A Guide to the Best Things to Do on Weekends in Portland

Portland, the largest city in Oregon, is famous for its lively culture, hip neighborhoods, and excellent cuisine. The city is known for its many outdoor attractions, parks, gardens, and numerous museums, galleries, and theaters. Whether you are a local or a visitor, something always happens over the weekend in Portland. Let’s explore some of the best things to do on weekends in Portland that will keep you entertained and engaged.

things to do on weekends in portland

Explore the Portland Saturday Market

The first thing to do on weekends in Portland is to visit the iconic Portland Saturday Market. It’s a vibrant hub of local arts, crafts, and food. Located in the historic Old Town, this open-air market is a treasure trove of unique finds and delicious eats. 

From handmade jewelry and clothing to intricate woodwork and pottery, you’ll find creations of over 350 local artisans showcasing the artsy flair of Portland. The market is more than just a shopping destination. It’s an immersive celebration of Portland’s culture, complete with live music and performances that fill the air with an infectious, energetic rhythm. 

Hike in Forest Park

Immerse yourself in nature’s bounty by hiking in Forest Park, Portland’s living emblem of urban green space. Stretching over 5,200 acres, it’s one of the country’s largest urban forest reserves, a verdant oasis just minutes from the city center.

The park boasts over 80 miles of soft-surface trails and fire lanes, offering miles of exploration for hiking, running, and walking. Each trail is a journey through a lush tapestry of Northwest flora, including towering Douglas Firs, Western Hemlocks, and various ferns and wildflowers. You might even catch a glimpse of wildlife, such as woodpeckers, black-tailed deer, and over 100 species of birds.

Discover the International Rose Test Garden

Step into a world of vibrant colors and intoxicating fragrances at the International Rose Test Garden, nestled in the heart of Washington Park. As one of Portland’s crowning jewels, it’s home to over 10,000 rose bushes of approximately 650 varieties. 

From mid-spring through fall, the garden is a riot of hues, presenting a panoramic display of roses ranging from the deepest reds to the most delicate whites and pinks.

Not just a feast for the eyes, the International Rose Test Garden offers breathtaking views of downtown Portland and the majestic Mount Hood in the distance. The beautifully manicured garden, with its captivating blooms, dancing fountains, and brick walkways, provides a dreamy setting for a romantic stroll or a peaceful respite.

things to do in portland weekend

Visit Powell’s City of Books

If books are your passion, visiting Powell’s City of Books is an absolute must-do on your weekend itinerary in Portland. This iconic bookstore is a paradise for book lovers, covering an entire city block and standing three stories high. 

With over a million new and used books in its collection, sprawling over various rooms and sections, it’s considered the largest independent bookstore in the world. The significance of Powell’s extends beyond its impressive size. 

It’s a cornerstone of Portland’s vibrant literary scene, hosting regular author readings, book signings, and literary events. Powell’s carries an astonishing range of genres, from rare, out-of-print books to best-sellers, from graphic novels to academic texts. The color-coded rooms, each dedicated to specific genres, make navigating this vast literary labyrinth easy and enjoyable.

Cycle Along the Willamette River

For those who prefer an active and healthy weekend, don’t miss the chance to cycle along the Willamette River, a gem of Portland’s outdoor activities. Offering a network of well-maintained bike paths, the riverside promises a thrilling experience for cyclists of all levels. 

As you pedal your way along the river, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the city’s skyline, lush green spaces, and the serene flow of the river. There are numerous bike rental shops around the city, offering a variety of options to suit your needs. 

Whether you’re an experienced cyclist needing a high-performance road bike or a casual rider looking for a comfortable cruiser, you’ll find something to suit your style and budget. Many of these shops even provide helmets and maps, ensuring you can navigate your route safely.

Indulge in Portland’s Food Truck Scene

Dive into the vibrant culinary world of Portland through its bustling food truck scene, a must-experience facet of the city’s gastronomic culture. Portland’s food truck scene celebrated far and wide, is a testament to the city’s culinary creativity and diversity. 

