Portland Things to Do Travel Itineraries

One Day in Portland: Itinerary for 24 Hours in the Rose City

October 15, 2023

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With one day in Portland, you’ll have your work cut out for you! Here is my Portland itinerary – 24 hours in Portland, Oregon. More often, visitors will have a weekend in Portland, which gives you a bit more time for Friday night and Sunday morning add-on. But with one full day, here’s where I take visitors. A few of my favorite things to do in the Rose City. And how to optimize your trip time to see what’s important to you – from coffee, biking, beer, shopping, exploring, cocktails, views, and more.

Portland Itinerary: 1 Day

This 24 hour itinerary is ideas for what to do. You can’t see all of Portland in one day! I’ve lived here 20 years and still have more to see. So follow as much as you want, and leave room to explore!

Morning: Farmer’s Market and Brunch

If I had only 24 hours to explore Portland, I’d hit the ground running (or walking). If it’s a Saturday, start your morning early at the PSU Farmers Market (otherwise skip ahead to the next stop). This farmer market is great for people watching, grabbing that [first] cup of coffee, and browsing vendors. While you might not be stocking up on food with only one day in Portland, grab a small snack or two (berries, pastry, cheese etc) for later in the day! If you’re keen to get out on a hike or active adventure, just grab breakfast at the market, and skip the next stop.

Next up, experience the breakfast “scene” in Portland. Screen Door, Broder, Jam, Besaw’s, Proud Mary are all favorites. Check out my full list of the best brunch spots in Portland. If you’re downtown already, the newer Screen Door on Couch St is a great stop. Then you’ll be close to shops and Powell’s Books after.

Broder portland breakfast
Brunch from Broder

Walk off your breakfast with a small dose of shopping. Most of the best brunch spots in Portland are tucked into some kind of neighborhood retail spots. Finding local shops is not a difficult task in Portland. You’ll probably find more hand-made items, than not. Alberta Arts district, Mississippi Ave, and Hawthorne/Belmont areas all have tons of little shops. There’s also the Saturday Market which runs both days on the weekends, that is chock full of handicrafts. Just leave the Portlandia “Put a bird on it” jokes at home.

Early Afternoon: Outdoor Adventure – Biking, Hiking, and Viewpoints

Follow up brunch with a bike ride or walk. With one day in Portland, your must-see outdoor sites should include: a bridge, a mountain view, and the river! While you might get a peek of Mt Hood if you fly in on a clear day, one of the most beautiful things about Portland is the nature scattered all around the city. So spend a bit of time gazing at the beauty around you… No matter where you reside on the outdoorsy-scale, you’ll find something in Portland to suit you. Hike in Forest Park (here are the best hikes IN Portland), bike one of our greenways, walk around the waterfront loop (Steel or Hawthorne bridge), kayak the Willamette etc.

Ridge Trail Forest Park St John's Bridge View
Forest Park Hike with views of St John’s Bridge

Portland has 279 parks (that’s 10,000 acres of natural areas!) – something for everyone. While no secret find, Mount Tabor is a great place to escape to for some green, quiet, and views of the city and Mt Hood. At 636 feet, Mount Tabor is a one of three cities in the US to have an extinct volcano within city limits. Another great option is the International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park with over 7,000 plants. The Japanese Garden is also in Washington Park if you’re looking for even more views. If you have more than a day or two, I would of course recommend one of my favorite Portland day trips!

Pittock Mansion Portland Oregon
Pittock Mansion – hike or just explore the grounds

Make a visit to one of our favorite Portland viewpoints (for hiking or just views depending on how ambitious you’re feeling!), Council Crest, Mt Tabor, or the grounds of Pittock Mansion (all free options), or take the Portland Aerial Tram.

For a glimpse of daily Portland life, I recommend biking. As one of the most bike-friendly cities in America, biking is a must-do while you’re here. Even if you don’t bike at home, there are tons of trails and paths that can take you all over the city. Or just a quick pedal around the Waterfront – no on-street cycling required on this 2 1/2 mile loop. You can rent a BikeTown bike, rent a scooter, or even go on a bike tour.

portland river
Views of the Steel Bridge and Willamette from the Eastbank Esplanade

Rent a bike near Tom McCall Waterfront Park, cross the Hawthorne bridge, check out a brew pub on the east side (Wayfinder or Bunk Bar) or a coffee shop (Water Ave or Coava). Or other great Portland breweries or if you’re feeling more adventurous. Go for a longer bike up to North Portland’s Mississippi Street (Ecliptic, Grains of Wrath, StormBreaker, Migration etc) or Alberta (Great Notion). If you need to get caffeinated, check out Barista, Extracto, or Stumptown.

While there always seems to be something interesting happening in Portland, summer is the best season to experience Portland festivals. Pedalpalooza is three months of bikey fun, with group rides. These free events are organized by individuals, ranging from 50+ people taking to the streets in funky knee high socks, to Bowie v. Prince rides, and the World Naked Bike Ride. PDX Beer week is 10 days of beer-centric events and tastings. Attending one these summer events is a great way to experience the fun and eccentric passion Portlanders have for their “hobbies”.

Afternoon: Portland Neighborhoods – Shop, Food Carts, Explore

Spend your afternoon pursuing your favorite interests in a Portland neighborhood. Many visitors to Portland don’t know this, but to get a true taste of the local culture… cross the river. Not exactly a Portland secret, but visitors tend to stick close to the downtown area and Pioneer Courthouse Square. To get a sense of local culture, hide out in a coffee shop, brew pub, or food cart pod for an hour or two. Absorb the conversation and people. Sit at the bar! Need ideas? Check out Mississippi Street or Alberta Arts District. Explore Hawthorne or Belmont. Meander through St John’s or Montavilla.

