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The Complete Guide to Living in Portland, OR

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In the 1990s, the Portland City Council selected "The City That Works" as the city's official slogan. If you ask most people to name Portland's slogan, though, they'll tell you that it's "Keep Portland Weird." It's an excellent take for a city that prides itself on its diversity — not just of people, ideas and cultures, but just about everything. The fact is, if there's something you love seeing, doing or taking part in, Portland, Oregon probably has a delightful little niche where you'll fit right in. Whether you're planning to raise a family, start a business or enjoy your retirement years, living in Portland is one of the best ways to do it. 

Living in Portland, OR: An Overview

More than anything else, Portland is defined by its neighborhoods — nearly 100 of them, each with its own distinct vibe. From the chic, upscale shops of the Pearl District to the tree-lined residential streets of St. Johns and the indie Bohemian charm of the Southeast quadrant, Portland really does have something to offer everyone. You'll find a thriving music scene, a dynamic arts and theater community, and foodies of all types and stripes. If your idea of heaven includes a dynamic nightlife, friendly neighbors, and a literal world of shopping and dining choices, all wrapped up in some of the most beautiful scenery on the planet — not to mention a community dedicated to preserving its natural beauty — Portland is the place for you.

Population

Home to just over half a million residents, Portland, Oregon regularly makes it onto various "best cities" lists — and with good reason. Located between the Columbia and Willamette Rivers, Portland lies about an hour from the Pacific Ocean to the west, and is surrounded by mountains of the Oregon Coast and Cascade Mountain ranges, making it the perfect city for those who love the great outdoors. While the area has a reputation for its rainy season, in reality, Portland enjoys four distinct seasons, each of them offering a bounty of outdoor activities to enjoy. Whether you ski, hike, swim, fish or enjoy more extreme sports, you'll find a supportive community that shares your passion.

  • Population: 641,162
  • Diversity: 75.3% white (non-Hispanic), 5.9% Black or African American, 8.9% Hispanic or Latino, 8.7% Asian (non-Hispanic), 0.8%  American Indian/Alaskan Native
  • Primary language: English

What Portland lacks in racial diversity, it makes up for in its depth and richness of creative culture. The city has a thriving LGBTQIA+ community and welcomes people who enjoy living life a little differently. Its reputation for friendliness is well-deserved, as is the attraction it holds for creatives, whether their craft is music, art, beer and wine, jewelry, or performance — or even art that defies categorization. 

Weather

  • Highest temperature: 85°F (August)
  • Lowest temperature: 36°F (January)
  • Warmest months: mid-June to mid-September
  • Coolest months: mid-December to mid-February

Portland’s winter months are cool, but seldom cold, with temperatures averaging around 36 degrees during the coldest months. They are also pretty wet. The months from November to April average about 15 rainy days each. October to April are also typically cloudy, with some kind of cloud cover 70-75% of the time.

On the other hand, the spring and summer months are delightful. From June through September, the temperatures average in the high 70s to mid-80s, and seldom climb above 90 F. The humidity is typically low, and the chance of rain on any given day is less than 20%. 

Needless to say, the comfortable temperatures, sunny skies, and low relative humidity make Portland a wonderful place to visit from June through September.

What’s the Cost of Living in Portland, Oregon?

Portland has long been one of the more affordable areas in the Pacific Northwest, and while the cost of living is trending upward, the costs of living in Portland are still lower than they are in other nearby metro areas. While the median housing sale price is $600,000, one can still find not-so-hidden gems in many neighborhoods listed for less than $300k. The housing stock runs the gamut from palatial estates to single-family detached homes to townhouses and semi-detached homes in neighborhoods throughout the city.

  • Housing: $600,000
  • Average number of days on the market: 6
  • Rent (one-bedroom): $1,680
  • Utilities: $164.04

How Expensive Is Renting in Portland?

Considering Portland's charm, renting in the city is surprisingly affordable, especially in comparison to other PNW cities. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,680, which is just above the national average, but lower than other nearby cities and towns. Rents are highest in and around downtown, but even in the high-rent district, it's possible to find tidy studio apartments closer to the $1,000 mark.

