City Spotlight: Portland, Oregon

by Cassandra McCullersOctober 27, 2016

The city of Portland, Oregon is a beautiful, thriving community, with a rich history and culture all its own. Portland is well known for its environmentally friendly way of life, with numerous bike paths, parks and bridges. Portland is the largest city in Oregon and serves as the seat of Multnomah County, yet despite its 145 square miles manages to retain a “small-town” charm with its numerous cafes, farm-to-table dining, and vibrant downtown. The climate is typical for the region, with warm dry summers and cold but rainy winters.

Portland Oregon city panorama.

Key facts

  • State: Oregon
  • County: Multnomah
  • Established:
  • Elevation: Highest point is 1,188 ft (362 m), though most of the city proper is closer to 50ft (15.2m)
  • Area (total): 145 square miles
    • Area (land): 133 sq mi
    • Area (water): 12 sq mi
  • Population (2010 census): 583,776
    • Population (2015 estimate): 632,309
  • Zip codes: 97086-97299
  • Area codes: 503 and 971


Portland is home to numerous museums and art galleries, including the Portland Art Museum, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, and the Oregon Historical Society. The Portland Art Museum is the oldest art museum in Pacific Northwest. It’s also one of the 25 largest art museums in the U.S., with over 42,000 works, including collections focused on Native American art, art of the Northwest, contemporary and modern art, Asian art, photography, and many others, along with hosting traveling exhibitions. Tickets are free for members and for children aged 17 and under.

OMSIThe Oregon Museum of Science and Industry has five specialized exhibit halls, the Kendall Planetarium, and a permanent exhibit of the USS Blueback submarine. It includes the Science Playground, a section of the museum specifically designed for families with children six years old and younger. OMSI offers numerous hands-on exhibits suitable for all ages as well as laboratory demonstrations by staff.

The Oregon Historical Society is a history museum dedicated to exploring and exhibiting Oregon’s long and rich history, as well as Oregon’s place in the wider history of the United States. Multnomah County residents and school groups receive free admission to the museum.

Another major attraction is Powell’s City of Books, a massive bookstore the size of a city block, with over 1 million books. The City of Books is the largest new and used independently owned bookstore in the world, and in 2014 CNN rated it as one of the world’s ten coolest bookstores.

Oaks Amusement Park, which opened in 1905, is one of the oldest still operating amusement parks in the country and includes a historic wooden carousel alongside a number of fun rides.

In addition, some of Portland’s most major attractions are the parks and gardens. The greater Portland metro area has 11,697 total acres of parks, making for a wonderful outdoor experience year-round. Some of the more notable parks in or near Portland include Washington Park, Mt. Tabor Park, Cathedral Park, Tanner Springs Park, Forest Park, Tyron Creek State Park, and the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. Many of the parks have ADA accessible trails, making them suitable for the entire family. The Access Trails Project charts Portland’s trails, giving more detailed information on each trail, so that people can make the best decision about which trail to take while planning a trip.

Washington Park has a trail system which consists of over a hundred miles of beautiful walking paths. If visiting between May and October, check out the free Washington Park shuttle which loops around to different attractions in the Park, including an archery range, children’s playground, Hoyt Arboretum, International Rose Garden, Memorials, and the Japanese Garden.

Oregon Zoo is nestled among 64 acres in Washington Park. As of December 2015, the zoo is home to 1,800 animals, representing 232 separate species and subspecies of mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, invertebrates, and amphibians. The zoo also contains several botanical gardens.

** Note: Soft Focus at 100%, best at smaller sizes

Portland is also well-known for its wide variety of gardens, including the Grotto, the Leach Botanical Garden, the Lan Su Chinese Garden, the Japanese Garden, the International Rose Test Garden, and the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. The Grotto is a Catholic sanctuary set in 62 acres of botanical gardens, with flower-lined paths that wind past various statues and shrines. The Lan Su Chinese Garden is a Ming Dynasty style garden, built by artisans from Suzhou, Portland’s sister-city, and is a marvel of beautiful landscaping and gorgeous architecture throughout the year. The Portland Japanese Garden is considered one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan, with 5.5 acres including five separate garden styles, an authentic tea house, beautiful walkways, and a stunning view of Mt. Hood. The International Rose Test Garden is home to over 10,000 rose bushes, and is understandably one of the City of Rose’s signature attractions. The Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden holds seven acres of rare and hybrid rhododendrons and azaleas, alongside deciduous and coniferous trees.

Things to do

Portland hosts numerous seasonal events, with something happening every month. Many of Portland’s events celebrate its unique cultural heritage, including yearly music festivals, film festivals, art exhibitions, and more. Portland also has a wide variety of spectator sports, from roller derby to basketball.

Guided tours can be a great way to get to know Portland properly. The downtown area offers horse-drawn carriages that provide an intimate look at the sights. Interested in an even slower pace with more information? A wide variety of walking tours are available, many of which focus on different aspects of the life a history of Portland, from culinary tours of some of Portland’s top eateries to ghostly adventures and spooky stories.

People Shopping At Portland Farmers Market

Portland is also widely noted for its excellent food offerings. The city has a tradition of farm-to-table dining, small eateries, quirky coffee and doughnut shops, and the occasional oddball restaurant, following the city’s unofficial slogan of ‘Keep Portland Weird.’ Some frequently recommended places to eat include Voodoo Doughnut (offering some particularly unique doughnut flavors), Stumptown Coffee Roasters (an artisan coffee store noted for its coffee art), and Pip’s Original Doughnuts (offering five flavors of chai and a medley of mini-doughnuts). The Portland Farmer’s Market is also an excellent place to find delicious food fresh from area farms.

The city also has a vibrant nightlife, with live music venues, dance halls (which, unlike night clubs, usually focus on specific dance styles or eras), themed bars, comedy halls, and nightclubs of every stripe, including karaoke, piano bars, an arcade/ bar, a recreation speakeasy, and over twenty LGBTQ-owned or -friendly bars and clubs. If you love dancing, it’s incredibly easy to dance the night away to a different style every night of the week.

Portland, like the rest of Oregon, also has no sales tax, and a number of stores have sprung up catering to the perfect shopping spree.

Major industries

Overall, Portland has a strong economy. The metropolitan area’s unemployment rate is usually around or below the national average. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015 the average hourly wage in Portland was 8 percent higher than the national average.

As the city’s name suggests, the shipping industry a major part of the city’s economy, and is both the third-largest port on the West coast and the largest freshwater port in the U.S. The port is also the U.S.’s largest shipper of wheat and the second largest wheat port on the planet.


Manufacturing is one of the largest industries in Portland, although job opportunities fluctuate with the economy. The steel industry has been a major employer since before World War II, and continues to mark Portland as a major producer of steel. The city also has a business cluster for athletics and footwear manufacturers, with many companies being headquartered in Portland, and several more having offices in the city. Technology has also been playing a growing role in the city’s economy over time, with over a thousand technology companies operating within the city. As in most areas, retail and healthcare are also large industries.

Interested in a home in Portland, Oregon? Check out our homes for sale and rent listings.

Happy house hunting!

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About The Author
Cassandra McCullers
Cassandra is a writer with a background in engineering, enjoying the rural life in the Virginian Appalachians. When not working, she enjoys writing fiction, running a blog, camping, working in the garden, and tending to her flock of chickens! In addition to writing, she has a passion for art and graphic design. Her interests include disaster preparedness, homesteading, landscaping, cooking with natural ingredients, history, and animal husbandry.

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