3 Days in Portland: The Perfect Portland Itinerary

Discover Portland's quirky charm, lush parks, and world-class food scene in just 72 hours. Follow this 3-day Portland itinerary for best results!

West Parker
West Parker
July 18, 2024

We thought: how could we possibly experience all the Rose City had to offer in just three days? But as we stepped out of PDX (voted America's best airport seven years running, by the way), the crisp Oregon air hit us, and we knew we were in for something special.

Fast forward 72 hours, and we were head over heels for this Pacific Northwest gem. From devouring maple bacon doughnuts to hiking through a misty urban forest, our 3 days in Portland were packed with more variety and fun than we ever imagined possible. So buckle up, fellow travelers – I'm about to show you how to make the most of your 72 hours in Portlandia!

Before You Go: Portland Travel Tips

Before we dive into our Portland 3-day itinerary, let's cover some basics to ensure your trip is as smooth as a perfectly pulled espresso shot (trust me, you'll have plenty of those here).

Best Time to Visit Portland

Portland shines brightest from June to August, with warm temps and minimal rainfall. But if you prefer fewer crowds (and lower prices), consider visiting in spring (March to May) or fall (September to October). We went in late May and hit the sweet spot – comfortable weather, blooming roses, and manageable crowds.

Getting Around Portland

Portland's got some seriously efficient public transportation:

  • TriMet: This system includes buses, light rail (MAX), and streetcars. It's affordable and easy to navigate.
  • Bike rentals: Portland is a cyclist's paradise with plenty of bike lanes and rental options.
  • Walking: Many attractions are within walking distance, especially downtown.
  • Ride-sharing: Uber and Lyft are readily available if you need them.

We mainly used TriMet and our own two feet, which worked perfectly for our 3-day Portland itinerary.

Where to Stay in Portland

Portland's got accommodations for every style and budget. Here are our top picks:

  1. The Society Hotel: A budget-friendly option in Old Town Chinatown, offering both private rooms and bunk beds in a renovated historic building. Perfect for solo travelers or couples on a budget.
  2. McMenamins Kennedy School: A unique, reasonably priced hotel in a converted elementary school. It's got on-site bars, a movie theater, and a soaking pool. Great for families or those looking for a quirky Portland experience.
  3. The Hoxton Portland: A stylish, mid-range hotel in Old Town Chinatown with a rooftop taco bar and cozy rooms. Ideal for couples or friends looking for a trendy base.

We stayed at The Society Hotel and loved its central location and friendly vibe. Plus, the rooftop deck offered killer views of the city – perfect for planning out our daily adventures.

What to Pack for Portland

Portland's weather can be as unpredictable as a food cart's daily special, so come prepared:

  1. Waterproof jacket or umbrella (even in summer, light rain is possible)
  2. Comfortable walking shoes (you'll be doing a lot of exploring on foot)
  3. Layers for variable temperatures
  4. Reusable water bottle (Portlanders are serious about sustainability)
  5. Sunscreen and sunglasses for summer visits
  6. Camera to capture Portland's scenic beauty

Pro tip: Pack a pair of stretchy pants. Trust me, you'll thank me after your third doughnut stop.

Now that we've got the basics covered, let's dive into our perfect 3-day Portland itinerary!

Day 1: Downtown Delights and Washington Park Wonders

Rise and shine, Portland adventurers! Today we're kicking off our 3 days in Portland with a deep dive into the heart of the city. We'll explore downtown's cultural gems, then head to the lush oasis of Washington Park. It's a perfect mix of urban excitement and natural beauty that showcases why Portland is such a unique destination.

I've structured this day to give you a taste of Portland's famous literary scene, its bustling markets, and its stunning gardens – all while keeping travel time between attractions to a minimum. This itinerary works well for all types of travelers, from solo adventurers to families, but I'll offer some alternatives for those with specific interests or time constraints.

Powell's City of Books

Interior of Powell's City of Books in Portland, showcasing vast collection of colorful book spines on towering shelves
Got lost in the endless aisles of Powell's today. This place is a book lover's paradise!

Powell's City of Books is more than just a bookstore – it's a Portland institution and the perfect place to start your 3-day Portland itinerary. Occupying an entire city block, Powell's is a labyrinth of literature that'll make any book lover's heart skip a beat.