 

bike rack and shops and trees set against a suburban neighborhood in portland oregon

 

The Best Neighborhoods in Portland

The city of Portland is divided into six quadrants — North Portland, Northeast Portland, Northwest Portland, South Portland, Southeast Portland and Southwest Portland — and a total of 95 officially recognized neighborhoods. Each neighborhood has a distinct style and vibe, but all of them exude charm and friendliness.

1. Hillsdale - Best Neighborhood for Young Families

Located in Portland's Southwest quadrant, Hillsdale is a quintessential small suburban oasis in the middle of a thriving urban center. With tree-lined streets, sweeping lawns and comfortable single-family homes, the neighborhood is ranked as one of the best places in Portland to raise a family. In addition to highly rated public schools and recreational opportunities, Hillsdale is home to one of the most popular weekly farmers' markets in the area.

  • Population: 17,340
  • Average household income: $108,956
  • Median house price: $572,885
  • Median rent: $1,389
  • Places to check out: 
    • Hillsdale Farmers Market
    • George Himes City Park
    • Gigi's Cafe
    • Wilson Pool
    • Sasquatch Brewery

2. Northwest District - Best Neighborhood for Young Professionals

Portland's Northwest District is a collection of neighborhoods that includes Nob Hill, the Pearl District, Old Town Chinatown and Forest Park. Urban and upscale, it's an area that's both trendy and chic, perfect for young professionals and those who enjoy the glitter and sparkle of city living. The blend of traditional and modern make it especially appealing to those who like all of its amenities within easy walking distance. 

  • Population: 22,106
  • Average household income: $90,702
  • Median house price: $617,531
  • Median rent: $1,409
  • Places to check out: 
    • Northwest Children's Theater
    • Forest Park
    • Pittock Mansion
    • Powell's City of Books
    • Saturday Market

3. Hayhurst - Best Neighborhood for Raising a Family

Located in Southwest Portland not far from Hillsdale, Hayhurst has a similarly suburban vibe that's especially appealing to families. Tree-lined streets and older single-family homes contribute to the small-town USA vibe that's bolstered by a number of area parks and shopping centers. 

  • Population: 8,949
  • Average household income: $92,967
  • Median house price: $501,439
  • Median rent: $1,454
  • Places to check out: 
    • Laughing Planet
    • Dragon Herbarium
    • Gabriel Park
    • Multnomah Village

4. Foster-Powell - A Diverse Melting Pot on the Rise

Foster-Powell, located in the Southeast District, has seen its share of ups and downs, but it's definitely a neighborhood on the rise. The once gritty little neighborhood has seen a lot of growth and improvement over the last few years and is now one of the most diverse sections of the city. The area has a high concentration of recent immigrants, including those from Russia, Ukraine and Southeast Asia. Foster-Powell is still in transition, making it a good time for young entrepreneurs and professionals to score property at bargain basement prices in an area that's appreciating more each year.

  • Population: 8,815
  • Average household income: $66,597
  • Median house price: $339,228
  • Median rent: $1,350
  • Places to check out: 
    • Emmert Cali Saigon Mall
    • Carts on Foster
    • Kern Park

5. Hawthorne - Hipster Heaven

Hawthorne, located in Southeast Portland, isn't one of the officially recognized neighborhoods, but the area is definitely deserving of separate recognition. The area, just under two square miles, runs through sections of Richmond, Mt. Tabor, Sunnyside and Hosford-Abernathy, but it has a vibe all its own. The busy business and entertainment district attracts tourists from near and far, drawn by the incredible variety of eateries, sweet shops, apothecaries, theaters, coffee shops, book shops, thrift stores and brewpubs that have sprung up along Hawthorne Boulevard. Hawthorne is the epitome of everything that makes Portland weird in a wonderful way, and it's a place you don't want to miss if you visit or plan on living in Portland.

