75 Things to do in Portland this Winter

October 29, 2010 in Insider Tips by Sarah Jones

Worried about finding things to do during the rainy Portland Winter? Luckily, we've got you covered. There may not be enough hours in the day or days in the winter for everything on this list, but you can always try! From Oregon's oldest craft brewery to the unusual Bathtub Art Museum, we've got enough things to keep you off the couch.

Bagdad Theater & Pub

Bagdad Theater & Pub © Paul Lowry on Flickr

Theater Pubs

1. Laurelhurst Theater (2735 E Burnside St.) is a local favorite. Enjoy microbrews, wine, pizza, salads, wraps, popcorn and candy all while enjoying a movie. $3 general admission, $1 for children 12 & under. www.laurelhursttheater.com.

2. Clinton Street Theater (2522 SE Clinton St), which is famous for its 32-year ongoing run of The Rocky Horror Picture Show - the longest in the world, is also a great night out. The theater itself is a little rundown, but the experience is loads of fun. www.clintonsttheater.com.

3. McMenamins Bagdad Theater & Pub (3702 SE Hawthorne Blvd) is another local favorite. This 500 capacity theater also has a balcony section with couches where you can sit and enjoy your brew and pizza while watching the huge screen.

4. McMenamins Mission Theater (1624 NW Glisan St) shows recent releases of the silver screen, cult classics, art films, and features live music by local and national performers. They have a Burger, Beer & A Movie Night on Wednesdays for only $10.50. www.mcmenamins.com/210-mission-theater-pub-home.

5. Cinetopia, located in Vancouver, WA, plays new releases in their oh-so-comfortable living room theater with leather recliners. They also feature digital super high definition projection, and a wine bar that features over 100 different wines from around the world. The restaurant, wine bar, and the Living Room Theaters also feature pre-show live music Friday and Saturday. Admission ranges from $11.50 – $18.50, but is well worth it. www.cinetopiatheaters.com.

6. St. Johns Twin Cinemas and Pub (8704 N Lombard St), one of the least expensive theaters, charges $6 at night and $4 during the day for new releases. They also have cheap beer, comfy seats, and great pizza. stjohnscinema.com/index.php.

7. The Academy Theater (7818 SE Stark) features three climate-controlled theaters with Dolby sound, reclining stadium seating with generous leg room, as well as tasty offerings from Flying Pie Pizzeria, and beer specials. Admission is $4 for adults, $3 for seniors and kids. www.academytheaterpdx.com.

8. Free movie nights at Portland's Pubs: Almost every day of the week, you can catch a free movie at one of Portland's pubs. See the schedule.


Mount Hood by Timberline Lodge © H.L.I.T on Flickr

Recreational Activities

9. Ice Skating: Whether you're hoping to glide over the slick ice hand-in-hand with a date, cheer alongside a raucous hockey crowd, or get some stick time in with a local hockey league, Portland offers some welcoming ice rinks to do so. For more info, and a run-down of rinks, visit our Ice Skating page.

10. Join an Adult Bowling League: Adult meaning booze. Underdog Sports League runs a bowling league unlike anything you've ever seen. Take 100 or so grown-ups and set them loose w/ a full bar and theme'd out league nights. Next, you add the ability to win prizes for respectable bowling and even better prizes for costumes and spirit. www.underdogportland.com.

11. Other Underdog Sports Leagues: Underdog also has a variety of other fun indoor leagues to join: kickball, dodgeball, and volleyball. WAKA (World Adult Kickball Association) is also a fun way to meet people and get a little exercise during the rainy months. WAKA comes to Portland next spring, 2011.

12. Timberline Lodge Ski Area: Timberline Lodge is the only ski area in North America offering close to 4,000 vertical feet of adventurous fun year-round. Located near the top of Mt. Hood, Oregon's tallest peak, the lodge is the third highest of four outdoor adventure areas along windy Highway 26. www.timberlinelodge.com.

