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Things to Do in Oregon

The state of Oregon, tucked between Washington and California in the US Pacific Northwest, regales locals and visitors alike with its magnificent landscapes ripe for adventures. The state is home to mountains in the Cascade Range, including the majestic Mt. Hood, which can be seen from downtown Portland, the state’s largest city. Tour Portland (aka Stumptown) from Pioneer Square to the French Renaissance–style Pittock Mansion while enjoying treats from the city’s famous food carts. Then head for the vast Columbia River, which snakes along much of the border between Oregon and Washington, creating the beautiful Columbia River Gorge. Enjoy a hiking and rock climbing tour, stopping to admire waterfalls along the way; or book an adventurous white-water rafting tour. Admire stunning Crater Lake, Oregon’s only national park and the deepest lake in the country. You can also wind surf, kayak and Jet Ski on the Hood River. Take a break on a culinary tour across the Willamette Valley, known for a fine selection of wineries. Learn to paddleboard in Corvallis on the river; join a biking or hiking tour of the hip city of Bend in summer (or ski there in winter); and head for family-friendly white-water rafting on the Rogue River in southern Oregon. Finally, lace up your walking shoes and explore the high deserts, fossil beds, and vast forests of eastern Oregon.
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Willamette Valley
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A short jaunt southwest from downtown Portland, the Willamette Valley is known by wine lovers worldwide for its delectable pinot noirs, often produced in small batches. This picturesque region is also dotted with tasting rooms and is a popular spot for wine-tasting excursions from Portland.
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Portland Steel Bridge
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Portland is a city of bridges, and each bridge has its own story. The Steel Bridge has the distinction of being the only double-decker bridge in the world with independent lifts and was opened in 1912, spanning the Willamette River connecting Northwest and Northeast Portland. It carries not only car traffic but also pedestrians, bicycles, light rail, and trains. It was originally built to replace an 1888 bridge which had the same name.
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Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI)
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Designed for science fans of all ages, OMSI features five separate halls, eight hands-on science labs, a real submarine, an OMNIMAX giant-screen theater and a planetarium. Over 200 interactive exhibits focus on subjects like global climate change, chemistry, the human body, technology and more.

For older children, Turbine Hall encourages building, engineering and problem-solving, and for kids six and under, the colorful Science Playground offers art materials, a cave to explore, water and a huge sandbox in which to frolic. On the five-story-high OMNIMAX theater screen, you can see blockbusters and nature documentaries that have been formatted for IMAX, allowing you to virtually soar over mountains and swim to ocean depths.

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Deschutes National Forest
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Set alongside the beautiful Cascade Mountains of the Pacific Northwest, the Deschutes National Forest is a scenic natural forest and recreation area in central Oregon. The alpine and evergreen forest, lakes, and streams draw those interested in hiking, fly fishing, hunting, river-rafting, mountain biking, camping, and more. An extensive amount of nature trails provide many options to explore the outdoors. The green trees, clean water, and fresh air abound here. In the winter months skiing and snowboarding are popular in the mountains. The five designated wilderness areas, including six Wild and Scenic Rivers, each offer something different. Meadows, caves, and even desert areas are also a part of this diverse landscape. Camping is available during the warmer months of the year at over 125 developed campsites. Overall the forest covers around 1.7 million acres of land, so there’s much to explore.

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Newberry National Volcanic Monument
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It’s hard to believe you can drive and walk through the area of a 500-square-mile volcano that remains seismically active today. Up in the high plains of central Oregon, these lava lands are filled with lakes, lava tubes and fascinating geological patterns. Within the Deschutes National Forest and from the highest point, Paulina Peak, there is more than 50,000 acres of unique landscape to explore.

Once the site of the Newberry Volcano, which exploded 75,000 years ago, all that remains today is the caldera and visual evidence of the past lava flows. Here is where you’ll find the most recent lava present in Oregon (around 1,300 years ago) at the Big Obsidian Flow, a large field of shiny, black obsidian rock covering 700 acres. You can also visit the two alpine lakes of the caldera, Paulina and East, which are popular fishing sites, or explore the unique scenery with a hike on one of the many area nature trails.

