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Welcome to Portland Oregon

Portland Oregon

The city of Portland, situated at the navigable head point of the Willamette River, was the major port on the American Pacific northwest coast during most of the 19th century. Although not the capital of Oregon, it is the largest city in the State and its commercial centre straddles the Willamette River with its neatly planned city blocks.

Portland is today recognised as a fun city for tourists, essentially designed for outdoor living with miles of wilderness trails, woods and waterways within the city limits, set against the backdrop of the Mount Hood glacier with its ski resorts, less than an hour away.

The city is known for its stunning gardens, particularly the International Rose Garden where many thousands of rose bushes from around the world thrive and bloom. Roses form the centre of the city's Rose Festival in June, just one of the unique festivities that fill Portland's annual calendar. The other most popular event is the Oregon Brewers Festival, held annually in July, which celebrates the dozens of local micro-breweries, vineyards and distilleries in heady style.

A further attraction of Portland is its superb cuisine and exceptional dining opportunities. The region is renowned for its seafood, berries, pears, hazelnuts, wild game and fresh vegetables, which are all put to good use by some inspired local chefs.

All things considered it is not surprising that Portland is rated as an ideal place for modern travellers to stop and smell the roses.

Information & Facts


Portland has a temperate climate with an average of 155 days of rain a year. Winters are mild and wet, while summers are warm and drier. Rain is generally rare between June and September, but the weather is extremely wet between November and April. Temperatures seldom drop as low as freezing point in winter, and summer highs are pleasantly comfortable with the odd heat wave and plenty of sunshine.

Getting Around

Getting around Portland is quick and easy on the city's award-winning light rail system, nicknamed 'MAX' (Metropolitan Area Express), which extends to the east and west of downtown with a spur at the International Airport. MAX also connects to the popular attractions at Washington Park in about 10 minutes from the city centre. Portland has a streetcar system connecting the downtown cultural district to the Portland State University, the Pearl District and northwest 'Nob Hill' area. The 'Tri-Met' bus service also covers the town centre and suburbs. All forms of public transit are free in a 330-square block downtown, known as the 'Fareless Square'. Taxis are readily available with regulated rates.

English is the most common language but Spanish is often spoken in south-western states.

The US Dollar (USD) is the unit of currency and is divided into 100 cents. Only major banks exchange foreign currency. ATMs are widespread and credit cards and travellers cheques are widely accepted. Travellers cheques should be taken in US Dollars to avoid hassles. Banking hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm.

Cannon Beach is Oregon's most famous and popular coastline among Portland tourists. The beach is dominated by Haystack Rock, a 235-foot (71m) steep formation that can be walked to in low tide. The first tourist to the beach was William Clark, during the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1805. The same nine miles (14.5km) of sandy beach, beautiful hiking trails, and tidal pools filled with sea life are there for new explorers to discover. A touristy beach town gives present day visitors quaint hotels, cottages and restaurants.

As you'd expect from a city with a memorial statue of 'Merry Prankster' Ken Kesey in its downtown area, Eugene is an offbeat place, full of people - from original hippies to new-age hipsters - seeking out alternative lifestyles. Home to the University of Oregon, and once proudly calling itself the 'World's Greatest City for the Arts and Outdoors', Eugene has since toned down that claim, and is now simply known as a 'Great City for the Arts and Outdoors'. Despite its modest size (about 140,000 permanent residents), Eugene does indeed have a thriving arts community, and lots of outdoor sports opportunities are available to visitors (running, cycling, rafting and kayaking are especially popular). Eugene is also home to an eclectic assortment of self-proclaimed political activists, from your run-of-the-mill 'green-niks' to your 'anarcho-primitivists' - and no matter what one ends up actually doingin Eugene, visitors are sure to have a great time in what is surely one of the most self-consciously progressive cities in America. There are plenty of art museums to be visited in Eugene, and the region is also famous for its wineries (some of them, just a short but scenic drive away). Visitors are strongly encouraged to walk the streets of the city and to chat to some of the uniformly-interesting locals, before enjoying the vibrant night-life that's on offer. Just remember to go easy on the Kool-Aid...

