It’s no secret to Portland natives that their hometown is an ambitious cultural hub. Year-round, Portland has a stellar lineup of events and activities for all ages, from film to classical music to fine arts. Where do Portlanders go to experience the best film, music, fine arts, and festivals the city has to offer? All 145 square miles of the city are jam-packed with endless amounts of opportunity.
Bibliophiles will go crazy for Powell’s Books, which takes up a whole block of real estate on West Burnside Street. It's the flagship location of the world’s largest independent bookstore, and you’ll want to budget plenty of time to browse the 2 million new and used volumes on the premises, some titles even dating back to the 17th century. Pick up a latte at the cafe and spend the day discovering local favorites, or settle in for one of 500 on-site author events.
Then head to Disjecta Contemporary Art Center for innovative visual exhibitions and performances. Here you can contemplate creative works by regional and national artists. Special events include the annual Quiet Music Festival, a low-key gathering for laid-back sounds where you will experience "a tranquil cave of sonic serenity" while you "float on a sea of plush surfaces." If you’re feeling antsy for more action, visit OMSI, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. Experience the motion simulator or take a submarine tour. For the adult crowd, OMSI After Dark offers a unique night out for food, drink, and entertainment (like shooting off water rockets and concocting chemicals).
If you’re into film, the Laurelhurst Theater and Pub is the place to be for second-run and foreign films (recent reels include Dr. Strange, Girl on the Train, and A Man Called Ove). Designed in 1923, the theater is fabulously art deco and bathed in a hot pink neon glow. Bring in your own snacks or grab some popcorn on your way in to pair with local craft beer on tap, like a 2 Towns Made Marion Blackberry Cider or a Migration Glisan St. Pale Ale. Film buffs will also want to attend the 40th annual Portland International Film Festival, starting February 9. This year PIFF features more than 100 feature films and 60 shorts from around the world.
Dinner and a show more your style? First hit up Portland Dining Month to sample a selection of Portland’s best restaurants (like short ribs at Aviary or northern Italian fare at Paley’s Place), then check out who’s playing at Wonder Ballroom. The intimate space has excellent acoustics, plus a full-service bar. With indie darlings such as Electric Guest and Devendra Banhart playing in the same month as Thundercat and Talib Kweli, there’s something for everyone trying to catch a good beat.
The Portland music scene is nothing if not well-rounded. The Grammy Award-nominated Oregon Symphony features one of the oldest orchestras in the country. You can’t miss the old-school, illuminated marquee on the front of the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. The PDX Jazz Festival in February will host the most celebrated musicians of the genre, where you’ll find anything from solo piano acts to bumping late-night quintets. And for the enthusiast who wants the best of both film and music, the 34th annual Reel Music Festival will show documentaries and features that dive into genres you’ve never even thought of, from alternative Arab to Norwegian black metal — just one more example of Portland’s big cultural appetite.
photography by Susan Seubert unless otherwise noted
1005 W Burnside St, Portland, OR 97209
8371 N Interstate Ave, Portland, OR 97217
1945 SE Water Ave, Portland, OR 97214
2735 E Burnside St, Portland, OR 97214
starts February 9, venues vary
starts March 1, restaurants vary
128 NE Russell St, Portland, OR 97212
starts February 16, venues vary
starts January 13, NW Film Center