It is not extremely unusual for people in Seattle to visit Portland for the day, and while going by air gives the most time (but is expensive) and driving gives the most flexibility, going by train is not necessarily a bad option either. Under the current timetable, the first train leaves Seattle at 7:30 am, and the last train coming north to Portland leaves at 6:15 pm. The southbound train arrives around 11:00 am (sometimes it has actually been early, but delays can happen too - this is a very crowded section of track sometimes) so you wind up with at least 6 hours to play around with in Portland if everything goes well, plus you don't have to drive, and you don't have to deal with traffic on Interstate 5. As a plus, the train takes a more scenic route along Puget Sound than is available by driving. BoltBus is cheaper, but it is less comfortable than taking the train, and you don't get the view of Puget Sound that you get from the train.
Sadly, unless you are really lucky and a special trip of some sort is planned as a special excursion, you won't ride behind the steam locomotive shown in the photo above. However, that is the Portland skyline behind it.
If you do take the train down to Portland, and you are able to get reasonably close to the front of the line when they give the seat assignments, see if you can get something on the "Water Side" of the train (the west side of the train). This has somewhat better scenery than the other side as seen in photos 2, 4 and 5. I will warn you that weekends are pretty crowded due to people taking a weekend trip to the other city, so Tuesdays and Thursdays are the cheapest and least crowded days usually.
See my Amtrak Cascades tip and its Overflow Tip for more information than you can possibly want about traveling by train between the two cities. My tip about Portland Union Station includes some information about the public transit options near the station.
As to what to do here once you arrive that depends a lot on the season, the day, and your interests.
Perhaps our most famous attraction is actually a store: Powells Books has several stores scattered through the Portland area, but the big one is in northwest Portland, and only about 10 blocks from Union Station. It is several floors tall and takes an entire city block, and has only the most popular of books from the Powell's collection - the warehouse further north has all the other goodies, but it isn't publicly accessible.
For further exploration within walking distance of the station, the area to the south and west of the station is now called the Pearl District, and there are several dozen art galleries, special stores, and restaurants scattered through this area.
For those with outdoors interests we have Forest Park, which is Portland's largest city park and is reasonably maintained as natural forest, though some parts of it suffer from invasive species. You can take bus route 15 to one end, and get bus route 17 back from the outer ends. Combined with Washington Park and a few others, a park corridor through the West Hills is created and the Wildwood Trail runs some 35 miles from one end of this park complex to the other, starting at the Portland zoo.
I really like Mount Tabor Park as well, and bus route 15 going towards Gateway (the other direction from Forest Park) gets you pretty close to it (as does 14, 4 and 71). This park has one of the better views of the Portland skyline, and on a clear day it is possible to see Mount Hood from there.
If you visit on a Saturday or Sunday, there is also the Portland Saturday Market that is fairly close to Union Station, but don't expect the extensive array of vendors that populate Pike Place Market in Seattle. It is a different atmosphere as those that have booths at Saturday Market only do it on Saturdays and Sundays, and therefore really isn't a full time job like staffing a booth or store at Pike Place Market.
Waterfront Park is just that: a park that extends south from the Steel Bridge along the Portland waterfront. The Eastbank Esplanade creates a downtown trail loop, but Interstate 5 creates a horrific amount of traffic noise along the east side segment. To get to this from Union Station it is only a matter of crossing the pedestrian bridge above Union Station and going as far east as possible where you will find a paved trail along the river. Then head south, and you will come to Waterfront Park.
Washington Park has enough to keep people busy for a day. This park includes the Portland Zoo, The Portland Rose Garden, the Vietnam Memorial, and the Japanese Garden. Several of the famous viewpoints that have the Portland skyline with Mount Hood in the background are in Washington Park. Bus route 63 goes to the eastern part of the park (Japanese Gardens and Rose Gardens) and the MAX Zoo / Washington Park station serves the western part of the park.
If rather than do a day drip here you decide to spend the night here, one of the more useful places is probably a hostel on SE Hawthorne. SE Hawthorne used to be, until a few years ago, the hippie district of Portland. It is starting to get upscale today, and so some of the more eccentric places have moved or gone out of business as it is too expensive there now. However, a few others remain, and it is enough to make SE Hawthorne a much more interesting place to stay than anywhere near downtown.
If you are stuck and don't know what else to do, one place to go is Pioneer Courthouse Square, which sometimes serves as an event location but most of the time really doesn't have much in the way of excitement. It has a tourist office in the lower level that is open on weekdays.
Obviously as an entire city it is impossible to describe everything in one tip, so I suggest taking a look at the Portland Travel Guide here on VirtualTourist to find out more. Naturally, as I live here, I have written quite a lot myself, so of course I will put in a plug here for My Portland Page.
Perhaps these figures would be more appreciated in an open field, instead of their current location on a windswept plaza of an office tower. But the Public Library is right across the street, so this is something of a cultural center for Seattle.
