A Local Guide to Portland Activities for Every Newcomer

Finding new hangout spots, favorites and fun things to do near your apartment rental can be a challenge when moving to a new city. Luckily, Portland has no shortage of locally loved and critically-acclaimed restaurants, greenspaces and hobby spaces for every age and interest. There is something for everyone, no matter how niche. As the unofficial city motto says, “keep Portland weird”.

Portland is famous for its parks and greenspaces, so much so that there is a park known as Portland's living room. That's right, Pioneer Courthouse Square spans 40,000 square feet in the center of the city, and serves as a popular meetup spot for many locals. However, Portland isn't solely green locales, it also has a world-class food scene, stunning art displays, museums, festivals and family-friendly activities.

Read ahead to know some local hotspots in each of these categories.

Outdoor Activities in Portland's Greenspaces

Pioneer Courthouse Square may be the biggest park in Portland, but it is certainly not the only option. With 279 parks, gardens and greenspaces in the city, you'll surely find a favorite close to your apartment rental. Some of the most popular parks among locals include the Tom McCall Waterfront Park, the Japanese Garden, the International Rose Test Garden, the Lan Su Chinese Garden and Mill Ends Park.

The Tom McCall Waterfront Park is named after former a Portland Governor and is a hub for festivals and activities year-round. Roller skating, ice skating and live shows are especially popular. It's also worth trying the hiking trails or taking a boat cruise on the Willamette River. Finding an apartment for rent near Tom McCall Park is the best way to be close to all of Portland's best events.

The Japanese Garden in Portland is another beautiful outdoor space. This park has an admission fee, but it's less than $20 per person, with discounts for students, youth and seniors. Children under three years of age get free admission. This scenic garden regularly hosts art exhibitions and is home to the renowned Umami Café, which is open from 9:30am to 3:30pm. Reservations are encouraged to secure a seat.

The International Rose Test Garden will turn anyone into a rose lover. You must pay to park, but entrance is otherwise free. It is completely paved and accessible, so all visitors can experience the breathtaking 600+ rose varieties. Did you know this garden also serves as a testing ground for new rose breeds? Located in the heart of downtown Portland,finding a rental apartment nearby is easy and can be quite affordable.

The Lan Su Chinese Garden operates very similarly to the Japanese Garden. They also host art exhibitions and have a café, with an identical fee structure. Guided tours are also available, along with talks focusing on Chinese culture and history.

Mill Ends Park deserves some attention too. Located on the residential part of Southwest Taylor Street, it is the world's smallest designated park area! It measures to about two feet across, or 452 square feet on total area. Mill Ends Park is an Instagram sensation because of its novelty to residents and tourists alike. Tiny park aside, this area is popular among people looking for apartments for rent in Portland. It's easy to find one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments for rent and prices are often below Portland's average.

Explore the Fantastic Food Scenes

Portland, Oregon has one of the most exciting and innovative food scenes in the United States. This is unsurprising considering that there are eleven culinary schools in Portland, including the internationally recognized Cordon Bleu. But what is popular with locals? In a city as big as Portland, locals have different go-to grub preferences than tourists.

For great pizza, check out Ken's Artisan. They describe their pizza as “Italian-inspired with an American accent” and have won multiple awards for the quality and freshness of their pizza dough. Lines are long, but worthwhile. Ken's Artisan accepts delivery or pickup orders at their 304 Southeast 28th Avenue location.

For a sweet treat, be sure to visit Salt and Straw. This artisanal, chef-run ice cream shop offers a regular lineup of unique flavors like strawberry and balsamic vinegar ice cream. They also have limited edition holiday inspired flavors. Halloween has a spooktacular lineup of flavors such as Jack O Lantern Pumpkin Bread, Black Cat Licorice & Lavender and Double Bubble Toil & Trouble as a vegan option. All of the ice creams are handmade in small batches using local ingredients. No matter the location of your apartment rental in Portland, Salt and Straw is a local favorite.

For a cheap, quick and casual bite, Basilisk is unbeatable. Their fried chicken plate is under $20 after tax, and a sandwich combo is no more than $12. Basilisk offers pickup and delivery at all three of their locations in downtown Portland, including the highly residential NE 27th Street area. With lots of apartments for rent and young professionals in the area, it's no wonder Basilisk is an affordable favorite.

Artsy at Heart

Art is a big deal in Portland. There are endless visual arts galleries, performing arts events and classes, and even hubs for literary arts. Art is significant to Portland's history as the city was and is still heavily involved in LGBTQIA2S+ rights movements, and the arts remains a prominent form of activism and expression. Portland locals enjoy the city's monthly art walks. Art walks are free events held on the first and last Thursday & Friday of each month across three different neighborhoods in Portland: The Pearl District, Central Eastside and the Alberta Arts District.

Apartments for rent in any of these neighborhoods offer residents an advantage, as they can see the free exhibits and beat the crowds. Central Eastside is the cheapest option for apartment rentals, with some studio apartments available for under $1000. The Pearl District has apartment rentals geared toward young professionals, and the Alberta Arts District has student-friendly apartments for rent. The latter neighborhood is especially LGBTQIA2S+ friendly.

For a standard gallery experience, the Blue-Sky Gallery, Russo Lee Gallery and Ori Gallery are local favorites. If theater is more up your alley, there a plenty of standard theater, children's theater, dance and drag performances in the city. The Artists Reparatory Theater, Portland Center Stage at the Armory and SoHo Theater are among the most popular venues.

And finally, the literary arts cannot be overlooked in Portland! The Portland Book Festival, an annual literary festival, happens every November and hosts a variety of local and international authors. The free event is extremely popular among locals. Portland is also home to the world's largest independent bookstore. In fact, Powell's City of Books is more than just a notable bookstore. Spanning an entire city block, the bookstore reaches the Pearl District, downtown and the West End, uniting the city's biggest neighborhoods.

For bookworms looking for an apartment for rent near a bookshop, this is convenient, as apartment rentals in Portland's Pearl District, downtown, or West End are all good options. You'll very likely be able to find a cheap apartment for rent in Portland in these areas.

Explore the Marvelous Museums

Knowledge and niche interests are cool; Portland locals think so anyway. In addition to the numerous galleries and art museums, Portland has a wide variety of science, culture and history museums. There is something for every interest. For boats, ships and naval history, pay a visit to the Oregon Maritime Museum, where admission is less than $10 per person. The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry is a perfect outing for the whole family. They even host exclusive 21+ events after dark. And for a taste of culture, drop by the Hellenic-American Cultural Center & Museum, Portland Chinatown Museum or the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education. Apartments for rent nearby any of these locations give residents the perfect opportunity to embrace a new culture.

Kid-Friendly Activities

Portland is extremely family friendly and while every must-try spot discussed so far is child-friendly, the city also has some great options that are made specially for the little ones. The When I Grow Up exhibit is a great way for kids to learn about and explore future career options. Oaks Amusement Park is not exclusively for kids, but they do have exclusive kid zones. It's a great break for kids and parents alike. Portland even has creative, kid-oriented dining experiences too! At Slappycakes, kids can customize their own pancakes. The tables have built-in griddles and kids (and adults) can choose their mix-ins, toppings and syrups to create their perfect pancake stack.

Local life in Portland is anything but boring. From food and art to history, culture and outdoor spaces, Portland dabbles in a little bit of everything. Whether you are looking for a new adventure or a place to settle down with the family, Portland will have something for you. Start looking for apartments for rent in Portland today. You can be part of what keeps Portland weird!

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Published: January 01, 2023