When we say Best of the City, we mean it! Our downtown Portland Oregon walking tours are the best way to get the story of Portland in a few hours; engaging, well-paced and colorful. It’s a complicated city, but it’s a city with stories in every building, park and brick. We can’t tell them all, so we’ve organized our city’s best things in a few different walking tour routes. Young students or teenagers? Reach out to book a school group tour! (Due to guide availability, we’re now offering a few routes only by request; when we’ve opened a time all are welcome to book!)
All Best of the City walking tours leave from the fountain at the NE corner of Director Park, and we keep our groups to 14 or fewer people for intimate, personal experiences. $29.
Best of the City | the soul of the city: activism, art, architecture, parks | 10 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 4:00 p.m. and 6 p.m. (later times unavailable in winter except by request) From cast iron-fronted buildings to the grandly disastrous post-modern Portland Building, much of Portland, Oregon’s history can be told through the buildings and street layouts; most importantly, the prioritization of parks throughout the city center. How did the city’s early urban planners decide on their layouts? How do modern designers look at the past and plan for the future? Who are the people these streets are named for? What’s with all the roses? It’s not a dry history: full of back-room deals, early deaths and greed; and then there were the hippies! We’ll also discuss the modern rise of radical activists in Portland and how that is intimately connected to the city’s history going back more than a century. Two hours, two miles (3.5 km).
We meet in the center of the city, at Director Park, only a block from the city’s Cultural District. We walk through the South Park Blocks, visiting the plazas connected to museums and concert halls, including the Portland Art Museum and the Oregon Historical Society, where we will explore how Portland got its nicknames and city layout; how its cultural identity was forged; and where our commitment to racial justice and social progressivism comes from (and how far we have had to come). Be surprised as you learn how our state was founded and why; learn more about the people who were here before our written history began.
Meet Portlandia, the image personifying our city, and explore some of our most interesting and influential architecture. Learn how much of our city as we see it today has hippies — and those who fought against them — to thank for its richness.
We end at Pioneer Courthouse Square, after about two hours, and about two miles of walking (3.5 km). There are a few hills and some stairs that can be avoided. On days when attractions are open, we will go inside one or two buildings briefly, but will not visit exhibits at museums.
Best of the City | weird Portlandia. | 4 p.m. (2 p.m. in winter) We weren’t the first city to use the slogan “Keep [city] weird,” but we were the first ones to steal it. We’ll walk through Portland’s bizarre and strange past and present, exploring the history of weird icons like Darcelle XV (the world’s oldest drag queen), Voodoo Doughnut (started to “soak up the alcohol” in the Old Town district), and the Burnside Skate Park (started as a rogue unauthorized park and eventually recognized by the city). Two hours, 2.5 miles (4 km).
Best of the City | urban art and Pearl District | 1 p.m. (by request) How did Portland become the first city on the West Coast with a fine art museum? And how did it develop into a hotbed for modern artists like Mark Rothko and Lee Kelly? With a walk down the Park Blocks and into the Pearl District, we’ll learn how Portland went from a city of ornate churches to gritty artists working out of abandoned warehouses — and then, to today. We’ll talk about public art and sculpture, murals, and graffiti, as well as visiting the Pacific Northwest College of Art. Two hours, 3 miles (5 km).
Book any of the tours below!