Preston's Portland Fun Guide
A list of everything fun in Portland.
FeedbackBy Preston Hunt, 12 February 2003

Internet Sites Featuring Portland

City: The climbing tree -- Wildwood Trail/Forest Park

Starting at the Hoyt Arboretum parking lot (Fairview Road), head toward Portland, take a L on Wildwood trial, and then a L on a steep trail down to a clearing with a picnic table and "the best climbing tree ever". Be sure to put on bug repellant in the summer. (From Ben Chaffin)

MTB: 3 Corner Rock (aka 3CR)

Mountain bike ride recommended by Tim. Lots of long, painful climbs. A great trail in Washington, just northeast of Washougal. It takes about 50 minutes to get to the trailhead from Portland. We make it into a loop with about 6 miles of fire road and 16 miles of super fun single track. It's not too technical, but there is a lot of climbing- about 5K feet in 22 miles. It's one of my favorite Portland area trails. I would be happy to do it anytime you want. (From Tim Fettkether)

MTB: Camas

Lots of riding in this Washington city, although I haven't done much yet.

Forest Park

Forset Park: Mountain Biking


Lake Merwin (Washington)

A beautiful green-colored lake near the border that offers reflections of Mt. St. Helens. My only trip there was a few years ago with Dan Burkholder and Mark Crady, when we went tubing behind Dan's jet ski. Information.

Columbia River Gorge -- Historic Highway

Take I-84 to exit 17, then turn right and then left onto the historic highway. Take this all the way to Multnomah Falls and the rest of the falls. Stop at Crowne Point for a neat view of the Gorge. A free Bonneville Dam tour is also available, although for the full tour, you have to cross over the toll bridge and then backtrack.

Cool Gorge Hikes (in order of increasing difficulty):

Hood River

Multi-sport mecca. Windsurfing, kayaking, mountain biking, hiking. Lots of places to rent and get beginner lessons. Eat lunch/dinner at Horsefeathers or 6th Street Ale House.

City: Washington Park, Rose Gardens, Japanese Gardens, & Oregon Zoo

Washington Park and Rose Gardens are free and offer beautiful views on a clear day. Washington Park has a fun swing set and is a close walk from Burnside/Goose Hollow. Japanese Gardens costs $5/person, but is quite beautiful. Oregon Zoo is nearby (they also have concerts during the summer). Numerous hiking trails (most predominantly the Wildwood trail).

Day Trip: Mt. St. Helens

During summer months, the visitor center is nice. In Fall or Spring (or Winter with snowshoes), the Ape Caves are cool (prepare accordingly!).

Day Trip: Oregon Coast

Cannon Beach (walk/shop/dine). Indian Beach at Ecola State Park. Tillamook Cheese Factory (tour and free cheese). Skip Seaside (too commercial). Astoria is a nice uncrowded destination. Some old fighter plane museum is located in Tillamook. Depending on the time of year, you may be able to see some whales migrating (Newport Bay is the best spot for this). Drive as far down highway 101 as you like and enjoy the scenery.


Day Trip: Silver Falls

Most bang for your buck as far as waterfalls per unit area. Relatively little elevation gain, really good trails. Go early to beat the crowds.

Saturday Market

Walk along the waterfront and then browse intriguing homemade wares. Open Saturday and Sunday. Go around lunch time and eat there (live music is usually playing around lunch time as well). Open March 1 -- December 31.

Portland Art Museum (Not Recommended)

Occasionally they offer a free day; if this is the case, go, otherwise skip. Negative review is mostly due to bad service in the past.

Powell's City of Books

I would never recommend buying anything here (due to the high prices and horrible return policy), but it is fun to spend a few hours here perusing the stacks. But don't buy here: get your books at the library (best option), or order from!

Wunderland Video Arcade

Pay $2 or less admission fee, and then every game is rigged to accept nickels instead of quarters. The only way to play Dance Dance Revolution, if you're into that sort of thing. Three locations: Belmont (best), Gateway (2nd place), and Beaverton.

