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If you plan to visit Portland and find yourself searching for things to do, you’ll notice that many of them are outdoors. And, of course, the city is famous for its rainy days, which doesn’t even include those misty, foggy days where you can’t see anything beyond a block or two. Fortunately, there’s plenty of options indoors and a couple that you won’t mind getting a little wet for too.
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Take a Scenic Drive on the Historic Columbia River Highway
What Is It?: The Historic Columbia River Highway is a National Historic Landmark and the first planned scenic roadway in the country, stretching for 75 miles along the Columbia River Gorge.
Why Do It?: One of America’s most breathtaking drives, during the rainy season it’s even more impressive with the many waterfalls, including the picture-perfect Multnomah Falls, a top waterfall in the Pacific Northwest.
Good to Know: Allow three to five hours to complete the drive while taking advantage of photo-ops along the way.
Visit the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry
What Is It?: The Oregon Museum of Science & Industry, or OMSI, is an interactive museum that sits along the east bank of the Willamette River across from Waterfront Park.
Why Do It?: Interesting for kids and adults alike, it provides a fun and intellectually stimulating way to spend a rainy day, considered one of the country’s top science centers with both permanent and rotating exhibits as well as a daily submarine tour, planetarium and movies on an IMAX screen.
Good To Know: Families with kids will especially appreciate the multiple hands-on exhibits devoted to physics, chemistry, weather patterns and geothermic activity. For little ones six and younger, there’s also a science playground.
Sample the Local Brews
What Is It?: Within the Portland city limits are 58 breweries (84 in the Portland metro area), the most of any city in the world.
Why Do It?: For any brew lover, spending a rainy day sampling some of Portland’s tasty brew options is a no-brainer.
Good to Know: Among the city’s breweries are Breakside Brewery which has a huge indoor space for sipping a wide selection of brews alongside tasty pub grub, while Base Camp Brewing hosts frequent events to enjoy with beer all year long. If you’re a dog and brew lover, don’t miss Lucky Labrador. At the Quimby and Hawthorn locations, you can bring your dog and even play a game of Scrabble on the covered heated patio while sipping the Belgian Canine Style Tripel, or one of many other great options.
Catch a Live Show
What Is It?: It’s easy to get out of the rain by enjoying a live show, and Portland is renowned for its music scene.
Why Do It?: If you enjoy live tunes, on any given night, you’ll be able to find a place to enjoy it with the offerings that are as diverse as the city itself, including everything from pop, indie rock and jazz to punk and folk.
Good to Know: Touring rock acts, including big-name national artists, often grace the stage of the Crystal Ballroom, a historic venue in the West End that hosts an unusual floating dance floor.
Indulge in Dessert in a Romantic Victorian Home at Pied Cow
What Is It?: The Pied Cow is a coffeehouse set inside a magnificent Victorian home serving desserts & savory bites.
Why Do It?: It’s the perfect place to warm up on a rainy day and enjoy an unusual experience, sipping coffee paired with a heavenly dessert-like marionberry pie in what feels like your great-grandmother’s parlor with its chandeliers and antique furnishings.
Good to Know: While the Pied Cow makes a great cup of coffee, the mulled wine is another outstanding option for sipping on a cool rainy day.
Thumb Through the Pages at Powell's Books
What Is It?: Powell’s City of Books on Burnside Street is the largest independent bookstore in the world.
Why Do It?: You could easily spend hours and hours on a rainy day here, with the store spread across 8,000 square feet with nine rooms, three floors and 3,500 sections. It’s so big, a map is provided to help you find your way around. It’s a lot more than a bookstore as a true microcosm of the city that not only includes eclectic book offerings but its own coffee shop and passionate people who love books.
Good to Know: Check out the aisles and aisles of books, and then grab a coffee, sit back and enjoy the old fashioned art of thumbing through the paper pages as the locals do.
Catch a 'Brew 'n' View'
What Is It?: The city’s brew ‘n’ view theaters offer a unique experience for a rainy day, running the gamut from swanky to funky, serving a wide range of brews, food and films.
Why Do It?: Admission is cheap, and at some places it’s only the cost of a pint, making it a fun and affordable way to duck indoors.
Good to Know: A number of McMenamins properties feature movie theaters that show recent releases, cult classics and art films alongside handcrafted ales and pub fare. The Living Room Theaters are another great option, including a downtown art house that shows new indie and foreign films on six screens, along with a gourmet menu and full bar.