Stumptown Coffee Roasters

Stumptown Coffee Roasters © Pouregon on Flickr


13. Alberta's Cork wine shop: Alberta's Cork wine shop is a great source for hand-selected, value-priced wines from around the world. The store prides itself on its selection of more than 100 bottles that sell for less than $20. www.corkwineshop.com.

14. Bridgeport Brewery: The Bridgeport Brewing Company is Oregon's oldest craft brewery. The Bridgeport Brewing Company has two main campuses in infamous Stumptown. The first is the renowned Bridgeport Brewpub and Bakery in the heart of Portland's Pearl District. Whether stopping by for a meal or cup of coffee, the historic and newly renovated brewpub is best described as pleasantly hip with a down-home feel that will never disappoint. The other is the Bridgeport Ale House located in the historic Hawthorne Shopping District. The ale house provides award-winning ales in a creative yet casual dining experience with a "come as you are" prevailing attitude. www.bridgeportbrew.com.

15. SakéOne: SakéOne maintains a tasting room in Forest Grove where staff is happy to guide novice and experienced tasters alike through their selection of liquors. Tastings offer a variety of saké and food pairings ranging from three to ten dollars. The Kura (brewery) can also be toured by visitors interested in the tradition and process behind the company's spirits. www.sakeone.com.

16. Golden Valley Brewery: Ranking fourth nationally in craft breweries per capita, in Oregon the beer flows as rapidly as the Willamette River. One brewery contributing to this surging stream is Golden Valley Brewery & Restaurant, offering a unique atmosphere found nowhere else in Yamhill County. Operating out of a historic building originally used as a warehouse in the 1920s, Golden Valley presents a full-scale brewery as well as a restaurant and pub. www.goldenvalleybrewery.com.

17. Clear Creek Distillery: Located in the Northwest District of Portland two miles from downtown, Clear Creek is open to visitors six days a week and offers guided tours on Saturdays. Admission to the distillery is free, and visitors are able to buy all of the products sampled at Clear Creek in the distillery's store located on site. www.clearcreekdistillery.com.

18. Alameda Brewhouse: Located in the Beaumont District of Northeast Portland, Alameda Brewhouse has been in operation for nine years, and has amassed an impressive shelf of awards, including a gold medal at the prestigious Great American Beer Festival (plus two silver medals in 2006 and 2008) Check out its happy hour and try the brews, then stay for dinner, but make sure you get there early, especially on the weekends or you may find yourself fighting for a place to sit. www.alamedabrewhouse.com.

19. Pine State Biscuit: A Breakfast hot-spot in the Hawthorne District that is famous for its Reggie Deluxe — a chicken, gravy, bacon, cheese and egg biscuit deemed one of 2008's "Best Sandwiches in America" by Esquire. www.pinestatebiscuits.com.

20. Belmont's Slappy Cakes: Also located in the Hawthorne District, Slappy Cakes allows you create your own pancake masterpieces — think Mickey Mouse, chocolate chip, banana/peanut butter or any other silly combination your kid (or the kid in you) can create. www.slappycakes.com.

21. Castagna: Lower Hawthorne Chef Matt Leitner's whimsical take on foraged and locally farmed ingredients at Castagna earned him a spot on Food & Wine's "Best New Chefs 2010". www.castagnarestaurant.com.

22. Meriwether's Restaurant: Located in Nob Hill, this restaurant takes "farm-to-table" literally, using fresh produce from its own five-acre organic vegetable farm located right in the hills above downtown Portland. Chef Earl Hook incorporates this fresh produce into his daily menu, highlighting seasonal vegetables. www.meriwethersnw.com.

23. Old Town Pizza: Located in Chinatown, Old Town Pizza is a Portland institution, and boasts "dead-fall" trap doors in the floor of its 1880s building that lead directly to the Portland Underground. www.oldtownpizza.com.

