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What is Portland Known For?

Portland is a diverse city with lots to see and do. It’s well known for many things. If you’re looking for a place to travel, and you have your mind set on somewhere that is filled with rich history, beautiful scenery, delicious food, look no further than the gorgeously weird city of Portland, Oregon. 

The city of Portland, Oregon, is known for its lush nature parks, small business-based economy, craft breweries and distilleries, numerous art museums, and its commitment to conserving nature through its green-energy initiatives. It’s also known for its overall unique feel. 

A city that embraces the do-it-yourself attitude, Portland has carved its place in American history as a hodgepodge of self-starters. Keep reading to learn more about what makes Portland a famously interesting place to visit.

Why is Portland Famous?

Portland, the largest city in the state of Oregon, has built a reputation for being an odd but lovable place. The “hipster” lifestyle thrives in this city due to many of the people making their livelihoods in different aspects of the service industry. 

These include many of the things Portland has become so well known for:

  • Microbreweries and distilleries
  • Small businesses, restaurants, and boutiques
  • Concert halls
  • Street art
  • History and art museums

Alongside these wonderful places to visit are Portland’s world-renowned nature conservatories and parks. Due to its location between the ocean and the mountains, Portland is home to dozens of woodlands, hills, pastures, and trails. Many famous parks and landmarks call Portland home, which brings in millions of visitors annually. 

Portland is Known for Its Beautiful Landscape

Portland, Oregon, is part of the United States’ Pacific Northwest region, known for its beauty and impeccable lands. If you’re willing to drive just a few hours in any direction from Portland, you can find mountains, forests, and even beaches. 

Portland is a big city, but for the most part, it’s really made an effort to capture the natural beauty of the region in as many elements of the city as possible. Portland residents embrace the culture of caring for the area’s natural beauty and maintaining its condition. This makes Portland the ideal spot for those nature lovers out there. 

During your research of places to visit in Portland, you should not be shocked to find parks, trails, and other famous outdoorsy venues. Just a few of the well-known, highly visited outdoor attractions in Portland are:

  • Washington Park
  • Forest Park
  • The International Rose Test Garden
  • Willamette Valley
  • Portland Japanese Garden

 

Washington Park

Known to many as one of the best attractions in Portland, Washington Park is home to “gardens, museums, memorials, a zoo, wilderness, and more.” With over 400 acres to explore, Washington Park has endless possibilities for fun. For those environmentalists, you can check out the forestry center or walk, run, or bike the miles of trails.

For the history buffs eager to learn, Washington Park is also home to many monuments and memorials. At the Oregon Holocaust Memorial, you’ll find a stone monument, “meant to evoke a town square where Jewish citizens would gather,” honoring the victims of the Holocaust. Not far from here, you can view the Vietnam Veterans of Oregon Memorial. 

Statues and structures commemorating hundreds of points of American history can be found strewn about the entire grounds of Washington Park, bound to keep you busy for multiple visits.

 

Forest Park

Forest Park is a delve into nature, with over 80 miles of trails right through the heart of the Tualatin Mountains. Park organizers have even developed a system of one-way trail loops designed to show you different points of nature in pre-marked distances for those prone to getting lost or asking, “how much longer?” 

As one of the largest urban forests in the United States, Forest Park allows visitors to see forests, mountains, rivers, and even a beautiful landscape of the city, all in one place. 

 

The International Rose Test Garden

Located within Washington Park is another one of Portland’s must-see attractions: The International Rose Test Garden. Portland is known as the City of Roses, and it is easy to see why with a visit here. The International Rose Test Garden is home to more than 10,000 individual rose bushes, representing over 610 rose varieties. 

The Test Garden is where many florists send their newly developed rose hybrids to see how they will bloom and grow. This has been the case since World War I. Most of these roses then become available for purchase. 

The endless rows of roses have been blessing visitors with pleasant sights and smells for over 100 years. Free tours are available daily, and visitors with green thumbs can even volunteer to help maintain the garden.

 

Willamette Valley

Located just outside of Portland, Willamette Valley brings visitors to some of Portland’s most famous wineries. Take in the views of massive vineyards alongside the booming presence of the Cascade Mountain Range. 