Woodinville is about 25 minutes from Seattle. You don't see a sea of grapevines covering the landscape there but you do have a cluster of wine tasting rooms all in a common vicinity. Chateau Ste. Michelle is probably the most recognizable and most opulent of them all. Wine tasting there is free. We also visited Columbia, Januik & Brian Carter (my favorite). We seem to run out of time (it was a Sunday and tasting rooms generally don't open until noon). Wine tasting generally runs from $5 to $10 per person.
At Brian Carter there was an outdoor woodfire pizza stand. We all had some pizza and it was pretty good! The wine at Brian Carter is amazingly good.
If you enjoy wine, you should make it a point to check it out!
See more pics on my travelogue, link:
2012 VT World Meet in Seattle brought a lot of us together. Fortunately for us, we had some locals with us who knew about Kerry Park. We managed to take 14 people in 4 cars up to Kerry Park which was not too far from Belltown. Amazing views of the Space Needle, downtown Seattle skyline and Puget Sound.
If you can make it up there, the best time to go is at sunset! It's gorgeous!
211 W. Highland Drive, Seattle, WA 98119
The original site of United Parcel Service, a waterfall garden was erected and it's quite beautiful. Located in Pioneer Square on a street corner, is quite unexpected to see.
219 2nd Avenue South Seattle, WA 98104
This is probably one of the more unusual attractions in Seattle. There is a huge network of underground passageways and basements in downtown that in the early 19th centry used to be at ground level. The streets were elevated at some point and these spaces fell into disuse, but it's awesome to go down there and see what things looked like back in the day before this all happened. What makes the tour more interesting is how the tour guides incorporate ghosts into the history and show you places where ghosts have been sighted.
The museum is in the heart of Chinatown and only blocks away from Japantown. It focuses on the Asian diaspora. It focuses on history and culture. They had a cool arcade game exhibit that was completely interactive. They give a lot of tours of Chinatown both historical and food based tours. There is also a theatre there.
If you take their survey they give you a choice of an umbrella or tote and you get candy.
The price varies on what tour you are going to do and if you are going to do a tour at all.
This is a 3 day festival that mainly celebrates the drum. It showcases the muisic and dance of cultures from around the world. Some of the performances were fantastic and some lack luster. The atmospher is very positive, upbeat, fun loving people. It is held in Seattle Center and it is FREE. They have a space outdoors and indoors so the rain does not damper the spirit. They also give instruction and have drumming circles.
There were some really unique and beautiful pieces of art work in here by xenobia bailey. Unfortunately, no photos can be taken. There was also music area that featured famous people like Quincy Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Ray Charles who were born or made Seattle their home at one point. Movies are shown on Thursdays.
It only costs $3 for students
The best views of Seattle are here. There are a few Asian artifacts there. One of the chairs in the exhibit is said to bring good luck particularly to single ladies looking to get married. They get letters indicating that it works so I tried it. It costs 7.5 to go up there but if you do the underground tour you only pay 6.5.
This is the City of Seattle building which houses the Municipal City Court and other departments of the City of Seattle. There is also a huge conference room here where it displays some gifts given to the city of Seattle from the different leaders of the sister city of Seattle!
The Union Station is actually located at the International District. This is the station that you get off from the train station to get into the Chinatown District/International District. This is where you get off to catch the bus to get to Columbia City and Rainier Valley.
Dr. Jose Rizal is the national hero of the Philippines. And, there is a bridge named after him at the International District. It is close to Jackson St and King Street.
If you get to the bridge, you can see Downtown Seattle to the (North) and the Puget Sound. To the South, you can see the Columbia/Rainier District. To the west, you can see the Amazon.com building which used to be a hospital.
This bridge is in commemoration of the great Malayan hero, Dr. Jose Rizal and in commemoration of the many Filipinos living in Seattle. As of this writing, there are about 65,000 Filipinos in Seattle- who came from the islands of Hawaii, Alaska, California and directly immigrated from the Philippines!
One of the news channel in Seattle is the KOMO 4 News. Their building is located in front of the Space Needle. This is the channel where you can watch the news in town.
I like it watching this channel especially in the morning at 6 am because it gives you the traffic news in the morning. Since Seattle has a heavy traffic in the morning, my husband and I tune in to the channel because it tells us how long will it take us where are the traffic accidents are and tells us how long it will take us to go to our destination.
This channel also have great reporters especially those handling consumer reports and advise viewers the best tips on consumer products, health advices, etc.
This television channel also has their own helicopter to cover news.
There are so many artists in Seattle. Most of the residents support arts that is why most of the parks here have all these beautiful sculptures, modern arts, etc. There are also murals on the walls especially if you go to the Rainier Valley area (Rainier Avenue). You can find beautiful murals on the street painted by local artists depicting the diverse culture of the city.
A very nice hotel half a block away from Pike's Place Market and a convenient walk to many of the...more
We stayed at this hotel from July 5 - 9th, 2010 as a family of four with 2 adults and 2 children...more
I booked this hotel to stay the night before the cruise because it was within a distance that I...more