Help me make a bucket list for Portland, OR plus the PNW
February 26, 2019 12:41 PM   Subscribe

I recently relocated to Portland, OR for 'reasons'. In actuality, I miss another city that I previously lived in. My strategy is to make a bucket list of ways to find things that I joined in my previous city in this city OR discover new things here ...

So there are some things on my previous hobby list that I liked to do frequently and I'm not finding the same things here when I google (list below).

Since I can't have everything (aka a city I lived in before), I'm open to trying to discover what is unique/great about this place. I realize that everyone is different in what they enjoy doing.

So what am I looking for?

Maybe a list of things that happen/occur frequently (or annually, or whatever) in Portland that I could seek out. Or maybe you moved here from somewhere else, missed your old city, but discovered that this city is great for XXXX or YYYYY that is unique to this location (could you point out what that is).

Perhaps a way to be on the outlook for unique events (I had newsletters or publications that I would read for this in other cities) - haven't figured out what this is for Portland, OR yet.

I'm also open to other places/events in the PNW because .. that can be a fun thing about living in a new place and perhaps, in the next year or so I'll explore (fun road trip to look forward to/something like that)

Caveat: I've probably done 90% of the big touristy things for this area, but still open to ideas...

List of things that I would like to replicate from other city I loved:
-Plays - not just main stream stuff, but off broadway/or offoff broadway etc (I google but only find a handful of theaters)
-Lectures - sort of like the 92Y or Asimov science debate in New York city
-Hidden things (i.e., in NYC you could get a tour of an underground subway station that is now closed to the public), or during Open House New York - buildings normally closed to the public would offer tours
-More more more art/museum exhibits etc (okay one city I lived in had many museums/exhibits changed frequently) - I found a handful of stuff in Portland but it doesn't seem like that much/doesn't change that frequently
-Science (lectures like the NY Academy of sciences) - usually more in depth if that makes sense
-science fiction (not that I ever found events for this in most cities I lived in, but maybe there are here?)

Things that I started to try that are probably unique to this area (looking for more things to try):
-Parks - the parks here are often small, unique (when the whether is better I will check these out more)and just explore
-Board game places - I love board games and found a place that lets you go in and just try them out...googling showed that there are lots of places like this in Portland, which is unique ... I will do more of that.

Apologies in advance/I know that there is sometimes judgement around these types of questions on the asker/I really am looking for ideas.
posted by wonder twin powers activate form of a sock puppet to Grab Bag (18 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Willamette Week and the Portland Mercury are great for event listings. You can pick them up or just use their websites. They’re actually both doing some great, important journalism right now, too, so good for that as well. I get a daily email from Willamette Week that often includes interesting events.

Powell’s has interesting authors in all the time. They also have a sci fi book group, though it looks like it meets a bit west of town.

The many branches of Multnomah County Library have a huge number of events. It’s worth browsing their calendar.

Also, I’m not sure where you moved from, but your first winter here can be tough.

I’ll add more as I think of it.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:52 PM on February 26, 2019 [8 favorites]

As for exploring: the coast and mountains are great fun, though maybe leave the mountains for the summer. Astoria, Cannon Beach, and Newport are close road trips and have real charm. Hood River is lovely. Have you been to the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center? Also, Bonneville and salmon runs in the fall are pretty incredible.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:55 PM on February 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

There are tons of board game meetups here. I think this list is pretty current. Also look at these groups on
PDX Epic Gamers
Boardgames in and around Portland
Game Knight Lounge
posted by o0dano0o at 1:05 PM on February 26, 2019

For the hidden category, there is a guided tour of the underground tunnels.

Also for the parks category, be sure to check out Forest Park.
posted by o0dano0o at 1:14 PM on February 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

For science, maybe check out the OMSI Events calendar.
posted by o0dano0o at 1:19 PM on February 26, 2019

OOOOHHHHH - I spent a glorious day at Breitenbush Hot Springs this past summer, its about 90 minutes outside of Portland. The grounds are beautiful, the food is delicious, the hot springs are hot and the river is full of almost freezing glacier runoff during the peak of the summer and I got a great massage. The swimming is nude, but people are wearing clothes the rest of the time. Everyone is so chill I quickly found myself relishing being naked & reading in the sun. I wish i could have spent days there, but I didn't book early enough.
posted by vividvoltage at 1:28 PM on February 26, 2019

You would probably enjoy some of the events at the steep and thorny way to heaven, especially the speculative drama productions.
posted by dizziest at 1:32 PM on February 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

I have only been to Portland once, more than a decade ago now, but I'm still thinking about how fabulous it was to get a foot massage at The Barefoot Sage.

If I ever get back up that way, I will go there straight from the airport!
posted by mccxxiii at 2:15 PM on February 26, 2019

Less fancy but significantly less expensive than Breitenbush is Bagby Hot Springs; either way it's a gorgeous drive out there in the summer through the national forest.
posted by epersonae at 2:29 PM on February 26, 2019

For pop science lectures. Check out OMSI SciencePub, and the similar Science On Tap
posted by Pantalaimon at 2:32 PM on February 26, 2019

Portland State University is the big public university in town. They often have speakers and other events open to the public. Here's their listing of events.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:02 PM on February 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

For discovering what's hot-and-happening, sign up for weekly newsletters from the Willamette Week, the Mercury, and PDX Pipeline. Signing up for Goldstar will net you notifications for some weird small things (like community theatre productions in the outer burbs) that other lists fail to catch.

