With several dozen incorporated cities, dozens of smaller towns, several dozen state parks in Oregon and Washington, and great gobs of land owned by the National Forest Service, the Columbia River Gorge has enough activities available to keep an outdoor enthusiast busy for several years. There is no possible way to try to cram all of this into a single VirtualTourist tip.
The most famous of all tourist attractions in the Columbia Gorge is Multnomah Falls, but unfortunately it is not possible to get to this location except by driving or biking on the highway. However, there are dozens of other waterfalls along the Columbia Gorge (lots of rain and a 2,000 foot deep canyon will do this) that are less known.
While I can't attempt to do a complete job of describing the Columbia River Gorge here, I have attempted to put together a bit of information about it. As this location is well outside Portland, and since so much of it can be divided into the local cities close to all the attractions, much of my information is placed in the specific communities and locations through the Gorge.
I have accumulated a general Oregon tip for the Columbia River Gorge that gives a general overview of the Gorge here:
which has links to some of the locations relevant to exploring the Columbia River Gorge.
I have written a number of tips about the Oregon coast, including a number that are located in specific cities on the Coast, as well as a few state level tips. However, as people who come to Portland like to also visit the coast, I thought it would be good to put a tip here about seeing the coast as well. This is only a very small part of a very extensive set of writings about the coast. Only a small part of what is out there can be covered in a single VirtualTourist tip. If you are looking at this tip through a VirtualTourist travel guide, keep in mind that the hyperlinks in this tip will not show up. To see those you will need to view this tip through my Portland page.
First, some general tips about the Oregon coast:
+ There is usually a cold wind blowing off the ocean. Don't expect it to be hot, and if it is hot there it will be very crowded at it is very unusual for it to be warm enough for people to want to get into the very cold water.
+ The weather can be wet on the coast when it is warm in Portland. The Coast Range - the mountains between the Willamette Valley and the Coast - trap low clouds and keep some of them from passing over into the Willamette Valley and Portland area. There are substantial hills along the coast, and the weather can change from sun to fog to rain very quickly depending on the altitude and location.
+ There are places where there are beaches, and there are other places where there are dangerous rocks. Don't expect the entire Oregon coast to have vast stretches of unlimited sand and hot weather. For that you need Florida or California.
+ Portland is NOT on the coast. Expect to spend at least an hour and a half getting to and from the coast under the best of circumstances, and perhaps closer to two hours depending on where you start from and where you go. The trip can be done in a day, even on public transit, but don't expect a trip to the beach to be something you can do in a quick trip.
Now, for some specific suggestions from Portland, from North to South:
+ Astoria can be a nice community to visit, but it can also be a really boring place depending on your interests. It is only semi-coastal, as it actually faces the Columbia River and not the ocean. The ocean and some beaches are some miles to the west. This is also the area where the Lewis and Clark Fort Clatsop area is, and this may be of interest to history hunters.
+ The area between Astoria and Seaside is mostly suburban sprawl, and best ignored. Some parts are still worthwhile, but there are so many better places to go that if you are a tourist you should probably skip this area.
+ Cannon Beach is a nice little community and most of it can be explored on foot. The beach is nice and popular, and it has the most famous of Oregon rocks called Haystack Rock (one of three of that name). To the north of this is Ecola State Park, and it has a very famous view of the coast.
+ Manzanita is a neat little city that still retains some of the Oregon coast charm that used to exist in a number of communities here before they became tourist traps. It is close to Nehalem Bay State Park, and has decent beach access.
+ Tillamook is famous for its cheese factory, but it doesn't sit on the coast. It is fairly far inland. However, from there it is easy to access several small communities on the coast, such as Oceanside and Neskowin. It is a mixture of suburban sprawl and old coastal commercial center.
Getting to the Coast:
There are public transit options between the Oregon Coast and Portland. Doing it by transit somewhat limits your options, but it can be done. Northwest POINT bus service is reservable through Amtrak or Greyhound, and connects Portland to Astoria, Seaside, and Cannon Beach. Tillamook Transit has a route that connects Portland to Tillamook, with other routes connecting Tillamook north to Manzanita and Cannon Beach, and south to Pacific City and beyond. So, much of the Oregon coast may be visited by transit. However, visiting certain areas this way may require an overnight stay or two in some places due to the infrequency of service.
Doing this by transit also eliminates things to see in the Coast Range - and there are a number of trails in the Tillamook State Forest and other areas.
In the winter, there can be snow in the Coast Range when there isn't any in Portland. Ice can be very dangerous on those roads. It is sometimes advisable to go north on Interstate 5 to Longview, west on US 30 to Astoria, and then south on highway 101. Tire chains are required under some conditions, and during certain months it is required to at least have them available in the car.