24. Higgins Restaurant: Greg Higgins of Higgins Restaurant is easily one of the most renowned chefs of Northwest cuisine. Chef Higgins has drawn his inspiration from classic French bistros, combining Pacific Northwest ingredients with traditional French cooking techniques. The restaurant's décor includes ornate ceilings, wood floors, and a marble and granite countertop. higgins.ypguides.net.

25. Stumptown Coffee Roasters: This local roastery has five Portland cafés and, according to Citysearch.com, is "quite possibly the Holy Grail in the crusade for the perfect cup." www.stumptowncoffee.com.

26. World Cup Coffee and Tea: Another favorite local pick, World Cup Coffee and Tea has two cafés — one inside Powell's Books and the other in Northwest Portland. www.worldcupcoffee.com.

27. Voodoo Doughnut: Though around since just 2003, Voodoo Doughnuts has quickly become a cherished bakery near and dear to the hearts and stomachs of Old Town Portland. Owners Tres Shannon and Kenneth "Cat Daddy" Pogson created the shop after deciding the "crotch" of Portland – as they lovingly referred to it – needed an eclectic central eatery, and that a kooky doughnut shop could fill that role. www.voodoodoughnut.com.

28. Vault Martini Bar: Located in Portland's Pearl district, Vault Martini bar has a modern yet relaxed ambiance with a notable Tsarist Russia decor influence. The dark, urban venue is equipped with a cozy fireplace and an 18-foot ice-glass bar. The themed drink and food menu is quirky with its own personality. Start with the vault's "Incidentals: When a little something is in order." These include various cheese dishes, stuffed grape leaves, stuffed dates with honey sauce, and steak skewers. Or, choose from the other funky food categories: Cooperatives, Three-squares or Decadents. www.vault-martini.com.

29. Huber's: Huber's, established in 1879, was originally called the 'The Bureau Saloon' and located on the corner of First and Alder. Frank Huber took the restaurant's reigns in 1911, changed the name, and moved it to a new location. Its new home was and still is the historic Oregon Pioneer Building, which features a massive dome-shaped stained glass ceiling. www.hubers.com.

30. Happy Hour at Portland City Grill: Portland City Grill ranks high among many Portlanders' favorite happy hour spots in the city, offering far more than your standard fair of spinach dip and wings.While this elegant happy hour doesn't include any drink specials, the food makes it a great deal and a must try, with a menu that features gourmet selections like blackened tuna, chicken satay and soba noodle salad. portlandcitygrill.com.

31. Urban Farmer: Urban Farmer is part of the modern culinary movement serving regional cuisine and employing the 'farm to table' ideology Portland is so well known for. The restaurant gathers the highest quality ingredients from local, organic sources and prepares them in a simple yet innovative fashion. www.urbanfarmerrestaurant.com.


BMX © Elsie esq. on Flickr

Only in Portland

32. Stark's Vacuum Cleaner Museum: This museum houses the most complete collection of vacuums in the United States. starks.com/about_us/vacuum.

33. Kidd's Toy Museum: The museum is the result of Kidd's lifelong obsession with collecting toys. Kidd's passion started with collecting vehicular toys coinciding with his family's auto parts business, but grew to include metal banks, dolls, and other novelties, all dating between 1869 and the early 1980s. The centerpieces of the Kidd Toy Museum are undoubtedly the large array of cast-iron banks, which take on a multitude of shapes from vehicles to people, as well as the collection of early Oregon memorabilia. kiddstoymuseum.com.

34. Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals: Discover the world's largest cluster of rhodochrosite crystals, an extensive lapidary arts gallery, the 210-pound (95-kilogram) Gibeon Meteorite and much more. ricenorthwmuseum.qwestoffice.net.

35. Portland Hat Museum: The Portland Hat Museum is a bit out of the norm. Owner and curator Alyce Cornyn-Selby opened it to help pay for the building's renovation. Originally the home of Mrs. Rebecca Reingold, a trained milliner (hat-maker) from Russia, the house was built in 1910 as part of the Ladd Addition, Portland's newest property development at the time. It has since been added to the National Historic Registry and is known as the Ladd-Reingold House. www.thehatmuseum.com.

