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Portland, Oregon city skyline at sunset.

17 Things to Know About Living in Portland

Dreaming of moving somewhere with overwhelming natural beauty, friendly locals, no sales tax, and a culture centered on being eccentric? Portland could be your next home! Known as one of the best places to live on the West Coast, this Oregon city has become a destination for young professionals, families, and world travelers alike. Check out these 17 things to know about living in Portland!

It’s Seattle’s Hipper, More Affordable Sibling

View of Portland, Oregon, sign with city in the background Photo by Instagram user @portland

Photo via @portland

Portland vs. Seattle is a huge topic of debate between those living in the Pacific Northwest! Which city has more hipsters? Where can you find better coffee? While Seattle is slightly larger with a population of 724,305, Portland’s 645,291 residents enjoy equally vibrant amenities with a slightly lower price tag. Portland’s cost of living is cheaper with everything from rent to groceries, meaning living in Portland will be easier on your wallet!

Home to Silicon Forest

Interior modern office space with people congregating Photo by Instagram user @veefaceswest

Photo via @veefaceswest

Business continues to boom for tech companies in Portland! The prominence of startups and local entrepreneurs in the area gave birth to the “Silicon Forest” nickname. Xerox, Tektronix, eBay, and Airbnb are a few of the major high-tech companies on the list of the top 50 traded-sector employers in Portland. Intel continues to be the largest private employer in the greater Portland area. And the local startup culture breeds an abundance of advertising and creative jobs with companies like Wieden+Kennedy and NORTH.

Quirky & Unique Neighborhoods

Whether you’re looking to live in a high-rise or dreaming of a cottage-inspired home, there are tons of diverse housing options throughout Portland’s neighborhoods. Downtown, Richmond, Buckman, and the Pearl District are some of the best neighborhoods in Portland for young professionals, while Sellwood-Moreland, Hillsdale, and Forest Park are among the best neighborhoods in Portland for families. While affordability varies from one neighborhood to the next, you can find home prices around $319,400 with monthly rent around $1,025, making Portland one of the cheapest places to live on the West Coast!

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Get Ready for the Portland Mist

Wondering what the weather in Portland is like? The good news is that it stays generally mild year-round with an annual average temperature of 71. But if you’re a fan of bright, clear skies, 144 sunny days a year might not cut it. Gray clouds and consistent precipitation are characteristic of the “Portland Mist,” which is unique to Portland life. But while those from out of town might think the Pacific Northwest is incredibly rainy, Stumptown only sees 42.8 inches of annual rainfall, which is just above national average. Nevertheless, the near-constant mist that accumulates is the reason why Portland rain has a misunderstood reputation. If you can survive the overcast skies for most of the year, you’ll be rewarded with sunny summers that aren’t scorching hot!

You’ll Get to Know the Willamette River

View of Willamette River with two boats in the water and Portland skyline in the background Photo by Instagram user @portland

Photo via @portland

Crossing the Willamette River is a daily staple of living in Portland! Dividing the city from east to west, this geographic marker is one key to navigating the city! The 12 distinct bridges stretching across the river is how “Bridge City” earned its spot among the many Portland nicknames. Not only is the Willamette River a great landmark for navigation, but it’s also a great spot for activities on the water like stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, or boat tours. Plus, individuals are encouraged to hop in the river for The Big Float every July.

Enjoy Stellar Public Transportation

Two empty railcars on the track at the Oregon Rail Heritage Center Photo via @trimet

Photo via @trimet

Trees aren’t the only thing that makes this Pacific Northwest city so green! Portland continuously ranks as one of the best cities for public transit in America, and the city works hard to reduce traffic congestion and pollution. Get around by bus, light rail, or street car with the connected TriMet system, where approximately 450,000 rides are provided monthly within the city. Fun fact—TriMet buses use 100% renewable energy to get passengers to their destinations! And with innovations like Tilikum Crossing, the first pedestrian/transit bridge of its kind, Portland is paving the way for more efficient travel in a major city.