For Further Reading:
See my Oregon Coast - Pacific Wonderland tip, and Oregon Coast State Parks.
Manzanita and Cannon Beach are only two of several communities mentioned here for which I have travel pages.
My Cannon Beach by Public Transit tip lists a few ways of getting to the coast without driving there.
NOTE: The Trolley is currently out of service and the line is awaiting approval from the Oregon Department of Transportation to start service again.
This heritage streetcar ride starts at Moody Avenue and Bancroft Street in Southwest Portland (near the end of the Portland Streetcar, and within 200 feet or so of the parking lot for Old Spaghetti Factory). The car currently in use is one of the "Broadway" type cars used in Portland in the later years of streetcars in Portland.
The line ends in downtown Lake Oswego, after running along the Willamette River and passing through some areas with great scenery. In places Mount Hood is visible (though only the top portion) on very clear days, and views of the Willamette River that are not available through any other means are also available. There is a 1200 foot (410 meter) long tunnel. The line also runs beside the Willamette Greenway Trail in places.
As there isn't any overhead wire yet, all of the streetcars that have been used on this line over the years have had generators tied into their electrical system. Such is the state of the current operation.
Operation of this line as a heritage streetcar started in 1986, just after it had been purchased from the Southern Pacific Railroad. The first car used on the line was a double deck car from Blackpool, England. This car has since been moved to the Oregon Electric Railway Museum in Brooks (located at the Antique Powerland museum). Operating of this trolley is by the Oregon Electric Railway Historical Society, which also operates that museum and the associated short trolley line in Brooks.
Now that we're travelling with a toddler in tow, we always need to take into account her happiness and enjoyment. For our trip to Oregon, I decided it would be special if we could take one whole afternoon and dedicate it to her. Thanks to the other friendly people here on Virtual Tourist I read up on the Portland's Children Museum. I'd been wanting to take our little one to one for a while, and this seemed like the perfect chance. At only 15 months old, she was able to enjoy most of what the museum had to offer. We paid just over $30 for parking + all three of us to get into the Museum. We all played for hours and the little one left exhausted and content.
It was such a great place to help her learn and discover, while playing at the same time. I know if we go back, we would definitely go again as I can only imagine she will discover it all in a completely new way as she get's older. PLUS, it's located right next to the Zoo so if you get a nice day and head there extra early you really could make it a full day excursion with lots to see and do as a family!
The farmers market on Saturday morning in the St. John's area of Portland is a little charmer of a farmers market. Local fruits, vegetables, cheese, meats, seafood, sausages...even wine. From June thru October.
We took a little day trip from Portland to see some falls that were near by. You can reach Wahkenna and Multnomah Falls about 30 mins out of Portland. And the falls are pretty close off the exit. The trails and the falls are just beautiful. I was told that March begins the rainy time of the year and this time is the best time to see the falls. The Wahkenna Falls in this photo are a quick and easy trip to the top, less than a quarter mile hike. I loved how mossy the rocks were!
Wahkenna Falls are about 242 ft and empty into the Colmbia River Gorge. They are located off of the Colmbia River High way.
Reed College dates to 1908 and is a true liberal arts school where all students gain an extensive introduction in to classical studies – Greece, Rome, biblical and Judaica. It is also the only school in the U.S. that boasts a nuclear reactor that is completely operated by undergraduate students. Following a qualifying exam in the junior year, all students must complete a senior thesis project. Upon the completion of the thesis, the student must be able to orally answer questions about their project but also about any other they have taken during the course of their studies at the school. The school has long been known as a center for anti-authoritarian progressivism – the unofficial motto used to be “communism, atheism and free love” though recent moves have been to amend that to “socialism, agnosticsm and safe sex” in honor of the changing mores of the 21st century. The lack of varsity athletic teams and fraternities was a deliberate act of protest against the prevailing Ivy league education model of the early 20th century. Reed is normally considered to fall within the top ranks of liberal arts colleges in the U.S. – it is certainly a demanding school and is as expensive as any others in the upper echelons, too. A high percentage of Reedies go on to earn doctorates or other advanced degrees after graduation.
The campus covers some 116 acres and the original model was based on St John’s College at Oxford. Original campus buildings include the Library, the Old Dorm Block and Eliot Hall – the administrative center for the school. The architectual style is a brick Tudor Gothic, complete with griffon downspouts – the griffon is the school mascot – while in contrast, the science buildings were designed later in a Modernist style. Most students live on campus in one of the 18 residence halls, most of which are separated from the main campus by the forested Reed College Canyon. The canyon is a natural and wildlife preserve filled in large part by Reed Lake which is formed by a small dam on Crystal Creek. The Blue Bridge spans the lake connecting the northside dormitories with the main campus. So-called “Blue” for the black lights that are used to illuminate the pathway over the bridge at night.
