As more people visit and move to Portland, the city’s most popular events are getting, well, more popular. So what traditions do true Portland locals still love? I’m sure all you Portlanders reading this have your own favorites (and I’d love to hear them in the comments!). My list of authentic Portland traditions is a mix of popular events and hidden gems.
1. Watch Fireworks on July 4th
Photo: Sam Churchill
Portland puts on a fun fireworks display on Independence Day each year. Many people who have grown up in Portland have fond memories of going to see the fireworks with their families.
Where? The Portland Waterfront and Oaks Park both get crowded fast on July 4th. Depending on where you live I recommend the following spots:
- South Waterfront campus of OHSU
- Rocky Butte
- Sellwood Park
2. Go Out for Sunday Brunch
Photo: Kyle Van Horn
Sunday brunch is a beloved tradition for many Portlanders. And why not? Portland has so many amazing brunch options to choose from!
The Oregonian recently asked Portland residents to vote on their all time favorite brunch spots. The results were as diverse as Portland’s cuisine, but here are the voters’ top 5:
- Byways Cafe – Pearl District: Authentic home style classics. Nothing too fancy, just the ultimate comfort food. Find it at 1212 N.W. Glisan St.
- Salty’s on the Columbia – Northeast: Amazing riverfront views and award-winning seafood and steak. What more could you ask for? Find it at 3839 N.E. Marine Drive.
- Mother’s Bistro – Downtown: Traditional homemade favorites all made completely from scratch, and notoriously friendly staff. Find it at 212 S.W. Stark St.
- Cadillac Cafe – Sullivan’s Gulch: A vintage-style diner specializing in quality breakfast and lunch for over 25 years. Find it at 1801 N.E. Broadway.
- Tin Shed – Alberta: Weekend brunch is served until 3 p.m. and dogs are welcome! A great mix of classic, vegetarian, and gluten-free options. Find it at 1438 N.E. Alberta St.
If you’re looking for something a little closer to your neighborhood, check out the Oregonian’s full article. There are plenty of delicious options in Southeast and North Portland too!
3. Spend a Summer in the Park
The best part is, all these events are free to everyone!
You’ll be amazed at how big the movie screens are! Just make sure to bring blankets or chairs to sit on for maximum viewing comfort.
Most locations are wheelchair-accessible, and you can even call 10 days ahead of time to request closed captioning.
4. Stop by a Beer Festival
Photo: Craige Moore
Portland is famous for its beer, and for good reason! Did you know there are just under 100 breweries in the Portland metro area alone? About 60% of all draft beer consumed in Oregon is brewed in Oregon.
Portland has beer festivals almost every month of the year. The big one is Oregon Brewer’s Festival in July, but there are plenty of smaller events to try, like:
- Portland Craft Beer Festival in July: 60+ breweries all from within Portland city limits
- Handmade Bike and Beer Festival in October: a family friendly event that lets you sip bike-themed beer as you browse the best bicycles Oregon’s custom bike builders have to offer
5. Hit the Streets (on your bike)
Photo: beth h
Portland is a bike- and pedestrian-friendly city all year round, but if you’re an avid biker or walker, there are a few days of the year you don’t want to miss.
- Bridge Pedal: Can you imagine a Portland bridge with no cars? It happens once a year when certain areas are sectioned off for bikers and walkers only.
- Sunday Parkways: On certain Sundays, the city closes streets to cars in various areas of Portland, making it safe and easy explore the city on foot or bike.
You don’t have to be an pro to participate either. Kids and bikers and walkers of all levels are welcome.
6. Visit the Kennedy School
Photo: Ian Poellet
Portland’s famous hotel that was once a school has a lot more than just overnight accommodations. It’s a fun and comfortable place to spend an afternoon or evening with friends.
Why not have dinner in the courtyard restaurant, grab a drink at one of the many small bars, or settle down in one of the movie theater’s comfy armchairs to catch a flick. They even have a soaking pool!
7. Hood to Coast Relay
Photo: Ferrous Büller
Every year, runners and walkers of all skill levels join together for an overnight relay race starting on Mount Hood and ending at the edge of the Pacific Ocean in Seaside. That’s about 200 miles, which makes Hood to Coast one of the longest and largest relays in the world.
Plus there’s a beach party at the end!
Traditionally held in August, many avid runners and walkers consider Hood to Coast an essential “bucket list” item.
Because the race is so long, it’s important to start planning early. Some people begin planning almost a year in advance! Learn more about the race here.
There’s no way to capture all of Portland’s fun traditions in a single post. For example, it’s hard to imagine Portland without the Trail Blazers and the Timbers. And who could forget the amazing holiday lights at the Grotto?
Whether you’re a long-time Portland local, a newcomer, or just passing through, I hope this post inspired you to try a new local tradition or start your own.
For more tips and information about Portland life, read our other posts about the Portland community.