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14 Things to Do in Portland, Oregon This Summer

Portland in the summer is lovely, with sunny skies and long, warm days that are fabulous for taking advantage of the city’s many outdoor activities. While living in Oregon I frequently visited and especially relished the season for scenic hikes, refreshing river dips, farmer’s markets, festivals, and more. If you’re planning to visit the city this summer, be sure to include some of these things to do on your must-experience list for an especially memorable trip.

Find Your Zen at Portland Japanese Garden Portland Japanese Garden
Credit: Portland Japanese Garden by © Paulacobleigh - Dreamstime.com

Find Your Zen at Portland Japanese Garden

What Is It? One of the most beautiful and authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan itself, the Portland Japanese Garden is a 5.5-acre oasis. It features five separate garden styles, including the Tea Garden, Strolling Pond Garden, Flat Garden, Natural Garden, and the Sand and Stone Garden with pagodas, bridges, meandering streams, and an authentic Japanese tea house.

Why Do It? There may be no better place to go on a warm summer day in Portland. Enjoy a cool and tranquil respite while escaping the chaos of the city and becoming more present at the moment. This summer there are some exciting happenings too. From July 1 through September 4, Behind the Shoji (the annual summer marketplace) brings the chance to shop for Japanese and Japanese-inspired items that can be difficult to find without traveling to Japan itself, all with a view of Mt. Hood on one side and the Flat Garden on the other. Tanabata, The Star Festival, takes place on July 2, celebrated with storytelling, taiko performances, and the tradition of hanging tanzaku, or wish strips, to bamboo.

Good to Know: The buds of the Japanese iris open in late June, revealing flowers nearly six inches across in shades of purple and white. Find them in the Lower Pond by Heavenly Falls in the Strolling Pond Garden.

Wander the Rose Test Garden Rose Test Garden, Portland
Credit: Rose Test Garden, Portland by bigstock.com

Wander the Rose Test Garden

What Is It? The Rose Test Garden is the country’s oldest continuously operated public test garden. Located in Washington Park, it opened in 1924 thanks to a future-thinking citizen who convinced the local government to set up the garden during World War I in order to preserve the species of European roses that might be decimated by the bombings.

Why Do It? It’s one of the top attractions in the city, with new rose varieties developed all the time. Summer is a great time to visit as the thousands of rose bushes will be at their peak.

Good to Know: The rose garden is free to visit, with the award-winners located in the Gold Medal Garden.

Discover the Columbia River Gorge Columbia River Gorge
Credit: Columbia River Gorge by Bigstock.com

Discover the Columbia River Gorge

What Is It? Dividing the states of Oregon and Washington, the Columbia River Gorge is just a short drive east of Portland. The Historic Columbia River Highway provides an incredibly scenic drive that reveals many spectacular views while offering access to a wealth of activities and attractions.

Why Do It? The drive will bring you away from the hustle and bustle, where you’ll find one of the highest concentrations of waterfalls in North America, miles and miles of hiking trails, and opportunities for a wide variety of water sports on the Columbia River.

Good to Know: August is sunflower time, and if you continue to the town of Hood River, you’re bound to see plenty. Packer Orchards farm in Hood River opens its sunflower fields to the public, providing some fabulous photo-ops.

Buy Local Goods at Farmer's Markets Portland, Oregon farmer's market
Credit: Portland, Oregon farmer's market by © Deebrowning - Dreamstime.com

Buy Local Goods at Farmer's Markets

What Is It? There are multiple farmer’s markets in Portland and summer is the best time to enjoy them.

Why Do It? They offer the usual fresh and local fruits and vegetables along with free-range meats, eggs, and many other local items. Full meals can often be enjoyed, and many offer live music as well.

Good to Know: There are markets across the city, with some of the most popular, including the Portland Saturday Market, open on Saturdays and Sundays in the Old Town/Chinatown neighborhood. The Portland Farmers Market at Portland State University is open on Saturdays year-round.

Go Brew Hopping Hopworks
Credit: Hopworks by Hopworks

Go Brew Hopping

What Is It? There are 91 breweries in the Portland metro area, more than any other city in the world. It’s home to the world-famous Widmer Brothers Brewing and a wide range of others, including eco-breweries like Hopworks. Popular craft breweries Deschutes and Rogue Ales operate brewpubs that are practically around the corner from one another.

Why Do It? Many Portland breweries have large patios and beer gardens where you can sip a pint while taking advantage of the summer sun. Try a few and find your own favorite.

Good to Know: The thing that makes brew hopping in Portland such a great experience is the availability of light rail, Uber and Lyft. Instead of driving, you can drink, walk and ride.

Sample the Food Carts Portland food trucks
Credit: Portland food trucks by bigstock.com

Sample the Food Carts

What Is It? Portland is renowned for its food scene, and its street food offers a very impressive array of options. There may be no better place in the entire country to enjoy it, with clusters of food trucks cooking up everything from Porklandia Pulled Pork to poutine enjoyed over a cone of fries.

Why Do It? Sampling the food carts will allow you to immerse yourself in the flavors of some of the city’s best cuisine – they say there is no better way to get to know a place.

Good to Know: Bring a wad of one-dollar bills, and you can become a “master cart jumper,” jumping from top spots that include classics like Kim Jong Grillin, Potato Champion, Gaufre Gourmet, Beez Neez, and Gumba.

