Portland had been on my travel list for a while now, so I made it a top priority to get there this summer! It was a perfect time to visit with everything fully opening up again after recovering from COVID and the riots. Parts of the city were still boarded up, but it was something to expect after all Portland had been through.
This was my fifth solo trip, but my second time out to the Pacific Northwest (not including Montana and Alaska), so I was excited to see more and explore the Oregon side!
When To Visit:
The best time to visit Portland is during the summer months (June to August). The weather is pleasant and warm, but with global warming, it seems July and August can get extremely hot, so it might be best to plan ahead. Summer is considered the driest season, so you can do more outdoor activities without having to worry about rain ruining your plans. Unfortunately for me, it rained a few times when I was there, but in all fairness, I went the first week of June, so the weather was still kind of iffy.
Since summer is also considered the best time to visit, there’s no secret that this is the peak tourist season. It can be challenging to book accommodations and flights at a low rate, but having nice warm weather makes up for it. The International Rose Test Garden is also in full bloom which is a site to see.
If you’re willing to put up with cooler temperatures and more precipitation for cheaper rates, visiting during October to May will be ideal. It will also be less crowded, but if you have plans for Mount Hood, expect it to be busy since this is a popular time for winter spots! Some of the roads were still closed when I went in early June. The snow had not melted completely, leaving roadways blocked.
Where To Stay:
I booked my trip to Portland about two months out and found that the Airbnb choices were very limited (unless I wanted to stay in a guest suite on someones property. That’s a no for me, personally). Hotels were even more expensive, so I decided to stay outside of Portland. If you decide to stay in the city, doing research on what neighborhood to stay in beforehand would be a good idea. Many areas are sketchy, but there’s some charming places as well!
I ended up staying in a nice little town called Gladstone. It’s located between Portland and Oregon City, so it was only about a 15 minute drive into downtown. The location was very convenient and near the Willamette River. Gladstone is a great place to stay if you don’t want to be in the city.
What To Do:
When it’s not raining in Portland, you can find the streets busy with locals and tourists soaking up the sunshine. This also includes people enjoying all the outdoor activities. When the suns out, it’s a whole different vibe. Something to keep in mind is that Portland is super bike-friendly, so be on the lookout if you’re driving!
The International Rose Test Garden is one of the top attractions with over 10,000 individual rose bushes and more than 600 different rose varieties. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s best to visit in summer when the roses are at their peak. Once you finish looking at all the flowers, stop at the Japanese Garden which is conveniently located near the rose garden, so you can visit both at the same time!
Powell’s City of Books is another popular location. It’s the largest used and new bookstore in the world with over a million books! The store itself is MASSIVE with three floors and 10 rooms. You can easily spend a few hours here getting lost in all the books. During the weekend, you can visit “The Rare Book Room” where they have collectables dating back to the early 1500s.
Other places worth checking out are:
Where To Eat:
Portland is ranked as one of the top food cities in America. They’re known for their fresh ingredients, numerous options, and food trucks. They also have many food festivals throughout the year for all the foodies. There’s something for everyone in this city and some travel to Portland just for the food! One of the most iconic places is Voodoo Doughnut. They are known for having long lines at their downtown locations, but if you go to the one in Milwaukie, you’ll skip the line! It’s about 10 minutes south of Portland. Some may argue that Blue Star is better, but it might be safe to try both and find out for yourself.
Some restaurants to try:
Day Trips Outside of Portland:
One of the best things about Portland is its location. It’s not too far from the Oregon coast or Washington state. It’s also near Columbia River Gorge which is an eighty mile canyon between Oregon and Washington with breathtaking waterfalls throughout the area. It’s definitely worth visiting, but it can get very crowded during the summer. They have a pass system now and you need to purchase a pass ahead of time if you go during this season. It’s supposed to help with the congestion, but visiting Multnomah Falls is a must! It’s the tallest waterfall in Oregon (and it was also featured in Twilight)!
The Oregon coast is another great day trip from Portland. It’s a stunning 1.5 hour scenic route heading west. It’s important to keep in mind it’s usually chilly and rainy no matter the season, but it’s still absolutely beautiful! Seeing Haystack Rock in person was amazing. It’s HUGE and so much bigger than I imagined. Making a stop at Ecola State Park is also a must! It’s a great location to lookout at the shoreline and just listen to the waves hit the rocks. (This was also another Twilight filming location.) Once you’re done exploring Cannon Beach, you can drive up north to Astoria.
Another day trip you can take is out east to Mount Hood. It offers the only ski resort in the United States that’s open 10 months out of the year. When I drove up to Timberline Lodge, people were still skiing. The weather also took a drastic turn becoming much colder since the elevation was higher.
The main reason I went to Mount Hood was so I could visit Trillium Lake. Unfortunately, the road was closed due to snow blocking the way. It seemed that many areas were still covered with snow, so visiting during late June to late September is probably the best bet if you want to go to the lake. I hear it’s gorgeous, so I’ll have to come back another summer to see it for myself.
I didn’t get the chance to go up to Hood River, but it’s less than an hour away from Mount Hood and highly recommended!
- Columbia River Gorge – 30 miles (30-40 minutes)
- Cannon Beach – 80 miles (1 hour 30 minutes)
- Astoria – 95 miles (2 hours)
- Mount Hood – 70 miles ( 1 hour 30 minutes)
- Hood River – 62 miles (1 hour)
My trip to Oregon was great and I’m glad I finally got the chance to see everything I wanted to in person. I definitely plan on coming back in the near future to explore more. Even if it’s usually chilly and rainy, the Pacific Northwest is truly a magical place! 💚