University of Western States Guide to Portland

Portland, Oregon, the Rose City, is a go-to destination for those who want to soak up and experience all that makes the beautiful Pacific Northwest special. Whether you are taking in the breathtaking views of Mt. Hood and the skyline, perusing the many coffee shops and restaurants or taking in some live music, always remember to “Keep Portland Weird.”

There is no shortage of exuberant and unique characters in the city, and the traditions, pride and genuine hospitality of Portlanders contribute to the city’s charm. Here are some suggestions from us at University of Western States for some must-see destinations, restaurants and activities while you are in town either visiting, attending a conference or considering moving to the area or new in town.

Portland Collage

Downtown Portland

Getting Around Portland

Portland is a bike friendly and very walkable city. Check out Biketown PDX for more info on how and where to rent bikes.

With more than 84 lines, Portland TriMet buses serve much of the Portland metro area. Explore the bus lines and route here.

The MAX (Metropolitan Area Express) Light Rail connects Portland City Center with Beaverton, Clackamas, Gresham, Hillsboro, Milwaukie, North/Northeast Portland and Portland International Airport. Check out the system map here.

Portland Aerial Tram at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) connects the South Waterfront to Marquam Hill. Tram passengers ride between S.W. Moody and Gibbs on the waterfront and Kohler Pavilion on the hill.

Foodie Hot Spots

McMenamins Kennedy SchoolMcMenamins
McMenamins has been a neighborhood gathering spot throughout Oregon and Washington since 1983. They handcraft their own beerwineciderspirits and coffee. They offer an eclectic mix of pubshistoric hotelsmovie theatersconcert venuesspas and events.

Other restaurant recommendations: 

  • Spirit of 77
  • Portland City Grill
  • Voodoo Doughnuts
  • Stumptown Coffee Roasters
  • Tasty n’ Alder
  • Cheese and Crack
  • The Hairy Lobster
  • Pok Pok
  • Screen Door
  • Proud Mary Café
  • Toro Bravo
  • Por Que No
  • Olympia Provisions SE
  • Broder Café
  • Blue Star Donuts
  • Ava Gene’s
  • Tusk
  • Lardo East
  • Han Oak
  • Matt’s BBQ
  • Pip’s Original

Breweries Around Town

  • Deschutes
  • Breakside
  • Ecliptic
  • Wayfinder
  • Ruse
  • Modern Times
  • Gigantic
  • Von Ebert
  • Occidental
  • ….and WAY more! No shortage of good brews here.

Walking Distance in the Heart of Downtown

Arlene SchnitzerThe Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall was built in 1928 and hosts a variety of performances from music, to theater and dance, film festivals and more.

Pioneer Place is a shopping mall located in downtown Portland connected by skywalks and features upscale dining and retail options. Mall hours are 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. Learn more here.

Pioneer Courthouse Square is affectionately called “Portland’s living room.” This public space often has live music, seating to enjoy the outdoor space and wondrous people watching opportunities. Learn more here.

City of Bridges

Did you know? Portland has 12 bridges than span across the Willamette. Can you cross them all while you’re in town?

  • John’s Bridge
  • Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge
  • Fremont Bridge
  • Broadway Bridge
  • Steel Bridge
  • Burnside Bridge
  • Morrison Bridge
  • Hawthorne Bridge
  • Marquam Bridge
  • Tilikum Crossing – walking and biking only – Pro tip: You can park on SE Caruthers behind Portland Classical Radio, walk across the Tilikum Crossing Bridge and take the aerial tram up the hill and back for great views of the city.
  • Ross Island Bridge
  • Sellwood Bridge

Sporting Events

Moda CenterThe Portland Winterhawks hockey team, part of the Western Hockey League. The Winterhawks split their games between the Veterans Memorial Coliseum and the Moda Center located in the Rose Quarter district. Check out arena and parking information here.

The Portland Trail Blazers professional basketball team plays at the Moda Center. Explore more info about the Blazers’ here.

The Portland Timbers and Portland Thorns FC call Providence Park their home. The newly-renovated stadium has been a Portland staple since 1926. Read more about this landmark facility.

The Rose City Rollers are Portland’s answer to tough women who skate fast and hit hard. The local league consists of an internationally-ranked travel team, two junior derby programs, four home teams and a recreational team.

The Portland Pickles are a collegiate woodbat baseball team in town. You can watch the team and their beloved mascot, Dillon the Pickle, in the summers at Walker Stadium in Portland’s Lents Park.

Neighborhood Hot Spots

Tom McCall Waterfront Park named after former Portland mayor, spans 36.59 acres along the Willamette River. Nothing beats a nice stroll along this scenic trail. Don’t forget to snap a picture of the famous ‘Portland’ sign too! Learn more about the park here.

The Pearl District is a popular downtown neighborhood that features world-class restaurants, boutiques, art galleries, unique housing and more. Explore more of the Pearl here.

The Oregon Zoo stretches across 64-acres nestled right next to downtown Portland and is home to more than 2,500 animals representing 215 species. Learn more and plan your visit here.

The Lan Su Chinese Garden features classical and contemporary Chinese artwork and botanicals. Learn more here.

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) is located right on the bank of the Willamette River Home to fascinating hands-on exhibits, a large screen theatre, planetarium (host to laser shows!) and more. Learn more about OMSI here.

The Portland International Rose Test Garden features more than 10,000 rose bushes of around 650 different varieties. Roses bloom from April through October. Learn more about the Portland staple here.

The Portland Japanese Garden blends nature, serenity and beautifully crafted land nestled right next to the Rose Garden. Learn more here.

Founded in 1893, the Portland Art Museum is the oldest art museum on the West Coast and seventh oldest in the United States. Learn more about exhibits and purchase tickets here.

Portland Saturday Market is open every weekend from March through Christmas Eve from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sundays 11 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. This open-air marketplace is a space for local artists, musicians and food vendors to come together. Learn more about the market here.

If You’re Extending Your Trip Throughout the Weekend

Oregon Coast Oregon serves natural beauty all throughout the state. Within one weekend of travel, you could experience the majestic Oregon coast, luscious wine country, the rolling green forest and waterway of the Columbia River Gorge, the mountainous terrain of Mt. Hood and the high desert of Bend.

Multnomah Falls, located 20 minutes from the current UWS campus east of Troutdale in the Columbia River Gorge, is a must-see. This 611-foot-tall majestic waterfall is an Oregon staple and the most visited natural recreation site in the Pacific Northwest.

The Fruit Loop, spend an afternoon tasting the fresh bounty of Oregon. The Fruit Loop is a series of farms, orchards and wineries located in the beautiful Hood River Valley at the foot of majestic Mt. Hood. Tour the loop and sample a variety of fruits, wines, vegetables, ciders, flowers and food.

The seven wonders of Oregon are aptly named. They include:

  • The Columbia River Gorge
  • Crater Lake
  • Painted Hills
  • Smith Rock
  • The Wallowas
  • Mt Hood
  • Oregon Coast

Learn more about these Oregon crown jewels.