36. Portland Alien Museum: The only UFO museum west of Roswell, NM, the museum features newspaper stories reporting close encounters with aliens, video monitors showing crop circles, and evidence from the Roswell incident itself. www.portlandalienmuseum.com.

37. Ground Kontrol Arcade: This museum features over 60 video games and 27 pinball machines that date back to the 1970s. www.groundkontrol.com.

38. Bathtub Art Museum: The Bathtub Art Museum is a museum dedicated to the bathtub in art. The majority of this bathtub art collection consists of postcards dating from 1900 to the current year. www.bathtubmuseum.org
39. BMX Museum: The BMX Museum features over 300 rare & vintage BMX bikes & frames. bmxmuseum.com.

40. Cal Skate Museum: This skate museum features old-school boards, photographs, and other artifacts showing the history of skateboarding. www.calsk8.com/galleries/museum.shtml.

For more information about hidden Portland, visit: hiddenportland.com.

Gold Room at Powell's

Gold Room at Powell's © beej55 on Flickr


41. First Thursday Gallery Walk: On these nights, galleries and shops in Portland's Old Town, Pearl District and downtown neighborhoods stay open late, inviting the public to mingle with the artists and explore the city's rich art scene. www.firstthursdayportland.com.

42. Last Thursday Art Walk: Complementing First Thursday is Northeast Alberta Street's Last Thursday art walk, a more freewheeling affair that occurs on the last Thursday evening of each month. www.portlandneighborhood.com/alberta-street.html

43. Powell's: The largest bookstore in the world and an institution in Portland since 1971, Powell's Book Store anchors an entire city block in the popular Pearl District, succeeding in its widely advertised mission to be an independent bookstore "that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books." Yet "fill" hardly describes this jam-packed, 68,000 square feet bursting with books on everything from the philosophy of Kirkegaard to the Twilight novels. www.powells.com.

44. Chamber Music Northwest: For the last 39 years, CMNW has assembled concerts that provide exhibitions of strings, wind, piano, and voice. www.cmnw.org.

45. Imago Theatre: Housed appropriately in the bohemian Hawthorne district of Southeast Portland, the Imago has been around since 1979, when it existed as an exclusively masked production that toured the Northwest. Be sure to book tickets in advance as the theater is small, and prepare yourself for a performance like no other. www.imagotheatre.com.

46. Portland Opera: In the spirit of bringing opera's beauty to all members of society, the Portland Opera was founded in 1964 by renowned General Director and conductor Henry Holt. The Opera has been highly innovative in making opera more accessible to a diverse audience. www.portlandopera.org.

47. Oregon Symphony Orchestra: The Oregon Symphony Orchestra enthralls more than 250,000 listeners annually–second to only the Portland Trail Blazers, the city's professional basketball team. www.orsymphony.org.

48. Jimmy Mak's: Located in the Pearl District, Jimmy Mak's is ranked by Down Beat Magazine as one of the top 100 places in the world to hear jazz. www.jimmymaks.com.

Portland Museum 1

Portland Art Museum © joevare on Flickr

Be a Tourist for the Day

49. Ride the Portland Aerial Tram: The perfect and most affordable way to see Portland is to take a trip on the Portland Aerial Tram, and experience Portland from 3,300 feet above. The tram connects Oregon Health & Science University's Kohler Pavilion and a lower OHSU facility in the South Waterfront neighborhood. There is also an intermediate tower that can be seen by drivers traveling I-5 near South Portland. www.portlandtram.org.

50. Museum of Contemporary Craft: In this funky city, art is a staple of life and provides a direct link to economic stability. Portland's DIY community has been thriving since the 1970s and continues to grow as artists, craftspeople, architects, and designers make their aesthetic mark. www.museumofcontemporarycraft.org.

51. Institute for Contemporary Art: The Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA) is a wonderful aspect of the creative and innovative artistic culture that makes up the city. Established by Kristy Edmunds, a young and respected curator and artist within the community, PICA has been presenting exhibitions, performances, and installations for over a decade. www.pica.org.