  • Population: 12,953
  • Average household income: $88,161
  • Median house price: $611,213
  • Median rent: $1,390
  • Places to check out: 
    • CineMagic Theater
    • Quarterworld
    • Red Light Clothing Exchange
    • Excalibur Comics

What Are the Best High Schools in Portland, Oregon?

The Portland Public Schools district is one of the most highly rated school districts in the state of Oregon. It comprises 63 elementary schools, 34 middle schools and 11 high schools, and includes traditional, charter and magnet schools. 

The Job Market in Portland

The job market in Portland is hot — and it's expected to stay that way for the foreseeable future. That should come as no surprise when you consider the major industries that fuel Portland's economy and how tied they are to the country's economic future. From high tech to health tech, specialty manufacturing to the import/export trade, you can expect the Portland job market to continue steadily growing for some years to come. 

  • High Tech, including software IT and security - Median Salary: $73,200
  • Healthcare - Health care worker - Median Salary: $17/hr
  • Manufacturing production worker - Median Salary: $36.086
  • Import/Export - Specialist - Median Salary: $59,950
  • Retail - Associate - Median Salary: $19.65/hr

Here are some places you can find open positions in Portland, OR:

  • Find Portland, OR jobs on Indeed
  • Find Portland, OR jobs through Glassdoor
  • Find Portland, OR jobs through LinkedIn

 

oot bridge and fall foliage in japanese garden in portland oregon

 

The Best Things to Do in Portland, Oregon

Portland's location makes it the ideal spot for outdoor activities of all kinds. With a plethora of parks, miles of hiking trails, and two rivers, there's always something to do in the great outdoors. For those who prefer their entertainment indoors, Portland offers theater, art galleries, skate parks, breweries and coffee shops, along with some of the most varied and fascinating shopping experiences to be had anywhere in the world. 

Outdoor Activities

  • Explore the Urban Wetlands. Smith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area is one of the nation's largest urban freshwater wetlands, with more than 2,000 acres of land, water and trails. Many of the trails are accessible and in compliance with ADA regulations. Dogs are allowed on leash on two of the trails. The park allows geocaching within guidelines but doesn’t allow drones or other remote-controlled vehicles, smoking, vaping or hunting. Paddling is allowed from mid-April through June. The park is open from sunrise to sunset year-round.
  • Whitewater Rafting on the Clackamas River. Whitewater adventures await you just 30 miles north of the bustling city. While there are a number of rivers that offer the excitement of the rapids, none are quite as close as the Clackamas River. Blue Sky Rafting, a small, family-owned company, has been providing guided river tours, including whitewater adventures for the entire family, since 1977.
  • Pedal Around the City. Portland takes its bike culture seriously. The city's official website features all the info you need to get started biking around Portland, whether you commute or just enjoy getting out there on two wheels. Even better, the city showcases some of its best urban bike trails and rides on a dedicated page with route maps that feature low-traffic roads, off-street paths and bike lanes for enhanced safety.
  • Picnic in the Park. With more than 200 parks, Portland is the perfect city to spread out your blanket and enjoy al fresco dining surrounded by nature. Grab lunch to go at P's & Qs Market and dip over to Woodlawn Park during your lunch hour, or head over to Washington Park with takeout pizza from Society Pie (don't forget the Sweet Knots!). Can't decide where to go? Let Mystery Picnic create the perfect date night picnic experience for you.