Depending on your caffeine intake requirements, stop at a Portland coffee shop or donuts. Pip’s donuts (Cully/Beaumont neighborhood) is my favorite.

If you don’t hate books, spend a bit of time at Powell’s Books. What other city has a book store that takes up one whole city block!? If you want more outdoor views, check out a rose garden. The International Rose Test Garden isn’t the only place to see roses in Portland. The Portland Art Museum is always a great stop downtown.

If you’re ready to eat again, hit up a food cart pod. Cartopia pod at SE 12th & Hawthorne favs are Pyro Pizza, Potato Champion – two original Portland carts! Or Boke Bowl, a ramen shop on Water Ave.

Since the popularity of the Portlandia TV show, it might seem easy just to slap the hipster sticker on Portland and call it a day. However, Portland is a city of fascinating history, incredible nature, and truly interesting people. Two decades ago, ‘hipster’ wasn’t a term circulating on the Portland description list. It was just a city where many people flocked to do their own thing. You might see ‘oddities’, sure, but that’s been making this city tick for decades. For an interesting look at the culture of ‘Portland weird’ check out Palahniuk’s Fugitives and Refugees: A Walk in Portland, Oregon.

Portland is a city full of hobbyists and creatives. You’ll run into a lot of people who work part time and/or focus on a craft, and people with side projects. There always seems to be something interesting happening, somewhere in town. So drink beer, eat cheese, go to happy hour, go 80s dancing, tour as many coffee shops as you can. Lounge in the park, or drive an hour to the Oregon coast. Or drive an hour in the opposite direction to Mt Hood or the Columbia River Gorge/Hood River. 30 minutes south is wine country for some of our favorite Portland day trips.

Evening: Happy Hour, Dinner, Brewery Visit

Next up, find a great happy hour. Let it morph into dinner or hit up one of Portland’s best restaurants.

Steeplejack brewing portland
Steeplejack Brewing Co in Hollywood District

Portland is foodie heaven. The last couple decades has seen Portland hitting the national radar of the food scene, and for good reason. Portland food focuses on local, in-season premium ingredients. One of the best things about Portland food, in general, has always been the quality/price ratio of food. While we used to have tons of good food, for cheap, Portland is no longer the budget eats destination it used to be. Partially due to inflation, and the popularity of the city. But you’re still the right place for great food. And it’s still cheaper than cities like New York City or LA. Plus, if you’re in the market for some budget eats, you can still find it, it’s just a bit harder than ten years ago.

cocktails in portland

For dinner, if you don’t already have a giant list of places you’re dying to try, fire up the Yelp app or Google Maps and pick the closest 4-star restaurant to you, or check out Eater’s list. We’re pretty serious about our online reviews in Portland, so you [probably] won’t be led astray with this strategy. Or go for town favorites: Eem, Republica, or Canard. On a budget? Go for Por Que No, Little Big Burger, Nong’s or another food cart. Into beer? Most breweries also have pretty stellar food. Go for Breakside, Ecliptic, or Great Notion.

Late Night: Go out – Concert, Cocktails

Close out your night with cocktails or a concert. If music is your thing, head to the Doug Fir for a cheap-ish (and often local) indie show. Finish your night by checking out Portland’s growing cocktail scene. Try Rum Club, Scotch Lodge, Old Gold, Expatriate, Hale Pele, or Tough Luck.

While you’ll definitely find locals getting tipsy in downtown Portland, to get a better sense of the local bars hit up places on the east side of the river and North Portland. From inner SE neighborhoods (Bunk Bar), NE/28th (Migration Brewing), Alberta (Great Notion), Mississippi (Mississippi Studios’ BarBar), Belmont (The Sweet Hereafter), Killingsworth (The Old Gold) etc. While Portland is a beer city, urban wineries (ENSO), craft cocktails (Rum Club), and distilleries are up-and-coming on the drink scene too. Sometimes it seems like another amazing new restaurant or bar is opening every week.

show at the doug fir
Show at the Doug Fir Lounge

If movies are your thing, check out your chance to drink at the movies. Head to the Bagdad Theater or Laurelhurst Theater.

You’ll find the art and music scene scattered all across Portland, in a DIY sense. What started with First Thursday in the more upscale Pearl District downtown, morphed into copy-cat nights of Last Thursday up on Mississippi and First Friday in the SE/Industrial districts. For music, there’s always something going on in this town. Doug Fir Lounge is one of my favorite venues. But check the Portland Mercury’s show schedule for up to the minute listings around town.

If you’re here to sleep, there are plenty of fabulous (and a little pricier) boutique hotels in Portland. For example, the Nines, Hotel Modera, and Hotel deLuxe (all downtown). If you’re here for some fun, and are on a budget, there are a number of cool hotels under $140/night (in low season). Try Jupiter Hotel, KEX Hotel, Ace Hotel, and several McMenamin’s properties. This will save you some money, but also offer up a bit of extra fun — ranging from free rental bikes, soaking pools, brewpub movie theaters, photo booths, cocktail bars and more.

I hope you enjoyed this look at my One Day Portland Itinerary. I of course would recommend more time in Portland. Have two days or a weekend? Check out more things to do in Portland.

Originally published in 2012. Updated for 2022.