Portland is the largest city in Oregon, sitting alongside the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. The largest peak in the state graces the landscape behind the skyline. While Portland is known for its outdoor adventure and eco-friendly spirit, there are so many more things Portland is famous for.
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What Is Portland Known For?
Portland is known for being a city of counter-culture, where art, theater, and music are highly valued. Outdoor appreciation is also a big part of what Portland is famous for, from iconic Mount Hood to the many city parks. From Powell’s City of Books to the White Stag Sign, Portland is full of things to do and see.
When you visit, you can see many landmarks in Portland, enjoy the unique culture, eat famous Portland food, and take in the beautiful scenery. Make sure you plan plenty of time to explore this iconic city!
History, Culture, And Traditions Portland Is Known For
Since 2003, “Keep Portland Weird” has been the unofficial, cultural motto of Portland. Although the phrase started as an initiative to support local businesses, the phrase has become a rallying cry for the city and its one-of-a-kind character.
You’ll see this phrase Portland is known for on murals, bumper stickers, and signs all around the city. Make sure you pick up a local craft with this iconic phrase to take a piece of Portland home with you.
With an adventurous spirit and natural beauty all around, Portland is famous for its outdoor appreciation. This is a city where hikers, bikers, and campers have easy access to the outdoors and plenty of spots to choose from. From Mount Hood and the Columbia River Gorge, there are endless options for anyone who wants to get outdoors!
Portland Saturday Market
Between March and December, you can catch the Portland Saturday Market. This market is the biggest continuously operating outdoor market in the entire country. It has been in operation since 1974, and it is still a fun, family activity.
With a full food court, clothing, accessories, handicrafts, and more, this is definitely a must-see in Portland, Oregon. The market pops up every Saturday in Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Make sure you check it out!
White Stag Sign
The White Stag Sign is definitely part of what Portland is known for. Although the White Stag sign is now one of the landmarks in Portland, it started as an advertisement for a sugar brand in 1940. In 1957, the sign was changed to advertise the clothing brand, White Stag.
In 2010, the wording of the sign was changed to “Portland Oregon.” Now, the White Stag Sign is easily one of the most recognizable parts of the Portland skyline. Make sure you see this iconic Portland landmark!
Arts & Culture
Portland is known for its love and acceptance of arts and culture. The city offers an abundance of theaters, galleries, and arts institutions. With the Portland Art Museum, Center for Native American Art, and the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of art, art lovers will have plenty of choice in Portland.
Willamette Valley is Oregon’s wine county. It spans 150 miles and is located to the south of Portland. That makes it convenient for a quick trip or a weekend away from the city. This wine county is definitely part of what Portland is known for when it comes to indulgence.
There are over 700 wineries in this area, so you’ll be spoilt for choice! Make sure you try some Pinot Noir, since the Willamette Valley is known for this type of wine. This is one of the best places to do a Willamette wine tour to sample the best in the region.
Districts And Areas Portland Is Known For
Covering 12 blocks, the Cultural District is the place to go for fun activities in Portland! With beautiful architectural features, such as the First Congressional United Church of Christ and Director Park, it is a nice place to take a walk in the city.
No matter what time of day or year, there’s always something to do in this neighborhood. This is where you’ll find several landmarks in Portland, like the Portland Saturday Market, the Portland Art Museum, and Keller Fountain Park.
The Pearl District is Portland’s key neighborhood for galleries, shopping, and acclaimed restaurants. This area is home to Powell’s City of Books, countless coffee shops, boutiques, and cultural institutions. This vibrant neighborhood is a big part of what Portland is known for, even within the local community.
If you’re a beer lover, this neighborhood also has lots of fun bars and breweries. If you’re interested, check out Deschutes Brewery & Public House, 10 Barrel Brewing, or Von Ebert Brewing – you can’t go wrong with any of them!