Scattered across the city, these mobile dining spots offer a tempting array of dishes spanning global cuisines. From hearty American burgers to exquisite Thai curries, delectable Mexican tacos, to mouth-watering Mediterranean mezze, there’s something to satisfy every palate.

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Each food truck in Portland has its unique flair, whether it’s the catchy name, funky design, or an innovative menu that pushes the boundaries of traditional street food. They serve not just quick bites but a complete gourmet experience that is as delightful as affordable. 

Experience the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI)

For those searching for a weekend adventure fused with a learning experience, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) is a must-visit destination. Located on the east bank of the Willamette River, OMSI is one of the leading science museums in the nation. 

It offers an exciting blend of interactive exhibits, immersive experiences, and scientific demonstrations designed to spark curiosity and inspire a lifelong love for science and technology.

At OMSI, you can experience the thrill of an earthquake in the ground-shaking Earthquake House, explore the mysteries of outer space in Kendall Planetarium, or step aboard the USS Blueback Submarine, the last diesel-electric submarine built by the U.S. Navy. 

The museum’s five enormous halls house hundreds of interactive displays that cover a wide range of scientific domains, including physics, chemistry, biology, paleontology, and more.

Stroll Through the Lan Su Chinese Garden

Stroll through the Lan Su Chinese Garden for a serene and culturally enriching weekend experience. This tranquil oasis is tucked away in the heart of Portland, offering a respite from the city’s hustle and bustle. 

The garden, designed by Chinese artisans, mirrors the style of the famed Ming Dynasty gardens, and its name, Lan Su, translates to ‘Garden of the Awakening Orchids.’ As you wander through the garden, you’ll be captivated by the stunning architecture, intricately carved woodwork, and beautiful courtyards that seamlessly blend art, architecture, design, and nature. 

Each step reveals a new vista: a weathered stone path leading to a peaceful pond, a delicate bridge arching over a tranquil stream, or a charming pavilion where you can sit and admire the landscape of exotic plants, blooming flowers, and verdant trees.

Attend Live Music and Events in Vibrant Portland

For those seeking a musical and electric end to their weekend escapade, Portland’s live music and events scene will surely hit the right note. Known for its eclectic and robust music culture, Portland is the bustling heart of the Pacific Northwest’s music scene. With venues varying from intimate, cozy bars to grand concert halls and outdoor arenas, the city offers a diverse selection of live performances that cater to every taste and genre.

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From the historic Crystal Ballroom, famed for its floating dance floor, to the Mississippi Studios with its state-of-the-art acoustics, each venue carries a unique character and charm. 

Not to mention the Roseland Theater and Doug Fir Lounge, which regularly hosts a mix of well-known bands and up-and-coming artists alike, Portland’s music scene is a vibrant symphony of sounds ranging from indie rock and country to jazz, classical, and everything in between.

Explore the Portland Art Museum

Immerse yourself in the world of art at the Portland Art Museum, a cultural gem in the city’s heart. As one of the oldest art institutions in the United States, the museum is renowned for its diverse and extensive collection, which spans ancient times to the present and includes more than 42,000 works of art from various cultures around the globe.

The museum’s collection is organized into several distinct areas, each dedicated to a particular period or art style. The Center for Contemporary Native Art, for instance, showcases the work of indigenous artists, while the Jubitz Center for Modern and Contemporary Art houses an impressive collection of 20th and 21st-century artworks. 

The museum also boasts an extensive collection of Asian art and a vast array of prints, drawings, and photographs. Art enthusiasts will also be delighted to discover the museum’s current exhibitions, featuring compelling works from local and international artists. These exhibitions change regularly, offering visitors a fresh and enriching experience with each visit.

Conclusion: Things to Do on Weekends in Portland

A weekend in Portland offers a vibrant mix of culture, art, music, and nature that caters to various interests and tastes. From the tranquil beauty of the Lan Su Chinese Garden to the dynamic live music scene and the enriching collection at the Portland Art Museum, there’s something for everyone in this diverse city. Each location and event contributes to the city’s unique charm, promising an unforgettable experience.

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