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Favorite experiences in Portland

Favorite experiences in Portland:  Frommer's recommendations for the best things to do in the city.
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Strolling the Grounds at the Japanese Garden. This is the best Japanese garden in the United States, perhaps the best anywhere outside of Japan. Our favorite time to visit is in June when the Japanese irises are in bloom. There's no better stress reducer in the city.

Beer Sampling at Brewpubs. They may not have invented beer here in Portland, but they've certainly turned it into an art form. Whether you're looking for a cozy corner pub or an upscale taproom, you'll find a brewpub where you can feel comfortable sampling what local brewmeisters are concocting.

Kayaking Around Ross Island. Seattle may be the sea-kayaking capital of the Northwest, but Portland's not a bad spot for pursuing this sport either. You can paddle on the Columbia or Willamette rivers, but our favorite easy outing is around Ross Island in the Willamette River. You can even paddle past the submarine at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and pull out at Tom McCall Waterfront Park.

Mountain Biking the Leif Erickson Road. Forest Park is the largest forested city park in the country, and running its length is unpaved Leif Erickson Road. The road is closed to cars and extends for 12 miles. Along the way, there are occasional views of the Columbia River. This is a long but relatively easy ride, without any strenuous climbs.

Hanging Out at Powell's. They don't call Powell's the City of Books for nothing. This bookstore, which sells both new and used books, is so big you have to get a map at the front door. No matter how much time I spend here, it's never enough. A large cafe makes it all that much easier to while away the hours.

Free Rides on the Vintage Trolleys. TriMet buses, MAX light-rail trolleys, and Portland Streetcars are all free within a large downtown area known as the Fareless Square. That alone should be enough to get you on some form of public transit while you're in town, but if you're really lucky, you might catch one of the vintage trolley cars that operate on the MAX and Portland Streetcar lines on weekends from March through December. There aren't any San Francisco-style hills, but the trolleys are still fun to ride.

An Afternoon at the Portland Saturday Market. This large arts-and-crafts market is an outdoor showcase for hundreds of the Northwest's creative artisans. You'll find one-of-a-kind clothes, jewelry, kitchenwares, musical instruments, and much, much more. The food stalls serve up some great fast food, too.

Summertime Concerts at the Washington Park Zoo. Summertime in Portland means partying with the pachyderms. Throughout the summer you can catch live music at the zoo's amphitheater. Musical styles include blues, rock, bluegrass, folk, Celtic, and jazz. Sometimes for nothing more than the regular zoo admission, you can catch the concert and tour the zoo (if you arrive early enough). Picnics are encouraged, and beer and wine are for sale during concerts.

First Thursday Art Walk. On the first Thursday of every month, Portland goes on an art binge. People get dressed up and go gallery hopping from art opening to art opening. There are usually hors d'oeuvres and wine available, and sometimes there's even live music. The galleries stay open until 9pm.

For a complete listing of what to see and do in Portland, OR, visit the online attractions index at

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