Home > Moving > City Guides > 17 Things to Know About Living in Portland
Portland, Oregon city skyline at sunset.

17 Things to Know About Living in Portland

Want to live somewhere with jaw-dropping natural wonders and an eccentric culture that values art, music, and more? Moving to Portland might be your dream come true! Known as one of the best places to live on the West Coast, here are 17 things to know about living in Portland!

Enjoy a High Quality of Life

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

Photo via @portland

You might raise an eyebrow at the generally high cost of living in Portland, but when compared to Seattle, the overall cost of living in Portland is 26.7% lower, and the median home sales price is 53% lower. Despite high real estate prices, residents still enjoy an excellent quality of life in Portland. You can take advantage of Portland’s tax-free shopping when visiting all your favorite stores, and the city as a whole is committed to green energy and sustainability. Plus, Portland has a diverse, inclusive population, evidenced by a thriving LGBTQ community that provides drag shows, dance clubs, community organizations, sports leagues, queer-friendly businesses, and more to the city’s populace!

Home to the Silicon Forest

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

Photo via @veefaceswest

The prominence of startups and local entrepreneurs in the Greater Portland area has led to Portland being called the Silicon Forest. Intel, Xerox, Airbnb, OpenSesame, and New Relic are just a few tech employers in Portland. What’s more—the local startup culture is home to an abundance of creative agencies in Portland, like Wieden+Kennedy and Watson Creative. Along with tech companies and startups, Portland’s job market includes a growing bioscience sector that includes institutions like the Oregon Health & Science University—which employs 15,000 people alone! Looking for other employment opportunities in Portland? Other main industries supporting Portland’s economy are healthcare and athletic and outdoor apparel—thanks to the surrounding recreation! So, you can apply to major PDX employers like Providence Health and Services or Legacy Health. Or, find sports-adjacent jobs at Adidas North America, Under Armour, Keen, Columbia, and Nike World Headquarters located nearby!

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

Keep Portland Weird” is the city’s slogan for a good reason. There are countless ways to celebrate oddity in Portland, thanks to the local shops, bars, restaurants, art galleries, and locals who have embraced the strange. As you explore, keep an eye out for the infamous Unipiper, who simultaneously rides a unicycle and plays the bagpipes while in costume. Take a stroll through Mill Ends Park, the “World’s Smallest Park” located in the middle of a crosswalk—the tiny green space is said to be inhabited by a local leprechaun colony, so be careful! Explore the Portland Troll Bridge, and remember to bring your own troll to contribute to the collection! Visit Paxton Gate on Mississippi Ave to see their trove of exotic plants, taxidermy, curios, and more. Or dive into Portland’s obsession with the bizarre and comb through galleries of oddities, novelties, and interactive art installations dedicated to learning and terror at the Freakybuttrue Peculiarium.

Search Form Find an Extra Space Storage facility near you

A Hub For Higher Learning

If you’re planning to advance your education or earn a degree, there are plenty of quality universities and colleges in Portland. Get your degree in finance, marketing, biology, and more at the University of Portland. If you’re looking for an eco-friendly campus, start or complete your bachelor’s degree either online or in person at Portland State University. Enroll in popular programs like psychology for your undergraduate, master’s, or doctoral studies at Lewis & Clark College. Prep yourself for a career in medicine, biomedical science, public health, and more with a degree from Oregon Health & Science University. Or study at the oldest accredited naturopathic medical university in North America at National University of Natural Medicine.

Portland Is Green

In addition to its stellar transportation efforts, it may not surprise you to learn Portland has made going green an important part of its development. As a well-known environmentally forward city, Portland’s history of sustainability goes back decades, having been the first city to launch a mandatory bottle-deposit law in 1971. PDX also has a high rate of renewable energy usage compared to other U.S. cities. This emphasis on clean energy, zero waste stores, and combating climate change has landed Portland among the top greenest cities in the U.S.!

Enjoy Stellar Public Transportation & Walkability

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 cities with the best public transportation in America, and the community works hard to reduce traffic congestion and pollution. Navigate the area by bus or street car with the connected TriMet system, where approximately 690,000 rides are provided weekly on buses that use 100% renewable energy! The Max light rail system also has stops throughout Portland, providing further accessibility to PDX’s businesses and amenities. Not only does Portland provide eco-friendly solutions and affordable transit, but the city’s infrastructure is constructed with the pedestrian in mind—landing Portland among the nation’s most walkable cities. Along with innovations like Tilikum Crossing—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

With over 350 miles of bikeways and trails to explore, cycling is another popular way to get around Portland. Many locals and visitors take advantage of the Nike-sponsored bike share program, which provides classic and electric bikes throughout the city of Portland. In part because of programs like this, Portland holds the national title for the most bike-friendly city in the U.S. If traveling on two wheels is appealing to you, you’ll love to attend one of the several major bike rides in Portland like The Worst Day of the Year Ride, Tweed Ride, and Pedalpalooza that draw thousands of participants each year.

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

The 12 distinct bridges stretching across the Willamette River (pronounced “will-AM-it” by locals) is how Portland earned the nickname Bridge City. Though the river divides the city from east to west, the Willamette River unites sight-seers and nature lovers living in Portland! More than just a landmark for navigation, the Willamette River is also a great spot for activities on the water like kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, boat tours, and events like The Big Float, where hundreds of participants hop on the water to drift, chill, and fundraise for the Human Access Project. Take a walk or bike ride down Eastbank Esplanade to get a fuller appreciation of the flowing waters against the breathtaking backdrop of the Portland cityscape.