As soon as we stepped inside, Sarah and I were hit with the intoxicating smell of paper and possibilities. The store is divided into color-coded rooms, each home to a different genre. We spent a good hour just wandering the aisles, discovering new titles and rediscovering old favorites.

Don't miss the Rare Book Room on the top floor – it's a treasure trove of first editions and signed copies. And if you need a caffeine boost to fuel your book browsing, the in-store café serves up a mean cup of joe.

Why Visit: It's the world's largest independent bookstore and a Portland icon. Even if you're not a big reader, the sheer scale and atmosphere of Powell's is worth experiencing.

Insider Tip: Pick up a store map at the entrance – trust me, you'll need it. And keep an eye out for the staff picks; they often lead to unexpected literary gems.

  • Location: 1005 W Burnside St, Portland, OR 97209
  • Hours: 10am-9pm daily
  • Admission: Free (but good luck leaving without buying a book or three)

Portland Saturday Market

Vibrant stalls at Portland Saturday Market displaying local artisan crafts and goods
Stumbled upon some amazing handmade jewelry at the Portland Saturday Market. This place is a treasure trove of local art!

From Powell's, take a short stroll to the Portland Saturday Market. Despite its name, this open-air arts and crafts market runs on Sundays too (from March through December). It's a whirlwind of local artisans, street performers, and mouth-watering food carts.

Sarah and I spent a good couple of hours here, browsing handmade jewelry, quirky artwork, and artisanal foods. The market is a feast for the senses – the aroma of freshly baked bread mixing with the sound of local musicians and the colorful displays of handcrafted goods.

We couldn't resist picking up some unique souvenirs, including a hand-carved wooden beard comb (because, Portland) and a jar of lavender honey from a local farm. And don't even get me started on the food – the tamales we had for lunch were to die for.

Why Visit: It's the largest continuously operating outdoor arts and crafts market in the U.S., offering a true taste of Portland's creative spirit.

Insider Tip: Come hungry! The food options here are incredible. Try the elephant ears (a local favorite) for a sweet treat.

  • Location: 2 SW Naito Pkwy, Portland, OR 97204
  • Hours: 10am-5pm Saturday, 11am-4:30pm Sunday (March-December)
  • Admission: Free

Washington Park

Visitors enjoying a sunny day in Portland's Washington Park, surrounded by lush greenery
Perfect day for a picnic in Washington Park. The view of the city from here is unbeatable!

After lunch, hop on the MAX Light Rail (Red or Blue line) and head to Washington Park. This 410-acre urban oasis is home to some of Portland's top attractions, including the Oregon Zoo, Portland Japanese Garden, and International Rose Test Garden.

Washington Park is like a choose-your-own-adventure book come to life. With limited time, we decided to focus on two of its star attractions: the Japanese Garden and the Rose Test Garden. But if you're visiting with kids or have more time, the Oregon Zoo and Portland Children's Museum are excellent options too.

The park itself is beautiful, with winding trails, picnic areas, and stunning city views. We saw locals jogging, families having picnics, and tourists (like us) wandering around with cameras in hand. It's a perfect example of how Portland seamlessly blends urban life with nature.

Why Visit: Washington Park offers a variety of world-class attractions in a beautiful natural setting, all within city limits.

Insider Tip: If you're planning to visit multiple attractions, consider getting a Washington Park TripPlanner pass for discounted admission.

  • Location: 4033 SW Canyon Rd, Portland, OR 97221
  • Hours: 5am-10pm daily
  • Admission: Free (individual attractions have separate fees)

Portland Japanese Garden

Serene stone pathway winding through autumn maples in Portland's Japanese Garden
Found a moment of zen at the Portland Japanese Garden. It's like stepping into another world!

Our first stop in Washington Park was the Portland Japanese Garden. Often called the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan, this 12-acre oasis of tranquility is a must-visit on any Portland itinerary.

As we entered, the hustle and bustle of the city seemed to melt away. The garden is a masterpiece of landscape design, with winding paths leading through five distinct garden styles. We found ourselves mesmerized by the koi ponds, meticulously pruned trees, and the serene Tea House.

The garden changes with the seasons – we visited in late spring and caught the tail end of the cherry blossoms, but I've heard it's equally stunning in fall when the maples turn fiery red and gold. Don't miss the Umami Café for traditional Japanese tea and snacks with a view of the garden.

Why Visit: It's a slice of Japan in the heart of Portland, offering a peaceful retreat and stunning photo opportunities.

