30 May Rubicon’s Guide to Portland: Adorkable Activities for All
By Tarra Martin, Rubicon International
City of Roses, Bridgetown, Stumptown, PDX, Rip City, Portlandia — Portland goes by many different names. It is a town of character, of variety, of a certain je ne sais quirk.
The summer months are when Portland truly reaches maximum vibrancy, with festivals filling the parks and visitors flocking to the city from around the world. Rubicon is delighted to be playing host to some of these visitors: our treasured educators coming into town for our Atlas Leadership Institute!
We hope that our guests will not restrict themselves to just our Atlas Education Center, magical as it may be. There is much to see and do in Portland — so much so, that we decided to put together a whole collection of guides, custom-designed for different interests.
Read on to discover the best bespoke Portland experience for you!
City of Roses – A Guide for the Culture Maven
International Rose Test Garden
This beautiful and historic spot in Washington Park has been the testing ground for new rose varieties for nearly 100 years. Featuring several interconnected gardens with over 500 different roses, it’s a perennially popular place for strolling, picnicking, and Instagram-ing.
Portland Art Museum
The oldest museum in the Pacific Northwest (and seventh oldest in the nation), the Portland Art Museum supplements an internationally recognized permanent collection with ever-evolving special exhibitions.
Portland’s nearest thing to a Gatsby mansion, this grand 1914 residence was the home of one of the city’s most influential families. After the house was damaged in a storm in the 1960s, Portlanders launched a grassroots fundraising campaign to save this abandoned historical site. And, since then, the restored Pittock Mansion has been open to the public as a museum and park.
Oregon Zoo Summer Concert Series
The first zoo in the country to offer such a thing, the Oregon Zoo is now entering the 37th summer of its popular outdoor concert series. From June 21 to September 9, a wide array of musical artists will be adding their own sweet sounds to the hoots and howls of the animals – you can catch both with just one purchase, as zoo admission is included with a concert ticket. See their website for this summer’s line up and to buy tickets.
Bridgetown – A Guide for the Nerd
No trip to Portland is complete without visiting Powell’s, the world’s largest independent bookstore and the city’s honest-to-goodness Number 1 tourist attraction. With a special section for seemingly any book category you can think of (Nautical Lit, anyone?), Powell’s Books is guaranteed to have that rare title you’ve been looking for. Plus, be sure to check their events calendar for visiting author talks and workshops.
Beverly Cleary Walking Tour
Did you know that beloved author Beverly Cleary grew up in Portland? To celebrate her legacy, the Multnomah County Library partnered with The Library Foundation to put together “Walking With Ramona”, a self-guided walking tour map that will take you through the neighborhood Beverly Cleary lived in and wrote about.
Oregon Museum of Science & Industry
Known locally as OMSI, this science museum geared toward kids still has a lot to attract the adult visitor. After all, hands-on learning is fun for everyone! And if you like to combine a little drinking with your science-ing, at the end of each month the museum puts on special themed nights for those 21-and-over, called OMSI After Dark. Check their website for the schedule, as well as regular admission info.
Celebrate the Golden Age of video games and pinball machines at Portland’s classic arcade, Ground Kontrol. With themed DJs, trivia nights, comedy shows, and a full-service bar, there is so much more going on here than Ms. Pacman.
Stumptown – A Guide for the Nature Lover
Situated in West Portland, Washington Park covers more than 410 acres and includes some of Portland’s most popular attractions: the International Rose Test Garden, the Japanese Garden, the Oregon Zoo, the Children’s Museum, the World Forestry Center, an arboretum with over 2000 species of trees and plants, and miles and miles of trails. The park is easily accessible by public transportation – advice on how to get there can be found here.
On the East side of the Willamette River lies Rocky Butte, an extinct volcanic cinder cone with the Joseph Wood Hill Park perched atop it. A popular location for rock climbers, and those who want to catch a beautiful view of Mount Hood.
Getting up to Mount Hood might require renting a car, but boy, is it worth it. Hundreds of miles of trails and gorgeous views await on Oregon’s tallest peak, not to mention the famous Timberline Lodge – a National Historic Landmark immortalized by director Stanley Kubrick as the exterior for the Overlook Hotel in The Shining.
PDX – A Guide for the Foodie
The Food Trucks
Portland’s famous food trucks quite literally line the streets, but if you’re after a concentrated dose, point your feet toward one of the many “pods” scattered throughout the city – open lots where several food trucks have clustered together, creating pop-up meccas of global flavors.
We don’t know how Portland has become something of a donut destination, but we’re not complaining! Voodoo Donuts is the juggernaut, featuring wacky flavors and toppings you won’t find anywhere else. But if you ask the author, local venture Blue Star takes top prize for their small-batch gourmet creations. Or perhaps you’re looking for something a bit smaller? Then head to Pip’s Original Doughnuts, serving fresh tiny donuts and house-made chai blends.
I have a friend who once worked for Stumptown’s distribution center in New York City, and he told me he determined which coffee shops and restaurants were worth checking out by whether he saw their name on the delivery list. In short, Stumptown Coffee: so good, New Yorkers plan their brunches around it. Locally, our favorite spot to sip Stumptown is the fabulous 40 LBS coffee bar, just half a block from Rubicon’s downtown office.
Rip City – A Guide for the Active
The River Loop
Joggers, cyclists, and the casual walker can easily make a loop of the paths along the Willamette River, right in the heart of the city. A popular 2.7 mile route connects Waterfront Park on the west side with the Eastbank Esplanade, via the Steel Bridge to the north and the Hawthorn Bridge to the south. More information on navigating the loop can be found here.
BIKETOWN, Portland’s Nike-sponsored bike sharing program, hit the ground rolling last summer. With pricing available for a single ride or a whole day, you can pick up a sturdy, bright orange bike any time at one of 100 stations around town, and return it to another station when you’re done with it. A great way to get around downtown for those visiting the city without their own wheels. Information on locations and prices can be found here.
If you need to outfit yourself for your outdoor adventures, have you ever come to the right place. This area is home to the Nike headquarters, Adidas North America, and Columbia Sportswear, plus a new Under Armour office opening up this summer. Bonus: there’s no sales tax in Oregon. Time to stock up on some gear!
Portlandia – A Guide for the Quirky
The Saturday Market
Now in its 44th year, the Portland Saturday Market (and Sundays too!) is a fixture of Old Town. Hundreds of artists set up their booths each weekend, offering an astonishing array of handcrafted products. From jewelry to woodworking to textiles, the Saturday Market is your destination for unique finds. The other weekend, my friend’s brother bought an art print of C-3PO in a field of daisies here.
Portland By Segway
Shanghai Tunnels Underground Tour
Experience Portland’s #problematic past up close and personal, with a guided tour of the underground 19th-century tunnels used to ferry kidnapped laborers onto ships. More information on touring Portland’s very shady side can be found here.
Rimksy’s brings new meaning to the term “hidden gem.” Unadvertised and located in an unmarked Victorian house in Southeast Portland, this eclectic dessert & coffee shop has been bewitching patrons for over 35 years. Live classical music is a frequent feature, and each table is named for a dead composer. Some of these tables are haunted. In fact, the whole house may be haunted. You’ll just have to find out for yourself.
So there you have it – plenty to get you started exploring Portland, Oregon! We’re so excited to have you here, and know that you’ll find your niche in no time.