For over a century, Portland has been nicknamed the 'City of Roses' for its mild, temperate climate, ideal for growing roses. The city is often more casually known, however, as the hipster capital of the USA, so-called for its progressive liberal values and penchant for counterculture trends. This city consistently ranks among the best places to live in the country for its comfortable climate, pedestrian-friendly city planning and abundance of public parks. Discover the history, cuisine and local culture of Portland, Oregon while exploring these top-rated sights and attractions in the city.
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The Top Things to Do in Portland, Oregon
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This century-old estate on the west side of the city overlooking the downtown core was built in 1914 for business tycoon Henry Pittock and his wife, Georgiana Burton Pittock. Made of elegant Tanino sandstone in the French Renaissance style, the mansion contains 46 rooms on 46 acres, the eclectic interiors reflect Henry's penchant for extravagance and with the manicured flower beds, Georgiana's passion for gardening. Now open for tours, the property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and a must-see while visiting Portland.
Portland's Food Trucks
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Portland's legendary food trucks are an essential component of the local culinary scene, representing a host of international flavors as well. The city's street eats have been called the best in America by CNN, and with over 600 food trucks operating around the city, this one's almost impossible to miss out on. Head to one of Portland's bustling food truck villages or 'food cart pods' like Cartopia and Cartlandia for a chance to try a little of everything and see why these portable gourmet kitchens are sweeping across America.
Portland Japanese Garden
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Built in the 1960s to celebrate Portland's new sister city, Sapporo, the Portland Japanese Garden is a 12-acre traditional landscape garden and a hub for Japanese culture in America. The gardens feature an ornamental koi pond, a traditional Japanese teahouse, an elegant rock garden (often referred to as a 'zen garden') and a lantern donated by the city of Sapporo. The garden also hosts art and festival events to spread awareness of Japanese culture. Portland Japanese Garden is located inside Washington Park.
Powell's City of Books
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One of the largest bookstores in the world, Powell's City of Books is the headquarters of the Portland-born bookstore chain, Powell's Books. The 'City of Books' is located in the Pearl District and takes up an entire block for a total of 1.6 acres of sales floor. Powell's sells not only new book but used, rare and out of print copies as well. Powell's City of Books has been recognized by CNN as one of the 'coolest' and by USA Today as one of the 'best' bookstores in the world, and is a must-see stop on the city tour.
Pioneer Courthouse Square
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Pioneer Courthouse Square is named after the Pioneer Courthouse, a historic government building finished in 1875 and situated on the east end of the square. Once the site of the grand Portland Hotel and later a parking space for local businesses, the block opened as a public plaza in 1984 after a group of citizens banded together to help fund the project. Today, Pioneer Courthouse Square is a Portland icon and a historical landmark, with parts of the old hotel and the inscribed bricks sold to pay for its construction incorporated into the design.
Portland's Shanghai Tunnels
Also known as the Old Portland Underground, these underground tunnels connect basements in Old Town Chinatown and the business district to the Willamette River. Reportedly built to help facilitate the shipment of goods from merchants along the river, legends about the tunnels have been a part of Portland's collective imagination since their construction. The nickname 'Shanghai Tunnels' comes from one of these popular legends, in which the passages were used by the navy for 'shanghaiing' or crimping vulnerable youth to join using blackmail, threats or deceit. Parts of the tunnels and the basements they connect to are open to tours.
Lan Su Chinese Garden
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The Lan Su Chinese Garden is a spacious, classical garden in the Old Town Chinatown district of Portland, named after Portland ('Lan') and Suzhou ('Su'), Portland's sister city. The garden is 4,000 square meters in size and features a scenic pond, traditional teahouse and ornamental features imported from Suzhou. Lan Su Chinese Garden hosts cultural events, calligraphy classes and art shows in the garden pavilions. The garden is renown for its orchids and other lush plant life native to China, including bamboo, lotus and Chinese lilies.
The Portland Art Museum
The Portland Art Museum is the premier art museum in the city. It is also one of the country's oldest, founded in 1892, and largest, with over 10,000 square meters of gallery space. The Portland Art Museum features sections on both historic and contemporary art from regions of the United States and Native American art as well as international features. The permanent collection contains over 40,000 works, including a number of pieces by Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet and Paul Cezanne.
The city is named after Portland, Maine, as it was settled in later than the east coast state. While it is not the state capital, the city once thrived as a port city on the Willamette River, quickly becoming a hotbed for organized crime and racketeering. Portland has since shaken this reputation, however, and become one of the most comfortable places to live in the United States. Get acquainted with America's hipster capital and start planning your next trip.