Portland Travel

The Best Time to Visit Portland: Things to Do & Events by Month

Best Time to visit Portland - by month

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When is the best time to visit Portland, Oregon? Usually, I would say anytime, except for COVID time! But there are definitely some seasons that are more fun than others. There’s simply nothing like a Pacific Northwest summer. But we of course, have fun in all seasons, and Portland can be a great fall and winter getaway too, especially if you’re coming from a climate without distinct seasons. So here’s what you need to know before you decide when to visit Portland. Since we’re not traveling much right now because of COVID, I’ve had fun writing about some of my favorite Portland things by season.

In typical years, peak weather and events make May though September the ideal time to visit Oregon. With longer daylight hours, more sunshine, less rain, and many summer events to choose from. High season is June through August. Shoulder Season is roughly April/May and September/October. And low season is usually November through March. Here’s my local’s guide to the best of Portland by month.

Jump ahead to:

Best time to visit Portland for:

  • Weather & Air Quality: mid-June to late August. Five years ago, my answer would have been through late September. However, with wildfires being a more annual thing now. September can be a risk for bad air quality from smoke. This doesn’t mean you can’t visit, just that you need to keep it in mind as a possibility.
  • Crowds: To avoid crowds and still get some sunshine, think about a May/June or September/October visit. With kids out of school, and summer being travel season, Portland can feel a bit more crowded and hotel prices are usually quite a bit higher than other seasons.
  • Low Key Outdoor Fun: Summer, summer, summer! If you’re coming to hike, camp, bike, or get on the water. Summer is popular for a reason. Pacific Northwest summers are magnificent.
  • More Adventurous Outdoor Fun: If snowboarding/skiing, snowshoeing, rainy hikes, or rainy biking sound fun to you, then a visit in November to April is a fine time to visit too.
  • Food, Beer, Wine: The Summer farmers market season is perfect from June to September. Berry picking can be done June to August. Feast the annual food festival is in September. PDX Beer Week is in June. But anytime is really a great time to experience the food scene in Portland as there’s always something delicious happening!
  • Music: Portland’s outdoor music festival season is usually a Memorial Day to Labor Day season with summer concert series at Edgefield, Oregon Zoo, city parks, and other events like Jazz Fest, Blues Festival, Pickathon, and more.
  • Flowers/Blossoms: mid-March to early April is the best time to view cherry blossoms at waterfront park, tulip fields, and do some wildflower hikes in the gorge (Dog Mountain bloom is usually in May).

Weather in Portland

If there was one absolute perfect month, it would be July. Warm weather, almost no rain, 15.5 hours of daylight. The worst thing about July is that it’s the most crowded. This is why we can’t have nice things, right? Everyone wants a little piece of the best month of the year. And also some heat waves usually come through, depending on the year. Portland still doesn’t know how to do deal with 100 degree weather as most of our buildings don’t have AC.

Here are the monthly average high and low temperatures in Portland. And average monthly rainfall and days it rains.

Portland Events & Weather by Month

Here’s a look at Portland by month and season – from weather to events and things to do during every season in Portland and the nearby area. There’s always something interesting happening. Note: while not all of the things to do on this list are advised during COVID, I’m leaving some things like shopping and restaurants and events that may be canceled for 2020.

Winter

Portland in January

January is your best bet for getting some Portland snow! But you’re more likely to get rain and some strong winds. With average high temperatures in the mid 40s and lows in the mid 30s January is just about the coldest month of the year in Portland. Add in a 50/50 chance of rain and it can feel even colder! The good news, Portland is full of places to warm up between jaunts in to the outdoors in winter. Although this year, that just means… home.

January Events:

January is not a big month for events in Portland. But there are plenty of winter things to do like snowboarding or skiing at Timberline or Mt Hood Meadows, snowshoeing at Trillium Lake. Or even just driving up to Timberline Lodge for hot chocolate or to Multnomah Falls. There are lots of low key things to do in winter. January is also a great time to score hotel deals (here are my favorite cool hotels in Portland), and just have a city break – tax-free shopping, Powell’s Books downtown, hitting up all the great coffee shops, brunch, restaurants, and bars. Is it time to eat again?! See a Blazers game and more.

Portland Old Time Music Gathering – this, just as it sounds – old time music – festival is scattered across the city at different venues each year.