Insider Tip: Visit on a weekday if possible to avoid crowds. And don't rush – this is a place to slow down and savor.

  • Location: 611 SW Kingston Ave, Portland, OR 97205
  • Hours: 10am-5:30pm, Wednesday-Monday (closed Tuesdays)
  • Admission: $19.95 for adults, $13.95 for youth (6-17)

International Rose Test Garden

Vibrant array of roses in full bloom at Portland's International Rose Test Garden
Now I know why they call Portland the City of Roses. The variety and colors here are incredible!

Just a short walk from the Japanese Garden, you'll find the International Rose Test Garden. This is where Portland earns its nickname as the "City of Roses," with over 7,000 rose plants of approximately 550 varieties.

The moment we stepped into the garden, we were enveloped by a symphony of colors and fragrances. Rows upon rows of roses in every hue imaginable stretched out before us. We spent a good hour just wandering the paths, reading the quirky names of different rose varieties, and trying to pick our favorites (an impossible task, if you ask me).

The garden also offers panoramic views of downtown Portland and the Cascade Mountains – on a clear day, you can even see Mount Hood in the distance. It's the perfect spot for a romantic stroll or a picnic on the lawn.

Why Visit: It's the oldest official continuously operated public rose test garden in the United States, showcasing Portland's floral heritage.

Insider Tip: The roses are at their peak from late May through September, but the garden is beautiful year-round. Bring a book and spend some time relaxing on one of the many benches.

  • Location: 400 SW Kingston Ave, Portland, OR 97205
  • Hours: 5am-10pm daily
  • Admission: Free

Evening: Dinner and Drinks

Diverse food carts serving international cuisine at Portland Mercado
Lunch dilemma solved at Portland Mercado! So many choices, settled for amazing fish tacos.

After a full day of exploring, it's time to experience Portland's renowned food and drink scene. For dinner, head to one of Portland's famous food cart pods. Portland Mercado on SE Foster Road offers a fantastic array of Latin American cuisines. From Colombian arepas to Mexican tacos, you'll find plenty of delicious options to satisfy your hunger.

Impressive whiskey collection at Multnomah Whiskey Library in Portland, showcasing vast array of bottles
Feeling fancy at the Multnomah Whiskey Library. The selection here is mind-blowing!

For a nightcap, make your way to Multnomah Whiskey Library. With over 1,500 spirits on offer and a cozy, library-like atmosphere, it's the perfect place to unwind and reflect on your first day in Portland.

Alternative Options:

  • For Families: Instead of the Whiskey Library, consider ending your night with a movie at McMenamins Kennedy School. This converted school now houses a quirky hotel, restaurant, and theater where you can enjoy second-run movies while lounging on comfy couches.
  • For Budget Travelers: Skip the food cart pod and head to Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen for affordable and delicious Vietnamese fare. Their late-night happy hour (starting at 10pm) offers great deals on food and drinks.
  • For Luxury Seekers: Book a table at Le Pigeon, a renowned fine dining restaurant serving innovative French-inspired cuisine. Follow it up with craft cocktails at Teardrop Cocktail Lounge.

As you head back to your hotel, take a moment to appreciate the city's vibrant nightlife and the eclectic mix of people that make Portland so unique. Tomorrow, we'll dive deeper into Portland's quirky side and natural beauty!

Day 2: Quirky Portland and Outdoor Adventures

Good morning, Portland explorers! Today we're diving into what makes Portland, well, Portland. We'll start with a hike in the world's largest urban forest, then explore some of the city's most character-filled neighborhoods. Get ready for a day filled with outdoor adventure, quirky shops, and of course, plenty of great food and drink.

I've designed this day to showcase Portland's love for the outdoors alongside its funky, artistic side. It's a bit more active than Day 1, so wear comfortable shoes and bring your sense of adventure. This itinerary works well for most travelers, but I'll offer some alternatives for those who prefer a less strenuous day or are traveling with young children.

Forest Park

Lush, green hiking trail winding through Portland's Forest Park
Escaped the city bustle for a hike in Forest Park. Can't believe this is still within city limits!

Let's kick off Day 2 of our Portland itinerary with a morning hike in Forest Park. This 5,200-acre urban forest is a true Portland treasure and one of the largest urban forests in the United States. With over 80 miles of trails, it's a nature lover's paradise right in the heart of the city.

