Exploring Portland: Must-Visit Museums in the City

Welcome to Portland, one of the most vibrant and culturally rich cities in the United States. Whether you’re a history buff, art enthusiast or just looking for a fun-filled day trip, Portland has a range of museums that cater to all interests. With so many options to choose from, it can be overwhelming to decide where to start. That’s why we’ve put together a list of the must-visit museums in the city, so sit back, relax, and get ready to explore the diverse and captivating museum scene in Portland!

Museums in Portland

The Diversity of Museums

Portland is known for its vibrant and unique culture, and one way to experience this culture is by visiting one of the many museums in the city. The museums in Portland cater to different audiences and offer various experiences. From art museums to science museums, there’s something for everyone.

Museum of Science and Industry

The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) is one of the top science museums in the country, providing interactive exhibits and learning opportunities for visitors of all ages. The museum features a planetarium, an OMNIMAX theater, and interactive exhibits on topics such as space, physics, and chemistry. The interactive exhibits are designed to teach science in a fun and engaging way and encourage visitors to explore and experiment.

The planetarium at OMSI is one of the most popular attractions, offering visitors the chance to explore the wonders of space. With a 52-foot dome and 360-degree immersive projections, visitors can take a journey through the constellations and learn about the solar system.

The OMNIMAX theater is another popular attraction, offering an immersive movie experience with a giant dome-shaped screen and surround sound. The movies shown at the theater cover a range of topics from science and technology to nature and history.

Portland Art Museum

The Portland Art Museum is the oldest art museum in the Pacific Northwest and features over 42,000 works of art from all over the world. The museum is known for its extensive collection of Native American art, Asian art, and modern and contemporary art. The museum features a variety of temporary and permanent exhibitions, offering visitors a chance to see works by well-known artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, and Andy Warhol.

In addition to the exhibitions, the Portland Art Museum offers various programs such as lectures, tours, and workshops. The museum’s education programs are designed to engage visitors of all ages and encourage them to learn about art and culture.

The Oregon Historical Society

The Oregon Historical Society is dedicated to preserving Oregon’s history and culture. The museum features a variety of exhibits on topics such as the Oregon Trail, the Native American tribes of Oregon, and the state’s maritime history. The museum also features a research library with a vast collection of books, maps, and photographs related to Oregon’s history.

The Oregon Historical Society is also home to the Portland Chinatown Museum, which is dedicated to telling the story of Portland’s Chinese-American community. The museum features exhibits on the history of Chinese immigration to the United States and the contributions of Chinese Americans to Portland’s culture and economy.


Portland’s museums offer visitors a chance to explore the city’s history, science, and culture. From the interactive exhibits at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry to the extensive collection of art at the Portland Art Museum, there’s something for everyone. The museums in Portland are a great way to learn about the city’s past, present, and future and are a must-visit for any traveler.

History Museums in Portland

Portland is an excellent destination for history buffs. It boasts of several museums that provide insights into the city’s fascinating past. Below we have highlighted three prominent history museums in the city that you must visit.

The Oregon Historical Society

One of the popular history museums in Portland is The Oregon Historical Society. It is the oldest in the state and is dedicated to preserving and presenting Oregon’s rich history. The museum’s exhibits are engaging, immersive, and interactive, making it a fantastic place to explore Oregon’s diverse cultural heritage.

Visitors to the museum can expect to see a wide array of exhibits. It features artifacts from different periods, from the Native Americans, the pioneers, to the modern-day. Some of the most notable exhibits include the Oregon Voices, which chronicles the history of Oregon through stories told by Oregonians. Another remarkable exhibit is the massive coin collection that tells the history of money in the state, among others.

The museum also houses a research library with over 25,000 volumes of books, manuscripts, maps, and oral interviews. They focus on topics related to Oregon’s history, geography, and culture, making it an ideal destination for scholars and researchers.

The Pittock Mansion

Another fantastic history museum in Portland is The Pittock Mansion. It is a historic house museum that showcases the city’s history, culture, and architecture in the early 1900s. The mansion is on 46 acres of land that offers visitors breathtaking views of Portland’s skyline.

The Pittock Mansion belonged to Henry and Georgiana Pittock, who were prominent citizens in Portland during their time. The mansion’s architecture is impressive, featuring a French Renaissance design and several opulent room decorations. Visitors can explore the different rooms, including the dining room, library, and conservatory, among others.

The museum has an extensive collection of artifacts that show the life and times of the Pittock family and the city’s evolution during that time. The collection includes several original items, including furniture, artwork, photographs, and personal memorabilia.

The World Forestry Center

If you’re interested in the science and history of forestry, then The World Forestry Center is the place to be. Located in Portland’s Washington Park, the museum explores the science and history of forestry worldwide. Visitors can learn about sustainable forestry, conservation, and forest management practices through interactive exhibits and programs.

The museum’s main exhibit is the “Discovery Museum,” which showcases everything from tree genetics to global warming. The exhibit is immersive and interactive, providing visitors with a fun and informative experience. Visitors can also explore the “International Forest of Friendship,” which features trees from different parts of the world in a beautiful outdoor setting.

In conclusion, Portland is a city rich in history, and the above museums are a testament to that. Whether you’re interested in Oregon’s history, the city’s evolution, or the science of forestry, there’s a museum for you. So, be sure to visit these places to experience Portland’s rich cultural heritage.

