Gay Vacations in Portland, Oregon

Aerial view of downtown Portland, Oregon
Portland, Oregon (Brent Bradley/courtesy, Portland Oregon Visitors Association)

Portland Highlights

  • If you're scared of rain, go in high summer. Like most of the Pacific Northwest, the relatively mild climate is best from June through September, when sunshine rules. But hotels often fill up in July and August, so book summer reservations in advance.
  • Consider taking the train. Amtrak's western routes are lined with stunning scenery and make a great, old-fashioned way to travel to Portland. Amtrak service operates from Vancouver, Seattle, Eugene, Spokane, and Los Angeles (the best routes), and also from Chicago and Minneapolis.
  • A must-do is a pub theater. Oregon is famous for its microbrews and the best way to down one in Portland is at a pub theater—movie cinemas showing second-run, classic, or cult films where you can drink beer and eat pizza.


One of the world's true alternative cities, spotlessly clean and intimate Portland is a bastion of environmentalism, feminism, arts, organic food, and forward thinking. Situated at the convergence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers, the low-key, gorgeous city is defined by its outdoors. The majestic Cascade Range (including Mount St. Helens) can be seen from the city on a clear day, and Portland has more than 250 parks, public gardens, and greenways, including the nation's largest urban wilderness.

Portland residents are passionate about their natural setting, and the city is home to scores of LGBT outdoor sporting groups. Despite the frequent rain any time other than mid-summer, there's a nude gay beach at Sauvie Island, a 20-minute drive from downtown, and another one at Rooster Rock State Park, about 30 miles east of Portland in the fabled Columbia Gorge.

Portland may not have a highly visible gay scene, but it is well-developed and mature for a city its size. There's not only a gay men's choir, but a lesbian one as well, and an LGBT marching band. The lesbian scene is especially big in Portland, with women-filled coffee houses, particularly in the funky, bohemian Hawthorne District. Southwest Stark Street is Portland's most visibly gay thoroughfare and is the backbone of an area known as the Burnside Triangle. The Northwest neighborhood, as locals call it, is a more upscale version of the Hawthorne District. Northwest 21st Avenue is Restaurant Row, a good place to familiarize yourself with Portland's excellent fresh food and creative chefs. Portland is also a shopper's delight, since there's no state sales tax. Northwest and the once-industrial, now-yuppified and very cool Pearl District have trendy, upscale shops, and there's a pedestrian downtown/cultural district as well. Don't miss the Portland Saturday Market (open on Sundays too) near Burnside Bridge, with local handmade goods and crafts.

Portland's art and cultural scene includes the world-class, eclectic Portland Art Museum, and a great art gallery walk on the first Thursday of each month in the Pearl District, Old Town, and downtown. Literate Portland is also home to Powell's City of Books, the world's largest independent bookstore, with a huge LGBT section.

Experience the region's outstanding wines at the Portland Indie Wine Festival in the Pearl District in May, and in June join the big outdoor pride at the Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Portland is also home to two large, popular drag pageants, La Femme Magnifique in September and the Imperial Sovereign Rose Court's Coronation Ball in October. There's a gay and lesbian film festival in October in the Northwest/Nob Hill neighborhood. And the month-long Rose Festival in June features an extravaganza of auto and boat races, visiting navy ships, and a grand flower parade second in size only to Pasadena's Rose Parade.

Published: 17 Jul 2008 | Last Updated: 9 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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