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Things to do in & around Portland, Oregon when it rains
(for grownups)
credits and disclaimer

There is a huge number of things to do in and around Portland, Oregon, but only if the weather cooperates. And, as most everyone knows, the weather in Portland is rarely good: the rainfall averages an equivalent 37.5 inches (950 mm) per year in downtown Portland, spread over 155 days a year (doesn't include the days it's too foggy to see anything past a block).

Portlandiers smirk and claim that the rain is gentle and short-lived - hogwash! They will also say, "Oh, it's not that bad hiking in the rain," but the rest of us know that hiking in the rain is no fun - there's no views, and even the smallest of hills become treacherous.

There are endless numbers of web sites and books that provide tips on what to do in Portland, but most, if not all of the suggestions, require the weather to be dry - and in some cases, to be clear as well (foggy days in rose gardens that supposedly have amazing views are no fun - trust me).

I made my own list of things to do in and around Portland, Oregon when it rains because my German in-laws have visited us three times in the summer, in May, June or July, in five years -- we lived first in a town South of Portland, and now, in Forest Grove, which is west of Portland -- and finding things to do when it rains, which is most of the time when they visit, has been a huge struggle. We're limited not only by language, but their rather limited interests in things like going to the movies, art museums or history museums (they aren't really interested in American history - and certainly not interested in museums where everything is in English-only). Also, most of the web sites I found for things to do in Portland when it rains were focused on kids, or places to eat. My list here, that you are about to read, isn't focused on kids or places to eat (there are many, many web sites with food suggestions already, and a restaurant takes care of 60 - 90 minutes - and a day has a lot more minutes than that. Food is always easy to find).

If you are coming from anywhere west of Portland, I highly recommend you park at the Sunset Transit Center (it's free, as is its overflow parking) and take the red or blue line into Portland, then walk or use buses to get around, even if it's raining, unless you are sure you can find parking in downtown. For coming from South of the city, I recommend you park in the Tri-Met parking (free) in Milwaukie for either the express bus 33, which takes you downtown very quickly, or the new Orange line (opens September 2015). You can plan your trip using the TriMet Transit Planner (an all-day transit pass is very affordable). For coming from East of the city, try Clackamas Town Center (though parking there is often a nightmare, even if it's free).

Suggestions for more things to do are welcomed! I'd love suggestions of places to sit down and hear live music during the day, or a place with a LOT of stuff imported from Central America.

Activity ideas for rainy days with adults in and around Portland

  • Portland Brew Bus Last I looked, it departs at 1:30 pm from the lobby of the DoubleTree Hotel at Lloyd Center, 1000 NE Multnomah Boulevard, Portland, just south of Lloyd Center. Only problem - someone has to NOT drink, so that person can drive everyone home after the tour (unless you are staying downtown and can walk).  It's $45 (or was the last I looked).

  • Powell's Books - This is a great half-day experience if your parents or other adult visitor's speak English and love books. But you will need something else to do in Portland to fill your day - and I don't mean just eating. So you could try...

  • Historic Belmont Firehouse - This is in downtown Portland. Come on - who doesn't like to look at historic fire equipment?!

  • Oregon Rail Heritage Center. For the train lover inside of you.

  • Ballroom dancing, country dancing, any dancing in Portland - this web site says it lists all such partner dancing in Portland.

  • Give curling a try at the Evergreen Curling Club in Portland.

  • See if there is something interesting at the Portland Expo Center (we loved the RV show a while back - we're not in the market for such, but always wanted to see the insides of the luxury models).

  • Portland Zoo. I know, should be an outdoor activity, but several reviews on Yelp say that, if the rain isn't too bad, it's still a good thing to do. Only thing is the conditions of the elephants is horrific. It's worth going down to the Max station deep inside the mountain, to see the history of the world presented in core samples (free). 

  • World Forestry Center - this doesn't get stellar reviews on yelp. But it is entirely in-doors, which means it's always dry. And it's right across from the zoo. It's worth going down to the Max station deep inside the mountain, to see the history of the world presented in core samples (free). 

  • Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). Can be overwhelming when lots of kids are there, but does have some nice exhibits of interest to adults , an IMAX movie theatre, planetarium shows, plus a permanent exhibit of a submarine. Many exhibits change regularly. Warning: it's expensive!

  • Portland Art Museum, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, and oh-so-many art galleries in PDX.

  • Oregon Historical Society and the Oregon History Museum. This Portland museum is really only for die-hard history fans, though check the web site for a current temporary exhibit that might be of interest to those not all that interested in Oregon-only history.

  • Pittock Mansion. This was home to Portland pioneers Henry and Georgiana Pittock, with eclectic architectural design and richly decorated interior, including family artifacts. The mansion was completed in 1914, replete with progressive features for the time, including a central vacuum system, intercoms and indirect lighting. The house also creatively incorporated Turkish, English, and French designs. The final estate included the mansion, a three-car garage, a greenhouse, and the Italianate gate lodge servants’ residence, all situated on 46 acres of land almost 1,000 feet above downtown Portland.

  • Portland Trail Blazers - professional basketball. If you can get tickets, if you like basketball, and if there's a game, here ya go.

  • Portland Winterhawks. Portland's minor league hockey team, part of the Western Hockey League.

  • Visiting Broadway and other tours, including Cirque du Soleil. Also see the Keller Auditorium | Portland Center for the Performing Arts web site.

  • There are also a lot of colleges or universities in the area that have sporting events, theater performances, dance performances, etc. It will take some research on your part to find what's going on when at individual colleges and universities, but it's worth looking into.

  • There are a fair number of concerts and tours in the area. See pollstar.com for bands and individual performers playing in the Portland area for any given time.

  • Look at the web sites for city libraries throughout the area - Oregon City, Beaverton, Wilsonville, West Lynn, Canby, Newberg, etc. Often, they will have a musical performance that might be worth looking into.

  • There's the Oregon Symphony (based in Portland), the Portland Baroque Orchestra, and oh so many more classical music groups in the area. Lewis and Clark College has a terrific, comprehensive list of such.

  • Portland Ballet

  • Portland Center Stage (live theater)

  • Rose City Rollers - Portland's flat track roller derby league team. "The league’s goals are to serve our community by empowering women and girls, providing entertainment for our fans and supporting charitable causes." It's guaranteed to be a lively event. It's one of my very favorite things to do in Portland, rain or shine. That Portlandia still hasn't included it on its show is ridiculous.

  • Oaks Park Skating Rink (Roller Skating)

  • Lloyd Center Ice Rink

  • Indoor archery.

  • NE Alberta Neighborhood, between 14th and NE 33rd Ave. There are a wide range of boutiques, vintage shops and other unique stores. The street is spotted with food trucks and bars. You can park or take mass transit there and walk around, eat, shop, and people-watch, even in the rain. It’s the “hipster” Portland so many talk about.

  • Portland Nob Hill Neighborhood. It's boutique-y, cute. You can park and walk around, eat, shop, and people-watch, even in the rain. There's a direct bus from near the stop next to the soccer stadium (whatever they are calling it these days). 

  • There are some specialty shops in downtown Portland that various people have recommended as good places to browse. Record stores: "Music Millennium, Mississippi Records and Jackpot all both cool." Also: "Reading Frenzy is a funky bookstore that I like - there's always cool stuff there. Hand Eye Supply is good for browsing but quite pricey for buying. I've never been to the Faux Museum, but it looks cool... Paxton Gate is a weird taxidermy store on Mississippi."

  • More specialty/funky stores to pass the time in downtown Portland on a rainy day: Ground Kontrol Arcade, Lincoln Street Kayak & Canoe Museum, Mike's Movie Memorabilia Collection, Ping-Pong Pint Sized Puppet Museum, and Kidd's Toy Museum. And The Fossil Cartel, 333 SW Taylor St., which sells minerals, crystals, fossils, meteorites, and petrified wood, as well as bookends and jewelry made from such, from around the world. 

  • Pendleton Home Store, 210 NW Broadway, a 3,000-square foot showcase for this Oregon institution, featuring Native American-inspired designs. The store sells Pendleton blankets, throws, apparel, home furnishings, gifts and accessories, including items that have not yet been featured in the Pendleton catalog. There's also the The Woolen Mill store, on 8550 SE McLoughlin Blvd, a source for first quality Pendleton fabrics, remnants and notions for sewing and crafting.

