Discover the Best Museums in Portland, Oregon

Hello and welcome to our guide on the best museums to visit in Portland, Oregon. Known for its vibrant arts and culture scene, Portland is home to a variety of museums that showcase art, history, science, and more. Whether you’re a history buff, an art enthusiast, or simply looking for a fun and educational activity, there’s a museum in Portland that will cater to your interests. So pack your bags, grab your walking shoes, and get ready to explore the best museums that Portland has to offer!

Museums in Portland, Oregon


Portland is a city bursting with artistic and intellectual energy, making it a prime destination for museum enthusiasts. There are a variety of museums in Portland, Oregon, ranging from art and history to science and nature, all ready to indulge curious minds. We’ve picked three museums that you should visit if you’re planning a trip to Portland.

The Portland Art Museum


The Portland Art Museum is one of the oldest art museums in the Pacific Northwest, founded in 1892. It boasts of a vast collection of over 42,000 objects spanning from ancient times to the present day. This collection comprises of paintings, sculptures, photographs, and prints. You will find masters such as Vincent van Gogh, Paul C├ęzanne, and William Merritt Chase. The museum’s collection also includes modern and contemporary art that features works from local and international artists.

The Portland Art Museum offers various programs and exhibits for visitors to explore, such as talks, workshops, and special events. The museum also has a family-friendly space called the “Miller Family Free Day.” They hold the event once a month and offer free admission to all visitors. During the “Miller Family Free Day,” children can participate in hands-on art activities, storytelling, and performances.

The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI)


The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) is a hands-on science museum that offers interactive exhibits and learning experiences. The museum features five exhibit halls that showcase over 200 interactive exhibits, a planetarium, and a giant-screen theater. The museum’s exhibits cover a wide range of subjects, including health and medicine, technology, and space exploration.

The OMSI’s planetarium is one of the leading planetariums in the United States. The planetarium shows immersive movies that offer visitors a breathtaking experience. The museum’s giant-screen theater features movies that cover topics from nature and science to art and history.

The OMSI also offers summer camps and classes for children and youth. The classes and camps are designed to engage children in the wonders of science through exciting experiments and hands-on activities.

The World Forestry Center Discovery Museum


The World Forestry Center Discovery Museum is a museum that aims to bring awareness about the importance of forests and trees. The museum offers interactive exhibits and learning experiences that tell the story of forests and their role in our lives and nature. The museum’s exhibits cover topics such as tree biology, sustainable forestry, and forest-dependent communities worldwide.

The World Forestry Center Discovery Museum also features a unique exhibit called the “Smurfit-Stone Container Corporation: A Legacy of Innovation.” The exhibit showcases innovations in paper and cardboard packaging that has transformed the way we package goods today.

The museum also offers a nature trail that winds through the forest and gives visitors an opportunity to experience the forest’s peace and beauty.

In conclusion, these three museums are just a small fraction of the many museums in Portland, Oregon. So, if you’re a history buff, science enthusiast, or nature lover, you’ll surely find a museum that interests you in Portland.

The Portland Children’s Museum

The Portland Children’s Museum is a popular attraction in Portland, Oregon, that provides both entertainment and educational opportunities for children of all ages. The museum has a wide array of exhibits that are interactive, hands-on, and designed to encourage creativity, imagination, and play among children. It is an ideal destination for families, school groups, and anyone who loves learning through play.

Interactive and Hands-on Exhibits

One of the main highlights of the Portland Children’s Museum is its interactive and hands-on exhibits, which allow children to engage in various activities. These exhibits are designed to stimulate the imagination and encourage children to explore and learn through play. One of the popular exhibits is the Building Bridgetown exhibit, where children can design and build their own city. The exhibit provides interactive tools and materials such as blocks, construction toys, and other building materials to help children unleash their creativity and imagination.

Another exciting exhibit is the clay studio, which allows children to experiment with different types of clay and learn about sculpture. There are also various art-making tools available to help children create their own art pieces and develop their motor skills.

Outdoor Adventure Exhibit

The museum also has an outdoor adventure exhibit, which is a 1.3-acre nature space that lets children immerse themselves in nature, play on a treehouse, and learn about ecosystems. This exhibit is designed to encourage children to explore nature and appreciate its beauty. The outdoor exhibit has various activities, such as hiking trails, bird watching, and sensory gardens, where children can learn about different plant species and their uses.

Social Justice Exhibits

In addition to its interactive exhibits, the Portland Children’s Museum also has exhibits that aim to educate children about social justice issues. These exhibits provide children with age-appropriate information about topics such as civil rights, sustainability, and diversity. The museum believes in the importance of raising awareness about social justice issues and providing children with the tools to become change-makers in their communities.

Overall, the Portland Children’s Museum is an excellent destination for families and children who want to learn and explore through play. Its interactive exhibits, outdoor adventure exhibit, and social justice exhibits provide a diverse range of learning and entertainment opportunities for visitors. The museum is committed to providing a safe and inclusive space for all visitors to enjoy and learn from. If you are ever in Portland, be sure to add the Portland Children’s Museum to your itinerary.

The Portland Japanese Garden

The Portland Japanese Garden is a beautiful oasis in the heart of the city. Founded in 1963, it spans over 12 acres and features eight unique garden spaces that have been designed in the traditional Japanese style. There is a tea garden, a strolling pond garden, and a natural garden, among others, all of which are meticulously cared for by the garden’s skilled staff.