Welcome to Biketown, USA

Orange Biketown bike resting against bridge railing with cars driving in the background Photo by Instagram user @portland

Photo via @portland

Cycling is another popular way to get around Portland. Don’t have your own fixed gear just yet? Don’t worry! Many locals and visitors take advantage of the bike share program provided by Nike, which provides classic and electric bikes throughout the city of Portland. With 5.3% of the population pedaling to work each day, Portland holds the national title for most residents commuting by bike. The Worst Day of the Year Ride, Tweed Ride, and the local installment of the World Naked Bike Ride are just few of many annual cycling events in Portland! Even when there’s not an event, you can cover a lot of ground on two wheels with 315 miles of bikeways and trails to explore.

Famous for Being Weird

Man on a unicycle wearing a kilt, holding a colorful umbrella and a flaming bagpipe wearing a colorful Darth Vadar mask Photo by Instagram @theunipiper

Photo via @theunipiper

There’s an endless number of weird things to do in Portland, thanks to the local businesses, attractions, events, and people that have adopted the “Keep Portland Weird” slogan. While roaming the streets, you might bump into the infamous Unipiper, who simultaneously rides a unicycle and plays the bagpipes while in costume. Or you might stroll right past Mill Ends Park, the “World’s Smallest Park” located in the middle a crosswalk (Be careful, though—the tiny green space is said to be in habited by a local leprechaun colony). Those looking for more lore can go exploring at the Portland Troll Bridge and even bring their own troll to contribute to the collection! For an eccentric afternoon, head to the National Hat Museum. If you’re hoping to go on stranger adventures, give the Freakybuttrue Peculiarium a try for a truly one-of-a-kind experience.

It’s Called “Rose City” for a Reason

Golden retriever holding a stuffed dog in the middle of a rose garden Photo by Instagram user @mycaninelife

Photo via @mycaninelife

Although they’re not native to the area, the city of Portland has a long history involving roses. Today, the city is full of these beautiful flowers, which help name numerous events, teams, and businesses in the area. The International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park, where more than 10,000 rose bushes bloom each year, recently held its centennial celebration and is must for Portland sightseeing. Those in North Portland can take a stroll through Peninsula Park Rose Garden or get married under the gazebo there! During the summer, Rose City locals can enjoy parades, milk carton boat races, singing competitions, and much more at the Portland Rose Festival.

Outdoor Adventures Are Everywhere

Woman walking across wooden bridge at Columbia River Gorge Photo by Instagram user @daaisywarren

Photo via @daaisywarren

Many of the top things to do in Portland involve the great outdoors! With over 200 parks, there’s always somewhere to take a hike or stop for a picnic. Enjoy lush greenery within city limits at Forest Park, or discover waterfalls just 30 minutes away at the Colombia River Gorge. Take in the looming trees and relax into the natural world by visiting one of the hot springs surrounding the metro. Travel an hour and a half to the Oregon Coast for a dip in the Pacific Ocean. Venture just a little farther outside of the city, and you’ll find year-round skiing and snow-crested adventures at Mount Hood.

Yes, There Are Pro Sports

Portland Trail Blazers player Damian Lillard running down the court with the basketplayer Photo by Instagram user @trailblazers

Photo via @trailblazers

Believe it or not, there are things to do in Portland that don’t involve craft beer or cold brew! Soccer is the name of the game in this city! Not only do the Portland Timbers (MLS) promise an exciting show on their own, but real-life mascot Timber Joey brings out a chainsaw and saws away at a log for every goal as well. The professional women’s team, the Portland Thorns FC (NWSL), also call Providence Park home. Strike outs and home runs get Portland baseball fans excited at Hadlock Field when the Portland Sea Dogs (MiLB) are up to bat. Basketball fans can catch the Portland Trail Blazers (NBA) at the Moda Center. And those hoping to work adjacent to these teams will have plenty of employment opportunities with Adidas North America and Nike World Headquarters located nearby!