Chinese New Year – Depending on the year – January and February. There are always Chinese New Year festivities happening in Portland’s Old Town/Chinatown and the Lan Su Chinese garden.

Portland in February

As a Portlander, February is my least favorite month of the year. Maybe it’s because the never ending relentlessness of rain and grey skies feels like it’s hit the peak. And summer still feels so far away? And that January was ok because it was a rest after the holidays, ah fresh starts, new beginnings etc etc. And then it’s February and you really just want to get out of Portland – for bit. Unless you live somewhere else and then you’re like oh wouldn’t it be quaint and fun to do like a winter getaway weekend in Portland or go snowboarding! The weather in February feels very much like January, but just slightly less cold and slightly less rainy – and still very much wet winter. So February has the same pros and cons for things to do. Rainy hikes, cozy restaurants – it’s all a balancing game through winter.

Latourell Falls Hike in February

February Events:

Zwickelmania – I’m guessing this one is going to be canceled for 2021. It’s usually the 2nd weekend of February in Portland and the following weekend statewide. This annual brewery festival is all about the breweries – with tours and free samples and is a really fun winter activity.

Portland Winter Light Festival – This is one of my favorite February events! This event has been running for a few years by Willamette Light Brigade. It lights up the Central Eastside and near OMSI and Tilikum Crossing Bridge with light – lights, fire, technology, music. So fun!

Portland Seafood & Wine Festival – February is Dungeness crab season, and the seafood and wine festival brings vendors to the Oregon Convention Center, if you’re into seafood and wine.

Portland Jazz Festival – Celebrating Black History Month, this jazz festival is a series of concerts and events over two weeks in February.

Portland in March

March and April actually have less rainfall than October and November. It’s just that after enduring rain for eight months already, we’re just kind of over it! March is when you start to see the light of winter ending. With average highs in the mid-50s and lows in the low 40s, March feels like we’re finally warming up and can withstand being outdoors longer. Definitely still pack a scarf or hat, raincoat and warm coat or puff vest over a fleece as the lows in March can still dip into freezing.

Portland cherry blossoms at Waterfront Park

March Events:

Shamrock Run – The Shamrock Run 5k, 8k, and 15k is an annual fun run around the waterfront and downtown. Some people love the energy of the party atmosphere of the 5k run/walk, if that’s not your scene, opt for the slightly longer routes to still enjoy the race, but have less crowds. Here’s my Shamrock 15k race recap.

Portland Dining Month – March is a great time to visit and cash in on Portland Dining Month where area restaurants offer 3 course meals at a discount. It’s a really fun time to try new restaurants!

Portland International Film Festival – March has become the month for our International Film fest put on by NW Film Center. You can buy a pass or go to individual films.

Cherry Blossoms at Waterfront Park – every year is slightly different, but mid-March to early April is usually the best time to view cherry blossoms. And not just downtown at the Waterfront, but all around the city!

Spring

Spring! Ah! The worst is almost over! Just kidding, still three months till summer.

Portland in April

April can still feel pretty rainy and cold, but temperatures are definitely getting more moderate by April with an average high of 61 degrees and lows in the mid 40s, and we usually have a couple days in the mid 70s, but prepare for wet weather still and cold-ish. But with 13.5 hours of daylight, April feels like the season of exploring is just around the corner.

Dog mountain hike April

April Events:

Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival – These tulip fields (and festival) in Woodburn runs most of April. With blooms usually being at peak color and bloom by mid April.

Design Week – Design Week is another event that has hopped around over the years. It’s a great series of events all around the city – including workshops, speakers, and tours. Most recently this has been an April event.

Portland in May

May is perfect shoulder season. Some years, May feels like a pre-summer with less rain and cold than June! While the average high temp for May is 68, there are always a few 80 degree days sometime in May. And lows can still drop down to the mid-30s at night. So you really need to be prepared for all weather in May. Either way, the promise of summer is arriving. Roses are in bloom. And there are a lot of fun things to do without Portland feeling too crowded yet. So get out on the trails, get ice cream, go hiking, do a coast day trip. Visit the International Rose Test Garden or Peninsula Park Rose Garden. Enjoy the last bits of spring and the beginning of farmers market season!

