12 Fun Things to Do in Portland in the Fall This Season (2024)

Portland in the Fall
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A certain charm seems to settle over the city of Portland every fall; the town explodes into a blaze of reds, oranges, and yellows as if someone used a giant paintbrush to splatter the landscape. The arrival of autumn in Portland is one of the best times of the year, in my opinion. You’ll love how many things to do in Portland in the fall there are.

While I live in Seattle, I visit Portland on a frequent basis and go every fall in Portland, where I stop at local breweries, walk along the river, and photograph all the fall foliage. There’s no shortage of what to do in Portland in the fall, so I created this list of the best activities and events to attend during this festive time of the year.

Portland in the fall is the place to be if you want to go paddleboarding on the Willamette River, take a calm walk through the fall foliage, or experience a vibrant festival. I’ll tell you everything you need to know, from how to survive the fall weather in Portland to where to stay in the city’s hippest neighborhood.

12 Best Things to Do in Portland in the Fall

Portland is a treasure trove of fantastic fall attractions. Here are some of the best Portland fall activities to enjoy.

1. Find Your Way Out of the Corn Maze on Sauvie Island

Corn Maze Sauvie Island

Can you imagine anything cooler than getting lost in an eight-acre corn maze? Picture a natural playground full of trippy twists and turns.

That’s the experience you get on Sauvie Island’s three farms, ten miles north of Portland. This is an activity best enjoyed during the Halloween season when the corn maze is a little spooky. It’s believed to be haunted, adding extra fun (and fright) to your visit.

Grab your pals for a group adventure, or brave the maze as a solo ranger. It takes about 30 minutes to an hour to get through the maze.

Make your way to the observation bridges for divine views of the island and sightings of the local wildlife. If you’re up for some pumpkin-picking while in Portland, Sauvie Island offers that too.

2. Go Wine-Tasting in Willamette Valley

Willamette Valley Vineyard

This wouldn’t be an authentic article without a frontrunner on most lists of things to do in Portland, Oregon. The Willamette Valley is the state’s heartbeat, with over 700 wineries. That makes this part of the country one of the most enjoyable places for wine tasting, especially if you want to indulge in the area’s specialty, Pinot Noir.

Consider your fall trip to Portland an ideal opportunity to celebrate what the locals deem Wine Country Thanksgiving. Taste fine wines and stellar vintage labels (there are hundreds to choose from) while exploring the region’s gorgeous vineyards.

Mix it up by curating wine and art experiences. There are lively art galleries that allow elevated combined outings. The wineries feature exclusive food and wine pairing sessions, educational tours, and live music.

My top picks for wineries you should visit include Amaterra Winery, Fullerton Winery, and Erath Winery.

Feel like continuing your journey? Head south to go visit Crater Lake National Park.

3. Savor Portland’s Best Tea at Lan Su Chinese Garden

Lan Su Chinese Garden

This “Garden of Awakening Orchids” (a translation of the garden’s name) has provided Portland locals and visitors with an enchanting, tranquil space for over 20 years. The garden is so genuine in its design that it transports you straight to Suzhou, Jiangsu, which is the inspiration behind this dreamy location.

The best activities at Lan Su Garden include audio garden tours and scavenger hunts. Shop for trinkets at the Garden Shop and take peaceful strolls around the magnificent pavilions and courtyards.

This Old Town destination is so popular that travelers also love stopping here in Portland during winter.

The most brilliant Lan Su experience is enjoying delectable cups of tea at Tao of Tea. This traditional Ming Dynasty teahouse is the perfect place to savor a hot beverage and snack on their famed dumplings and mooncakes (yum, right?).

4. Take a Day Trip to the Oregon Coast

Oregon Coast

Sometimes all you need is to hit the road, feel the wind in your hair, and enjoy some of the most scenic locations in the country. So why not take a day drive from Portland and go on a road trip to the Oregon Coast when looking for things to do in Portland in the fall?