Sarah and I chose to hike the Wildwood Trail, starting at the Lower Macleay Park entrance. The trail winds through lush, fern-covered forests and crosses bubbling creeks. About 2.1 miles in, you'll reach the Witch's Castle, a moss-covered stone structure that looks like something out of a fairytale. It's actually the remnants of an old ranger station, but the locals have crafted all sorts of spooky stories about it.

The hike to the Witch's Castle and back is about 5 miles round trip, which took us around 2-3 hours at a leisurely pace. If you're up for a longer hike, you can continue on to Pittock Mansion for stunning views of the city.

Why Visit: It's a chance to experience the Pacific Northwest's legendary forests without leaving the city limits.

Insider Tip: The park can be muddy, especially after rain. Wear appropriate shoes and bring water and snacks. Also, keep an eye out for banana slugs – these bright yellow creatures are a quintessential PNW sight!

  • Location: Lower Macleay Park Entrance: NW 29th Ave & Upshur St, Portland, OR 97210
  • Hours: 5am-10pm daily
  • Admission: Free

Brunch at Jam on Hawthorne

Vibrant, hearty breakfast dish served at Jam on Hawthorne in Portland
Best brunch in Portland? Jam on Hawthorne is definitely a contender. This plate was a work of art!

After your morning hike, you've earned a hearty brunch. Head to Jam on Hawthorne in the Hawthorne District. This funky spot serves up classic breakfast fare with a Portland twist.

I couldn't resist the "Jam Waffle" – a crispy waffle topped with vanilla custard and marionberry jam. Sarah opted for the "Junkie Scramble," a delicious mess of eggs, bacon, sausage, veggies, and cheese. Paired with their strong coffee (this is Portland, after all), it was the perfect post-hike refuel.

Why Visit: It's a local favorite that captures Portland's laid-back brunch culture.

Insider Tip: Jam gets busy on weekends. If the wait is too long, walk a few blocks to Waffle Window for a quick and delicious alternative.

  • Location: 2239 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97214
  • Hours: 7:30am-3pm daily
  • Price Range: $10-$15 per person

Explore the Hawthorne District

Eclectic storefronts and pedestrians on Hawthorne Boulevard, showcasing Portland's quirky charm
Loving the funky vibe of the Hawthorne District. Found some great vintage finds!

After brunch, take some time to explore the Hawthorne District. This funky neighborhood is quintessential Portland, with its vintage shops, indie boutiques, and eccentric locals.

Start at the Bagdad Theater & Pub, a beautiful 1927 movie palace turned brewpub. Even if you don't catch a flick, it's worth popping in to admire the Middle Eastern-inspired decor.

Next, browse the shelves at Powell's Books on Hawthorne, a smaller but equally charming outpost of the downtown mothership.

For vintage lovers, House of Vintage is a must-visit. This massive store is packed with retro clothes, accessories, and knick-knacks. Sarah found a gorgeous 1960s cocktail dress that was perfect for our night out later.

End your Hawthorne adventure at Zach's Shack, a tiny hot dog stand with a big personality. Their "Bow Wow Wow" dog (topped with cream cheese and grilled onions) is the stuff of local legend.

Why Visit: Hawthorne District embodies Portland's weird and wonderful spirit.

Insider Tip: Look out for the many murals adorning the buildings. They change regularly and showcase local artists.

Alberta Arts District

Vibrant street art mural adorning a building in Portland's Alberta Arts District
The street art in Alberta Arts District is next level. This mural stopped me in my tracks!

From Hawthorne, hop on the number 75 bus and head north to the Alberta Arts District. This vibrant neighborhood is the heart of Portland's artistic community, filled with galleries, studios, and street art.

Start your exploration at Antler Gallery, which showcases contemporary artists with a focus on nature and wildlife themes. The exhibits rotate regularly, so there's always something new to see.

As you wander down Alberta Street, you'll come across numerous boutiques and artisan shops. Frock is great for locally-made clothing and accessories, while Collage is a crafter's paradise.

If you need a pick-me-up, stop by Case Study Coffee. Their nitro cold brew is smooth as silk and packs a serious caffeine punch.

Quirky ice cream flavor in a waffle cone from Salt & Straw, Portland's famous ice cream shop
Olive oil ice cream from Salt & Straw. Sounds weird, tastes amazing. Portland knows how to do dessert!

End your Alberta adventure at Salt & Straw, Portland's famous artisanal ice cream shop. Their flavors are as creative as they are delicious – think Pear & Blue Cheese or Arbequina Olive Oil. Don't be deterred by the line; it moves quickly, and the ice cream is worth the wait.