52. Portland Art Museum: Founded in late 1892 by seven of Portland's leading business and cultural institution leaders, the Portland Art Museum is the oldest art museum on the West Coast and the 7th oldest in the United States. Located on the historic Park Blocks in the center of downtown Portland roughly 12 blocks south of West Burnside Street and nine blocks west of the Willamette River, the 240,000 sq. ft. Portland Art Museum contains a permanent collection of more than 42,000 works of art. www.portlandartmuseum.org.

53. Oregon Museum of Science and Industry: For more than 60 years, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry has offered a hands-on approach to learning. OMSI features 219,000 square feet of interactive exhibits, a Northwest-revered planetarium, an impressive Omnimax Dome movie theatre, and yes, even a submarine. www.omsi.edu.

54. The Portland Underground: Below the streets of this river district, the "Portland Underground" (or "Shanghai Tunnels," as they are commonly known) serves as a reminder of the days when unsavory characters shanghaied thousands of unsuspecting sailors, loggers and ranchers. The Portland Underground consists of tunnels, catacombs and, reportedly, an assortment of ghosts. The Northwest Paranormal Investigations group claims this to be the second most haunted place on the West Coast, and tour operators who have experienced "incidents" agree. www.shanghaitunnels.info

55. Lan Su Chinese Garden: Located in Old Town (Chinatown), Lan Su Chinese Garden is one of the largest Suzhou-style gardens outside of China. www.portlandchinesegarden.org.

pioneer courthouse square

Pioneer Courthouse Square Christmas Tree © jcestnik on Flickr

Holiday Festivities

56. Courthouse Square Tree Lighting: The tree lighting is held annually on the day after Thanksgiving at Portland's Courthouse Square. This year's Tree, the eighth donated from Stimson Lumber Company, was grown on sustainable forestlands near Gaston, Oregon. www.pioneercourthousesquare.org.

57. Zoolights at the Oregon Zoo: Every Holiday Season the Oregon Zoo turns into a winter wonderland, featuring colorful lights and decorations, live music, hot chocolate and treats, and holiday performers. www.oregonzoo.org/Events/ZooLights/index.htm.

58. Portland Christmas Ship Parade: This annual parade includes an average of 50-60 boats decked out in holiday lights. It's a great way to experience some Christmas cheer. www.christmasships.org.

59. The Grotto Christmas Festival of Lights: The Grotto, a 62-acre Catholic Shrine and botanical garden, puts on a fantastic Festival of Lights over the Holiday Season. The Grotto's cathedral also boasts a full winter concert schedule featuring professional, elementary, and high school choirs and chorales. You can also enjoy puppet shows, carolers, holiday snack and beverages, and a petting zoo. www.thegrotto.org/index.php/events/christmas-festival-of-lights.

60. Winter Wonderland at the Portland International Raceway: The Winter Wonderland features a drive through light show that includes over 250 colorful displays and 40 fully-animated scenes. www.portlandraceway.com.

61. Wallowa County Winterfest: Sprinkled with snow, this five-day festival in the northeast corner of Oregon is full of jumping, jogging, and snowman building. With nine events, not including two all-you-can-eat dinners, the Wallowa County Winterfest has a snowboarding competition for all ages, a chili making contest, and a poker game with a purse of more than $2,000. www.snowmobilewallowacounty.com.

62. Pittock Mansion Light Displays: Portland's Pittock Mansion directly transports visitors back to the Rose City of the early 20th century. The three-story mansion includes nearly 50 rooms, each complete with ornate and worldly décor influenced by an eclectic mix of classic Turkish, English and French styles. Beginning Thanksgiving Day and running until New Year's Eve Day, Pittock Mansion puts on an impressive light display, covering much of its 46 acres as well as festively decorating each room for the holidays. www.pittockmansion.org.