Depending on which parts of the coast you’d like to see and how much time you’d like to spend on the road, you could travel between 60 and 100 miles.

My favorite stops include Pacific City, Seaside, Lincoln City, and Cannon Beach.

Haystack Rock is one of the most stunning state landmarks. A chance to see this 235-foot (72-meter) natural wonder is truly rewarding.

There are plenty of exceptional seafood eateries, state parks, beaches, and seaside attractions to enjoy on your Oregon Coast excursion.

So, jump into the car and go make magical coastal memories.

If you really want to extend your trip, consider a road trip from Portland to San Francisco.

5. Watch the Vaux’s Swifts at Chapman Elementary

Vaux Swift Portland

Nature lovers and bird enthusiasts gather around. This fall activity is sure to make your Portland visit one to remember.

Each year in September, thousands of majestic Vaux’s Swifts return to Chapman Elementary School in Northwest Portland to roost communally in the chimney overnight.

Throughout the month, just before the sun sets, locals and visitors settle on the school’s lawns. This is in preparation for the much-loved Swift Watch, which takes place every night.

Go all out; make this an all-inclusive experience. Migrations only happen at certain times during the year. So this is the kind of pastime that is super awesome when shared, whether with family, friends, or your significant other.

Pack a picnic basket, grab some blankets or camping chairs, and prepare for a one-of-a-kind sighting.

Fun Fact: Vaux’s Swift, named after mineralogist William S. Vaux, is North America’s smallest swift.

6. Go on a Fall Hike

Multnomah Falls Portland

The fall season in Portland is one of the most popular periods for nature lovers to whip out their hiking boots and prepare to champion the picturesque trails in the city.

The Columbia River Gorge area is breathtaking, offering many nature trails for novices and avid hikers to tackle. The 2,4- mile Wahclella Falls Trail near Tanner Creek is one of my favorites. It’s pretty easy and leads you to a captivating waterfall.

Consider a pleasant Eagle Creek hike to enjoy the treat of passing by the beautiful Punch Bowl Falls. Just 30 miles from Portland, Multnomah Falls awaits — an area so blissful that it also attracts many visitors to Portland in the summertime.

I love hikes because they offer three takeaways in one activity: reconnecting with nature, spending quality alone or shared time with loved ones, and getting a good workout.

7. Take Striking Pictures at the Japanese Garden

Japanese Garden Portland

Fall is an appreciable season because you watch nature show off. Seeing the leaves transform and take on a completely different look with the most attractive colors is humbling.

In Portland, there’s a unique place to take splendid fall pictures: the Japanese Garden. This harmonious space in Washington Park has been an awe-inspiring escape since opening to the public in 1967. It’s the perfect place for calm and reflection amidst its major attraction, the Japanese maple trees.

Besides the mindfulness tours and the Cultural Village, put your photographer’s hat on and explore the five distinctive garden spaces. Snap wondrous natural shots at the Strolling Pond (the largest garden), the Natural Garden, the Flat Garden, the Tea Garden, and the Sand and Stone Garden.

There is an admission fee, but it’s worth it because you can access all the Garden spaces, the art exhibitions, Umami Café, and the Garden Gift Shop. This is the perfect thing to do in Portland in the fall when you’re looking for foliage.

Adults pay $21.95, seniors (65 years and older) pay $18.95, and students (with ID) pay $17.95. Youths (aged 6–17) pay $15.95, while children (5 years and younger) and members enter for free.

Fun Fact: If you are in or near Portland in January, join the festivities and celebrate the OShogatsu Japanese New Year at the Japanese Garden.

8. Have a Whiskey at Multnomah Whiskey Library

Multnomah Whiskey Library
Image Credit: Multnomah Whiskey Library

Portland is known for its whiskeys, and it’s only fitting to hit the Multnomah Whisk{e}y Library to sample premium spirits while enjoying quality company in one of the city’s best luxury lounges. There are over 2,000 bottles to choose from, making this a whiskey enthusiast’s dream.