Home to a Historic Music Scene

Portland music is just as weird and unique as the rest of the city, and it’s long been known for its punk, grunge, and indie rock sounds. Local bands like Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney (whose guitarist Carrie Brownstein would go on to create Portlandia) are credited for bringing fame and recognition to the Riot Grrrl movement in the ’90s. This strong alternative and independent musical landscape can still be witnessed today at Mississippi Studios, an artist-run venue with groups like The Weather Station and Birdtalker performing during the week. Those hoping to watch national and international touring acts will find them at the Crystal Ballroom or outdoors at Edgefield. With a vast number of music venues across the city, catching a live show is one of the best things to do in Portland!

Art Is Everywhere

Many of the top places to visit in Portland are galleries and arts-centered events! The Portland Art Museum is the oldest art museum in the Pacific Northwest and offers five floors of expansive permanent collections. There’s also the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, which is home to an artist residency program and countless community events during the year. You can always venture to Alberta Arts District for Last Thursday and check out the work of local artists. Or make your way to the Pearl District, which hosts a large concentration of local galleries with First Thursday events. And, of course, you can’t miss all of the Portland street art!

Brunch Is Serious Business

Where to get the best brunch in Portland is a big debate among locals. With an overwhelming amount of options, you may never reach a consensus! You might recognize Tin Shed by its cozy patio full of friendly dogs or from its feature on Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives, where comfort food and an eclectic neighborhood feel help this Portland restaurant live up to the hype! Not looking for a sit-down spot? Donuts for breakfast are a perfectly acceptable option! Famous for their pink boxes and spooky concoctions, Voodoo Donuts got its start in Rose City. People craving small batch, artisanal donuts will love Blue Star, where flavors like Blueberry Bourbon Basil or Passionfruit Cocoa Nibs can be enjoyed at one of the seven locations across the city.

Fresh Eats Around Every Corner

Diners seated at picnic tables under a shelter near a food truck Photo by Instagram user @friedegglove

Photo by @friedegglove

Once referred to as the best food city in America, you won’t be short on delicious restaurants in Portland! Top-notch ingredients and fresh local produce can be enjoyed at restaurants throughout the city, thanks to largely farm-to-table dining experiences! Cooking at home? Quality groceries aren’t far with farmers markets in almost every neighborhood. If street eats are your thing, you’re in luck here! With over 600 local food carts, offering everything from Norwegian meatballs at Viking Soul Food to all things egg at Fried Egg I’m In Love, there’s truly something for everyone! Because the taste and sourcing of Portland food is so important to locals and visitors alike, there’s bound to be a new favorite spot to grab a bite on your horizon!

Portland Comes Alive at Night

Many of the best things to do are part of Portland nightlife! Themed bars make up a large portion of the one-of-a kind nightlife. Play arcade games at Ground Kontrol, get your horror fix at The Coffin Club, or find circus-style entertainment at Funhouse Lounge. If karaoke is your favorite way to spend a night out, you’ve moved to the right city! The Alibi Tiki Lounge and Chopsticks are two of the most popular places to sing your favorite songs. But don’t go without preparation or sing anything too mainstream—locals take karaoke very seriously. As one of the top LGBTQ-friendly cities in the U.S., it makes sense that Portland also has a large number of queer bars and clubs! If dancing is more your style, Old Town Chinatown has the densest concentration of dance clubs in Rose City, including places like Dirty Nightlife and Dixie Tavern.

A Beer Lover’s Paradise

Beer splashing out of steins after enthusastic cheers by a group of people Photo by @oregonbrewfest

Photo via @oregonbrewfest

Living in Portland means appreciating the city as a haven for all things fermented. Craft beer, ciders, and kombucha are all overflowing here. Deciding on the best beer in Portland will require making around 70 stops in the metro. If IPAs are your passion, there are plenty of microbreweries specializing in IPAs to hop around to. Sour beer connoisseurs can sample an abundance of tart ales at Cascade Brewing. Looking for sweeter libations? Discover the fruitier side of imbibing at Schilling Cider House and Portland Cider House! You can also celebrate your love for adult beverages at Oregon Cider Week or the Oregon Brewers Festival. With a different beer festival almost every month, Portland life always includes somewhere to snag a cold drink!


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Things You Should Know About Portland, OR