63. Holiday Ale Festival: The annual Holiday Ale Festival in Portland is the only beer festival that takes place outdoors in the cold and wet month of December. The Ale Festival keeps visitors warm and dry under a large clear top tent in Pioneer Courthouse Square from December 1st – 5th, 2010. holidayale.com/index.php.

64. Festival of the Trees: Providence Festival of Trees is Portland's premier holiday event, where visitors stroll through a magical festive village decorated with more than 100 trees, wreaths and holiday vignettes created by local designers, businesses and volunteers. This years event takes place from December 2nd – 4th, 2010. www.providence.org/oregon/events/festival_of_trees_10/default.htm.

65. Polar Express at the Mt. Hood Railroad: Taking place from November 19th – December 23rd, the Polar Express will take you on an adventure to the bright lights of the North Pole. www.mthoodrr.com/specialevents.htm#polar.

66. Shore Acres Park Holiday Lights: Head to Coos Bay for the 24th annual Holiday Lights at Shore Acres State Park. The event takes place from Thanksgiving to New Years eve and features over a quarter million lights in every color of the rainbow. A whopping 53,172 visitors viewed the lights display in 2009, and they're expecting even more this year. www.shoreacres.net/16thHolidayLights.htm.

67. The Nutcracker by the Oregon Ballet Theatre: The Oregon Ballet presents the Nutcracker at the Keller Auditorium from December 11th – 24th, 2010. www.obt.org/season_nutcracker.html.

68. Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas: Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra presents the annual performance of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Tickets are only $10, students are $5. This performance will sell out, so book your seats early. www.columbiasymphony.org

Numba 1 fans

Portland Trail Blazers © Cory Grove on Flickr


69. Eagle Cap Extreme Sled Dog Race: Just east of the small town of Joseph, OR, sled dogs haul their mushers in a 100-mile and 200-mile race through the picturesque, rocky mountains of Hells Canyon National Recreation Area and Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. As Oregon's only Iditarod qualifier, the racers are required to take a six-hour break halfway through the race, providing a scenic backdrop in which to take pictures of the beautiful, athletic dogs. During the break, grab some coffee, hot chocolate, or race merchandise. ocated in Northeast Oregon. Iditarod qualifier Yukon Quest qualifier. www.eaglecapextreme.com.

70. Reel Music Festival: Presented by the Northwest Film Center, this month-long festival, in its 27th year, showcases films solely about music. Not to be confused with the genre of musicals, films explore subjects ranging from music's influence on society to the relation between sound and image to histories about regional music and instruments. The festival's films celebrate all genres of music as they relate to culture. www.nwfilm.org/festivals

71. Oregon Wine, Food & Brew Festival: Featuring dozens of wineries, upscale food vendors, art exhibitions, and live entertainment, the state's capital city Salem keeps the focus on Oregon produce, talent, and vineyards in this two-day festival. Celebrating its 27th year, a portion of the festival's proceeds help support local charities. The event takes place on January 8th and 9th, 2011. www.oregonwinefoodbrewfest.com.

72. Portland Jazz Festival: Each February, the 10-day Portland Jazz Festival features national, regional and local artists in more than 150 events, including dozens of free performances. The event takes place on February 18 - 27, 2011. www.pdxjazz.com.

73. Oregon Seafood and Wine Festival: Scheduled smack dab in the middle of the Dungeness crab season, this upscale festival celebrates both the bounty harvested from the Pacific Ocean and the state's vineyards. The festival takes place in Newport on the Oregon Coast on February 25 - 27, 2011. www.newportchamber.org/seafood_wine.htm.

74. Portland Chocolate Fest: Annually taking place at the Oregon Convention Center, the Portland Chocolate Fest brings together some of the finest chocolatiers from the Northwest and includes wine tastings, presentations and demonstrations for chocolate aficionados. The event takes place on January 21 – 23, 2011.

75. Portland Trail Blazers: The Portland Trail Blazers play at home quite a few times this Winter. For a 2010/11 schedule, visit: www.nba.com/blazers/schedule/index.html