  • There are three leather goods shops in the same neighborhood in Portland, and the shops feature some interesting items (wallets, hats - not kinky stuff): Orox Leather Co., Tanner Goods Retail Store and the Oregon Leather Company.

  • She Bop: A Female Friendly Sex Toy Boutique (for every body, not just women). Women-owned. 909 N. Beech Street, in the Historic Mississippi District in North Portland, just off N. Mississippi around the corner from Ruby Jewel. Division shop is in Southeast Portland, on SE Division St near the corner of Division and 32nd, right across from Pok Pok and next to Sugar Me.

Outside of downtown PDX (you will need a car to get to these places):

  • Planetarium Sky Theater at Mt. Hood Community College

  • Woodburn outlet. This is a huge shopping complex South of Portland. This is the highlight of my in-laws visits to the area-they've been every time they have visited. They love to shop, and this is shopping heaven.

  • Also South of Portland, the Aurora Colony antique shops and the Pacific Hazelnut Factory. The museum in the historic district is also worth visiting if you are interested in history or want to see the coolest - and I mean the coolest - music box you will ever see in your life. The antique shops are open Sundays, and many are open Monday as well; some are right downtown, but there are a few a bit South on 99, towards the hazelnut factory. You can walk to most, even in awful weather.

  • Visit Canby, South of Portland: St. Joseph's Winery is scenic even on a rainy day - the tasting room is lovely. Canby also has two specialty chocolate shops, LadyBug and Puddin' River, the latter of which is also a restaurant. Note: Canby and Aurora are right next to each other, which means, together, they make an all-day outing, rain or shine.

  • Spa day (massage, manicure, pedicure). There are many options in the area for this. Mcmenamins GrandLodge in Forest Grove, West of Portland, provides a lovely atmosphere on vast, historic, grounds.

  • While in Forest Grove for a spa day (see above), or instead of a spa day, check out the shop downtown for the Vally Arts Association. It's one of the oldest nonprofit art galleries in the Pacific Northwest, and features work by more than 200 local artists. "We offer an eclectic assortment of paintings, fine pottery, jewelry, wood carvings, glass art, metal sculpture, textiles and garden art." There's an antique store just a few doors down as well.

  • Still in Forest Grove? Take a guided tour of the Sake One factory and see where the best sake in the USA is made. There are also very affordable sake tastings in the tasting room / gift shop, and tastes are paired with hors d'oeuvres. There's usually an in-door special event at least once a month, featuring specialized hors d'oeuvres (like chocolate for Valentine's Day) paired with different sakes. But, remember: someone needs to NOT drink for the drive back to Portland.

  • On your way to or from Forest Grove, check out the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks & Minerals. These galleries and displays cover a wide range of geologic wonders, including Northwest stones such as thunder eggs and sunstones and a vast collection of semi-precious rocks, gems and crystals that include gold, emeralds, rubies, diamonds, sapphires and the famous "Alma Rose" rhodochrosite from Colorado. There's a petrified wood gallery, a meteorite display and a fossil gallery as well. And, of course, a gift shop.

  • On your way to the coast or just headed West from Portland, stop by the Lawrence Gallery Sheridan, out in the middle of NO WHERE on 19700 SW Highway 18, outside of McMinnville. "For 36 years, collectors and artists from around the world have known Lawrence Gallery as Oregon's foremost purveyor of fine art. Lawrence Gallery is dedicated to showcasing the finest art the Pacific Northwest has to offer. Specializing in original paintings, indoor and outdoor sculpture, clay, glass, and wood, Lawrence Gallery features world class work by local artists with special exhibitions of modern masters such as Dali, Picasso, and Chagall." It's a small gallery, but worth a visit - you never know what they're going to have. The grounds are lovely, and there's a tiny restaurant and coffee bar. There's also a gallery right across the street.

  • West of Portland and Forest Grove is the Lafayette Antique Market, Oregon's largest antique mall, in the old Lafayette School House and Gym. It's 30 miles from Porltand and has more than 100 antique dealers.

  • Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum (Spruce Goose)
    & McMinnville
    This is an all-day experience, thank goodness! Perfect for a rainy/super-foggy day. Probably my very favorite thing to take someone to on a rainy day. In addition to the airplanes and space craft, there's also an iMax theater that's always showing something worth watching. My in-laws loved it - even the iMax movie, which was in English only. This remains the best thing they've done in the area. (For the kids, there's a waterpark - not something most adults without kids are into). Warning: it's expensive! Nearby is the city of McMinnville, which has an historic downtown that is a good place to eat, get ice cream, or get coffee - and if the weather isn't too dreadful, for a short walk around.

  • Oregon City: there's the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, the Museum of the Oregon Territory and the Oregon City Municipal Elevator. I suggest these only if you have done absolutely everything else and really are completely out of ideas - the museums don't get must-see reviews on Yelp.

  • Oregon Maritime Museum.

  • Sky High Sports Trampoline Park in Tigard.

  • Lincoln City Cultural Center. This is out on the coast, so it's an all-day trip there and back. There is an in-door farmer's market/crafts market. Sometimes has concerts as well. It's an hour away from Tillamook (see next item). Check the schedule online before schlepping out there.

  • Tillamook Cheese factory. This is all day trip from Portland out to the coast and back. You will have to leave super early from Portland to get there and back. It's an hour away from Lincoln City (see previous item). Call ahead to make sure its open and you can tour. And if it's a holiday weekend, forget it - the crowds will be too overwhelming.

  • Bonneville Dam - I could not find any official information about visiting the Dam. I did find this  information on an unofficial site: When visiting Bonneville Dam, you have three touring options:
    1) Explore the facilities on your own (self-guided)
, 2) Join in on an interpretive program or 
3) Schedule an interpretive program for your group.
 Phone 541-374-8820 for information on these tour options or to schedule a reservation. Supposedly, it's worth visiting even if it's raining. Here's the Yelp review of a dam visit.

  • Pearson Air Museum, Vancouver, Washington - this is the oldest operating air field in the West. This small museum displays vintage aircraft. Tiny compared to Evergreen, but gets descent reviews on TripAdvisor and Yelp. Check for the days it's open (it's not open every day). It's near Fort Vancouver.

  • Winery tours. I think the most beautiful wineries are West of Portland. So when you look to book, I recommend you look at Dundee winery tours or Yamhill winery tours. I recommend Yelp for finding the best tours. Remember: you  need to take public transit to the pick up and drop off point for your winery tour, or get a pickup/drop off service from your front door, or someone needs to NOT drink and be the designated driver!

  • Go to the movies. There are iMax theaters, historic movie houses, art houses, and traditional mega cinemas showing a variety of current and classic movies throughout the Portland area.

  • Churches, temples and mosques in the area have performances and open houses. It will take a lot of research on your part to find out what public events are happening at various houses of worship.
  • Pubs with a British, Irish or Scottish theme will have World Cup soccer games in 2014, Euro games in 2016, summer Olympic games in 2012, winter Olympic games in 2014, and so forth. Watching international matches in such a pub, such as the Highland Still House in Oregon City (largest selection of single malt scotches in the Portland area), is a very lively 2 - 3 hour experience! Call first to make sure they will be showing the international game of your choice. Throw in a game of darts before or after the game, and a meal, and you've knocked out half a day.
  • Find a bar that has pool, darts, table shuffleboard, or even better, a snooker table. Call first to make sure whatever table the Internet says a bar has is still there (and, indeed, to make sure a particular bar or pub is still open!)
  • Find a bar that has karaoke. Call first to make sure the bar still has such (the Internet is often wrong about this).
  • Indoor paintball.
  • And your last option: Buy a wii, buy some beer, stay home and enjoy your living room.

Also see these travel resources (in a different section of my web site):

The rest of this section of my web site is focused mostly on community service, volunteering, etc. - not Portland specific:

 
 
© 2010-2012 by Jayne Cravens, all rights reserved. No part of this material can be reproduced in print or in electronic form without express written permission by Jayne Cravens.

 



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