Garden Tours

One of the best ways to experience the Portland Japanese Garden is to take a guided tour. These tours are led by knowledgeable docents who have a deep understanding of the garden’s history, design, and cultural significance. The tours typically last around an hour and a half and take visitors through all of the different garden spaces, highlighting specific features and telling background stories and cultural traditions concerning the garden’s design. Whether you’re visiting the garden for the first time or you’re a seasoned veteran, a guided tour is a great way to deepen your appreciation and understanding of this unique space.

Art Exhibits

The Portland Japanese Garden is not just a place of natural beauty, but also a hub for artistic expression. The art exhibitions are always changing, with new installations and artists brought in regularly. These exhibits showcase a wide range of mediums, from traditional Japanese sculpture and painting to contemporary installations that challenge our notions of what art can be. The art shows are a reflection of the garden’s commitment to the intersection of nature and culture, and they provide a space for visitors to engage with both in a meaningful way.

Cultural Festivals

The Portland Japanese Garden is a celebration of Japanese culture, and the Garden hosts a variety of cultural festivals celebrating Japanese heritage throughout the year. These festivals are a chance for visitors to experience traditional music, dance, and other performing arts, as well as participate in cultural activities like tea ceremonies and flower arranging. The garden’s most popular festivals include a summer festival, tea festival, and moon viewing festival, all of which draw large crowds each year. These festivals are a great way to immerse yourself in Japanese culture and gain a deeper appreciation for the traditions that have shaped the garden’s design and philosophy.

The Oregon Historical Society Museum

The Oregon Historical Society Museum is a treasure trove of information for anyone interested in the state’s fascinating history. Here’s a closer look at what this fascinating museum has to offer:

Browse the Exhibits

At the heart of the Oregon Historical Society Museum are its exhibits, which offer visitors a fascinating glimpse into the state’s past. The museum features extensive displays on the state’s history, with sections that cover everything from pre-colonial days to the present day. You’ll find exhibits that explore the lives of Native American communities, the fur trappers and traders who first explored the region, and the early pioneers who helped shape the state. You’ll also discover exhibits on the state’s early industry, the growth of its cities, and the various challenges that Oregon faced during its early days.

Research Center

The Oregon Historical Society Museum also boasts an impressive research center, which is open to guests who want to delve deeper into the state’s history. Here, you’ll find over 85,000 historic photographs, as well as an incredible array of artifacts that range from ceremonial masks to carriages. And if you’re interested in reading up on the state’s history, the museum’s extensive research library is available for browsing and research.

The research center is a great resource for learners of all ages, whether you’re a student working on a school project, a local historian researching your family’s roots, or simply a curious visitor who wants to learn more about this fascinating state.

Traveling Exhibits

In addition to its permanent exhibits and research center, the Oregon Historical Society Museum also has a range of traveling exhibits that tour throughout the state. These exhibits cover a wide variety of topics related to Oregon’s history, and they offer a great opportunity for visitors throughout the state to learn more about the fascinating story of Oregon.

Whether you live in Portland or you’re just visiting the city, the Oregon Historical Society Museum is a must-visit destination for anyone who loves history. With its extensive exhibits, impressive research center, and range of traveling exhibits, this museum offers a rich window into the past that is sure to captivate and inspire.

The Pittock Mansion

The Pittock Mansion is a historic house museum located in the west hills of Portland, Oregon. It was once home to the influential Pittock family, who made significant contributions to the growth and development of the city.

The History of the Pittock Family and Home

The Pittock family was one of the most prominent families in Portland during the early 20th century. Henry Pittock, the patriarch of the family, was the founder and publisher of The Oregonian, one of the state’s leading newspapers. The Pittocks built their mansion in 1914, and it was designed by prominent architect Edward Foulkes.

The mansion is an excellent representation of the luxurious lifestyle enjoyed by wealthy families during the early twentieth century. The Pittocks lived in the house for over twenty years before it was sold to the city of Portland in 1964. Today, it is a popular attraction for locals and tourists alike.

Guided Tours of the Mansion

One of the best ways to experience the beauty of the Pittock Mansion is through a guided tour. Docent-led tours are available throughout the day, and they allow visitors to explore the history of its architecture, the decor, and the technology used in the early 20th century.

During the tour, visitors will see the various rooms and spaces in the mansion that were used by the Pittock family. The luxurious dining room, the cozy library, and the spacious living area are just a few of the highlights. If you’re interested in the history of the mansion and its inhabitants, this is a must-see attraction in Portland.

The Gardens and Grounds

Another great reason to visit the Pittock Mansion is to explore its stunning gardens and grounds. The six-acre estate is home to several beautiful gardens, including the terraced garden, verdant lawns, and intricate fountains.

The gardens are meticulously maintained throughout the year and are filled with a stunning array of trees, shrubs, and flowers. It’s a breathtaking sight to see, especially during the spring and summer months when everything is in full bloom.

There are also several walking trails that wind through the property, making it a great place for a leisurely stroll. Whether you’re interested in the history of the property or just looking to enjoy the natural beauty of the area, the Pittock Mansion is a must-visit destination in Portland.

In conclusion, the Pittock Mansion is a wonderful attraction that offers a glimpse into the history of one of Portland’s most influential families. Whether you’re interested in history, architecture, or just love beautiful gardens, this is a must-see destination. Don’t forget to take a guided tour of the mansion and explore the stunning gardens and grounds during your visit.

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