Wine tastings and vineyard tours are only a piece of the lure of the Willamette Valley. Miles of trails, roaring waterfalls, and even hot springs can be uncovered here. Other bucolic wonders of Oregon can be found within the valley as well, such as Marys Peak and Clear Lake

Oregon wine country is the perfect setting for sipping a glass (or two) of your favorite reds or whites while capturing some of the most beautiful views you’ll ever see. Wine and scenery? Yes, please. 

 

Portland Japanese Garden

Yet another attraction found within Washington Park, found just next to the Rose Test Garden, the Portland Japanese Garden is twelve acres of authentic Japanese gardens, houses, and walkways. Since its conception in the 1960s, this nonprofit organization has sought to inspire a deep inner peace and connection with nature. 

Portland is Known for Craft Beer

Portlanders know a thing or two about making beer. After all, residents and visitors have been known to spend upwards of $260 million on alcohol in Portland alone. A high percentage of the alcohol consumed in Portland is craft beer due to the high concentration of breweries and microbreweries found within the city limits. 

Breweries seem to pop up all over Portland. The city houses close to 80 breweries, the most of any city on earth, where new IPA’s, sours, stouts, and any other hop-filled concoctions that you can think of are being created and sold. Breweries are so ingrained in Portland culture that Portland’s official website offers tours of the city’s breweries. Whether you want to walk, ride a bike, or hop on a party bike that holds up to 15 people, you can tour the city one beer at a time.

If the beer does not sit well with you, or you are looking for something stronger, you can visit Portland’s Distillery Row. This South-East Industrial District neighborhood is where you will find nine of Portland’s most successful distilleries. Tour one, or all nine, distilleries, tasting liquors with global influence.

All of the breweries and distilleries are local businesses, many of them being founded by Portland residents. These small businesses brewing craft beers, wines, and liquors help Portland uphold their nickname of “Beervana.” 

Portland is Known for its Connection to the Arts

When you think of Portland, many people think of the arts. Whether that be painting, sculptures, or music, a connection to artists has been ingrained in Portland’s culture. To view the work of many local artists, you should visit:

  • The Portland Art Museum
  • The Pittock Mansion
  • The Alberta Arts District
  • Disjecta Contemporary Arts Center

 

The Portland Art Museum

Approaching its 130th anniversary, the Portland Art Museum displays thousands of pieces of classical and contemporary art. Ranging from classical European pieces to full Asian and Native American exhibits, the museum shows what cultures have influenced life in Portland. 

The curators purposefully place classical, well-known pieces next to up-and-coming artists’ work in techniques like Northwestern abstractionism. Doing so gives new art, artists, and techniques the exposure they deserve. 

Whether you want to view photography, study paintings, or see classic drawings or prints, the Portland Art Museum has it all and more. 

 

The Pittock Mansion

Henry Pittock built the Oregonian newspaper up to be one of the most successful daily newspapers on the west coast. The Oregonian is still delivered daily to this day. Building an empire in the paper industry, as well as real estate, banking, railroads, the Pittock family set out to build a mansion that overlooked the city of Portland, as well as the surrounding wildlife. 

Thus came the Pittock Mansion. The home of the Pittocks quickly became a symbol of all that is Portland. Henry Pittock loved the outdoors and riding bicycles. His wife Georgiana was heavily involved in politics, charity work, and women’s rights. These are values found in the very fibers of Portland. 

After the family of the Pittocks put the mansion up for sale, the city of Portland and its residents raised money to purchase and restore it. To this day, the mansion serves as a museum displaying local Portland craftsmanship and profiles some of the local craftsmen who worked on the Mansion as well as their tools of the trade.

The Pittock Mansion is a phenomenal lesson in history, architecture, and beautiful craftsmanship, bound to draw in anyone interested in artistic value. 

 

The Alberta Arts District

The Alberta Arts District is an art haven found along with Alberta Street in Northeast Portland. Here you will find streets lined with art, galleries, and street performances. If you are lucky, you will be in town during the district’s monthly street fair called “Last Thursday,” where local artists, musicians, galleries, and street performers come to display their hard work. 

The Alberta Arts district is where you will find entertainment, art, performances, music, and food, all in one place. The art and cuisine found on Alberta Street reflect the cultures that have historically lived there:

  • Latino
  • Asian
  • African American
  • Native American

Walk through the crowds and visit the storefronts and booths on your own or take a walking tour to get a taste of the history and everything that Alberta Street has to offer. The walking and eating combo is a great way to burn off the extra calories, there’s SO much delicious food to try you don’t want to miss out on one single bite!

