[Photo: Tilikum Crossing, a car-free bridge in Portland. Credit: TriMet.]
Traveling in Portland is so painless that you can’t easily get lost — unless you really want to. Defined by leafy and walkable neighborhoods, this eco-conscious and bike-obsessed metro area of around 2.4 million people feels like a small town on steroids. And with the nation’s top-rated airport, easy rail connections to other Pacific Northwest cities and one of the best public transit systems in the United States, a trip here might tempt you to join the many transplants who make this one of the most moved-to cities in America. From what to pack to how to ride the light-rail trains, here are to-the-point answers to some common questions that you might have on your mind.
Does it really rain all the time in Portland?
Sure, there’s no denying that Portland experiences drizzly, overcast weather — primarily during the gray months of winter. But the city actually experiences less total annual precipitation than New York City. Still, there are legitimate reasons Portlanders wear rain gear of all kinds. So you’ll want to come prepared with a rain jacket and an umbrella, especially during fall, winter or spring. (Some hooded diehards might laugh at your umbrella, but dry campers are happy campers.)
What’s the best time of year to visit the city?
Meteorologists will tell you that Portland’s climate has both Oceanic and Mediterranean characteristics. What that means is that the city experiences a variety of weather, but it’s mild in each of the four distinct seasons, from balmy, dry summers (average highs around 80 degrees) to cool, damp winters (average highs between 45 to 50 degrees). If you’re a fair-weather traveler, summers stay reliably sunny and warm, though that means it’s also the busiest time of year. Winter is a great time to experience the city more like the locals do, but remember that overcast weather is a fact of life in the Pacific Northwest during these months. Late spring (before Memorial Day) and early fall (after Labor Day) are the sweet spots with fewer crowds and summery weather.
How do I get from the Portland International Airport to the city center?
You can hail a cab, tap to request an UBER or Lyft or rent a car, but the easiest and cheapest way to get from the PDX airport to and from downtown Portland is via the MAX Red Line light-rail train, which costs $2.50 one-way. The first train arrives at the airport before 5 a.m. and the last train leaves just after midnight.
Should I rent a car to visit Portland?
It depends on what your trip entails. If you plan on staying mostly within the city, there’s little reason to have a car, especially if you’re staying downtown or in a central neighborhood. The city’s excellent transit system, known collectively as TriMet, makes it easy to move around and the compact nature of the city itself means UBER and Lyft rides won’t break the bank.
How do I ride Portland’s public transportation?
Portland’s integrated transit system — known as TriMet — comprises MAX light-rail trains (which also service the suburbs of Beaverton, Hillsboro and Gresham), an efficient and comprehensive bus network, and the Portland Streetcar. You can use TriMet’s online trip-planner, but Google Maps and Apple Maps feature reliable and up-to-date transit information as well. A single ticket costs $2.50 and is valid for two and a half hours. Like major cities around the world, Portland’s transit system allows you to tap your phone (using your phone’s mobile wallet) or use a Hop Fastpass to pay — download the mobile app or learn how to get a physical Hop card here.
What’s the best way to rent a bike to explore the city?
Many hotels lend bikes to their guests, and you can also rent a bike directly from a local shop. But the easiest and quickest way to get on two wheels is the city’s cutting-edge BIKETOWN bike share, which has hundreds of bikes available on demand throughout the city. Learn how it works here.