What to do in Portland

Renowned for both its flourishing arts scene and status as America’s most environmentally friendly city, Portland is both Oregon’s largest habitation and one of the US’ fastest growing tourist destinations.

Whilst not one of America’s larger cities, Portland has developed a distinctive reputation for two things – the growing of beautiful roses and creativity. Indeed some of America’s most popular authors such as Chuck Palahniuk and Ursula K. Le Guin come from the city, alongside popular bands and musicians like The Dandy Warhols and the late Elliot Smith amongst many others.

Which such an impressive list of Portland natives, it’s no surprise that many of the city’s most popular destinations relate to the arts. Whilst small galleries can be found all over the trendy Pearl and Alberta Arts districts of the city, Portland Art Museum is the oldest on the West Coast and home to more than 42,000 works of art. For more modern tastes, the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art is surely not to be missed whilst the Blue Sky Gallery is renowned for its exhibitions of both local and national photographers. Gamers are certain to find a piece of nirvana at Ground Kontrol – the city’s celebrated bar and arcade recognised as one of the best in America due to its focus on ‘golden age’ gaming.

Portland is also a centre of excellence in the performing arts with several prominent institutions such as the Oregon Ballet Theatre, Oregon Symphony and Oregon Opera. The city is also home to various off and off-off Broadway style venues such as the Miracle and Tears of Joy Theatres.

More traditional culture and arts are also extremely well represented in Portland, not least in the Lan Su Chinese Garden, a stunning walled garden covering an entire city block offering a wonderfully elegant representation of a traditional Suzhou style garden. Likewise, Washington Park offers more sculpted outdoor recreation that contains Oregon Zoo, the World Forestry Centre and the Portland Japanese Garden – a must for any visit to the city.

Whilst Oregon is famous for its arts, it is also a popular shopping destination, with many major stores and malls in the Pearl, Lloyd and Downtown Districts. The Portland Saturday Market offers something different, with a bazaar type of environment with everything from craft to food on sale. The Pearl District is also home to Powell’s World of Books – an enormous bookstore the size of a whole city block which is thought to be the largest in the world. It could only be in Portland.

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