The Portland Arts and Lectures series brings interesting big speakers to town, but not many, not cheaply, and they tend to sell out. Powell's event calendar is a much richer vein. The McMenamins' event list can be filtered to show only "History," which is a broader category than you might expect (e.g. "The Nature of Time and Its Anomalies" and "Race Talks: Opportunities for Dialogue").

Portland Parks & Rec tends to focus its classes on kids (there are some for adults, though), but their events calendar will hook you up with park volunteer opportunities, music events, and the like. Also keep an eye on Metro's calendar, which, yes, lists government hearing-type events, but also things like bird watching classes, sunset wine lectures on animal communication, and conservation status of African painted dogs.

Since you're interested in parks, I nominate Leach Botanical Garden for a local hidden thing, though it's hidden in plain sight.

If Shakespeare is your jam, there's a fair amount of it, much of it free, mostly summer-into-fall: Willamette Shakespeare, the Portland Actor's Ensemble, Original Practice Shakespeare, the Portland Shakespeare Project, and of course the Oregon Shakespeare Festival down Ashland-way.
posted by mumkin at 3:50 PM on February 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

Check out the visitor's guide on Travel Portland's website. There are so many unique Portland lists buried on that site. Pick one and start doing all the items. They're not typical "touristy". They'll help you learn your new city. For example:

Live Story Telling events

Where to Play Pinball

Portland has a good comedy and improv scene. Venues here.

Theater listings.

Take a tour that interests you.

Make it your bucket list to visit a new neighborhood each month (week?). Portland is filled with great neighborhoods.

Portland is filled with random events all the time, which can hit that Scifi and lecture itch. Definitely scour the Willamette Week and Mercury for ads and articles. They're free alt-weekly newspapers you'll find around town. And the Oregonian has a lot of info too.

Portlanders are proud of their city. Grab a seat at a dive bar, and ask the folks around you or ask the bartender for their favorite weird thing to do in the city, and you'll get lots of ideas too.
posted by hydra77 at 4:02 PM on February 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

We do not live there, but have visited several times in recent years. For trips away from the city, beyond the obvious (Mt. Hood and Multnomah Falls), consider: Astoria, Hood River and the Fruit Loop, the lava tubes at Mt Newberry (south of Bend in the high desert), Crater Lake.
posted by megatherium at 4:47 PM on February 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

I’m a Midwesterner, been in Portland 6 years, still hate it, leaving.

Things I legitimately enjoy here:

(1) Hiking at Powell Butte
(2) Seeing blues shows at The Blue Diamond
(3) The strong social dance scene — contra, blues, tango, zydeco
(4) Dancing at Cascade Zydeco events. Super beginner friendly, lessons before dances, great regular live music for dances (sometimes bands straight from Louisiana!)
(5) Nearby nature: underground hike at Ape Cave, tidepooling at Seal Rock, camping at Beverley Beach, snowshoeing at Mt Hood
(6) Red Castle: great board game shop (with game nights. Haven’t tried the game nights, tho.)
(7) Tour of the Bonneville Dam. Nerdy from both a biological and infrastructural perspective. You get to see lampreys latched on the glass and salmon at the fish ladders, meet Herman the (Enormous) Sturgeon, and see/learn about the dam’s history and its giant electrical generators.

Good luck. HTH.
posted by cnidaria at 5:15 PM on February 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

PS I know there’s a semi-regular MeFi IRL meetup and it might periodically involve board games.
posted by cnidaria at 5:20 PM on February 26, 2019

The free workshops from East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District are great. In the same vein, if you sign up for Urban Forestry's newsletter you'll hear about neighborhood tree walks and pop-up arboreta.

PATA has a listing of Portland area theater companies.

OHSU has public lectures.

The big bathhouse at Bagby is supposed to get reconstructed. It's free and conveniently located, but it's also super busy on weekends in the warm season, and not very well maintained.
posted by bread-eater at 9:28 PM on February 26, 2019 [3 favorites]

The classical music scene in Portland is pretty good, if you're up for that sort of thing. I especially enjoy Chamber Music NW, as well as Third Angle and the Portland Baroque Orchestra. The classical music radio station 89.9, All Classical, can help keep you updated on those kinds of events.

If you're used to East Coast museums...sorry. They just...aren' Portland. We have a fantastic zoo, and the aquarium in Newport on the coast is definitely worth a visit. But Portland is still a smaller-scale city, and the events/museums are on the same level. Some things to put on your calendar include the Winter Light Festival, which happened in early February, or the Time-Based Art Festival likely happening this fall. If you haven't experienced Portland Taiko or March Fourth, you should.
posted by linettasky at 9:23 PM on February 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

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