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
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 724,745, Portland’s 647,805 residents enjoy equally vibrant amenities with a slightly lower price tag. Portland’s cost of living is cheaper in everything from rent to groceries. Portland residents still work hard but are known for a more laid-back, friendly attitude compared to Seattle’s business-centered demeanor.
Home to Silicon Forest
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 and singles. Families and retirees will love the quieter vibe of the historic Sellwood-Moreland neighborhood. And those hoping to be surrounded by art and vintage shopping will find the Hawthorne or Belmont areas to be excellent places to live. While affordability varies from one neighborhood to the next, you can find home prices around $319,400 with rent around $1,025, making Portland one of the more affordable options on the West Coast!
Get Ready for the Portland Mist
Wondering what Portland’s weather 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.” While those from out of town might think the Pacific Northwest is incredibly rainy, the city only sees 43.9 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
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
Trees aren’t the only thing that makes the city so green! Get around by bus, light rail, or street car with the connected TriMet system. You can plan routes online, or use the app to figure out transfers, connections, and wait times for the next ride! In terms of great mass transit, Portland is consistently applauded for making strides in easing traffic congestion and pollution. 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
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. With 7% 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
There’s an endless number of weird things to do in Portland! 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 Mills End 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
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 is a gorgeous spot to check out over 10,000 rose bushes. Those in North Portland can take a stroll through Peninsula Park Rose Garden or get married under the gazebo there! During the summer, locals can enjoy parades, milk carton boat races, singing competitions, and much more at the Portland Rose Festival.
Outdoor Adventures Are Everywhere
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
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. And basketball fans can catch the Portland Trail Blazers (NBA) at the Moda Center. 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
The Portland music scene has 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 be witnessed today at a house show or Mississippi Studios, an artist-run venue. Those hoping to watch national and international touring acts will find them at the Crystal Ballroom or outdoors in the summertime 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, while the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art is home to an artist residency program and countless community events during the year. Venture to the Alberta Arts District for Last Thursday, and check out the work of local artists. The Pearl District is another major arts area and 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. And with an overwhelming amount of options, you may never reach a consensus! Head to Tasty n Sons or Tasty n Alder to try a little bit of everything with family-style dishes, as well as their famous cheddar biscuits. You might recognize Tin Shed by its cozy patio full of friendly dogs or from its feature on Diner’s, Drive-Ins, & Dives. Comfort food combined with 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. 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
Once referred to as the best food city in America, you won’t be short on delicious dining options 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 in the city! 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!
Portland Comes Alive at Night
Many of the best things to do in Portland happen after dark. 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 Lovecraft, 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!
A Beer Lover’s Paradise
Portland is 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 100 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, there’s always somewhere to snag a cold drink!
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