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Portland Pearl District
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Portland's most popular commercial area, "The Pearl", as it's locally known, is north of downtown between West Burnside Street, the Willamette River, NW Broadway and the Interstate 405 freeway. Once a lonely industrial district of decaying warehouses and rail yards, a boom in urban renewal in the late 1990s to the early 2000s prompted an allusion to the area's scruffy architecture as crusty oysters containing pearls. These "pearls" were initially artists' lofts and galleries, but the neighborhood now teems with upscale eateries, small performance venues and independent boutiques as well.

The Pearl's biggest attraction is also one of the most-visited spots in Portland: the flagship Powell's City of Books. Spanning an entire city block (between NW 10th and 11th Avenues, W. Burnside and NW Couch Streets), Powell's bills itself as the world's largest independent bookstore.

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Alphabet District
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Inner Northwest Portland – specifically around NW 21st and NW 23rd – is one of the most popular in the city center for shopping, entertainment, and dining. It also has a memorable nickname: the Alphabet District.

You might not notice the reason for the name immediately, especially if you're taking your time meandering from one shop-lined block to another, but the streets in the quadrant that run east-west are in alphabetical order – from Burnside, Couch, Davis, Everett, and Flanders on up through Wilson. There's an A street further east (Alder), but it doesn't continue up far enough to be part of this district. The Alphabet District is historically one of Portland's most desirable neighborhoods – there are beautiful Victorian-style houses in the residential blocks and sought-after condo buildings. One of the city's oldest independent movie theaters, Cinema 21, is on NW 21st Avenue.

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International Rose Test Garden
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The most popular landscape in Washington Park, the International Rose Test Garden was originally conceived as a means of capitalizing on Portland's nickname: "The City of Roses." This moniker was coined during the 1905 Lewis & Clark Exhibition, when city officials, eager for their young town to make a good impression on visitors, had many of Portland's streets planted with dozens of rosebushes.

Opened in 1917 during the height of World War I, the Rose Test Garden soon became a safe haven for European rose hybrids that would otherwise have been destroyed by battles and bombs. It's still a working test garden, with bulbs and cuttings sent here from around the world to be monitored for color, scent, disease resistance and more. Now one of the largest rose gardens in America, the Test Garden has over 600 rose varieties and more than 9,500 bushes.

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Pioneer Square
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Locally known as “Portland's Living Room,” Pioneer Courthouse Square sits at the heart of downtown and takes up an entire city block. Pioneer Square was officially opened in 1984. Prior to that, it had been the site of a hotel (built in 1890) and later a two-story parking garage. When a new and much larger parking garage was proposed in 1969, the idea of creating a public square instead gained momentum, and was the beginning of Pioneer Square. The square takes its name from the nearby Pioneer Courthouse, built in 1875.
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Pittock Mansion
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From 1909 to 1919, this 22-room French Renaissance-style estate was the home of Portland's original power couple, Henry and Georgiana Pittock; Henry's business empire included The Oregonian newspaper, and Georgiana championed women's rights and the city's then-burgeoning Rose Festival. The Pittocks' former property, set on 46 acres and perched 1,000-feet above downtown Portland, offers one of Oregon's most sweeping views of the city and the Cascade Range.

By the mid-1960s, the Mansion had fallen into disrepair, the Pittocks' remaining family members couldn't find a buyer, and it seemed fated for bulldozing; but local preservationists managed to raise the necessary funds to save it, and by 1974 it was named to the National Register of Historic Places. The Mansion now attracts over 800,000 visitors a year.

