending outdoors with friends and family.

2. Oregon Historical Society Museum

Oregon Historical Society Museum
Oregon Historical Society Museum (©Angela M. Brown)
You'll learn all about Oregon's history at this downtown museum. The OHS collection includes the Oregon My Oregon exhibit, which covers every aspect of Oregon's natural and human history. The Northwest Art Gallery features the work of prominent Oregon artists and also offers special exhibits. Special exhibits come and go throughout the year, so each visit is a unique experience.

3. Powell's City of Books

Powell's City of Books
Powell's City of Books ©Angela M. Brown (2007)
This downtown Portland landmark covers an entire city block. Powell's City of Books is the largest new-and-used bookstore in the US. Powell's provides customers with maps so that they can avoid getting lost amongst the nooks and crannies. Bibliophiles will relish spending a few hours browsing through the 122 major categories of books. The Coffee & Tea Room provides refreshment so that you may renew your energy and continue perusing Powell's color-coded rooms.

4. Portland Art Museum

Portland Art Museum
Portland Art Museum (©Angela M. Brown)
The Portland Art Museum, or PAM, is one of the finest art museums in the west. The museum offers a world-class permanent collection of European, American, Native American, and Asian art. PAM also hosts many of the major traveling exhibitions. The Portland Art Museum is located across the way from the Oregon Historical Society Museum.

5. Oregon Museum of Science & Industry (OMSI)

This hands-on science museum is fun for children, families, and anyone who is curious about the world around them. Exhibits include a number of labs where you can learn about chemistry, life science, and earth science. OMSI facilities also include an IMAX theatre, a science store, and the Kendall Panetarium. Special events and exhibitions are held throughout the year.

6. Gov. Tom McCall Waterfront Park

Parks and public plazas occupy several of downtown Portland's city blocks. The largest of these green spaces is the Gov. Tom McCall Waterfront Park, which stretches for 22 blocks along the Willamette River. Always a beautiful place worth visiting, the park hosts a number of festivals and events throughout the summer. Hiking and biking trails, fountains and public art, and scenic resting spots are just a few of the many reasons to visit this urban jewel.

7. Portland Saturday Market

Portland Saturday Market
Portland Saturday Market ©Angela M. Brown
Located under and around the Burnside Bridge, at the north end of the waterfront park, is the Portland Saturday Market. Open each year from March through Christmas Eve, it is the largest continuously operating open-air market in the US. You'll find a tempting array of handcrafted items, as well as food, entertainment, and lively people watching.

8. Take an In-city Nature Hike

You don't have to leave the city to explore the forest or watch wildlife in a natural setting. The Portland area is home to thousands of acres of parks, nature preserves, and wildlife refuges. You can hike for miles (or just stroll a short way) through dense green forests, along rushing creeks, and around lively wetlands.

9. Pioneer Courthouse Square

Portland's major urban plaza is the Pioneer Courthouse Square. The bricks that pave the entire city block include 63,000 inscribed with the names of Portland citizens. The money earned from this "brick sale" financed the construction of the park space, including two amphitheaters, a fountain, and whimsical art and structures. The site hosts many special events throughout the year, the Rose Festival's Festival of Flowers among them.

10. Portland Classical Chinese Garden

East of the market, visitors will see the spectacular Chinese ceremonial gate, marking the entrance to Portland's Chinatown. This gate was a gift from Portland's sister city of Kaohsiung. Portland is working with another Chinese sister city, Suzhou, to create a Classical Chinese Garden. This walled garden is the largest Suzhou-style garden outside of China.

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