Hike in Forest Park Hiking Trail along Balch Creek in Forest Park
Credit: Hiking Trail along Balch Creek in Forest Park by © Deebrowning | Dreamstime.com

Hike in Forest Park

What Is It? Forest Park is a 5,157-acre park with 80 miles of hiking trails. The largest forested natural area within city limits in the entire U.S., this oasis is just a 10-minute drive from downtown Portland and overlooks the Willamette River.

Why Do It? It’s one of the best free activities in Portland, allowing hikers to enjoy the peace and quiet of nature along with the breathtakingly lush scenery.

Good to Know: Be sure to visit the unique “Witch’s Castle. It dates back to the mid-1800s and was abandoned a century or so later. The moss-covered ruins of the castle have a rather interesting story – they’re said to be haunted by the murderer who built it.

Take a Day Trip to Seaside Seaside, Oregon
Credit: Seaside, Oregon by © Gino Rigucci | Dreamstime.com

Take a Day Trip to Seaside

What Is It? Summer in Oregon is a great time to go to the beach, and Seaside, with its three-mile stretch of powdery sands, is just a 90-minute drive away.

Why Do It? There are a ton of things to do in Seaside, making it the ideal day trip for enjoying fun on the sand, like kite-flying and sandcastle building. There’s a paved promenade that fronts it that is popular for biking riding, an aquarium where you can feed the seals, and an arcade for carnival amusements.

Good to Know: If you want some of the best fresh seafood, skip the restaurants near the beach and head to Bell Buoy, just off Highway 101. It’s not a fine-dining restaurant, but it offers great value with favorites like homemade clam chowder, local Dungeness crab, and halibut fish and chips.

Catch a Portland Timbers Game Portland Timbers
Credit: Portland Timbers by Portland Timbers

Catch a Portland Timbers Game

What Is It? The Portland Timbers are Portland’s major league soccer team. The team has a very large, loyal following that led to one of the city’s nicknames: Soccer City USA.

Why Do It? With no NFL or MLB team here, a Timbers game is one of the hottest tickets in town. The atmosphere is hard to beat, thanks to the passionate fans who shout chants throughout the match. Cheering on the home team is also a great way to get to know the locals.

Good to Know: If you can’t score a ticket, watching at a local sports bar is a fun alternative.

Marvel at Multnomah Falls Multnomah Falls
Credit: Multnomah Falls by © Davidgn | Dreamstime.com

Marvel at Multnomah Falls

What Is It? Multnomah Falls is the tallest waterfall in Oregon, cascading 620 feet into a serene pool below. It’s just a 30-minute drive east of Portland, and unlike some falls, it doesn’t dry up in the summer with a steady stream of water all year long.

Why Do It? It’s one of the world’s most famous and most photographed falls, providing one of the best photo ops you’ll find during your visit to Portland.

Good to Know: After checking out the falls from their base, just steps from the parking lot, hike another mile from the bridge to the top for the best view.

Take a Wine Tasting Tour Through Willamette Valley Willamette Valley
Credit: Willamette Valley by bigstockphoto.com

Take a Wine Tasting Tour Through Willamette Valley

What Is It? Portland is an ideal base for wine tasting in the Willamette Valley, the largest AVA in the state, with more than 200 wineries producing several varietals, most notably its internationally acclaimed Pinot Noir.

Why Do It? While you could head out on your own, if you want to taste some of the region’s best wine, you’ll need to have someone else behind the wheel.

Good to Know: There is a myriad of tour options, including small-group and private tours with opportunities to get to know the winemakers, and often lunch is included too.

Go Blackberry Picking Blackberries
Credit: Blackberries by Bigstock.com

Go Blackberry Picking

What Is It? Summer is blackberry season, and the fruit can be found growing throughout the city and beyond between mid-July through late September. As long as they’re on public property, you can pick them and even eat them right off the bush.

Why Do It? You’ll be enjoying delicious, healthy food without having to pay a thing.

Good to Know: Look for berries along fences, roadsides, and off hiking trails. Bring a pair of tough gloves to prevent injury, as the vines are extremely thorny.

Theater in the Park Portland, Oregon
Credit: Portland, Oregon by BenGrantham via Flickr

Theater in the Park

What Is It? Shakespeare in the Park brings free live theater to several of the city’s parks during the summer, including Washington Park, Laurelhurst Park and Mount Tabor Park.

Why Do It? It’s one of the best free activities in the city and a more informal way to enjoy theater that even the kids will love. If you don’t have kids there are also late-evening shows aimed at adults.

Good to Know: Bring a blanket, a picnic, and sunscreen for daytime events. A flashlight is helpful for evening shows.

Join the World Naked Bike Ride Portland Naked Bike Ride
Credit: Portland Naked Bike Ride by drburtoni via Flickr

Join the World Naked Bike Ride

What Is It? This annual bike ride is a global event that takes place in June or July, bringing naked and near-naked riders to the streets. It’s very popular in Portland, which hosts the largest ride of its kind in the world, drawing some 10,000 participants. The aim is to highlight society’s dependence on pollution-based transport while providing plenty of fun.

Why Do It? It’s a great way to learn to embrace nudity as an enjoyable, normal way of life and encourage others to do the same.

Good to Know: The route is kept a secret – ride organizers only reveal the starting point in advance.

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