The Hoyt Arboretum, located within Washington Park and about two miles west of downtown Portland, is home to an outstanding collection of rare and exotic tree species. The 187-acre arboretum is nothing less than a 'living laboratory', and boasts more than 10,000 individual trees and shrubs, from more than 1,100 different species - including a few specimens of Dawn Redwood, a tree which was thought for many years to be extinct. The trees are arranged by taxonomy and geography, and are labelled so that visitors can learn more about the ones they find particularly memorable (although volunteer tour guides may also be engaged). The arboretum consists of 12 miles (about 19 km) of walking trails, a visitor's centre that is open six days a week, an enormous picnic shelter, and a meadow. Visitors of all ages will enjoy spending time in this 'urban oasis' on the banks of the Willamette River.

The foremost of Portland's famed rose gardens, the International Rose Test Garden was founded in 1917 during World War I, when hybridists sent roses from around the world to keep them safe from the bombing in Europe. Since then the garden has served as a testing ground for new varieties. The 7,700 rose bushes, representing 550 varieties, are enhanced by fountains, paths and statues, with free tours offered by trained volunteers. Highlights of the garden are the award-winning miniature roses planted along the centre aisle, the Shakespeare Garden in the southeast corner, and the Frank L Beach Memorial Fountain, designed and built by local artist Lee Kelly.

Named the 'Garden of Awakening Orchids', this walled classic garden in Portland's Chinatown is a replica of traditional gardens found in Suzhou, Portland's sister city in China. It combines the elements of water, stone, architecture, literature and plants to create balance and harmony. The garden is both a living museum of flora and fauna and a cultural heritage garden. The classical tea house in the evocatively named Tower of Cosmic Reflections offers a tactile experience of the art and culture of Chinese tea.

Mount Hood Meadows, 67 miles (108 km) east of Portland, is one of the largest ski resorts in Oregon. It has both alpine and nordic ski areas and offers night skiing. Its position on the sunny, wind-protected east side of Mt. Hood gives Mt Hood of the best snow in the Pacific Northwest. There is no accommodation in the resort itself although many nearby hotels and lodges offer shuttles to the slopes. The scenery over the snow-dusted Central Cascade Range is magnificent, reason enough to pause between runs.

The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry is a feast of fun for young and old. It includes fascinating permanent exhibits dealing with maths, science and technology, and laboratories where children can undertake science experiments. The complex also contains a planetarium (one of the most technologically advanced in the country), the Omnimax theatre and the submarine USS Blueback, which featured in the popular movie, 'Hunt for Red October'. The museum also hosts a plethora of interesting temporary exhibitions.

The award-winning Oregon Zoo is the oldest zoo west of the Mississippi, founded in 1887. It covers 64 acres and is home to a vast variety of animals, including Asian elephants, Peruvian penguins and Arctic polar bears. All are housed in their natural habitats, and the zoo is also an internationally recognised centre for wildlife preservation and research. Combined with a programme of summer concerts, a variety of seasonal events and an olde worlde railway ride which connects to Washington Park, the zoo is Portland's favourite attraction, drawing around a million visitors a year.

The trendiest neighbourhood in downtown Portland, the Pearl District is the place to see and be seen. Old warehouses have been turned into desirable loft residences and the streets are lined with restaurants, cafes, wine bars, upmarket shops and art galleries. Gallery walks are held on the first Thursday of each month. 'The Pearl' is also home to Portland's iconic Powell's Bookstore - arguably one of the finest in the entire country. The Pearl District is well worth a visit, especially for those interested in urban renewal and sustainable redevelopment.

Looking for something a bit different?  Check out our selection of cultural & adventure holidays or if you're looking to go it alone then see our selection of solo holidays.

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