About Portland

About PortlandPortland is an eclectic city that’s easy to explore thanks to its relatively small size. A population of just under 600,000 means that this city is no sprawling urban metropolis. In fact, a great mass transit system and a compact downtown enable visitors to feel at home quickly and orient themselves without difficulty.

Today, Portland features plenty of slick skyscrapers and upscale restaurants, but this is a huge departure from the town’s humble beginnings. At the time of its incorporation in 1851, Portland boasted 800 residents and its most notable landmarks were a steam sawmill and a log cabin hotel. Progress happened quickly, with the population rapidly swelling and enabling the city to take over nearby settlements. Agriculture, logging and shipping were all early industries in Portland, ensuring the city’s longevity and continued economic development.

The city lies on both sides of the Willamette River, close to that river’s confluence with the better-known Columbia River. In 1931, the city was officially divided into five sections to make it easier to navigate the streets. Those divisions are still widely in use today with locals referring casually to Northeast and Southwest. The other quadrants are Northwest, Southeast and North. The Willamette River effectively divides the east from the west, which is a handy piece of knowledge for visitors wanting to find their way around town.

Portland’s culture is fascinating and diverse. This is the home of the sophisticated Oregon Ballet Theater and the Portland Opera, but it’s also the place where innovative filmmaker Gus Van Sant grew up and where The Simpsons creator Matt Groening was born. In fact, the city enjoys a long and interesting history with the film and television industry, and many parts of the city are familiar to viewers of the Twilight films, Body of Evidence and Portlandia.

The city is also a haven for foodies and lovers of microbrews. While there are plenty of elegant restaurants serving gourmet fare, perhaps the most fun to be had with food in Portland is among the plethora of food carts that have sprung up everywhere in downtown. Of course, a stop at the infamous VooDoo Doughnut is a must for anyone new to the city, and provides a fascinating glimpse into the clash of bohemia and sophistication that seems to have infiltrated all of Portland’s neighborhoods. In fact, it is this contrast that makes Portland such an interesting and worthwhile destination. Perhaps no other city in the world quite so successfully combines the counterculture with the mainstream.