Why Visit: Alberta Arts District showcases Portland's thriving creative scene.

Insider Tip: If you're here on the last Thursday of the month, you can catch Last Thursday, a vibrant street fair with art vendors, live music, and food carts.

  • Location: NE Alberta St, Portland, OR 97211
  • Hours: Varies by business, but generally busiest in the afternoon and evening
  • Admission: Free to explore, bring money for shopping and snacks

Dinner at Pok Pok

Signature Vietnamese fish sauce wings served at Pok Pok restaurant in Portland
These fish sauce wings at Pok Pok live up to the hype. Finger-licking good!

For dinner, head to Pok Pok, chef Andy Ricker's renowned Thai street food restaurant. This place put Portland on the national culinary map, and for good reason.

The menu can be overwhelming, but you can't go wrong with their signature dish: Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings. These sweet, sticky, and utterly addictive wings are a Portland rite of passage. We also loved the Khao Soi (a northern Thai curry noodle soup) and the Papaya Pok Pok (a spicy green papaya salad).

Be prepared for a wait, especially on weekends. Put your name on the list and grab a drink at the Whiskey Soda Lounge across the street while you wait.

Why Visit: It's a Portland culinary institution that lives up to the hype.

Insider Tip: If you're not up for a big meal, visit Pok Pok Wing instead. It's a smaller outpost that focuses on their famous wings and a few other dishes.

  • Location: 3226 SE Division St, Portland, OR 97202
  • Hours: 11:30am-10pm daily
  • Price Range: $15-$30 per person

Evening: Catch a Show

Portland has a thriving music and performance scene. Cap off your night with a show at one of the city's many venues:

  • Doug Fir Lounge: This log cabin-inspired venue hosts indie rock shows in an intimate setting.
Unique log cabin-inspired decor inside Doug Fir Lounge, a popular music venue in Portland
Catching a show at Doug Fir Lounge. The acoustics in this place are as good as the decor!
  • Aladdin Theater: A former vaudeville theater that now showcases a variety of musical acts.
  • Helium Comedy Club: If you're in the mood for laughs, catch a stand-up show here.

Alternative Options:

  • For Families: Instead of the Alberta Arts District, consider spending the afternoon at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). It's a hands-on science museum with a planetarium and submarine tours that kids and adults alike will enjoy.
  • For Less Mobile Travelers: Skip the Forest Park hike and start your day with a visit to the Portland Art Museum. It's the oldest art museum in the Pacific Northwest and houses an impressive collection of Native American art.
  • For Beer Enthusiasts: Portland is known as "Beervana" for good reason. Consider taking a brewery tour instead of exploring Alberta. You'll get to sample some of Portland's famous craft beers while learning about the brewing process.

As you head back to your hotel, reflect on the day's adventures. From misty forests to quirky neighborhoods, you've experienced the many faces of Portland. Tomorrow, we'll dive into the city's cultural offerings and take a day trip to one of Oregon's natural wonders!

Day 3: Culture, Coffee, and Columbia River Gorge

Rise and shine, Portland explorers! It's the final day of our 3-day Portland itinerary, and we're going out with a bang. Today we're blending city and nature, starting with some cultural experiences in town, then heading out to the majestic Columbia River Gorge. Get ready for a day of art, waterfalls, and of course, plenty of that famous Portland coffee.

I've structured this day to give you a taste of Portland's cultural scene before whisking you away to experience the natural beauty that surrounds the city. It's a perfect way to round out your Portland experience. As always, I'll offer some alternatives for different types of travelers or those with more specific interests.

Morning Coffee Tour

Start your day with a caffeinated bang on a self-guided coffee tour. Portland takes its coffee seriously, and there's no better way to kick off your morning than by sampling some of the city's best brews.

Skilled barista preparing pour-over coffee at Stumptown Coffee Roasters in Portland
Starting the day right with a perfect pour-over at Stumptown. Portland's coffee game is strong!

Begin at Stumptown Coffee Roasters in downtown Portland. This is where the third-wave coffee movement in Portland began. Try their Hair Bender blend, a complex and flavorful roast that put them on the map.

Intricate latte art in a cup from Heart Coffee Roasters, showcasing Portland's coffee culture
The latte art at Heart Coffee Roasters is almost too pretty to drink. Almost.