M. Lloyd Frank brought in New York architect Herman Brookman in the early 1920’s to design an estate for his family in the southwestern hills above Portland. Brookman developed the plans and construction began in 1924 with the Manor house being completed in 1926 and the grounds finalized in 1929. The cost was $1.3 million with $65,000 going towards the buildings – Albany College would be allowed to purchase the entire estate for the gift price of only $42,000 in 1942. Brookman would continue his career in Portland and several of his buildings can still be found adorning the local landscape: Temple Beth Israel in Northwest Portland; Harry Green/Bitar Mansion in Laurlehurst; Menucha, the former estate of Julius Meier – from the other half of the Meier & Frank story and also Oregon’s first Jewish governor – which is today an ecumenical retreat owned by the First Presbyterian Church of Portland and can be found at the west end of the Columbia River Gorge not far from Crown Point.
Lewis & Clark College is a private school tucked away on top of Portland’s West Hills in the southwestern part of the city. The school of some nearly 2,000 undergraduates and almost 1,500 postgraduate students is centered around the magnificent grounds that made up the 1920’s M. Lloyd Frank estate known as Fir Acres. The home was built in 1926 with the grounds being completed in 1929. It was designed by New York architect Herman Brookman who would go on to designing several other gorgeous buildings in the area and also call Portland his home. The Frank family – two German brothers Emil and Sigismund – combined in the latter half of the 19th century with the Aaron Meier family to found the most successful department store in Oregon – Meier & Frank, which is today part of the Macy’s chain of stores. The house became vacant in 1935 after a divorce and the whole place quickly became overgrown. In June 1942, the Albany College – looking to relocate their campus from Albany some 60 miles to the south – purchased the estate for a bargain price. The school was renamed Lewis & Clark College in honor of the pioneer spirit which hopefully will continue to push in directions of discovery that motivated the two earlier famous explorers. In recent years, Lewis & Clark has expanded beyond its arts and science undergraduate focus to include a law school and a graduate School of Education and Counselling.
The Frank Manor House is the administrative center today for the school. Most teaching buildings are arrayed to the northwest and below the Manor. The campus center and student housing – students spend at least their first two years on campus unless they already live in Portland – can be found to the southeast. Directly west from the Manor is the Agnes Flanagan Chapel. The conical shape reflects the influence of local Native American culture with sculpted figures of the four evangelists – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – also carrying a Native theme. The sculptures flank a bridge which leads into the chapel. The school began as a Presbyterian institution in 1858 in Albany – one of four Oregon colleges which predate Oregon’s Statehood – but today is non-affliated and the chapel serves as an ecumenical hall hosting several different worship services, as well as other non-religious events. At the center of the chapel is a magnificent pipe organ built by Casavant Freres of Quebec featuring 85 ranks. The pipeworks are suspended spectacularly from the center of the chapel ceiling.
Yes, Monica Lewinsky is an alumnus of the college.
My friends and I like good beer, and being in Portland, it's a little overwhelming to decide which brewery to go to- with over 40 within city limits. This brewery tour is awesome because it picks you up, brings you up, and brings you around town to taste different beer. At each place there are at least 4 different beers to sample, plus a behind the scenes tour of the establishment by the brewer himself! He showed us the whole brewing process and explained what makes NW beer so good. We even got to taste beer poured straight off the zwickle in the cooler. We ate lunch at one of the breweries and the food was delicious too. It was fun to hang out with a group of people that have the same interests. The breweries were all in different neighborhoods, so riding in the bus from one to another was like a tour of the whole city. NW beer is different from the rest. And now I know why!
We loved this fantastic children's museum. The best part of the museum was the water works exhibit. It's a giant structure loaed with cranks, funnels, conveyor belts and just about everything else a child could possibly want to play with water. The coolest part about it is a 12 foot high water fall. I almost wasn't able to get Patrick out of here. He wasn't into the class room exhibit or the mirror, mirrow exhibit. He did like the building exhibit which allows children to act like real contruction workers.
The museum is closed on Mondays but open Tuesday-Saturday 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM and 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Sundays.
Admission is $7.00 for most people and parking costs an additonal $1.00.
This is one of the most beautiful rose gardens I have been to yet, although I have to admit that I felt it to be quite over crowded. When I came here late last may, the spring roses were in full bloom and the frangrance was out of this world. There were so many varieties that I can't keep what was what with the pictures straight.
