Portland’s fun and unexpected attractions range from gardens and museums to (tax-free) retailers of handcrafted goods, local food and a million or so books. Here are 10 must-sees to get you started.

Photo by Scott Steele

INTERNATIONAL ROSE TEST GARDEN

Portland’s International Rose Test Garden is the oldest official continuously operated public rose test garden in the United States. Each year hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world enjoy the sights and scents of the gardens. The garden’s spectacular views and more than 8,000 roses make it one of the city’s most notable signature landmarks. Located in Washington Park. The best rose-viewing months are May-September.

Open daily; free.

LAN SU CHINESE GARDEN

A year-round wonder, the Lan Su Chinese Garden is an authentically built Ming Dynasty style garden. Covered walkways, bridges, pavilions and a richly planted landscape frame a picturesque lake in this urban oasis built by artisans from Portland’s sister city of Suzhou. Public and audio tours are available, and the garden’s teahouse serves light snacks and traditional teas. Lan Su hosts many events, including a two-week Chinese New Year celebration and summer concerts.

Open daily; admission charged.

OREGON ZOO

At the Oregon Zoo, you can travel around the world in an afternoon, observing more than 2,000 animals from around the world, from agouti (a rainforest rodent) to zebra. This conservation zoo is renowned for its Asian elephant breeding program.

The zoo is located in Washington Park, 10 minutes from downtown via MAX light rail (Blue or Red line, Washington Park stop).

Open daily except Dec. 25; admission charged. Discounted admission ($4) is offered on the second Tuesday of each month. Save $1.50 off admission with proof of transit ridership.

OREGON MUSEUM OF SCIENCE AND INDUSTRY (OMSI)

One of the nation’s leading science museums, OMSI is 219,000 square feet of brain-powered fun. Five enormous halls bring science to life with hundreds of interactive exhibits and displays. You can experience an earthquake, take part in live lab demonstrations, see a movie in the Empirical Theater, explore the universe in a world-class planetarium and even tour a real submarine. Located on the east bank of the Willamette River.

Open daily; admission charged.

PITTOCK MANSION

High in the West Hills of Portland, Pittock Mansion soars 1,000 feet above the city’s skyline. A century-old symbol of Portland’s dramatic transformation from a small lumber town to a bustling city, it’s an architectural wonder. With picture-perfect views of rivers, forests, bridges and mountaintops — and 23 storied rooms teeming with treasures — no other place in town offers a more breathtaking view or a more revealing glimpse of Portland’s past.

Open daily February–December (closed January); admission charged.

PORTLAND ART MUSEUM

The oldest museum in the Northwest, the Portland Art Museum, is located in the heart of downtown’s cultural district. The museum campus includes an outdoor sculpture court and historical interiors. Tour the world and travel through history in magnificent permanent collection galleries (featuring an extensive collection of Native American art), six stories of modern art and special exhibitions. Each Sunday features activities for families.

Open Tuesday-Sunday; admission charged. Children 17 and under free. Admission is free on the first Thursday of every month from 5-8 p.m. The museum also offers free admission and special family programming several times a year (check calendar).

PORTLAND FARMERS MARKET

Widely considered one of the world’s finest farmers’ markets, the Portland Farmers Market operates eight weekly markets around the city. In addition to fresh produce, the market is a go-to spot for prepared food items, as well as cheeses, meats, flowers and more.

The flagship market is held year-round on Saturdays in the South Park Blocks at Portland State University in downtown Portland. On Mondays, the market comes to Pioneer Courthouse Square (June–September), and Wednesday’s market is held in the South Park Blocks, near the Portland Art Museum (May–November).

PORTLAND JAPANESE GARDEN

In the scenic hills above Washington Park, the Portland Japanese Garden is a haven of tranquil beauty which has been proclaimed one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan. Expanded in 2017, the garden now encompasses 12.4 acres and eight separate garden styles. Guided tours featuring meandering streams, intimate walkways and unsurpassed views of Mount Hood are included with cost of admission.

Open daily; admission charged.

PORTLAND SATURDAY MARKET

Enjoy a distinctive experience at Portland Saturday Market, the nation’s largest weekly open-air arts and crafts market. Stroll down row upon row of unique creations made by the people who sell them, while enjoying live music and international snacks. The market’s popular Festival of the Last Minute delights holiday shoppers the week before Christmas.

Open rain or shine, Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., March through December 24; free.

POWELL’S CITY OF BOOKS

From humble storefront beginnings in 1971, Powell’s City of Books has grown into a Portland landmark and one of the world’s great bookstores. Covering an entire city block, Powell’s contains more than 1 million books in 3,500 different sections. Get a cup of joe at the in-store coffee shop, grab a map to the nine color-coded rooms, and lose yourself in the largest independent used and new bookstore on Earth.

Open 9 a.m.-11 p.m., 365 days a year; free.

View the original Travel Portland article here.

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