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More Things to Do in Oregon

Lan Su Chinese Garden

Lan Su Chinese Garden

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Find your zen at downtown Portland’s Lan Su Chinese Garden, an oasis of Chinese art, design, and architecture. Modeled after the ancient gardens of the Ming Dynasty, the garden has carefully landscaped elements that invite you to relax, reflect, and engage with Chinese culture through tea ceremonies, workshops, and performances.
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Oregon Coast

Oregon Coast

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Powell’s City of Books

Powell’s City of Books

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Encompassing an entire city block in downtown Portland, Powell’s City of Books is the world’s largest independent new and used bookstore and a top attraction for book lovers visiting the city. Here you’ll find upwards of a million books, including rare finds, first editions, and autographed copies of bestsellers and little-known titles alike, all under one roof.
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South Park Blocks

South Park Blocks

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Park Avenue in downtown Portland has long parks at each end – the largest is at the south end, appropriately called the South Park Blocks. The area runs 12 blocks from SW Jackson St. north to SW Salmon St., and are one block wide along Park Avenue. The street is split into two one-way lanes, with the park filling the block in between. The South Park Blocks make up a central part of Portland State University's campus, and the park is the setting for a popular farmer's market from March through December.
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Portland Art Museum

Portland Art Museum

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Situated in the tree-lined Park Blocks neighborhood of downtown Portland, Oregon, the Portland Art Museum is known for its large archives of Native American and First Nations artifacts as well as its exemplary collections of art from around the world. Here you’ll find everything from Van Gogh and Monet paintings to calligraphy from pre–Han Dynasty China.
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Washington Park

Washington Park

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Washington Park is a sprawling woodland in Southwest Portland, home to the Oregon Zoo, Portland Children’s Museum, and a series of gardens including the International Rose Test Garden, Hoyt Arboretum, and the Portland Japanese Garden. Cycling paths and walking trails wind throughout the park, providing a convenient nature escape.
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Deschutes River

Deschutes River

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Hoyt Arboretum

Hoyt Arboretum

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Portland’s Hoyt Arboretum is home to one of the most varied collections of tree species in the United States. This sprawling nature preserve serves as a research center, but with miles of trails easily accessible to downtown Portland, the arboretum is open to anyone who wants to spend time in nature.
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Oregon Zoo

Oregon Zoo

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Formerly the Washington Park Zoo, Portland’s Oregon Zoo is the oldest zoo in the western United States. In total there are more than 2,200 animals with 260 species represented, though the stars of the zoo are more often than not the herd of Asian elephants. The youngest elephant was born at the park in 2012, so she’s still toddler size, while the rest impress with their spotted ears and unique personalities. There’s also a very unique California Condors exhibit which showcases the local and endangered birds.
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Portland Japanese Garden

Portland Japanese Garden

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Dedicated in 1963, the Portland Japanese Garden has long been the spot to join others—both visitors and locals—in a quest for tranquility. Meditate by a waterfall and walk the paths that lead to nine themed garden areas. Don't miss the cultural village, designed by contemporary Japanese architect Kengo Kuma.
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Forest Park

Forest Park

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Portland is often lauded as one of the best cities in America for green spaces, due in no small part to 5,100-acre Forest Park, the largest urban forested area in America. Based on the landscaping advice of the legendary Olmstead Brothers (the design firm behind New York's Central Park), Forest Park was originally proposed as an expansive city park in the late 1800s; however, potential preservation costs and oil speculation kept it from becoming public land until the late 1940s.
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The Grotto

The Grotto

Tucked into a corner of Northeast Portland in a park-like space is a Catholic sanctuary known as “The Grotto.” The official name is the National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother, and it's a shrine and botanical garden. It covers 62 acres that were purchased by Father Ambrose Mayer in 1923; he intended to build a shrine to the Virgin Mary on the land. The project was even blessed by then-Pope Pius XI in a handwritten letter, and the first mass was held at The Grotto in 1924.
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Portland Chinatown

Portland Chinatown

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Dating back to the 1880s, downtown Portland's compact Chinatown isn't as big as what you might find in San Francisco or New York. However, it's still worth a visit for its restaurants, bars, photogenic entry gate, and its star attraction, the Lan Su Chinese Garden.
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