The Library is primarily membership-based, but a $25 Hall Pass allows one-time reservations for all visitors. Sip on your whiskey of choice (rums, cognacs, tequilas, liqueurs, and more are also available) and relish spirited conversations with fellow connoisseurs.

This spot makes for a great dinner date because you can enjoy good food too. Their meat and cheese boards are highly recommended, just for starters.

Bonus: The Multnomah Whisk{e}y Library has a cocktail bar called The Green Room that sits beneath it. I love that this classy establishment has something for everyone.

9. Eat Mouth-Watering Portland Pie

Portland Pie

Okay, hands up, and be honest. Is there a season when you can say no to pie? Of course not. Luckily, there’s a sweet little pie bakery (excuse the pun) in Portland where you can get pie crazy.

Lauretta Jean’s makes arguably the tastiest seasonal pies in the city. There are 20 different ones on offer (at $41 for whole pies), not to mention cakes, cookies, pastries, and biscuits. Choosing what to get is the hardest part, from cream puffs and cinnamon rolls to scones and sticky buns.

Growing from a local farmer’s market booth to a full-scale kitchen and shop, this pie joint has cemented itself as the to-go destination for terrific treats in Portland.

It’s a much-welcomed bonus that Lauretta Jean’s closes at 9 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday and at 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. You’ll be sorted for all your late-night cravings.

10. Explore Portland’s Haunted Houses

Portland Haunted House
Image Credit: Fearlandia

The city of Portland is kind of obsessed with Halloween (and rivals the Halloween events in Seattle), giving many an excuse to participate in freakishly fun activities to celebrate this holiday and adding to the list of fun things to do in Portland in the fall.

If you plan to be in Portland during Halloween (October 31st), maybe it’s time to do the rounds at some of the best haunted houses around the city.

Fear PDX, Underhill Haunted House, and Fearlandia Haunted House are by far the most popular. Portland’s ScareGrounds PDX Scream Park is a must-visit if you seek a weird and wonderful night of terror at the iconic Oaks Amusement Park.

There are also haunted mazes, pumpkin patches, and ghost tours on the spook menu, as long as you are okay with driving to nearby cities like Salem (46 miles from Portland).

Want to extend your trip? You’ll love these weekend trips near Portland.

11. Do a Self-Guided Tour through the Portland Open Studios

Portland Open Studios
Image Credit: Portland Open Studios

Experience art in a new way. Take a free self-guided tour through the workspaces and homes of some of the city’s most talented artists. You really get to “meet the maker” behind the masterpiece during Portland Open Studios (established in 1998).

There are over 100 spaces to explore across the city, with local artists opening the doors of their private living rooms, garden sheds, and warehouses. The idea behind Open Studios is for patrons to get up close and personal with creatives. You can get a proper insight into their artistic processes and their inspirations.

The tours take place annually during the second and third weekends of October. Expect marvelous photographic displays, paintings, ceramic works, and jewelry designs. There are also remarkable woodworking projects that will make you appreciate craftsmanship on a whole different level.

12. Attend the Grand Prix of Portland

Portland Grand Prix
Image Credit: Portland International Raceway

Motorheads, guess what? Portland has its own Grand Prix, which usually takes place at the beginning of September. This IndyCar Series race is one of the most rip-roaring fall events in Portland, having returned to the city’s International Raceway in 2018.

The inaugural race took place in 1984, with Al Unser Jr. as the first winner. A thrilling 12-turn, 1,964 miles of natural road course challenges participating drivers and sets the scene for a wildly exhilarating open-wheel spectacle. How many laps, you ask? 110.

This is your chance to see up-and-coming racing maestros make their mark on the IndyCar stage. Past winners include Scott McLaughlin (2022), Alex Palou (2021), and Will Power (2019).

Debating visiting Portland or Seattle? You’ll want to know the difference first.

Festivals to Attend in Portland in the Fall

Are you looking for a fall festival to attend in Portland? Similar to all of the fall events in Seattle, there are some amazing events in Portland.