Specialty Museums in Portland

Portland is known for its diverse range of museums that cater to all types of interests. Whether you’re looking for something educational, interactive, cultural, or just plain quirky, the city has something for everyone. Here are three specialty museums in Portland that are worth checking out:

The Portland Children’s Museum

Located in the Washington Park neighborhood, the Portland Children’s Museum offers a fun and engaging experience for young children aged eight and under. The exhibits are designed to promote children’s creativity, imagination, and social skills, while also providing educational and interactive activities that cater to different learning styles.

Some of the popular exhibits at the museum include the “Outdoor Adventure” exhibit, which features a giant treehouse and a creek for children to explore and play around in. The “Maker Studio” exhibit is also a favorite among kids, as it allows them to tinker with various materials and tools to create their own projects.

Aside from the exhibits, the museum also offers various programs and workshops throughout the year, such as storytime sessions, art classes, and science experiments, to name a few.

The Oregon Rail Heritage Center

If you’re a history buff or a train enthusiast, the Oregon Rail Heritage Center is a must-visit museum. Located near the east end of the Tilikum Crossing Bridge, the museum is dedicated to preserving Portland’s rail heritage and showcasing the role of rail transportation in the city’s development.

One of the main attractions at the museum is the collection of historic steam locomotives, which includes the Southern Pacific 4449, also known as the “Freedom Train.” Visitors can take a tour of the locomotives and learn about their history and significance to the rail industry.

In addition to the locomotives, the museum also features exhibits and displays that showcase the tools, equipment, and other artifacts used in rail transportation, as well as educational programs and events that highlight the importance of rail safety and conservation.

The Freakybuttrue Peculiarium and Museum

For those who are looking for something more offbeat and unusual, the Freakybuttrue Peculiarium and Museum is the place to go. Located in the trendy Northwest District, the museum is a one-of-a-kind attraction that showcases oddities, curiosities, and bizarre exhibits that are sure to pique your interest.

Some of the exhibits you can expect to find here include a giant Bigfoot sculpture, a two-headed calf, a taxidermy unicorn, and a collection of vintage toys and memorabilia. There’s also a gift shop where you can pick up souvenirs and oddities to take home with you.

Aside from the museum, the Freakybuttrue Peculiarium and Museum also hosts various events and shows throughout the year, such as live music performances, comedy nights, and trivia contests.

Overall, these three specialty museums in Portland offer a unique and memorable experience for visitors of all ages and interests. Whether you’re looking to learn something new, have some fun with the family, or just satisfy your curiosity, these museums are definitely worth adding to your itinerary.

Visiting Museums in Portland

Portland, Oregon is a city rich with culture, art, and museums. From interactive exhibits to historic collections, visitors are sure to find something that piques their interest. In this section, we’ll cover tips for exploring museums in Portland, including savings with museum passes, accessibility for visitors with disabilities, and ways to enhance the museum experience.

Museum Passes

If you’re planning on visiting several museums during your trip to Portland, investing in a museum pass can be a great way to save money. Many museums offer discounted admission when you buy a pass, and some even offer free admission to members. Plus, some passes allow you to skip the ticket line, saving you time and hassle during your visit.

Some of the most popular passes include the Portland Art Museum membership and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) Explorer membership. The Portland Art Museum offers unlimited admission, free film screenings, and discounts at the museum store, while the OMSI Explorer membership includes free general admission, discounts on special exhibitions and events, and access to member-only events.

If you’re interested in exploring other museums in the area, the Washington County Museum, Oregon Historical Society, and World Forestry Center offer their own membership options. By investing in a membership or museum pass, you can make the most of your time in Portland and explore the city’s rich cultural heritage.


Portland museums offer accommodations for visitors with disabilities to ensure that everyone can enjoy the exhibits and activities. Most museums have wheelchair accessibility, ramps, and elevators, and many offer assistive listening devices and wheelchair rentals. Visitors can also find information about accessibility on the museums’ websites or by calling ahead to ask.

Additionally, Portland’s accessibility law requires museums and other public facilities to meet certain guidelines and provide reasonable accommodations for visitors with disabilities. So whether you’re visiting the Portland Art Museum, the Oregon Zoo, or any other museum in the city, you can rest assured that the staff and facilities are equipped to make your visit enjoyable and accessible.

Exploring the Museums

To get the most out of your museum visit, consider attending a guided tour or participating in interactive exhibits. Guides can provide an insider’s view of the exhibits, and many museums offer special tours for families, adults, and even ghost tours. Interactive exhibits allow visitors to touch, feel, and experience the exhibits, making the museum visit more engaging and memorable.

Another way to enhance the museum experience is by attending special events. Many museums host events like lectures, concerts, and workshops that provide additional ways to engage with the exhibits. For example, the Portland Art Museum hosts monthly “Art & Conversation” events where visitors can discuss and analyze a selected piece of art.

Finally, some museums offer behind-the-scenes tours for a more immersive experience. For example, OMSI offers “Tales from the Vault” tours, where visitors can explore the museum’s vast collection of historic artifacts and specimens. Museums like the Oregon Historical Society and the World Forestry Center also offer behind-the-scenes tours for visitors interested in learning more about the exhibits and their history.

In conclusion, Portland has a plethora of museums to suit all interests, and visitors can save money and make the most of their visit with museum passes. With accessibility accommodations and interactive exhibits, there’s something for everyone at Portland’s museums. By attending special events and behind-the-scenes tours, visitors can enhance their museum experience and gain a deeper appreciation for the exhibits and their cultural significance.

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