Next, walk a few blocks to Heart Coffee Roasters. Known for their light roasts, Heart offers a more delicate and nuanced coffee experience. Their pour-over is a thing of beauty.

Modern, industrial-style interior of Coava Coffee Roasters in Portland
Loving the minimalist vibes at Coava Coffee. Their single-origin roasts are out of this world!

End your coffee crawl at Coava Coffee Roasters. Housed in a renovated industrial space, Coava is known for their single-origin roasts and innovative brewing methods. Try their Kilenso Ethiopia for a fruit-forward flavor bomb.

Why Visit: Portland's coffee scene is world-renowned, and this tour gives you a taste of why.

Insider Tip: Most of these roasters offer bags of beans to take home. They make great souvenirs or gifts for the coffee lovers in your life.

Portland Art Museum

Visitor admiring Native American art display at Portland Art Museum
Blown away by the Native American art collection at Portland Art Museum. So much history and culture here!

After you're sufficiently caffeinated, head to the Portland Art Museum. As the oldest art museum in the Pacific Northwest, it houses an impressive collection that spans centuries and continents.

The museum's Native American art collection is particularly noteworthy, featuring works from tribes across North America. Don't miss the European wing either, which includes works by Monet, van Gogh, and Picasso.

One of our favorite exhibitions was the "Portraiture from the Collection of Northwest Art," which offered a fascinating glimpse into the region's artistic heritage.

Why Visit: It's a world-class museum that offers a deep dive into both regional and international art.

Insider Tip: The museum offers free admission on the first Thursday of every month from 5-8pm. If your visit coincides with this, it's a great opportunity to save some money.

  • Location: 1219 SW Park Ave, Portland, OR 97205
  • Hours: 10am-5pm, Wednesday-Sunday
  • Admission: $20 for adults, free for children 17 and under

Lunch at Pine Street Market

Variety of food vendors and diners inside Pine Street Market, Portland's upscale food hall
Lunch dilemma at Pine Street Market - too many good options! Ended up with a bit of everything.

Before we head out of the city, let's grab lunch at Pine Street Market. This upscale food hall houses outposts of some of Portland's best eateries all under one roof.

Sarah and I had a hard time deciding what to eat – everything looked so good! We ended up splitting a Korean bulgogi bowl from Kim Jong Smokehouse and a wood-fired pizza from Checkerboard Pizza. For dessert, we couldn't resist the soft serve from Salt & Straw's Wiz Bang Bar.

Why Visit: It's a one-stop-shop for sampling some of Portland's best food in a casual setting.

Insider Tip: Seating can be scarce during peak lunch hours. Consider going a bit early or late to avoid the crowds.

  • Location: 126 SW 2nd Ave, Portland, OR 97204
  • Hours: 11am-9pm daily
  • Price Range: $10-$15 per person

Afternoon: Columbia River Gorge

Majestic Multnomah Falls cascading through lush greenery in Columbia River Gorge
Mother Nature showing off at Multnomah Falls. The Columbia River Gorge is breathtaking!

Now it's time to leave the city behind and experience the natural beauty of the Columbia River Gorge. This stunning river canyon forms the border between Oregon and Washington and is home to countless waterfalls, viewpoints, and hiking trails.

The easiest way to visit the Gorge is by car, so if you haven't rented one yet, now's the time. Alternatively, you can join a guided tour – there are several companies that offer half-day trips from Portland.

Your first stop should be the Portland Women's Forum State Scenic Viewpoint. This offers one of the best views of the Gorge, with Vista House perched on the cliff in the distance and the Columbia River stretching out below.

Next, head to Vista House at Crown Point. This beautiful observatory was built in 1917 and offers 360-degree views of the Gorge. It's a great spot to learn about the geology and history of the area.

Now it's time for some waterfalls! The most famous is Multnomah Falls, a 611-foot cascade that's one of Oregon's most photographed sites. The short hike to Benson Bridge, which spans the lower cascade, is well worth it for the views.

If you have time, also check out Latourell Falls. The trail here is less crowded than Multnomah, and the single-drop 224-foot waterfall is stunning, framed by basalt columns and yellow lichen.

Why Visit: The Columbia River Gorge showcases the epic natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

Insider Tip: The Gorge can get very busy, especially on weekends. Try to visit on a weekday if possible, and arrive at Multnomah Falls early to secure parking.