May Events:

Cinco de Mayo Fiesta – Cinco de Mayo fiesta is a 3 day event at Waterfront Park the weekend closest to May 5.

Rose Festival – The Rose Festival starts at the end of May and goes into June. With events, music, rose court, and finally the Grand Floral Parade with floats.

Portland in June

Personally, I love June in Portland. It holds so much promise. And because most of it is still technically spring (since summer starts the third week of June), it kind of feels like a bonus when you get any rain-free or sunny weather. It’s also the start of Pedalpalooza which is a month of bikey fun and summer solstice. Plus, June is peak rose season and you can smell roses all over the city. And strawberry picking season! And some beautiful days on the Oregon coast.

June Events:

Pedalpalooza & World Naked Bike Ride – Pedalpalooza is a whole month of bikey fun, with dozens of events every day from sunrise to even all night rights. There’s pretty much something for everyone, even family friendly rides. The most popular being – Music/musician themed rides (Prince vs Bowie in 2016), Loud n Lit, and of course WNBR the World Naked Bike Ride.

PDX Beer Week – PDX Beer week is full of fun beer events (like Portland Beer & Cheese Festival), collaborations and tap takeovers and releases, popups and more. And it’s not just for industry people, but fun for more casual beer drinkers and locals too.

Portland Pride – every June, Portland Pride is a weeklong series of events with the grand finale of the Pride Parade downtown and waterfront park.

Bridgetown Comedy Festival – this annual event is a hoot and brings some big names in comedy and features local talent as well. With comedy shows across a few venues around town, you can pick a few shows to attend or buy a pass.

Summer

I think I’ve mentioned a few times already… Summer is the best time to visit Portland weather-wise. It’s the season to be in the Pacific Northwest. It’s why we wait around through all the drizzle and grey.

Portland in July

July is full-on summer in Portland. The rain has stopped, and it’s usually not too hot or forest fire smoke yet. The sweet spot of summer! So get outside and soak up summer fun. While the beginning of July can still be a bit cooler some years in the low to mid-70s, the overall monthly average high is 80 degrees. And there are usually a few days by mid to late July in the 90/100s.

Portland July Waterfront Blues Fest

July Events:

Waterfront Blues Fest – 4th of July weekend brings the waterfront Blues Fest to Tom McCall Waterfront park. It also brings all the boats to the Willamette.

Jazz Fest at Cathedral Park – in mid-July, there’s Jazz Fest at Cathedral Park in St Johns, in North Portland. It’s a pretty picturesque location and really fun weekend. And a family friendly event.

Oregon Brewers Festival – The Oregon Brewers Festival is one of the bigger summer brew fests. It’s a bit too crowded for my liking, but if you’re visiting it’s a good time to check out tons of different NW beers. Or just hit up brewery with an outdoor patio if you’re looking for a more low-key time.

The Big Float – The Big Float is an organized float on the Willamette River by Human Access Project every July for the last ten years. It’s a pretty fun event. If you’re looking to do a DIY float, you can also float the Clackamas River and Sandy River.

Portland in August

August is prime summer weather and one of the busiest months in Portland. Everyone wants to be out making use of every spare second of nice weather. Hiking, biking, patio dining and drinks – everything moves outside in summer. August can also bring some too hot weather. Yes, it’s a thing! While most daily highs average in the low 80s, just like July there are usually about a week of days scattered throughout in the 90-100s. August is for camping, hiking, coast trips, and getting out on the water of an Oregon river or lake.

Mt Hood Fruit Loop lavender field and Mt Hood view

August Events:

Adult Soapbox Derby – This annual event in mid August at Mt Tabor is a Portland classic to watch. You never knew what you were missing until you see adults hurtling themselves down the hills of Mt Tabor on their themed “float” like contraptions. Good old fashioned fun.

Hood to Coast Relay – Hood to Coast is literally a relay race from Mt Hood through Portland all the way to the Oregon coast. HTC is so popular now that it’s become more of a destination race. And you know it’s Hood to Coast weekend when you see a constant stream of cargo vans around Portland, carrying the relay crews.

Pickathon – While Pickathon started a bit smaller as an “indie roots festival” in Happy Valley, Oregon (just outside of Portland), each year it gets more and more popular and seems to snag bigger acts. It’s usually the first weekend in August, and almost always the hottest weekend of the year! It’s one of Portland’s favorite music festivals.