Council Crest

Tallest point in Portland. Views of Helens, Rainier, Adams, Hood, and sometimes Jefferson. Great views of the west side of Portland (Tualatin Valley) as well. Drive up through Portland Heights and gawk at the most expensive houses in Portland. Nice grassy area at the top is great for hanging out, or there are some trails to trek on. (Links: Citysearch)

Rocky Butte

I think of Rock Butte as the east side's version of Council Crest. The top offers a commanding view of the city on one side and the Columbia/Gorge on the other. There are also lots of hiking trails, as well as rock climbing opportunities (although vegetation, litter, and highway noise make it less desirable than other climbing areas). Citysearch.

Waterfront Park/Eastside Esplanade

Starting at Market Street, walk, rollerblade, or scooter along the water. Many special events are held throughout the year. Otherwise, there are plenty of neat statues and memorials to look at; if all else fails, there is always an interesting collection of freakazoids that congregate about halfway. Cross over the bridge walkway and return on the east side of the river, which offers spectacular views of the city.

Pioneer Square (Courtyard and Mall)

Grab a slice of pizza at Pizza Schmizza (next to Banana Republic) and then hang out in the open air courtyard. When it's not raining, people often play chess on the northwest corner (feel free to challenge someone!). Plenty of upscale shopping is available along Morrison Street and inside the mall. The mall's food court is a convenient place to grab a bite to eat.

See a Cheap Movie Bagdad/Mission/Kennedy School or Avalon

Many cities are starting to copy, but Portland was one of the first places where you can drink beer and eat dinner while watching a movie. Of the three McMenamin's, Bagdad is my favorite (best seats and screen), while Kennedy School's living room feel sports tons of comfy sofas. None of the theaters has terrific sound, but the Mission's is particularly bad -- don't see anything except documentaries there. The Avalon also offers cheap movies, and you can hang around after and play nickel video games at the attached Wunderland.

Portland Brewpubs

I read somewhere that the first brewpub in the US was in Portland. Whether that's true or not, there are plenty to choose from: Bridgeport (Pearl District and Hawthorne), McMenamins (dozens of locations), Portland Brewing Company, Black Lab Brewpub, Rogue Ales.

On the west side, there's Cornelius Pass Roadhouse (Hillsboro), Dublin Pub (100 beers on tap), McMenamin's Grand Lodge (Forest Grove).

In Lake Oswego, Ram Big Horn (at Oswego Point) used to be popular.

Other Bars & Taverns

Downtown cluster: Rock Bottom (3rd), Kell's (2nd), Berbadi's Pan (Ash St. - features lots of live music), Gypsy (4th).

Burbs: Skyline Tavern (great views of Tualatin Valley, can grill your own food on outside grills).

Wine Tasting

Either Willamette Valley or Yamhill County. Thanksgiving weekend is a popular time to go. McMinville/Dundee area also popular.

Restaurants: Downtown

Restaurants: Northwest

Restaurants: East side

Restaurants on my "To do" list

I haven't been to these restaurants yet; dine at your own risk!

Northwest 23rd

Walk around the Northwest neighborhood (on both 21st and 23rd avenues, from Burnside to Pettygrove). Shop at the speciality boutiques catering to yuppies, eat at the nice restaurants, gawk at the attractive 20-something trust fund kids. Some favorites: Escape from New York Pizza. Pottery Barn. Restoration Hardware. Ben and Jerry's. Uptown Billiards. Garbonzos. Una Mas. Gypsy. Typhoon. Ram's Head. Original McMenamin's (Pettygrove). (Links: Citysearch review)

Hawthorne Area

Walk around the Hawthorne neighborhood. Earthier version of NW 23rd (substitute tattos and piercings for yuppies). Some favorites: Bagdad Theater. Bridgeport SE. Ben and Jerry's. Garbonzos. Three Doors Down Restaurant. Pizza restaurant across the street from Bagdad. Buffalo Exchange.