1. All Jane Comedy Festival

September 27th–October 1st, 2023

There’s nothing like a good laugh to make you forget about the stresses of everyday life, so, is anyone up for some comedy?

Stacey Hallal’s 11-year-old All Jane Comedy Festival showcases the region’s best female comedians performing stand-ups, sketch shows, and improv.

This five-day festival takes place at the Curious Comedy Theater.

2. Portland Book Festival

Portland Book Festival

November 4th, 2023

I know all too well that bookworms love a good book festival. In Portland, Literary Arts organizes a November installment of over 100 authors at the Portland Art Museum.

Larry Colton founded the Portland Book Festival in 2005 (originally called Wordstock). Enjoy a book fair, discussions, writing workshops, and readings.

3. Time-Based Art Festival

2023 festival dates to be confirmed

Each year in September, the Time-Based Art Festival sets Portland on fire with a 10-day extravaganza. Attendees are treated to boundary-breaking visual art installations, performances, interdisciplinary projects, and more.

This Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA) festival is hosted at various buzzing galleries, theaters, and public spaces around the city.

4. Portland Queer Film Festival

2023 festival dates to be confirmed

Fall beckons the return of Cinema 21’s much-anticipated Portland Queer Film Festival, a celebration of LGBTQ+ cinema from across the globe.

You’ll appreciate the thought-provoking, moving documentaries and short and feature-length films. They further amplify the call for inclusivity and safe spaces for all.

5. Portland Greek Festival

Portland Greek Festival

2023 festival dates to be confirmed

Thanks to a thriving Greek community, Portland locals and visitors can join the annual Portland Greek Festival festivities at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral.

If you’d like to learn more about Greek culture, you’re guaranteed a whale of a time. You can look forward to a market, traditional Greek feasts, folk dancing, and even a Hellenic-American museum.

Travel Tips for Fall in Portland

Here are some useful tips to make your fall trip to Portland a worry-free holiday.

Weather in Portland in the Fall

With fall comes sunny, warm days and cool nights with clear evening skies. The mild weather means more time spent outdoors doing fun activities around the city.

I love being in Portland during September and October to witness the leaves changing color. Walks, hikes, and picnics become so delightful. Winter starts creeping in around the end of the season (by November). You can expect more rain and colder temperatures—between 41 °F and 52 °F.

What to Pack for Portland Fall Activities

These fall items are must-haves on your Portland packing list.

  • Sweater — This stylish Dokotoo crewneck pullover sweater will keep the chill away as you go about exploring the best spots in Portland.
  • Scarf — Switch it up with different outfits with this three-piece scarf set that’s suitable for all seasons.
  • Rainproof jacket — Don’t get caught in a rain shower. Stay dry in this trendy, lightweight rainproof jacket.
  • Rain boots — Nothing beats Welly boots for comfortable strolls during those wet days in the fall.

Where to Stay in Portland in the Fall

Hawthorne Bridge Portland

Consider these outstanding accommodation options while you discover Portland in the fall.

  • Sentinel — This luxury Provenance Hotel is ideally located near Portalnd’s central hub. Enjoy top-notch services and convenient facilities. The complementary Well & Fit kits in each suite add that personalized touch. Take full advantage of the restaurants, shopping centers, and theaters nearby. (Rates start at $209 per night)
  • Hotel Lucia — Another Provenance stunner is Hotel Lucia in downtown Portland. The photographic masterpieces of Pulitzer Prize-winner David Hume Kennerly adorn the hotel’s lobby, rooms, and passageways. Enjoy the free fitness class passes and 24-hour gym access. Craft beer hour is hosted each night. (Rates start at $138 per night)
  • Staypineapple, Hotel Rose  — The quirky Staypineapple is a funky boutique hotel offering unique stays in downtown Portland. It’s close to the serene Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Get out and about by riding around the city center area courtesy of the hotel’s complimentary bicycle rentals. (Rates start at $138 per night)

Which of these things to do in Portland in the fall are you looking forward to the most?

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