11 reasons to visit Portland, Oregon

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Portland is fast emerging from the shadow of bigger, busier Seattle, and becoming a go-to Pacific Northwest destination. Whether you plan to feast on food cart favourites or go on a craft beer tour, relax in the Lan Su Chinese Garden or race along the waterfront on two wheels, you'll find a relaxed city with a buzzing creative core. While, on the outskirts of Portland, a fantastic variety of landscapes are just waiting to be explored.

11 reasons to visit Portland, Oregon © Visitor7 - Wikimedia Commons
11 reasons to visit Portland, Oregon © Visitor7 - Wikimedia Commons

What's more, the many delights this city has to offer are soon to be within easy reach of the UK, thanks to the direct flight from London Heathrow set to launch in partnership with Virgin Atlantic and Delta Air Lines. Let yourself be persuaded with these 11 reasons you need to visit Portland, and get booking great value fares via Virgin Atlantic* to this enchanting city today.

1. Food cart feasts

For a quintessential Portland experience, grab your grub on-the-go from one of the city's many food cart hubs. Peppered with more than five hundred pop-up and permanent food carts, you'll find tempting treats from all over the world to choose from, be it a classic grilled cheese sandwich or a Korean-Mexican fusion. Portland's food carts cater to all tastes and needs, with Cultured Caveman offering gluten-, dairy- and soy-free meals, and Homegrown Smoker creating vegan barbecues.

Food cart feasts, Portland, Oregon, USA © Joshua Rainey - Alamy Stock Photo
Food cart feasts, Portland, Oregon, USA © Joshua Rainey - Alamy Stock Photo

2. Quirky cafés

From artisan beans to Turkish brews served in a double decker bus, Portland's coffee is truly an art. The city takes its coffee very seriously, with many cafés, such as locals' favourite Stumptown, roasting their own beans. Whether you try a Habanero Mocha at Jim & Patty's or visit Heart Roasters' coffee lab, one thing's for sure: you won't leave the city without a perfectly brewed cuppa.

3. The world's biggest bookshop

Powell's City of Books is the world's largest independent new and used bookstore. The shop takes up an entire block of the city, and houses millions of books under thousands of categories. You'll spend hours perusing the shop's many tomes, and a visit to the Rare Book Room is a must, where you'll find first editions and unusual titles for sale.

4. Parks and gardens

Portland is full of green spaces, and boasts an impressive two hundred parks. Take a walk around Hoyt Arboretum to discover thousands of plant species or explore Forest Park, the biggest urban park in the country. Indeed, the city earned one of its nicknames, "City of Roses", from the International Rose Test Garden, a fantastically colourful rose-filled garden perfumed with the scent of thousands of varieties.

Lan Su Chinese Garden, Portland, Oregon, USA © Jeff Hart - Flickr Creative Commons
Lan Su Chinese Garden, Portland, Oregon, USA © Jeff Hart - Flickr Creative Commons

For something a bit different, the tranquil Lan Su Chinese Garden in Chinatown is a great place to find peace and quiet in the city (they also offer Tai Chi classes). While, high up above the city, wander through the Portland Japanese Garden, which is divided by meandering bamboo-marked walkways and koi carp-filled flowing streams.

5. Beer and breweries

Portland has also been nicknamed "Beervana" for its innovative and widespread brewing scene. In fact, the city has the most breweries of any city in the world. With so many options to choose from, you're sure to find the brew for you. Take a tour at Bridgeport or Widmer in Pearl District, try gluten-free IPAs at Ground Breaker Brewing, or bring your dog along to Lucky Labrador Brewing Company.

Deschutes Brewery, Portland, Oregon, USA © Danita Delimont - Alamy Stock Photo
Deschutes Brewery, Portland, Oregon, USA © Danita Delimont - Alamy Stock Photo

6. World-class museums

There's plenty to learn and discover in Portland's diverse range of museums and galleries. Art lovers in particular will rejoice at the city's creative hubs, which include Portland Art Museum, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, and the non-profit Disjecta arts organization. The renowned Oregon Museum of Science and Industry has scientific and technological displays that will please any budding scientist, while history buffs will love the Oregon Historical Society Museum.

7. Historic sights

High in the hills above Portland lies Pittock Mansion. Completed in 1914, the house was built for business mogul Henry Pittock and his wife Georgiana, and tells the tale of Portland's early years. The Renaissance-style home is set in 46 acres of land and holds a rotating collection of exhibits in its museum. With impressive views over the city, the mansion's grounds are perfect for a picnic in between sightseeing.

Pittock Mansion, perfect spot for a picnic © kjaliye - Flickr Creative Commons
Pittock Mansion, perfect spot for a picnic © kjaliye - Flickr Creative Commons

8. Tax-free shopping

There is no tax on shopping in Portland, making it a great place to kit yourself out in the latest trends, vintage threads, and local labels. The city's many neighbourhoods mean that every taste and budget is catered for: source retro finds in Sellwood-Moreland; choose from major brands in Pioneer Place; search independent boutiques in North Mississippi and Williams avenues; or browse the galleries of Alberta Arts District.

9. Bikes, bikes and more bikes

Every year, the World Naked Bike Ride takes place in Portland. While this may sound barmy, the event raises awareness for cyclists' vulnerability as well as promoting cycling as an eco friendly way to get around. Cycle safety in particular is something at which Portland excels, regularly winning awards for its cycle-friendly streets. In fact, the city is the best-equipped for cycling in the US, boasting over three hundred miles of "bike boulevards".

All of this means that it's a brilliant city to explore on two wheels, and it's easy to travel around the city's different neighbourhoods by bike. There are numerous bike rental shops and cycling tours to choose from, and you might even choose to cycle out of the city to discover the surrounding landscapes.

10. Sand and snow

Beaches and snow-capped mountains are both within easy day-tripping distance from Portland. Travel to Oregon's coast in ninety minutes or to majestic Mount Hood in just over an hour. The slopes of Mount Hood are perfect for skiing nearly all year round, while you can go whale-watching or surfing off Oregon's coast.

11. Waterfalls and wine

Just outside Portland you'll find Multnomah Falls and Columbia River Gorge, home to hundreds of cascading waterfalls, with plenty of opportunities to take a dip in swimming holes, cycle over canyon trails or hike in search of the perfect view. Meanwhile, less than an hour from the city, find miles of vineyards and picturesque valleys in the lush Willamette Valley, as well as plenty of wineries to explore.

The Columbia River Gorge, Portland, Oregon, USA © jonbilous - Fotolia.com
The Columbia River Gorge, Portland, Oregon, USA © jonbilous - Fotolia.com

If Portland sounds like your kind of city escape, you'll be pleased to know that Delta Air Lines will be offering direct flights, in partnership with Virgin Atlantic, from London Heathrow, four times per week from 26 May 2017. Book your flights to Portland via Virgin Atlantic online today to get the best deals to this crazy cool hub in America's northwest. Don't forget to check out the weather in Portland, and see when we think is the best time to go for ideal conditions in which to explore.

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Freya Godfrey

Freya Godfrey
Posted on Thursday 20th April 2017 in: City Culture North America Virgin Atlantic

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