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

Portland is surrounded by natural beauty, so you can look forward to plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation! With over 200 parks, there’s always somewhere to take a hike or stop for a picnic. Enjoy a calming hike among the lush greenery within city limits at Forest Park. Take a light rail to wander Washington Park, where you can get up close to more than 230 animal species at the Oregon Zoo. Tour a living museum of over 6,000 gorgeous trees at the Hoyt Arboretum. Discover a fusion of traditional Chinese art, architecture, and design from the Ming Dynasty at the Lan Su Chinese Garden. Take a day trip outside the city to enjoy year-round skiing and snow-crested adventures at Mount Hood. And don’t forget to check out some of the Oregon Coast’s best places for whale-watching in the spring and winter!

Explore Distinct Portland Neighborhoods

With vintage, high-rise apartments as well as Victorian-style and Foursquare homes for sale or rent, there are tons of diverse housing options in Portland. You might think that the city center is the hub of activity, but each of Rose City’s neighborhoods has a distinct personality. Find active nightlife, breweries, and bustling activity in the best PDX neighborhoods for singles and young professionals, like Downtown—or eclectic shopping and fun things to do in the Pearl District and Richmond‘s districts. For more low-key, family-friendly activities, Hillsdale and Forest Park are among the best neighborhoods in Portland for families and offer residents safe streets and outdoor recreation.

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

Portland is about more than just craft beer and eccentric shops—when it comes to sports in Portland, soccer is the name of the game! Come out for an exciting match played by the Portland Timbers (MLS) where you can witness real-life mascot Timber Joey sawing away at a log for every goal. Be sure to support the women’s team, Portland Thorns FC (NWSL), at Providence Park, too. Turn up at Hadlock Field to cheer on the Portland Sea Dogs (MiLB). Support one of the newest pro sports teams and watch the Portland Nitros (AUDL) score points at Providence Park. Or listen to the ball hit nothing but net when the Portland Trail Blazers (NBA) shoot for three-pointers at Moda Center.

Home to a Historic Music Scene

The Portland music scene is just as weird and unique as the rest of the city, being 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 the hit show 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!

Live in a City Saturated in Art

Some of the best places to visit in Portland are galleries and arts-centered events. Offering five floors of expansive permanent collections, the Portland Art Museum is the oldest art museum in the Pacific Northwest! Go on a mural crawl featuring some of the thousands of public art displays and Portland street art baked into PDX’s infrastructure. Absorb the experimental creations of local and national artists at Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA), which is home to an artist residency program and countless community events during the year. Venture to Alberta Arts District for Last Thursday and check out the work of local artists. Or make your way to the chic Pearl District, which hosts a large concentration of local galleries with First Thursday events.

Portland Is for Foodies

Although locals may never agree on which restaurant has the best brunch in Portland, the overwhelming number of options will make it fun to find out! Try the Grilled Chicken & Waffles or the Seasonal Vegetable Frittata un Barattolo at Mama Bird. Bring your pup out to the canine-friendly patio while you enjoy the Spike-ish Breakfast Burrito or the Good Dog Stacked Scramble from Tin Shed Garden Cafe, which was featured on Guy Fieri’s Food Network show Comfort and Soul. Try the Red Curry with Roasted Vegetables, Chopped BBQ Fried Rice, Brisket Boudin, and other authentic Thai flavors at EEM. Flip the script and put vegetables first with dishes like Baby Bok Choi and Ribollita Stew at G-Love, a “reverse steakhouse” that prioritizes greens over meats. Or find Russian cuisine like Siberian Pelmeni and Lepyoshka at Kachka—and check out the Lavka Deli & Grocery located above the main restaurant.

Portland Comes Alive at Night

Many of the best things to do in Portland can be found after dark! Themed bars make up a large portion of the city’s one-of-a-kind nightlife. Play new and classic arcade games with friends over food and drinks at Ground Kontrol. Indulge in your love for the macabre at horror-themed venue The Coffin Club. Take part in dancing, karaoke, improv shows, and much more at the circus-like Funhouse Lounge, one of PDX’s weirdest bars. Belt out the lyrics to your favorite songs at popular karaoke destinations like Alibi Tiki Lounge and Chopsticks. As one of the most LGBTQ-friendly cities in the U.S., it makes sense Portland also has a large number of queer bars and clubs like the dog-friendly Florida Room or CC Slaughters Portland, where you can have a blast dancing to live DJ sets and supporting local drag artists. Or check out Old Town Chinatown for the densest concentration of dance clubs in Rose City, including places like the southern-themed Dixie Tavern and Stag PDX.

PDX Is a Beer Lover’s Paradise

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

Photo via @oregonbrewfest

With over 70 breweries in the city alone, living in Portland means appreciating the city as a haven for all things related to craft brews. Here, you can combine your love of cycling and beer on the Brews Cruise— one of Portland’s many beer tours where you can pedal leisurely through historic neighborhoods and breweries while sipping local beers. Sour beer connoisseurs can sample an abundance of tart ales like the Cherry Lime Casc-ade or Vlad the Imp Aler at Cascade Brewing. Sip something sweeter like the spiced chai Chaider or the Grapefruit and Chill cider at Schilling Cider House! You can also celebrate your love for adult beverages at a different beer festival almost every month, including Zwickelmania and SheBrew. No matter your tastes, there’s always a time and place to enjoy a cold beer in Portland!


Are you moving to Portland? Extra Space Storage has several storage facilities throughout the Portland metro that can help with your transition. Find cheap storage near you!

Things You Should Know About Portland, OR

About Mike Beutler

Mike Beutler is a writer and digital content specialist who transitioned to self storage in 2020 after several years in the airline industry. His travels cultivated a passion for exploring cities across the U.S. and abroad and inspired him to learn more about practical insights for urban living. With 14 moves under his belt, both locally and cross-country, he also has a passion for minimalism and organization, and sharing tips to help others make any space feel like home while staying organized.