One of the biggest parks in Portland is located northeast of the city and is certainly part of the natural spaces Portland is famous for. With 5,200 acres of land, Forest Park is six times bigger than New York’s Central Park. It’s an important sanctuary for local plants and animals, as well as a fun place to visit.
There are trails for walking and biking! If you have a dog in tow, you can bring your furry friend along, as long as you’ve got them on a leash. This park is a must see in Portland, Oregon!
Portland International Rose Test Garden
When you think about what Portland is known for, you probably don’t immediately think about roses. However, Portland is home to the International Rose Test Garden, where new rose varieties are grown and tested. There are over 10,000 roses in this garden, so it makes for some magical scenery.
If you want the best experience in the garden, be sure to visit between late May and October. Most of the roses are in bloom during this time – great for your photos!
Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls
If you love the great outdoors, you have to visit the Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls during your trip. This national scenic area is one of the main natural landmarks Portland is famous for. There are bunches of waterfalls and trails to explore in this incredibly beautiful area.
The tallest waterfall in the park, Multnomah Falls, towers at 620 feet high. This waterfall alone receives over 2 million visitors yearly. Make sure you don’t miss these impressive, natural works of art!
Even if you don’t drive, you can take a convenient tour to Columbia River George for an easy and fun day out!
Lan Su Chinese Garden
The Lan Su Chinese Garden, in the middle of Old Town, is another one of the cultural landmarks in Portland. This garden has been open since 2000, offering an authentic Ming-Dynasty style garden. The Lan Su Chinese Garden combines art, natural beauty, and architecture to create a beautiful, relaxing space.
The garden also has a collection of audio guides and mobile-guided scavenger hunts, which can make your visit even more fun. You can even visit the Teahouse for a snack!
Portland Japanese Garden
For a tranquil break from the city, the Portland Japanese Garden is also a great option. This 5.5-acre garden is located in Washington Park and is a finely kept garden. In addition to this, there is a cultural village that allows visitors to learn more about Japanese culture.
With rotating events and exhibitions throughout the year, the Portland Japanese Garden is constantly changing. As a reflection of the cultural diversity in the city, this relaxing green space is a meaningful part of what Portland, Oregon is known for.
On a clear day, you can see the highest peak in Oregon. At 11,239 feet tall, Mount Hood is one of the most climbed mountains on the globe. Experienced hikers can do the trek in a day, with about seven hours of hiking.
A mix of scenic beauty and thrilling adventure, there is no wonder why Mount Hood is one of the things Oregon is known for.
You can find regular tours to Mount Hood in downtown Portland or go to the park yourself! Make sure you check weather conditions and your trek plans before you head out!
Landmarks And Architecture Portland Is Known For
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
If you are walking along the Willamette River, you might get a view of the OSMI or the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. This museum is one of the most popular in Portland for its exploratory, hands-on exhibits and unique outreach programs.
Some of the highlights of the museum include: USS Blueback, the submarine featured in The Hunt for Red October; the Science Playground, an area for kids to engage in hands-on science learning; and Turbine Hall. This museum is a must-see in Portland, Oregon for anyone interested in science.
Powell’s City of Books
If you ask any book lover “what is Portland famous for?” they’ll likely have one answer for you: Powell’s City of Books. Powell’s City of Books is the world’s biggest independent bookstore, and one of the marquee landmarks in Oregon.
This bookstore is a playground for readers. There are nine color-coded rooms that are fun for pictures. Broadly, the store has over 3,500 different sections and houses roughly one million books. With new and used books on offer, there’s something for everyone at Powell’s.
Located 2 miles southwest of Portland, the Oregon Zoo is a fun activity near the city and part of what Portland is known for. With over 2,500 animals on 64 acres of land, there is plenty to explore at the Oregon Zoo. It was founded in 1888 and has been one of the landmarks in Portland since.
Some of the most popular animals include elephants, polar bears, and red pandas. The zoo also has exhibitions to educate visitors. It’s definitely a nice place to visit, especially on a sunny day.