Mt. Hood

Visit Timberline lodge (not much to do there, but great for visitors). If summer, hike the various trails up there. If winter, go skiing/snowboarding. (Summer skiing is available as well, but it's more of a novalty IMHO.) Can combine Hood trip with Gorge and Hood River trip to make a solid day trip. Night skiing also available at Meadows (Safeway Saturdays, $10) or Ski Bowl (every night I think, but check to make sure it is snowing at the lower altitude).

Hikes near Mt. Hood:

Hagg Lake

Great destination for mountain or road biking. Warm lake water in summer is good for water sports.

Pittock Mansion

Beautiful historic house with a commanding view of Portland and the Tualatin Valley. You can either drive up there (free parking) or make an adventure of it and hike along the Wildwood Trail. Pick any place to start; the Audobon Society or Macleay Park are both good choices.

Chinese Gardens

Located in Pearl district. I went on a free admission night and thought it was pretty cool. The strangest part is walking around in the historical setting, and then turning the corner and seeing a skyscraper from down the street poking up into the horizon. I think the paid admissions offer tours, which would probably make the trip more enjoyable.


I haven't been to OMSI in years, and I don't think I've ever paid to go into the museum, although I have attended countless work parties there. The museum is ok (disclaimer: for whatever reason, I have not been blown away by tech museums... and I've been to them all over the world). The tour of the submarine in the Willamette river is pretty fun. One of the best reasons to go to OMSI is to see a movie on their IMAX movie screen.

Rock Climbing

Rock climbing options close to the city are not plentiful, but they do exist: For indoors, try Portland Rock Gym (grimey little gym, but popular - downtown); Club Sports (Tualatin); or Stoneworks (Beaverton). For outdoors, try Carver, Broughton Bluff, or French's Dome. The climbing locally is mostly trad, meaning "old school" ratings apply (i.e., everything is much harder than its rating). The 3-hour drive to Smith is still what you want to do for the "real thing", but the local climbing hits the spot when you don't have time for the pilgrimage.

First Thursday

Pearl District art galleries and museums open 6-9pm on the first Thursday of each month. Quite popular (and crowded) in the summer. Parking is next to impossible to find.

Crater Lake

Lake formed when a mountain erupted. Amazing water colors. Very scenic. I've always wanted to try XC skiing around it in the winter. Road bike riding around the lake might be fun too. Otherwise, I don't really recall that many activities to do once you get there. Worth a visit, but be warned that it is a 7+ hour drive from Portland.

Oregon Dunes

A 5-mile wide sliver of desert wedged in between the ocean and the forests. Absolutely amazing. I lived in Portland for 6 years before making the drive down the coast to see this; you shouldn't make the same mistake. Budget at least half a day for exploring around.

My to do list

I haven't done the stuff in this section yet, but it has been recommended to me:

Other major cities

Clubs and Bars

Here is a recent summary from one of my clubbing buddies:

- Embers - might be the best option, but haven't been on a Friday night in forever
- Ohm - great vibe, but used to be dead on Friday nights
- Level (adjoining Lush) - good if you get a table, otherwise you stand around like a dork; dance floor is too small; supposedly dead on Fridays
- Banana Joe's - NO! too many fights, too much white trash, too cheesy music, crappy DJs... I could go on and on about this place
- Boogie Woogie's - NO, heard it's too much of white trash meat market
- Stefano's - heard it was once good, but now sucks
- Panorama - tired of it, and dead on Fridays anyway
- XV - good crowd, good vibe, lots of seating, but NO dance floor
- East - good, but snotty service and no dance floor
- Tube - good, but tiny and crowded and no dance floor
- Lotus - haven't been in forever... was deteriorating last time I went (about a year ago)
- Rockafella's (formerly Moody's, then Polly Esther's) - ??? - big unknown, but crowd outside looks slightly "ghetto"
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