Where tourists flock, locals avoid—but dismissing a spot because it’s “tourist-y” is not the Portland way. Here are a few popular tourist-y spots that are worth the visit even if you have to elbow slow pedestrians out of your way to get a spot in line.
Recognizable by a line a mile long and the excited chatter of millenials buzzing on bougie ice cream, Salt & Straw is known for being a hopping tourist spot worth a visit from locals. With three locations around Portland, this popular parlor is a hop, skip and a streetcar ride away from campus. In addition to unique flavors like olive oil and strawberry honey balsamic with black pepper, Salt & Straw also has a rotating menu of seasonal flavors. Their currently-featured “Spring Flowers” monthly menu stars flavors such as chocolate rose petal, orange blossom sorbet—with edible petals!—and wildflower honey with ricotta walnut lace.
As an added bonus for the many lactose-intolerant and vegan people in Portland, Salt & Straw offers three classic vegan flavors, and includes at least one vegan flavor in every monthly menu. With samples highly encouraged, a flavor to match every craving and free pint delivery on Postmates, Salt & Straw is a fan-favorite that’s sure to stick around.
Museums are cool, space is cool and it rains so damn much in Portland, you might as well have an indoor back-up plan. If you’re looking to catch a flick, OMSI’s Empirical Theater has a four-story screen that plays everything from Dumbo to D-Day: Normandy to Aquaman. If you’re telling me you don’t want to see a four-story version of Jason Momoa’s rippling abs, I don’t think I believe you. The museum also has over 200 interactive exhibits, including a human development exhibit with “one of the largest public displays of human fetuses.”
OMSI also has a planetarium heralded as the most technologically advanced planetarium in the Pacific Northwest. The OMSI planetarium features laser shows of popular artists such as Pink Floyd and Daft Punk, as well as live presentations about the universe in 3D and stargazing parties in the summer.
If you live in Portland, you already know about Powell’s. However, it’s not always an easy or enjoyable experience to desperately avoid being bumped, shoved or shuffled by the crowds of visiting book fiends on a daily basis. Still, Powell’s is a worth-it winner for a variety of reasons.
Powell’s has a refined selection of staff and customer picks, so if you’re looking for a new book to read based on the books and genres you already like, you’ll have a slew of options. They also sell and buy back used books, making the store much more affordable than other large bookstore chains that want $25 for a single new book. You can sell your books to Powell’s at the counter for cash or store credit—use the Marie Kondo method and exchange those books that don’t spark joy for ones that do.
Powell’s is one of the most affordable and customer-friendly places to buy books near campus, but with great perks comes great popularity. The original location in Southwest Portland is one of the most popular bookstores in the Pacific Northwest. If you’re uncomfortable with the inevitable large crowds of eager book nerds, try going to the bookstore later at night. The original Powell’s location is open until 11 p.m., and the store often clears out considerably after the sun goes down.