The Portland Observatory is a unique part of what Portland is known for since it is the last historic maritime signal station in the country. It dates all the way back to 1807 when Portland was an important harbor.
The observatory has a telescope, which was used to see the incoming ships. Today, the Portland Observatory is open seasonally and offers walking tours for interested visitors. If you want to see some maritime history, put this observatory on your list as a must-see in Portland, Maine.
Pittock Mansion is a historic site that encapsulates the city’s transition into a key city in the Western US. The Mansion was built in 1904 in the French-Renaissance style. Today, it is kept as a museum, where visitors can step back in time.
Wandering through the mansion is fun in itself. When it’s a nice day out, you can also appreciate the finely kept gardens.
Portland Art Museum
Since Portland is known for being an artsy city, the Portland Art Museum is one of the most representative landmarks in Portland! This museum was founded in 1892 and is the seventh oldest museum in the entire country. With over 40,000 pieces of art in its collection, there is plenty to see here!
This museum features a lot of famous pieces, such as some of Monet’s Waterlilies and Jackson Pollock’s Number 12. With rotating exhibitions, there is always something new to take in, which is what makes this art museum a great place to visit.
Food Portland Is Known For
Voodoo Doughnuts are arguably the most famous Portland food. With locations around the country, this unique donut shop has fans everywhere but was founded in Portland, Oregon. The delicious, unique donuts, packed into characteristic pink boxes, are beloved in their origin city.
But why are Voodoo Doughnuts part of what Portland is famous for? It’s not just the visuals but they’re extremely tasty and one-of-kind; each donut has its own flavor, humor, and design. Make sure you try one (or probably a few) when you’re in Portland!
Salt & Straw Ice Cream
Salt & Straw Ice Cream is another boutique brand Portland is known for. This small-batch, chef-inspired ice cream shop offers unique ice creams made with local ingredients. Every month, the shop introduces new flavors, so there is always something new to try!
If you have a sweet tooth, make sure you check out this gem. With vegan and gluten-free options, health-conscious eaters get a chance at it too!
Marionberries are a feature among all the delicious Portland, Oregon foods. These berries, known as the “king of blackberries,” are only produced in Oregon. This makes them a staple in the state, especially the pies, so check out this famous Portland food.
If you’re looking for Marionberry pie, you will have plenty of options in Portland. You really can’t go wrong, but if you’re looking for some local favorites try The Pie Spot, Petunia’s Pies & Pastries, or the Pacific Pie Company.
Famous People From Portland
As one of the most notable cartoonists and animators in the US, Matt Groening is definitely a proud piece of Portland. He is most well-known as the creator of The Simpsons. Matt Groening actually named his characters in The Simpsons after his own family, making it a Portland classic.
Since Matt Groening pulled so much inspiration for The Simpsons from his own life, Portland lent many street names to The Simpsons’ universe. See if you can stop any of the crossover names, such as Lincoln High School, during your visit to Portland.
One of the co-founders of Nike calls Portland, Oregon his hometown. Before he was a billionaire entrepreneur, Phil Knight was a young man in Portland. He grew up a runner, pursued an MBA, and then founded iconic Nike with co-founder Bill Bowerman.
If you’re a real Nike fan, make sure you visit the Nike store in downtown Portland. This store offers all the shoes you love, plus a small history of the brand. Whether you love these shoes or not, Nike is definitely part of what Portland is famous for.
With the globally acclaimed brand, you can be sure Phil Knight is one of the most famous people from Portland. His memoir/book “Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike” is also a very worthwhile read.
Discovering More Things Portland Is Known For
From the arts culture and beautiful, natural spaces, there is so much that Portland is famous for. From the museums, famous Portland food, and landmarks, there are plenty of options catering to different interests! Make sure you visit this amazing city!
While you shouldn’t visit without hitting every must-see in Portland, Oregon, still make sure you leave some time for your own exploring. Who knows, you could find a new answer to the question, “what is Portland known for?”