Friday, May 11, 2018

What to Do and See in Portland, Oregon [8/18]

We are finally heading into the first big city of our Pacific Northwest road trip. The motto of Portland is: Keep Portland Weird. While we didn't see much of the weird side of the city we did manage to get a good glimpse of the spirit of the city. Portland is both eclectic and well organized at the same time. The downtown area will be of most interest to most visitors, but if you have a car and a bit of free time, you can really explore the outskirts as well, and get a more well rounded experience of Portland, which we tried to do. I hope you will enjoy our visit to Portland.

Downtown Portland

We stayed in Portland for three days. On the first day we visited Downtown Portland. It's the most popular part of town, crowned by skyscrapers, administrative buildings, malls, and town squares. Pioneer Courthouse Square, also known as Portland's living room, is the most popular public space occupying a full 40,000-square-foot (3,700 m2) city block in the center of downtown. Opened in 1984, the square is bounded by Southwest Morrison Street on the north, Southwest 6th Avenue on the east, Southwest Yamhill Street on the south, and Southwest Broadway on the west.

A bit of History of Downtown Portland

By the early 1970s, parts of Portland's central city had been in decay for some time. New suburban shopping malls in the neighboring cities of Beaverton, Tigard, and Gresham competed with downtown for people and money. Unlike many downtown revitalization efforts around the United States at this time, Portland's plan did not call for widespread demolition and reconstruction. Additionally the creation of a downtown transit mall in 1977, a new waterfront park in 1978 (later named after Governor Tom McCall) in place of a freeway, the creation of the Pioneer Courthouse Square in 1984, the opening of the Portland–Gresham light rail line in 1986, and the opening of Pioneer Place mall in 1990 successfully drew or retained businesses and lured customers.

A Visit to Pittock Mansion

A bit further afield in Portland you will find the old Pittock Mansion. Pittock Mansion was constructed in 1909 by London-born publisher and business tycoon Henry Pittock as a private residence for himself and his wife, Georgiana. Georgiana Pittock was an avid gardener who was a founding member of the Portland Rose Society, hosted the first Portland Rose Show in 1889, and helped launch the Portland Rose Festival. Upon completion, the home featured such luxuries as a central vacuum system, intercoms, indirect lighting, an elevator, and a walk-in refrigerator. You can buy ticktes to explore the inside and you can also roam the grounds for free and get good views of the city beneath, since the mansion is located on a hill above the city.

I love the views from up here. The rain stopped at just the right time and the clouds cleared so we could really see Portland. It's amazing how quickly the weather changes, as one moment the clouds hang low and gloomy and the other they clear and the sun comes out. The grounds at Pittock Mansion are so well maintained and I loved the cherry blossoms on the trees. Around the mansion the deep woods welcome you to further walking and exploring.

International Rose Test Garden and Japanese Garden

Two important parts of the hills surrounding Portland are the International Rose Test Garden and Japanese Garden. The International Rose Test Garden and Japanese Garden features roses that bloom from April through October with the peak coming in June, depending on the weather. New rose cultivars are continually sent to the garden from many parts of the world and are evaluated on several characteristics, including disease resistance, bloom form, color and fragrance. As we visited in late March, we didn't get much of the sights. Entrance is free. For the same reasons we didn't visit the Japanese Garden. It was bit early in the year for that.

St. Johns Bridge

One last major sight of Portland is the St. Johns Bridge. Designed by renowned engineer David B. Steinman and Holton D. Robinson, of New York, the St. Johns was the longest suspension-type bridge west of the Mississippi River at the time of construction. It is the only major highway suspension bridge in the Willamette Valley and one of only three major highway suspension bridges in Oregon.

It's a bit hard to take images of the bridge. You have to cross it to the north side and drive underneath it to the banks of the river, where there is a park. Only visit here at day and be aware of the passing trains below the bridge. The adjacent park and neighborhood of Cathedral Park, Portland, are named after the Gothic Cathedral-like appearance of the bridge towers. It is the tallest bridge in Portland, with 400 feet (120 m) tall towers and a 205 feet (62 m) navigational clearance.

In the next part we leave Portland and continue our road trip. Our next stop are various natural and historical wonders along the Historic Route 30 and the Columbia River Gorge.

End of Part Eight
To be continued...


  1. Great to read about Portland. Amazing place.
    Fantastic pics. City views amazing.

    1. Thank you. So glad you enjoyed our tour through Portland.

  2. ...the 'Saturday Morning Market' at the Burnside Bright is a must see.

  3. You've compiled a lovely photo journey of Portland. Beautiful!

  4. you did a great job capturing all this beauty without sunshine to point it out.

  5. The mansion and surrounding grounds are gorgeous! You visited at a beautiful time of year, with all the flowering trees in their spring glory.

  6. You really did a nice job capturing the look and feel of Portland. Love the city view shots and the mansion!

  7. Great shots; what a fabulous road trip.

    Worth a Thousand Words

  8. You made my hometown look good! I work in downtown Portland, not far from Pioneer Courthouse square.

  9. Oh, wow! It looks intriguing even in the rain. :)

  10. Glad you are seeing so much of the Pacific Northwest.

    Real nice group of photos from Downtown Portland, like several other commenters already pointed out, you even made it look good in the rain!

  11. Wonderful images you've shared. Love the bridge mostly. I read somewhere...don't know how true it is tho - but since 911 it's supposedly illegal to photograph the under-side of bridges. I've done it too.

  12. Portland looks fabulous through your lens Mersad, merci beaucoup for taking me along with you ✨

  13. So many wonderful photos (I've been through Portland countless times and have missed much of its beauty, it seems!)
    There's a photo of the mansion, set back a bit with a blossoming tree on the left, beside the driveway...that's my favourite...hard to decide with so many choices! Thanks for sharing.
    An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

  14. That was wonderful fun! We haven't been in Portland in the Spring for years and years.... even when we lived in Eugene full time, we usually went to Portland in the Fall as I had a work-related conference there every year ... and then we always stayed over for the weekend. It's a very fun city to visit for sure.

  15. Mersad, you have fine urban sociological insights into the revitalization of downtown Portland. You also beautifully document your travels with excellent photos. This is a great tour that I have greatly enjoyed. You look right at home on the grounds of the Pittock Mansion.

  16. You saw more of Portland than we have in our two short visits there...we tend to prefer staying out of big cities and only do what we have to when we are forced to visit one! Loved your photos. Do plan to visit the mansion and the Rose Garden and also the Japanese Gardens in the Fall.

  17. It is a great place to explore and I will try to go there through taking the west coast tour from san francisco.



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