Parks and Attractions

  • The International Rose Test Garden. Imagine the scent of 10,000 rose bushes perfuming the air around you as you wander through seven acres of manicured paths lined with some of the world's most beautiful roses. The test garden serves as a testing site for new hybrid roses and preserves many older varieties for posterity. It's open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily and offers guided tours starting in the spring. The garden is also available as a wedding site and has many volunteer opportunities.
  • Forest Park. Dubbed America's Premier Urban Forest, Forest Park covers 5,200 acres and stretches more than 7 miles along the eastern slope of the Tualatin Mountains. With more than 80 miles of roads and trails, it offers a unique opportunity to get lost in the wilderness without ever leaving the city limits. The park is open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily year-round. Dogs are allowed on leash, but motorized vehicles are prohibited. The park is available for small event rentals and offers many volunteer opportunities for individuals and groups.
  • Portland Japanese Garden. Located within the hills of Washington Park, the Portland Japanese Garden was conceived in the late 1950s as a tribute to the growing closeness between Japan and the city of Portland, and as a symbol of healing between the two cultures. The original plans included 5 different garden styles laid out over 5.5 acres, and an authentic Japanese tea house, constructed in Japan, shipped in pieces, and reassembled on site. The Garden is open Wednesday to Monday (closed Tuesday) from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Adult admission is $19.95, with discounts for seniors, students, and youth. 
  • Eastbank Esplanade. The Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade extends from the Hawthorne Bridge northward to the Steel Bridge. It passes the Morrison and Burnside Bridges, and connects to east side neighborhoods, and to Gov. McCall Waterfront Park across the river. The 1.2-mile esplanade includes scenic overlooks, a boat dock, 13 historic markers, a floating public walkway, four pieces of commissioned public art and beach access for river swimming. Across the river, McCall Waterfront Park was once a busy highway that was reclaimed and repurposed for recreation, putting Portland's environmental commitment front and center.

Places to Eat

  • 3 Doors Down Cafe. Featuring an elevated Italian menu, 3 Doors Down has been a Portland institution for more than a quarter of a century. Executive chef Zach Beach marries traditional Italian specialties with locally sourced meats, seafood, and in-season produce with skill and artistry. The atmosphere is cozy and intimate, with patio dining available. Try the banana cream pie!
  • Sapphire Hotel. You've gotta love a restaurant with an amazing backstory, and the Sapphire Hotel is exactly that. The once seedy hotel and gathering place for the unsavory waterfront roustabouts has been transformed into a deliciously intimate restaurant and lounge. The menu features creative aperitifs and mixed drinks — the Black Truffle Martini and the Tuxedo #2 are must-tries — as well as some of the best bar food in town. 
  • Rally Pizza. Located just across the river in nearby Vancouver, WA, Rally Pizza is the place to take your kids — not that you won't love it even if you leave them at home. To begin with, pizza is just a small part of what Rally Pizza delivers. The salads, small plates, and appetizers are worth a visit just on their own. Where they really shine, though, is the sundae and frozen custard bar, with build-your-own sundaes and amazing toppings. 
  • Mother's Bistro. Another Portland institution, Mother's Bistro began as a small diner offering brunch and down-home comfort food specialties. The restaurant is now housed in the Embassy Suites by Hilton Hotel and has been awarded numerous titles, including Best Comfort Food and Best Brunch. While the food and cocktails are definitely appealing to adults, Mother's Bistro is committed to being family-friendly, not just with food but in the atmosphere and environment. (How can you argue with a place that has a "Mac and Cheese du jour" listing on its menu?)

Transportation

Portland is one of the easiest and friendliest cities to navigate on foot, by bike or via public transportation. The public transit system is managed by TriMet, and includes bus, light rail and streetcar. Buses are fully accessible, have bike racks and generally run on a 15-minute schedule. The MAX light rail system connects downtown to the airport and the greater Portland region. There are five MAX lines, with 90 stations and more than 60 miles of track. Like the buses, the light rail runs as frequently as every 15 minutes on most routes. The Portland Streetcar runs on two loops, connecting the east and west, north and south areas of the city.  One ticket covers all three modes of public transportation.

In addition, Portland has a wide, interconnected network of bike trails, bike paths and bike lanes, as well as a robust bike share program that makes biking accessible to most residents. 

It's important to note that parking is often at a premium in and around downtown and other metro centers in Portland. Portland is committed to being pedestrian- and bike-friendly.

Planning Your Move

Thinking of moving to Portland, OR? Check out our guides to learn everything you need to know about packing, staging your home, and moving:

Be sure to download our checklists, too:

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