The International Rose Test Garden was established in 1917 due to the efforts of Jesse Currey and her fellow rose lovers. Jesse, a trustee of the American Rose Society, convinced local officials in 1915 to establish this beautiful garden to provide a safe place for hybrid roses from Europe during World War I. Her fellow rose enthusiasts and rose growers sent roses from many countries making the rose garden an instant success. As a result, the city of Portland issued the first annual Gold Medal Award for best new rose variety in 1919. Every year there is a one day judging held by rose experts during the month of June. To date Portland is the only remaining US city issuing this award. Portland also has another rose award called Portlands Best Rose which began being awarded in 1996. The International Rose Test Garden became an offical testing site for the All America Rose Selection (AARS) in 1940; there are only 24 such gardens nationwide. Before being awarded the AARS seal of approval plants are evaluated over a two year period on 14 characteristics including plant habit, vigor, disease resistance, color, flower production, form, foliage, and fragrance.
Entrance to the magnificient garden is free and there is even a self guided tour guide available at:
The garden is located on 4.5 acres of land, has over 550 varities of roses and over 6800 blooming bushes during the season. Over 500 thousand people visit the rose garden each year. This is a very romantic place and often weddings are held amongst the blooms.
The Vista House was built in the early 1900’s at a cost of approx. $100,000. It stands upon Crown Point at 733 feet above the Columbia River. The Vista House offers a sensational view of the Gorge both to the East and West. The building houses a very small gift shop and a small museum with images of the Vista House. The main floor gives you access to the upper observation deck that wraps around the Vista House. It’s such a great place to stop and take in the wonders that nature provides us with.
Being the City of Roses it must have a Rose Garden. Well, it has two, one in the west hills and another across the river near the Convention Center. The Rose Garden is the venue for the Portland Jail, opps, Trail Blazers, NBA basketball team, and the sight of many, many concerts throughout the year. We recently attended, as we have three times in the last 6 years the Neil Diamond concert. Our favorite time was arriving early and sitting in the bar at the top of the escalator and watching all the middle aged boomers arrive in their "Diamond" outfits. Prices for drinks and food are outrageous, but what the heck. That's the way it is.
The concert venue is good once they get the sound adjusted. Neil was in his glory although a bit grayer every time. One drawback is the lack of a taxi rank after the show. It's everyone for themselves. Also, the Max lightrail is very crowded, even thoug the system puts on extra trains for the events. We decided to walk the ten blocks back to the hotel this time and this resulted in blisters for the Mrs'. feet. Next time she'll wear Nikes. This time we had seats on the floor which one would think would be cool, however, being old folks we didn't like standing up for all the upbeat tunes. Next time it will be the 2nd balcony for us. You will be back, won't you Neil? After all our Bearded Collie alpha itchbay(The sensors won't allow using the word for female dog) Rosie, is named after "Cracklin' Rosie"; and she is a "Store Bought Woman" in real life.
Having made the mistake of isolating city dwellers from the Westbank of the Willamette with the creation of a seawall and Harbor Drive in the 1920's and the 1940's, the ODOT went ahead and isolated those on the eastside of the river, for good measure, with the Eastbank Freeway (carrying I-5 traffic). The westbank was opened up with the creation of the Waterfront Park in the late 1970's. The Eastbank had to wait a few years, but the $30 million Eastbank Esplanade - opened in fall of 2001 - now brings people back to the river along this side, as well. The trail goes for 1.5 miles and connects to the Westbank via the Steel Bridge at its northern end. People like to go up along one bank and then loop around the southern end using the Hawthorne Bridge. The Esplanade connects to the south with the Forty Mile trail on which you can bike, skate or walk far out into the eastern suburbs of Gresham.
The promenade offers superb views of the City skyline, albeit with the roar of the freeway next-door ever-present. Several pieces of public art are found en route, as are thirteen 'urban markers' which the street grid. Interpretive panels explain information regarding location specific history and development. Many trees and shrubs were planted, though some of the first trees had to be replaced because of beavers - this is the Beaver State, after all! The most fascinating part of the trail includes a 1200 long floating walkway - the longest of its type in the US, with an adjoining 120-foot public boat dock, providing space for recreational boaters. On the north end of the walk, near the Oregon Convention Center and the Rose Garden - the arena where Portland’s NBA Trail Blazer team plays - is an overlook above from which the river and the downtown can be viewed from.
Most visitors to Portland will be staying downtown and both the Waterfront Park and Eastbank Esplanades are easily accessed. Take a few hours and walk both paths to gain a better understanding of both the City and the environment at its core.
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