Portland, Oregon, is located in the Northwestern United States, where the Willamette and Columbia Rivers meet. It is only a short drive away from the Pacific Ocean, sprawling forests, fertile valleys and the Cascade Range. Portland’s mountainous backdrop, combined with the city’s many urban parks and eco-friendly ambition, make it a nature lovers’ paradise. Portland was established in the mid eighteen hundreds. Due to its riverside location it was a major Pacific Northwest port until the turn of the century.
With about six hundred thousand inhabitants, it is Oregon’s most populous city. Downtown Portland was built with pedestrians in mind, so you can easily walk the central district to take in the city’s architecture, parks and fountains at your own pace. The heart of the city is the amphitheater on Pioneer Courthouse Square. It’s the place everyone keeps coming back to, after browsing galleries, shopping, and sightseeing. Do bring an umbrella because showers are very common, although there is plenty of sunshine to enjoy in summer. Some Americans jokingly call Portland ‘Beervana’, because of its large number of microbreweries. If you prefer a good wine, head to the Willemette Valley.
Join one of the many vineyard tours to sample the local Pinot Noir made from grapes grown in volcanic soil. The Portland Art Museum in the Cultural District is the oldest museum in the Northwest and its vast collection reflects the history of art from ancient times to today. For rowing, meditating, or cycling, head to the Tom McCall Waterside Park along the Willamette River. This is also a great spot for people-watching on a lazy afternoon. Several bridges give access to the east bank, where the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry is located. The huge halls and theaters offer hundreds of interactive displays. Seize the opportunity to learn about faraway planets or step aboard a real submarine… On the same side of the river is the Grotto, where people come to pray – or just to replenish the soul – in a serene natural location close to town. Warm, dry summers and cool, wet winters make the Portland region ideal for growing roses. Admire the many award-winning varieties in the International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park. The nearby Japanese Garden is said to be one of the most authentic outside of Japan with its five distinct garden styles and an original tea house.
Washington Park offers more than just lush gardens and trails. Families can see the entire animal world in just one afternoon at the Oregon Zoo. Opposite the zoo is the Portland Children’s Museum where the little ones can find out what they want to be when they grow up… there is so much to choose from! See how the city’s richer pioneers lived a century ago at the Pittock Mansion. Here in the West Hills, you can enjoy views of the city skyline.
It’s worth the short drive east to see the Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge, where icy water tumbles down from astonishing heights. Climb the trail to the Benson Bridge for a close up view of the waterfall, which flows all year round. Take the spectacular drive north to come face to face with the awesome power of nature. The active volcano Mount Saint Helens lost its peak when it erupted in 1980. From several viewing points around the National Volcanic Monument you can still see the impact of that dramatic event today. To see Oregon’s renowned coastline, head out to Cannon Beach, just a couple of hours west of Portland. Its cliffs, cafes, and boutique shops appeal to just about everyone. If you are not short on time, follow the Oregon Coast Highway further south. All along the Pacific you’ll find enough stunning sights to keep you reaching for your camera. In the middle of all this natural beauty, sits Portland. More than just a place to ‘stop and smell the roses’, this is the place to truly experience the laid-back atmosphere and splendor of the Great Northwest.
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