Portland has one of the most attractive downtown urban cores in America. Clean, compact and filled with parks, plazas and fountains, it holds a mix of new and historic buildings. Portland is a big city with small-town charm. Beyond its unparalleled natural setting at the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette rivers, the city boasts striking examples of -to-the-minute postmodern architecture, an effective and intelligent transit system, clean air and water, an extensive system of colorful parks and gardens and a lively arts scene. If this is the city of the future (and many think so), it is one that retains a human scale and one in which the quality of life of its citizens is a high and constant priority.

Yes, it rains in Portland. Locals tend not to put too much emphasis on the rain. But you can tell by their casual dress that they’re prepared for it. You should be, too, so bring an umbrella and some waterproof shoes especially during the winter. Water is, in fact, a rather dominant theme in Portland. The heart of the city lies along the Willamette River, the nation’s longest north-flowing river. The Willamette flows through the center of Portland, dividing the city east and west.


Few cities in the United states boast the caliber or variety of outdoor opportunities found in Portland. Tucked at the northern end of the Willamette River Valley bounded by the snow-capped volcanoes, old-growth forests and the Columbia River the region has long attracted residents with a keen appreciation for the great outdoors. Expansive green spaces make even the center of downtown feel natural and friendly. Portland’s 37,000 acres of park space include sizeable chunks of prime downtown real estate and don’t look for that to change any time soon. The city is proud to host the nation’s largest urban wilderness, the nearly 5,000 acre Forest Park, as well as the world’s smallest dedicated green space, the 24 inch Mill Ends Park. Keeping your photo opportunities in mind, building height restrictions guarantee tantalizing views of nearby Mount Hood. The diversity of Portland’s activities and attractions makes the mixture of people both intriguing and amusing.

Getting around to take in the scene is easy and delightful, making it understandable that Outside magazine voted Portland one of the 10 greatest places to live (1999). Years of careful urban management have made Portland a city planner’s dream. Built on a European model, the city is a walker’s paradise. Portland, which features statues, fountains and half-size city blocks, has been voted one of America’s best walking towns.

If you prefer to see the area on wheels, you’re in for a treat as well. Progressive policies and expansive bike-friendly paths have earned Portland the distinction of being Bicycling magazine’s No. 1 bicycling city in America (No. 2 in North America, 1999). Biking is only one of the many exercise forms preferred by locals. Joggers and rollerbladers adorn the paths of Gov. Tom McCall Waterfront Park year-round, causing Fit magazine to vote Portland “FitTown, USA.” (1998).

There are eight bridges serving as arteries, carrying pedestrians, trains and automobiles across the Willamette River. Distinctly different personalities thrive on either side of the river.

The west side of the Willamette cradles the downtown business sector. The financial district and the world trade center are the anchors of Portland’s decidedly casual but intense business environment. Just north of downtown, in the Pearl District and on Portland’s Northwest Twenty-third Avenue, you’ll find a unique combination of artisans, high-tech ad agencies, fine restaurants and galleries; a mix that helps define Portland’s entrepreneurial spirit.

The east side of the Willamette River nurtures a slower and more artistic pace. The Southeast Hawthorne District and the Belmont area are home to antique shops, old theaters, brew-pubs and quaint old-fashioned neighborhoods. On the Northeast side, you’ll find office towers next to flower carts.

The city’s residents are as diverse as its terrain. Portlanders tend to be independent thinkers, voracious readers and tenacious in their environmental concerns. Community-wide tolerance for alternative lifestyles and strict adherence to urban growth boundaries meld to create unique and colorful advantages for doing business. In other words, as long as you are patient (and preferably not a condominium developer from California) you’ll probably get the job done and have some fun besides.

History & Culture

Originally inhabited by Chinook Indians, the region was first visited by Europeans when Lewis and Clark came through nearly two centuries ago. The two explorers passed present-day Portland in November, 1805. They subsequently spent a miserable winter at the mouth of the Columbia. after their return East, the first waves of homesteaders followed in their footsteps based on the valuable potential of this region, for both timber and fur trapping. Two such pioneers were Asa Lovejoy and William Overton, who, while canoeing the Willamette in 1843, stopped at a clearing along the river. Overcome by the beauty of the area, the men filed claim to the 640 acre site. Overton soon moved on, selling his share to Francis W. Pettygrove. The new partners set to work clearing trees and building roads, but they couldn’t agree on a name for their budding township. Lovejoy was determined to name the site after his hometown of Boston, while Pettygrove was equally adamant about his native Portland, Maine. They flipped a coin to settle the argument and Pettygrove won on two out of three tosses.

Portland continued to boom over the next century and a half, securing a position as one of America’s principal timber towns. But a change has taken place over the last few decades one in which high tech (Intel) and apparel (Nike) have eclipsed timber as the region’s main business concern. In the process, a new generation of fleece-clad outdoor enthusiasts have come to typify the Portland resident far more than the lumberjacks and timber barons of old.

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