If you've seen the comedy "Portlandia," you know Portland, Oregon, as a bike-friendly city that's full of food carts, indie bookstores, farm-to-table restaurants and an embarrassing number of coffee shops. Most of these characterizations are pretty accurate. However, it's also a city that boasts more than 150 parks, including the largest forested park in the nation, 70 breweries (and counting) and one-of-a-kind fun things to do like the Freakybutttrue Peculiarium.
If you plan to travel in June, check out the annual Portland Rose Festival at the Tom McCall Waterfront Park or stop by the International Rose Test Garden to see why Portland is called the City of Roses. Experience Portland like a local and rent a Biketown electric bike so you can ride the city's designated bike routes or paths. To catch up on your reading, head straight to the source: Powell's City of Books. In the winter, the area is an ideal ski base for skiing or snowboarding excursions at Mount Hood.
You can easily book your cheap flights to Portland with the Lowest Flight fares and enjoy a trip.
Many critics, travelers and locals agree that of all of Portland's parks (and they are numerous), Washington Park is perhaps the best. Washington Park is home to such notable landscaping feats as the Portland Japanese Garden and the International Rose Test Garden, as well as the World Forestry Center, Hoyt Arboretum and several memorials dedicated to pivotal points in Oregon's history.
Washington Park is located in the Southwest Portland, between West Burnside Street and U.S. Highway 26. You can pay to park (for $2 an hour) or take advantage of several public transit options, which may be your best bet as parking space is limited. TriMet's Blue and Red MAX Light Rail lines serve the Washington Park MAX station. The park offers a year-round free shuttle that stops at all of the park's major attractions. If you're coming to the park via light rail or bus, you can catch the shuttle on the plaza level of the Washington Park station.
Portland Japanese Garden
If you need an escape from urban landscapes, seek out Zen-like tranquility at the Japanese Garden within Washington Park. The 12-acre Portland Japanese Garden is made up of eight separate gardens that represent different styles of traditional Japanese gardening techniques. All of the gardens feature essential elements like stone, water and plants that come from influences of the Shinto, Buddhist and Taoist philosophies, creating a unique, serene environment where visitors feel they are becoming a part of nature. The garden also features the Kashintei Tea House, where visitors can see demonstrations of a traditional tea ceremony, and a Cultural Village where Ikebana, bonsai care and Japanese music classes take place. If you're visiting in late March or early April, don't miss the chance to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom. Because of the garden's higher elevation, its trees are on a different blooming schedule than the rest of the city.
The Portland Japanese Garden welcomes visitors Wednesday to Monday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Unlike other gardens within Washington Park, there is an admission fee. Admission costs $21.95 for adults, $15.95 for youths ages 6 to 17 and is free for kids ages 5 and younger. (That said, anyone who has a SNAP card can get two tickets for $5 each.) If you don't want to pay to see a garden, the International Rose Test Garden next door offers a free alternative.
Powell's City of Books
Whether or not you're an avid reader, Powell's City of Books is worth checking out. Four floors high, it occupies a square city block; in fact, this bookstore is so large that exploring it actually requires a map.
While you wander through the stacks, keep in mind that you are tracing the footsteps of great writers, many of whom - like Ursula K. Le Guin and Neil Gaiman - have scrawled their signatures on the building's pillars. You might also schedule your visit to coincide with a reading, as the book shop hosts events nearly every day totaling more than 500 author visits a year.
Although there are several locations, the main Powell's City of Books is located in the Pearl District on West Burnside Street and is open every day from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Lan Su Chinese Garden
Occupying an entire city block, the Lan Su Chinese Garden is among some of the only authentic Chinese gardens in the country. Modeled after China's Ming dynasty scholars gardens, the Lan Su Chinese Garden aims to be a place where people can escape the hustle of everyday life and connect with nature. In addition to featuring plants and trees native to China as well as an 8,000-square-foot lake, the garden also hosts a variety of Chinese cultural events and festivals, such as the Lunar New Year festival and lantern viewing evenings.
Nestled in Portland's Old Town/Chinatown district - just north of the downtown area - the Lan Su Chinese Garden opens its doors to the public every day at 10 a.m. From mid-October to the last Saturday of April it closes at 4 p.m.; from the last Saturday of April to mid-October it remains open until 6 p.m. Admission costs $14 for adults, $11 for kids ages 6 to 18 and is free for kids 5 and younger.
Portland's Forest Park
If you're looking to spend some time outside, but you aren't willing to make the trek to Mount Hood, Forest Park is the place to go. Spanning 5,200 acres, it's one of the largest urban parks in America.
Among the park's features is the 30-mile Wildwood Trail, which is part of the region's 40-mile loop system connecting pedestrian and trail routes along the Columbia River to Gresham through southeast Portland along the Willamette Greenway and back to the Marquam Trail in southwest Portland. To find a trailhead, check out Forest Park Conservancy's online maps or buy a water-resistant trail map at Powell's or a New Seasons Market. If you're an avid bird-watcher, keep your eyes peeled: it's not unusual to spot barred owls, Cooper's hawks or pileated woodpeckers in the tall trees.
If you're willing to venture about 30 miles east of downtown Portland, you'll have access to the tallest waterfall in Oregon - Multnomah Falls. Located along the Historic Columbia River Highway, the falls are the most visited natural recreation site in the Pacific Northwest, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
Multnomah Falls is located about 30 miles east of Portland and it's free to visit year-round. The information center is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily. The lodge is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends. The falls are located off Interstate 84. Parking is at a premium, especially during the summer. From May 26 to Labor Day, a timed-used permit will be required to park in the I-84 parking lot; permits cost $2 and can be purchased at Recreation.gov. (A very limited number of parking spots are available at the historic highway parking lot; to score one, arrive early in the morning or later in the day.)