Cheer on the Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center
What Is It?: The Portland Trail Blazers joined the NBA in 1970 and have been in the city ever since. They were the 1977 NBA champions, and have made the playoffs in 29 of their 46 seasons.
Why Do It?: If you want a locals’ experience, this beloved team brings out the crowds to Moda Center, so you can get out of the rain while cheering along with them.
Good to Know: Formerly known as the Rose Garden, Moda Center sits just across the Willamette River from downtown and can easily be reached via all MAX rail lines.
Enjoy Portland's Famous Brunch
What Is It?: Portlanders love brunch – if you’ve ever watched the TV show “Portlandia,” it wasn’t just made up for the script and the Screen Door is arguably the most popular spot to enjoy it.
Why Do It?: Get out of the rain and feast on incredibly tasty cuisine as the locals do. The Screen Door serves mouthwatering comfort fare like chicken and waffles, hush puppies with bacon and smoked cheddar, and biscuits and gravy.
Good to Know: Reservations aren’t accepted at The Screen Door so there’s a good chance you’ll have a wait due to its popularity. If your hunger pangs won’t wait, consider other brunch options like Tin Shed or Tasty N’ Daughters.
Sample the Insane Doughnuts at Voodoo
What Is It?: Voodoo Doughnuts is a world-famous Portland icon known for its very unique doughnuts like the Voodoo Doll, a raised yeast doughnut filled with raspberry jelly topped with chocolate frosting and a pretzel stake.
Why Do It?: If there was ever a place that exemplifies the city’s slogan “Keep Portland Weird,” this is it.
Good to Know: While Voodoo has become a tourist trap after being spotlighted on TV multiple times, it’s still a top budget-friendly activity in Portland and one that’s worth going to. The “curse” is that you can’t get enough – even if there’s a long line, and there probably will be, just bring an umbrella to keep you dry until you can get inside.
Check Out the Vintage Shops
What Is It?: The city is home to around 50 vintage stores, attracting visitors from around the world, including some big-name celebrities, to find unique items at cheap prices.
Why Do It?: The city is truly one of the best destinations in the world for bargain shopping.
Good to Know: Some of the hottest spots for vintage shopping include Xtabay Vintage Clothing Boutique, Hollywood Vintage, Magpie and Crossroads Music, a Southeast Portland institution.
Soak in the Hot Springs
What Is It?: There are a number of natural hot springs that can be enjoyed within an easy day trip from Portland. While this isn’t exactly something you can do right in the city, the closest option, Bagby Hot Springs, can be reached in just an hour and 40 minutes.
Why Do It?: Soaking in soothing warm waters among nature is even better on a cool rainy day and Bagby Hot Springs is tucked within the lush Mount Hood National Forest, offering a number of idyllic bathing options. A large, round wooden tub can comfortably fit a handful of people, and there are tubs made of logs for single bathers too.
Good to Know: You will have to walk 1.5 miles to reach the springs, so wear a hooded rain jacket – it will be worth the trek, and you’re going to get wet anyway. Leave early enough so that you get back to the car before dark and bring cash for parking.
Explore Portland Art Museum
What Is It?: The Portland Art Museum is the oldest museum in the Northwest, featuring many historical works.
Why Do It?: There’s no reason to be stuck in a hotel room if you appreciate art. This museum is sure to capture your interest with its sculptures and an outstanding collection of historical galleries. It also exhibits some impressive Native American art, Asian and European art, with modern and contemporary works too.
Good to Know: The museum is closed on Mondays. Check the official website for specific days and times where the entrance is free.
Check Out the Works at Pittock Mansion
What Is It?: The Pittock Mansion is a castle-like French Renaissance residence originally built for Oregon Trail pioneer and Oregonian owner and publisher Henry Pittock and his family. Today it hosts 23 rooms that are filled with furnishings and other items from the early 20th-century.
Why Do It?: To escape the rain and explore an incredible mansion, including rooms like The Kitchen, Library, Turkish Smoking Room, Music Room, five bedrooms, and two sleeping porches.
Good to Know: If the rain clears, views from the mansion are spectacular and the grounds are stunning throughout the year, although they’re especially impressive in the spring. Cherry trees blossom in mid-March, while a variety of colorful Rhododendrons burst into bloom between April and June.