Located on the south bank of the Columbia River and surrounded by the emerald-green beauty of the Pacific Northwest, the city of Portland offers unparalleled scenic beauty, as well as a diverse bounty of experiences and attractions. In addition to iconic landmarks, the city boasts an abundance of enigmatic, lesser-known wonders. Book a stay at one of numerous Portland vacation rentals situated in proximity to walking trails, lovely gardens, unique shops, and fascinating museums. That said, here are the best hidden gems in the city of Portland.
1. Cathedral Park
Cathedral Park sits on the eastern shore of the Willamette River in the neighborhood of Cathedral Park in northern Portland. The park gets its name from the beautiful ornate arches supporting the St. John’s Bridge, which towers over the park’s green spaces to connect the two sides of the river. Within the park are lovely walking trails, picnic areas, a floating dock, a canoe launch, and a boat ramp. The city hosts an annual jazz festival at the park’s outdoor stage every summer.
2. Powell’s Bookstore
Powell’s Bookstore, also known as Powell’s City of Books, takes up an entire city block in the Pearl District just northwest of downtown Portland. In the modern era of chain stores, Powell’s shines as one of the largest independent bookstores in the world. The store has nine color-coded rooms and over 3,500 sections with more than two million books. A special rare book room houses first editions and other collectibles, and the Basil Hallward Gallery hosts readings by celebrity writers. When you need a break from perusing through the endless shelves, stop in at the internal World Cup Coffee Shop for drinks and snacks.
3. Rimsky-Korsakoffee House
The Rimsky-Korsakoffee House serves up great coffee and desserts in a Victorian-style building in southeastern Portland. The establishment is named after Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, a Russian composer of classical music. The coffeehouse is reputed to be haunted, and to enhance the ghostly effect, some of the tables vibrate, rotate, levitate, or even completely disappear within walls. The house is also decorated with offbeat artwork and strange objects hanging from the ceiling. Food critics laud the establishment for its excellent ice cream, cheesecake, and mocha fudge cake desserts.
4. Elk Rock Gardens
Elk Rock Gardens of the Bishop’s Close lie on a bluff beside the Willamette River near vacation rentals in southwestern Portland. The Scottish family that originally owned the estate willed it to the Episcopal Bishop of Oregon with the stipulation that the gardens remain open to the public. The estate includes a lovely manor house and peaceful walking trails amidst an abundance of trees, shrubs, and other plants. The grounds also have beautiful views of the Willamette River and majestic Mount Hood. The gardens are a perfect place to enjoy a quiet and serene walk surrounded by flowering beauty.
5. Kidd’s Toy Museum
Kidd’s Toy Museum, which houses the private collection of antique toys that Frank Kidd and his wife spent their entire lives accumulating, is on the east side of the Willamette River in central Portland. Most of the toys date from 1869 to 1939. The collection includes dolls, Teddy bears, trains, cars, and many other items. However, the museum is most renowned for its diverse selection of antique mechanical banks. The museum is not necessarily geared towards children, but rather offers an overview of the history of toys in the United States.
6. Japanese Garden
The gorgeous Japanese Garden lies within Washington Park in the West Hills area of Portland. The garden offers a six-acre spot of colorful tranquility with its carefully sculpted landscapes of plants, water, sand, and stones. Five distinct sections highlight various styles of Japanese gardening, and in the midst is a lovely Tea House that was constructed in Japan and assembled in Portland. The garden has received awards and commendations for the elegance of its design and appearance. When you complete your viewing and appreciation of the Japanese Garden, Washington Park offers numerous other attractions such as the International Rose Test Garden, the Hoyt Arboretum, the World Forestry Center Discovery Museum, and the Oregon Zoo.
7. Pittock Mansion
The historic Pittock Mansion sits on a hill to the west of downtown Portland. Built by the publisher of the Oregonian newspaper, this French Renaissance-style 16,000 square foot mansion offers a look at the opulent lifestyle of the turn-of-the-century upper class. When you visit, you have the option of taking a guided or self-guided tour. Be sure to take some time to stroll through the lovely and spacious grounds.
8. Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
The awesome Oregon Museum of Science and Industry lies on the east bank of the Willamette River near downtown Portland. This family-friendly facility features galleries and halls full of interactive exhibits on chemistry, physics, geology, and other scientific fields. The museum also has a planetarium and a Science Playground with materials especially suitable for younger children. The USS Blueback, a retired submarine formerly used for filming adventure movies, occupies a pier next to the museum and is available for guided tours.
9. Forest Park
Forest Park, one of the largest urban forest reserves in the country, stretches over eight miles of the Tualatin Mountains on the west side of Portland. The 70 miles of trails throughout the park offer excellent opportunities for hiking and cycling. As you explore the woodlands, watch for a diverse range of wildlife, including deer, elk, flying squirrels, and bobcats. The park is also home to many bird species such as great horned owls, woodpeckers, ospreys, wrens, and warblers.
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