One Day in Portland Oregon with Teenagers

One Day in Portland

One day is not a lot of time to fit in the best Portland Oregon attractions, but you can do it and enjoy it! You will need to start your one day in Portland Oregon early and put on your walking shoes to get the most out of your 24 hours. You will be able to check off all the must do things in Portland, so it will be worth it.

Two teenagers enjoying one day in Portland Oregon

Getting Started in Portland

A few basic things before you get started on your tourist day in Portland. Portland is Oregon’s largest city and sits on the Willamette and Columbia rivers in the shadow of Mt. Hood. This eco-friendly city offers a multitude of bike paths and green spaces. The foodie scene has something for everyone and food “pods” can be found all throughout the city in the various neighborhoods.

Typically the weather follows as a warm, dry summer (only a few months) and a wet, overcast, cool winter. Portland actually averages more rainfall per year than Seattle does, so pack accordingly. Public transportation through TriMet is available from the PDX airport and runs buses, light rail, and commuter rail throughout the city and the surrounding neighborhoods.

This PNW spot is a city of rivers and bridges, so simply driving around gives you impeccable sights to see in Portland. You will have no problem combining city adventures with outdoor adventures here.

Playing on the riverfront at Cathedral Park in Portland Oregon

Where to stay in Portland, OR

All of the major hotel chains offer a variety of stay levels within the downtown area. You can choose a budget option like Eastside Lodge just a mile from downtown with updated rooms and free parking. The Hampton Inn & Suites in the Pearl District is in a spectacular location and perfect for families at a mid level price point. If you are looking for an upscale boutique hotel, check out The Mark Spencer, which has several rooms with a full kitchenette! Our best suggestion is to book your lodging within walking distance of a few places you want to visit, but also close to public transport. If you have a car, know that you will likely pay upwards of $30 per night to park.

Top 7 Portland Oregon Attractions

It should come as no surprise that many of the fun things to do in Portland are focused on outside sights. That will come in handy after you visit all the food pods and donut shops! Remember to keep a rain jacket or umbrella with you so you stay dry. Feel free to drive and park on site or use the lite rail system to avoid fees and troubles.

1. Washington Park

One park, many destinations. This park has it all! Consider using the free shuttle offered from 9:30 am- 7:00 pm. due to limited parking. The Oregon Zoo and the Japanese Garden are the best places to take your kids and start your day. Both of these require a fee to enter and currently require advanced timed entry tickets. If you have a deep love of trees and flowers, take an hour or so to walk through the Hoyt Arboretum or the International Rose Test Garden as well. They are free! You could spend all day here and everyone would be happy and engaged. Or if you have teenagers you could spend part of your day and then head on to something else like we did.

Close up of a peach rose at the International Rose Test Garden in Portland Oregon

2. Cathedral Park

Yes, another park, but this one gives you a totally different perspective of Portland. Here you find yourself across the Willamette River in a quiet residential area of Portland. If you want a place to picnic or exercise your dog, this is the spot. The park beneath the bridge and the little beach area along the river are sweet and a welcome respite after a full day in the city.

Upward photo shot of the bridge over the Willamette River at Cathedral Park

3. Doughnuts

Teenagers have a good time doing any kind of food crawl and the Portland doughnut scene will not disappoint. The two tourist stand outs are Voodoo and Blue Star, but the locals enjoy others. NOLA makes their doughnuts with croissant dough making them just different enough to want to test out. Annie’s has a strong cult following with a throwback vibe. It seems as though each neighborhood has their favorite, so don’t hesitate to explore.

Voodoo Doughnuts Portland Oregon
Blue Star Donuts in Portland Oregon

4. Powell’s Books

This is no ordinary bookstore; it’s an experience. Coined as the world’s largest independent bookstore and simplistic in its approach, yet everyone loves it. We have teens who love to read and this library feeling bookstore was a great downtown spot to peruse. This is a must do for your one day in Portland Oregon. Buy the next best seller or catch up on a classic you never read. This place has it all. Below is the book I picked up!

5. Live Sporting Events

Whenever you take teenagers to a major metro area take them to a live sporting event. It’s more than just about the sport. These are great places to try local foods, learn a a bit more about the people and see another part of the city. Portland has the NBA Trailblazers, men’s and women’s pro soccer teams. Check out" rel="nofollow">No Fee Sports Ticketstickets for when you visit! We saw posted signs that the city is pushing for an MLB team, which we think would be an incredible addition to Portland.

Portland Trailblazers stadium

6. The Grotto

The quiet retreat of this spiritual refuge is located in a neighborhood outside of downtown. It’s a place of peace, prayer, and natural beauty. Our teens didn’t love this stop, but we’ve got some great tips for traveling with teenagers. It requires some restraint to enjoy it and be respectful to the others who are visiting. So, if you plan to visit this spot with teens or younger kids, consider bringing a book for them to read while you follow the walking path through the upper gardens. The serenity and beauty is astounding even if your teens endure it with brooding now, they will remember it.

The upper gardens at the Grotto in Portland

7. Food Trucks (actually they’re called Pods)

Portland is extremely foodie friendly. Similar to what other cities have done, they have created a way to enjoy tasty food without having to sit down at a reservation. Instead of food trucks, Portland uses what they call pods. A grouping of small carts/shacks that offer a variety of foods semi-permanently located in parking lots or neighborhood areas give visitors a taste of local fare.

Do you research. There are pods located all over the city and they are not all the same. Check out Prost Marketplace or Portland Mercado. Stand alones that stand out are Jojo’s and Stretch the Noodle. Our recommendation would be to try one that has several different types of carts so you can try a bit from all of them. This works really well with families. Some have picnic tables, but some may require you to find a park or place to sit on your own.

The Perfect One Day in Portland Oregon Itinerary

  • 7:45 am- Start your day downtown at Voodoo Doughnut, which opens at 8:00 am. Trust me, you want to be there right before it opens so you don’t have to wait in line for an hour.
  • 9:00 am-12:00- From there head up to Washington Park (make sure you already have your advance timed entry tickets) to the Oregon Zoo and the Japanese Garden.
  • 12:00 pm- Head back downtown for lunch at Deschutes Brewery to grab some grub and possibly a tasting flight of local beers.
  • 1:00-2:00 pm- Walk off your lunch over to Powell’s Bookstore and peruse while you digest.
  • 2:00-3:00 pm- Lite rail back up to the International Rose Test Garden and/or Hoyt Aboretum.
  • 3:00 pm- Time for another donut stop…or Salt & Straw ice cream
  • 4:00-5:30 pm- Make your way to The Grotto for a late afternoon quiet stroll
  • 5:30 pm- If you are planning to attend an evening sporting event, find a food pod close to the stadium or on the way and enjoy your time there! If you aren’t doing that, head over to Cathedral Park with some take-out food from your food pod of choice and enjoy a picnic along the riverfront.
  • 7:30 pm- Finish your night with a final stop at the last donut shop and wrap it up. Your feet are tired and your bellies are full. Sleep well!

A Super Day Trip From Portland

If you have more than one day in the Portland Oregon you should visit the waterfalls along the Columbia River East of the city. If you don’t have a rental car, then book a day tour from downtown. Multnomah Falls is the closest and does not require too much hiking at all. Others that are further east will require you to do some exploring in the outdoors. Many people use Portland as a jumping off point for all the natural wonder nearby. We highly recommend seeking adventure amongst the waterfalls.

Some of you may have teenagers that prefer the exciting city life, but it’s never too late to engage them in the outdoors. We have a few ideas on how to get your teens outdoors more. Check it out!

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