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24 Hour Layover in Portland, Oregon

Updated on February 22, 2017

Introduction to Portland

Portland, Oregon is a weird, wonderful city. In fact, the unofficial slogan of the city is "Keep Portland weird." If you have never been there, you will experience the weirdness firsthand with just one day. I have been to Portland countless times and have done the touristy stuff. If you have just 24 hours to check out this unique city, then there are a few must see and must do places.

Portlandia: Definition of Portland

A markerPortland, Oregon -
Portland, OR, USA
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The weird, wild, wonderful "City of Roses"

Where to stay?

While traveling in Portland, with a day to kill, try to find a hotel near a TriMet MAX station so you can travel with easy access to places of interests. You can always rent a car or take taxis as well but traveling via TriMet MAX is a great way to see and experience Portland.

I have two hotel recommendations that are great for shopping and near a MAX station at a reasonable price. The first one is Hyatt Place near the Cascade Station. This area has many recognizable stores and restaurants to grab a bite to eat or do some last minute shopping. The other hotel would be the DoubleTree next to the Lloyd Center Mall. The MAX station is a short walk and the mall across the street is relatively large and even sports an indoor ice skating rink. These two hotels were both good spots to pin your headquarters at after sightseeing the odd place of Portland.

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Where to go?

Just like any town or big city, there are many things to see and do. Portland is no different. If you want to check out what to see and do in Portland, it's just a Google search away. If you want to know where I went and read some insights about my visits then keep reading.

Lan Su Chinese Garden

Located in the Old Town / Chinatown district, Lan Su Chinese Garden is a serene private garden with exceptional feng shui. It was raining when I visited this place but it did not ruin the allure of the tranquility. In fact, it made it seem much more peaceful because there were less people. Everyone was ducking out of the rain so I manage to take pictures of the garden as if there were only me visiting the private garden.

Another unique look to the garden was the dichotomy of the old and new. The garden itself felt like a scene straight out of Hero (2002). Instead of purple mountains, Lan Su has the towering nearby buildings in the background. If you are ever interested, apparently Lan Su can host a wedding too.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Garden
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Garden | Source

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI)

The OMSI is a spectacular museum if you have kids or still have childlike wonderment. It caters to kids of all ages including the man-child. To get here though, you'll have to take the Portland Streetcar, run by Trimet or you can drive or take a taxi.

The OMSI has a lot to offer and that is kind of the downer of the museum. It has a regular museum with exhibitions and interactive displays, a planetarium, an empirical theater, and a freaking real deal submarine! Depending on what you want to see, the admission ticket prices will vary. Also depending on what you want to see, the hours of operation vary. I got to the OMSI late, around 3:30PM and I wanted to see the museum and submarine thinking they didn't close till 8:00PM. Nope, they both close at 5:30PM. Truly disappointing. I only got to see the museum. Being in the US Navy, I have been on submarines. I have even repaired them but I wanted to see how this submarine was sculptured to since it was catering to the public. Overall though, my experience of the OMSI was awesome. I just wish I had more time to see all it had to offer.

The obligatory sabertooth fossils. They also have a T-Rex skull fossil.
The obligatory sabertooth fossils. They also have a T-Rex skull fossil. | Source

Some of the things you can do at the OMSI are play with the green screen technology, create your own stop motion animation with simple blocks, play at a science lab playground, and do a puppet show. The OMSI was a really cool museum and even cooler if you are a child or have children.

The Grotto

The Grotto is a spiritual experience. If you are Catholic, this is a must see sight. If you are not, it is still a place of modest humility and serenity. I'm not a religious man myself, but I thought The Grotto was an amazing sidestep to the hustle and bustle of Portland. If you get a chance to go to Lan Su Chinese Garden and liked it, then you will like The Grotto. They both offer a tranquil and sound area of solitary introspective.

To get here by MAX, you must stop at the 82nd Ave station. It is just a few minutes of walking from there. Once you get here, the lower level has an auditorium and church to check out if you are so inclined, especially if you are the type to pray and worship but the real experience of introspection is the upper level, where you take a quick ride on an elevator and have a great view of Portland's backyard, which holds Mt. Hood. There are many gardens, statues, overlooks, and shrines to see and feed your spirituality.

Portland's backyard; In the distance is Mt. Hood, tallest mountain in Oregon
Portland's backyard; In the distance is Mt. Hood, tallest mountain in Oregon | Source

Pittock Mansion

Pittock Mansion is kind of out of the way. You can still get here by public transportation but if you can get here by car or taxi it will be much easier. Pittock Mansion is located in a park division of West Portland. If the Pittock Mansion is not up your alley, there are plenty of other things to check out in this area that are still interesting to check out such as the Oregon Zoo or the Japanese Gardens.

Pittock Mansion is a like a time capsule that has a lot of class encapsulated in a mansion. It is a walk in history, much like a museum or like one of those civil war reenactment camps. Pittock Mansion is a French style chateau filled with old-timey artifacts from late 19th century to early 20th century. The mansion is a great insight on how the rich and famous (cue Robin Leach) lived in that particular period in Oregon.

Epitome of bourgeoisie: Grand Harp, Grand Piano, and two cups of tea.
Epitome of bourgeoisie: Grand Harp, Grand Piano, and two cups of tea. | Source

Other Places

Downtown Portland (Pioneer Square)--A lively area to hang out and bar hop. A lot of shopping can be done here too.

Oregon Zoo--Not an exceptional zoo but still a good place to look at some exotic and local animals.

Japanese Garden--Similar to the Lan Su Chinese Gardens but more Japaneezy. Open all year round and always serene. I normally prefer Japanese style gardens but I like Lan Su much more in Portland.

Food Trucks--Located all over Portland. If you happen to find a street full of food trucks, definitely check them out. Each truck offers a taste of whatever culture the truck represents and sometimes an original concoction of culinary flavors. Some food trucks offer food from the Mediterranean, Southeast Asian, and African countries. Pretty much almost every country in the world is represented in a food truck.

Saturday Market--Located at Tom McCall Waterfront park and open all year except January and February, it is the largest continuously operated outdoor market of arts and craft.

One word the describes Portland? WEIRD. @ Saturday Market
One word the describes Portland? WEIRD. @ Saturday Market | Source

Audience Poll

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    • Ken I Cruz profile image
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      Ken 2 years ago from Seattle, WA

      @Fawntia; definitely check out Lan Su, it is worth a look.

    • Fawntia profile image

      Fawntia Fowler 2 years ago from San Francisco

      Great recommendations! I've lived in the Portland area on and off during my life, but I've actually never been to Lan Su, only the Japanese garden. I'll check it out sometime, thanks!