 

Disjecta Contemporary Arts Center

The Disjecta Contemporary Arts Center is a venue that focuses on modern art installations and works directly with up-and-coming artists to showcase their work. The art installations found here vary from abstract paintings up to spoken word performances. The center has even shown collaborations between The Shins, a well-known band from Portland, and the Portland Biennial, a group of artists who work with artistic landscapes. 

One unique program found at Disjecta is the Curator in Residence program. This process allows local, national, and international artists to “engage with a broad range of artists to create a series of exhibits” while developing their talent for an entire year.

If contemporary or modern art is an interest, the Disjecta is a cannot miss opportunity unlike any other in the region.

Portland is Known for its Love of Literature

While much of Portland’s residents share a love of the outdoors, the famous gloomy and rainy weather keeps a lot of people inside for a significant portion of the year. Because of this, reading and writing became pastimes in Portland early on in its history. This is evident in the vast number of bookstores found throughout the city.

One of these bookstores is the world-famous Powell’s City of Books, the largest new and used bookstore. Powell’s is an entire city block, three stories tall, filled to the brim with books. Visitors can use the color-coded rooms as a guide, but a map is also available.

Aside from Powell’s, dozens of small, independent bookshops can be found across the city. Family-run businesses like Longfellow’s Books and Music or Annie Bloom’s are local favorites. 

Handpicked titles, independent coffee shops, and even musical guests curate a book-loving culture throughout the city. It is more than just buying and selling literature in Portland. Bookshops have permeated themselves into the culture found here. 

 

Portland is Known for Supporting Small Businesses in a Big Way

Portland is built on an economy of small businesses. Whereas the average American city is made up of about 8% of small businesses, Portland is made up of about 14%, with over 40,000 small businesses located in the city. 

Many factors contribute to the small business ecosystem found in Portland. Some attribute it to the liberal policies and politics which deter major corporations. Others say it is evidence of Portlanders’ self-starting attitude. Some people even say Portland’s “hipster culture” has created an anti-big business sentiment.

Regardless of the reasons, small businesses seem to flourish in Portland. Much of the city’s economy and workforce is based in the service industry. Therefore, tourism is very important to the city’s survival. If you see a shop you think is interesting, be sure to stop in and say hello. You might just find your new favorite bookshop, bakery, coffee shop, or restaurant. 

Portland is Known for its Focus on Conservation

Being surrounded by nature, the people of Portland have developed a love for all that is environmental. Conservation is especially important to the people and the city. As of 2018, 100% of the electricity used by Portland City operations has been from renewable resources. 

Many of the parks, trails, and gardens found in Portland are ran by nonprofits built around the conservation of plants, animals, rivers, and more. Organizations like Oregon Wild protect the wildlife found within the dozens of parks and forests around Portland. The city even has full districts of conservations. These areas are protected by city and state laws and may not be altered or destroyed. 

Portland is a city placed in the middle of nature. If the forests, plains, and mountains were to disappear from the Portland landscape, city life would go with it. This deep connection to the nature around the city is why the people of Portland take conservation so seriously. 

Conclusion

The city of Portland, Oregon, is known for many things. This hipster haven is an art-filled, nature-loving, beer-drinking paradise. When visiting, it is important to embrace what the city has to offer. 

Lean into the weirdness of the city. After all, the oddities are a significant part of the allurement of Portland. It would also be a smart idea to research how to move about the city before heading there. Many people in Portland use bikes, walk or use public transportation to help cut down the effects of climate change and aid the city’s conservation efforts. 

Map out your trip. There are thousands of things to do, things to see, and places to go. Attempting to adopt pieces of the culture of the place that you are visiting is the courteous thing to do. So visit Portland with an open, judgment-free, environmentally friendly heart, and enjoy your stay. 

Click here to discover what other cities are known for worldwide!

 

Sources

Business Wire

The Culture Trip – Portland is Unique

Trip Advisor

Travel Portland – Washington Park

Forest Park Conservancy

Japanese Garden

Oregon Live

Distillery Row

Portland Art Museum

Pittock Mansion

Portland Neighborhood

Travel Portland – Disjecta Contemporary Art Center

Travel Portland – Powell’s City of Books

Culture Trip

Portland.gov