  • Location: About 30 minutes east of Portland on I-84
  • Hours: Most sites open dawn to dusk
  • Admission: Free for most sites, some trailheads require a Northwest Forest Pass ($5 per day)

Dinner: Le Pigeon

Artfully presented gourmet dish at Le Pigeon, showcasing Portland's fine dining scene
Splurged on dinner at Le Pigeon and it was worth every penny. Portland's food scene never disappoints!

Back in Portland, let's end our 3-day adventure with a bang at Le Pigeon. This small, unpretentious restaurant serves up some of the most innovative and delicious food in the city.

The menu changes regularly based on seasonal ingredients, but you can always count on creative flavor combinations and expert preparation. We opted for the tasting menu, which included standout dishes like foie gras profiteroles and beef cheek bourguignon. The wine pairings were spot-on too.

Why Visit: It's fine dining without the fuss, showcasing the best of Portland's food scene.

Insider Tip: Reservations are a must. If you can't get in, try their more casual sister restaurant, Canard, which is right next door.

  • Location: 738 E Burnside St, Portland, OR 97214
  • Hours: 5pm-10pm, Wednesday-Sunday
  • Price Range: $80-$150 per person for the tasting menu

Alternative Options:

  • For Families: Instead of the Columbia River Gorge, consider spending the afternoon at the Oregon Zoo. It's home to 2,000 animals from over 200 species and has a strong focus on conservation.
  • For Movie Buffs: Skip the art museum and take a tour of filming locations instead. Shows like "Portlandia" and movies like "Wild" have put Portland on the Hollywood map. Portland Walking Tours offers a "Portlandia" themed tour that's a lot of fun.
  • For Wine Lovers: Instead of the Gorge, head to the Willamette Valley for a wine tasting tour. Known for its Pinot Noir, this region is just a short drive from Portland and offers beautiful scenery along with world-class wines.

As you enjoy your final meal in Portland, take a moment to reflect on all you've experienced in the past three days. From bustling markets to tranquil gardens, quirky neighborhoods to majestic waterfalls, you've gotten a taste of what makes Portland such a special place.

Wrapping Up Your 3 Days in Portland

Whew! What a whirlwind three days in Portland, right? As Sarah and I boarded our flight home, we couldn't believe how much we'd managed to pack into such a short time. From the towering shelves of Powell's to the misty trails of Forest Park, from the quirky streets of Alberta to the majestic Columbia River Gorge, we'd gotten a real taste of what makes Portland tick.

But here's the thing – even with this jam-packed 3-day Portland itinerary, we've only scratched the surface of what this city has to offer. We didn't even get to visit the famous Portland Japanese Garden, explore the trendy Pearl District, or sample beers at the countless craft breweries. And don't even get me started on all the food carts we didn't have time to try!

That's the beauty of Portland, though. It's a city that reveals itself slowly, rewarding repeat visits with new discoveries each time. Whether you're a foodie, an outdoor enthusiast, a culture vulture, or just someone who appreciates a good cup of coffee and a weird doughnut, Portland has something for you.

So while this 3-day Portland itinerary will give you a great introduction to the city, don't be surprised if you find yourself planning a return trip before you've even left. After all, as they say, "Keep Portland Weird" – and there's always more weirdness to explore!

Final Tips for Your Portland Trip

  1. Weather Preparedness: Portland's weather can be unpredictable. Always have a light rain jacket or umbrella handy, even in summer.
  2. Public Transportation: Portland's public transit system is excellent. Consider getting a HOP Fastpass for easy travel around the city.
  3. Eco-Friendly Practices: Portland is big on sustainability. Bring reusable bags and water bottles to fit in with the local ethos.
  4. Food Cart Etiquette: When visiting food cart pods, it's perfectly acceptable to buy food from one cart and drinks from another. Many pods have communal seating areas.
  5. Bike Safety: If you're cycling, remember that Portland drivers are generally very bike-aware, but always use hand signals and follow traffic laws.
  6. Tipping: Standard tipping in Portland is 15-20% at restaurants. Don't forget to tip your barista, food cart vendors, and tour guides too.
  7. Marijuana Laws: Recreational marijuana is legal in Oregon, but public consumption is not. If you partake, do so responsibly and in private.
  8. Hiking Preparedness: If you're venturing into Forest Park or the Gorge, bring water, snacks, and let someone know your plans. Cell service can be spotty in some areas.
  9. Tax-Free Shopping: Oregon has no sales tax, so feel free to indulge in some shopping during your visit.
  10. Local Lingo: Brush up on some Portland-specific terms. It's "PDX" (not "Portland"), "the MAX" (not "the subway"), and please, never "San Fran" when referring to that city down south!