Portland in September

September in the NW can be really hard to plan for. It’s both the most beautiful shoulder season with some cooling temps, but still time to get out and adventure. But with unpredictable wildfire smoke, the air quality is pretty unknown. So expect some great weather, and some smoke and leave room for last minute plans and flexibility.

Sandy River rocks at Glenn Otto - one of the best times to visit Portland

September Events:

Feast Portland – Mid September brings Portland’s food festival Feast PDX celebrating all things amazing food and drinks.

Swifts flying at Chapman Elementary – every September Vaux swifts migrate and stop at the Chapman Elementary chimney in NW Portland. You can gather and watch as the fly and swoop into the chimney at dusk.

TBA Festival – Time Based Art Festival is one of those kind of random Portland art exhibits, which I love. It always seems to be raining when I go, but it’s really just part of the experience.

>>Read more about Portland in September

Fall

Visiting Portland in fall, you can expect rain and lots of it. Cooling temperatures, shrinking daylight hours. You can also expect amazing fall colors.

Portland in October

The first official month of fall. By the time October arrives, Portland is usually feeling pretty fall-ish. We still have some warm days, but with daylight hours shrinking, it can start to feel a lot cooler by dusk. The average high in October is mid 60s, with average lows in the high 40s. It’s also the first month back to pretty rainy weather. But October is a great “shoulder season” time to travel to Portland, as you’ll get some warmer weather still and a bit of fall colors.

Fall colors leaves in late October

October Events:

Pumpkin Patches & Corn Mazes – Sauvie Island has my favorite pumpkin patches. And while things can get busy on weekends, it can be low-key fun if you go early in the season or mid-week.

Portland Marathon (canceled 2020) – The Portland marathon is usually the first weekend in October and as the route runs all around the city and Willamette River, even if you’re not running, it can be a fun race to watch and cheer on the runners.

Apple Tasting at Portland Nursery – you can also go apple picking in Hood River, but a fun in-town event is the apple tasting festival at Portland Nursery where you can taste a ton of different apples.

Portland Fashion Week – an event that Portland isn’t the first city that comes to mind when you mention fashion. But this event is pretty cool for a different take on Portland.

>>Read more about Portland in October

Portland in November

November in Portland is peak fall colors. It’s also the second rainiest month of the year. So November can feel almost wintery and a race to enjoy fall leaves before they’re all gone. Average high temperatures are in the low 50s with nightly lows in the low 40s.

December in portland, winter tree wine country

November Events:

Portland Book Festival (previously Wordstock) – Get your book nerd on with Portland Book Festival. Author events, writing workshops and more, this event is now an almost two week event.

Portland Cocktail Week – this mid-November event is all about celebrating the Portland cocktail scene. And with cocktail specials at area bars it’s a not just for industry folks.

Holiday Tree Lighting – The day after Thanksgiving, a 75 foot Douglas Fir Christmas tree is lit up in Pioneer Courthouse Square downtown.

>>Read more about Portland in November

Portland in December

Even though December is technically low season travel-wise, Portland can still feel pretty busy with locals and visiting family getting out to enjoy holiday events. December in Portland is also the coldest, wettest, and darkest month of the whole year. So it’s a good thing we have some fun holiday events and things to do as winter begins.

December Events:

Holiday Ale Fest – The next weekend after Thanksgiving is the Portland Holiday Ale Fest. It’s pretty cool to drink seasonal beers under the giant Christmas tree at Pioneer Courthouse Square. Canceled 2020.

Christmas Lights in Portland – Zoo Lights, Grotto & 4 more – There are quite a few annual Christmas light events in Portland. Our favorites are Zoo Lights at the Oregon Zoo, and the Festival of Lights at The Grotto. And there’s Peacock Lane, a drive-through lights called Winter Wonderland at PIR, and even a Christmas Ship Parade!

Holiday Markets & Popup Shops – Every December, Portland has numerous holiday markets and bazaars from crafters to makers. A great time to get your Portland gift shopping out of the way.

>>Read more about Portland in December and Christmas in Portland

And that’s a wrap on my month by month guide to the best of Portland! I hope that helps you find a time that suits your style in Portland. And hopefully 2021 will bring more travel, less COVID, and lots of Portland fun.