From museums showcasing the history of the Oregon Trail to opulent gilded age mansions overlooking the city, sustainable forestry centers to emerging fashion exhibits, here are Portland’s top destinations for history and culture.
This historic museum located in a pair of buildings on the South Park Blocks is not only the largest museum in Oregon, but it’s the oldest too. Founded in 1892, the popular art destination features American, Native American, Asian, and European works as well photography, graphic arts, and silver. Upcoming exhibitions include Black Artists of Oregon, Human Nature: 150 Years of Japanese Landscape Prints, and Africa Fashion.
Just across the Park Blocks from the Portland Art Museum sits the Oregon Historical Society, which has served as the “state’s collective memory” since 1898. Through an extensive collection of photographs, films, oral histories, maps, books, and other artifacts, it preserves and shares stories from the state’s Native American tribes, the Oregon Trail, and the state’s fight for LGBTQ rights — to name a few.
A visit to this gorgeously restored French Renaissance mansion offers guests a trio of perks. The former home of Henry Pittock — who braved the Oregon Trail in 1853 in search of fame and fortune before becoming publisher of The Oregonian newspaper — offers 16,000-square-feet of gilded opulence. But the 23-room mansion is also steps from Forest Park’s popular Wildwood hiking trail, and it boasts some of the best panoramic views of the city and five Cascade range peaks.
Ranked as one of the nation’s best science centers, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (known as OMSI) is the destination for kids and adults looking to geek out on everything from physics and astronomy to comics and the science of beer brewing. Comprised of five halls with 200+ interactive exhibits, a four-story theater, 200-seat planetarium, and a retired Navy submarine docked in the river, OMSI offers something for lifelong learners of all ages.
World Forestry Center’s Discovery Museum
Founded in 1966, the World Forestry Center is a nonprofit dedicated to sustainable forestry that dates back to the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition. The organization’s 20,000 square foot family-friendly museum in Washington Park explores topics including world forests, the animals that call it home, and the future of forestry.
Moored in the Willamette River in downtown Portland’s Waterfront Park, this singular piece of Portland history gives visitors the chance to learn about the region’s maritime traditions while aboard “Portland.” The vessel the last operating sternwheel steam tug in the United States, and is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. But perhaps most remarkably, she’s also still operational.