Safety in Portland

While Portland is generally a safe city, it's always good to exercise common sense precautions, especially in urban areas. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind during your 3 days in Portland:

  1. Be Aware of Your Surroundings: As with any city, stay alert, especially at night or in less crowded areas.
  2. Secure Your Belongings: Keep an eye on your personal items, particularly in crowded tourist areas or on public transportation.
  3. Use Reputable Transportation: Stick to official taxis, ride-sharing services, or public transportation, especially late at night.
  4. Avoid Confrontations: Portland has seen some protests in recent years. While most are peaceful, it's best to avoid any large gatherings if you're unsure of the situation.
  5. Homeless Population: Portland, like many West Coast cities, has a visible homeless population. While most individuals are harmless, be respectful and cautious, especially in areas with many tents or encampments.
  6. Bicycle Safety: If you're cycling, always wear a helmet and use bike lanes where available. Be extra cautious at night and in rainy conditions.
  7. Natural Hazards: When hiking or visiting natural areas, stay on marked trails, be prepared for changing weather, and don't approach wildlife.
  8. Emergency Services: In case of emergency, dial 911. For non-emergency police matters, call 503-823-3333.

Remember, Portland is known for its friendly locals. If you're ever unsure or need help, don't hesitate to ask someone. Portlanders are typically more than happy to assist visitors.

Conclusion: Your 3 Days in Portland Adventure

As our plane lifted off from PDX, Sarah and I couldn't stop talking about all we'd experienced in just three short days. From the towering shelves of Powell's to the misty trails of Forest Park, from the quirky streets of Alberta to the majestic Columbia River Gorge, we'd gotten a real taste of what makes Portland such a special place.

This 3-day Portland itinerary is designed to give you a well-rounded introduction to the city, blending popular attractions with off-the-beaten-path experiences. We've covered:

  • Iconic Portland landmarks like Powell's City of Books and Washington Park
  • The city's renowned culinary scene, from food carts to fine dining
  • Portland's quirky neighborhoods and vibrant arts districts
  • The stunning natural beauty that surrounds the city
  • A mix of cultural experiences, outdoor adventures, and local flavors

But here's the thing – even with this jam-packed schedule, we've only scratched the surface of what Portland has to offer. We didn't even get to visit the trendy Pearl District, sample beers at the countless craft breweries, or explore all the food cart pods scattered around the city.

That's the beauty of Portland, though. It's a city that reveals itself slowly, rewarding repeat visits with new discoveries each time. Whether you're a foodie, an outdoor enthusiast, a culture vulture, or just someone who appreciates a good cup of coffee and a weird doughnut, Portland has something for you.

So while this 3-day Portland itinerary will give you a great introduction to the city, don't be surprised if you find yourself planning a return trip before you've even left. After all, as they say, "Keep Portland Weird" – and there's always more weirdness to explore!

Remember, this itinerary is just a guide. Feel free to mix and match, skip things that don't interest you, or linger longer at places you love. The best travel experiences often come from spontaneous decisions and unexpected discoveries.

As you plan your trip, keep in mind the laid-back Portland vibe. Don't try to cram too much in – leave some time to simply wander the neighborhoods, chat with locals, or relax in one of the city's many parks or coffee shops. That's when you'll really start to feel the unique rhythm of this wonderful city.

So pack your reusable water bottle, don your most comfortable walking shoes, and get ready for an unforgettable 3 days in Portland. Trust me, by the time you leave, you'll be planning your next visit. Portland has a way of stealing your heart like that.

Safe travels, and enjoy your Portland adventure!

West Parker
West Parker
Article updated:
July 18, 2024 9:06 AM

West Parker, a Cornell University School of Hotel Administration graduate, has spent two decades as the secret weapon of the jet-set elite, crafting bespoke adventures that redefine luxury travel. Now a resident writer for Town & Tourist, this 45-year-old "Architect of Extraordinary Journeys" combines razor-sharp insights with unparalleled industry connections to deliver experiences that even the most discerning globetrotters can't help but rave about. West's expertise spans from exclusive real estate to fine dining, making him the go-to strategist for those who demand nothing but the extraordinary in their travels.

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