Visiting and Living in Portland, Oregon

Considered by many the gem of the Pacific Northwest, Portland, Oregon is home to some 500,000 residents who often live, work and play in a sophisticated lifestyle and at a harmonious, laid-back pace. It is a pace far removed from the stressful, hurly-burly machinations of its large urban neighbors to the south: San Francisco and Los Angeles. Perhaps the only things both California communities have over the City of Roses is gridlock, earthquakes, job quantity, movie-star glamour and a milder year-round climate. But for quality living, employment opportunities, outdoorsy charm and a clean, environmental existence – Portland holds its own with the best of them. And living healthy and stress-free is only one of the many by-products of this bustling metropolis.

Few cities have a setting as beautifully scenic as Portland. Located in the northwestern region of the state, just south of Vancouver, Washington, Portland borders the banks of the Willamette River, about 10 miles from its confluence with the Columbia River. The city is a mere two-hour drive (about 65 miles inland) from the Pacific Ocean and its large deepwater port receives oceangoing vessels from all over the world.

A little history

Thirty years after the Lewis and Clark Expedition reached the Columbia River in 1805, settlers, missionaries and traders began immigrating from the 24 United States to where today sits Portland International Airport. By covered wagon thousands of immigrants traveled 2,200 miles from Missouri to Oregon City (just south of present-day Portland) in the 1840s, most of them to settle in the lower Willamette Valley. By 1870, over a quarter million people had transversed the Oregon Trail and became residents of Oregon’s northwest region.

Settlers Francis Pettigrove from Portland, Maine and Amos Lovejoy of Boston in 1845 acquired considerable acreage along the west bank of the Willamette river. After flipping a coin to name their new town, Pettigrove won the toss and named their new community Portland.

With the Willamette joining the Columbia River in north Portland and emptying into the Pacific Ocean only a hundred miles away, Portland quickly became a busy seaport and trading center. And within a few years the city hosted a thriving harbor, almost a thousand residents, a prosperous sawmill, The Weekly Oregonian newspaper and numerous shops and businesses.

When the California gold rush hit full stride in the 1850s, Portland agriculture and timber industries experienced a major boom in growth and profit. Dozens of new businesses sprung into existence almost overnight and were instrumental in providing food and lumber to mining interests and swelling communities panning gold and opportunity in central California.

After this prosperous period of rapid growth in trade and population, Oregon became the country’s 33rd state in 1859. When the transcontinental railroad arrived in 1883, Portland had already become one of the most wealthy cities in the nation, producing a new era of prosperity and growth in the region.

After 1900, Oregon became the third-largest timber producer in the United States, and Portland’s population exceeded 95,000. In 1905, the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition came to town and more than a million tourists were on hand to experience the awe-inspiring event. Over the next decade the population more than doubled and tourism and trade continued to grow and flourish.

During the Second World War a new boom in population and business occurred and some 160,000 residents – contributing to the war effort – were employed in the shipping industry. The timber industry again skyrocketed after the war, and the real estate market became a prominent source of income and opportunity during the post-war baby boom.

The City of Portland was chartered in 1851 and became part of Multnomah County which was created in 1854 when Portland residents found it troublesome to commute to Hillsboro to conduct business at the county seat in Washington County. They also thought they were paying way too much in taxes, so businessmen petitioned the Territorial Legislature for a new county, and soon thereafter Multnomah became the Territory’s thirteenth county.

Named after the Multnomah Indians who were part of the Chinookan tribe living on Sauvie Island in the Columbia River, Multnomah County is the smallest county in Oregon – only 465 square miles in size – but with a population of 646,850 people.

With the Columbia Gorge and Mt. Hood in the east, Portland in the west, and the Columbia River and Columbia County in the north, Multnomah County is home to a number of modern urban and rural communities besides Portland, including Lake Oswego, Gresham, Troutdale, Fairview and Maywood Park.

Today Portland, Oregon enjoys a broad spectrum of economic and social growth that includes diverse interests and opportunities in international trade and commerce, distribution, manufacturing, agriculture, entertainment and the tourism industry. This wide diversity continues to provide Portland with a stable economy, a prosperous business environment, and a healthy lifestyle second to none in Oregon.


Spring and summer are the best times to visit, and occasionally are comparable to sunny Southern California.

With an elevation of only 77′, Portland enjoys an average temperature in January of 38.9° and 67.7° during July. Usually daytime temperatures are 70-90 degrees in the summer and 35-45 degrees in the winter. The annual precipitation is 37.39″. Portland is a woodsy region, so many outdoor summer-like activities can be experienced year-round except of course during winter months when sporadic snowfall is present and temperatures sometimes fall below freezing.

Nearby Mt. Hood and the Columbia Gorge offer a number of recreational activities during colder months including skating, hiking, camping, snowboarding and skiing. So a change of clothing and a change of interest can provide outdoor fun year-long for those visiting and living in Portland.

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With El Nino frequently on the warpath, drastic changes in weather in the City of Roses is infrequent, but over recent years record snowfalls in winter and record heat waves in summer have visited Portland and Multnomah County. But neither event has discouraged people growth or tourism in the region.


Oregon’s most populated city is also a fantastic place to work. Literally thousands of major companies and small businesses offer a wide diversity of job positions, competitive salaries and outstanding benefits to newcomers and long-term residents alike. In addition, many local, state and federal government jobs are available year-round and are easy to locate and apply for online, and from newspaper want-ads and television.

According to the Oregon Census Bureau, in 2001 Multnomah County employed 399,456 people. Some 23,396 establishments employed workers in fields ranging from forestry, agriculture, mining, utilities and construction to retail trade, manufacturing, transportation, finance & insurance, real estate, entertainment and the legal and medical industries.

With unemployment slightly above the national rate (4.3%) and a cost of living index of 112.4, Portland was ranked 10th by Employment Review in its America’s Best Places to Live and Work annual guide. The city’s projected job growth to year 2010 is 26.6 percent. And though the State Income tax is progressive up to 9 percent, there is no sales tax in Portland or the rest of Oregon.

Chemicals, metallurgy and shipbuilding were the first dominate industries in the city and, along with white-collar business, remain so today. Other industries include meat packing, food processing, textile manufacturing and construction. The city is a canning center and processes fruits and vegetables from the Willamette Valley and fish reserves from nearby rivers and streams.

According to, manufacturing accounts for nearly 16 percent of employment in the greater Portland area. And though high-technology accounts for most manufacturing jobs, other products are also manufactured. Because industrial land is growing scarce in the area, the industry could begin to slow, although growth has been impressive in recent decades.

As of 2003, among the Top 25 private-sector employers in Oregon, are Fred Meyer Inc. (department store) with almost 13,000 jobs, Intel Corporation (computers, semiconductors and related devices) with 11,000, Providence Health System (integrated health business) with 10,889, and Safeway Stores, Inc. (grocery outlet) with 9,568 employees.

Barrett Business Services, Inc., US Bank, Kaiser Permanente, Hewlett-Packard Co., Wal Mart Stores, Inc., Nike, Inc. and Tektronix, Inc. account for another 40,000 plus private-sector jobs in Portland and Multnomah County.

These and other prominent businesses are constantly expanding and, with a continuing growth in the region, new and well-paying positions are becoming available on a regular basis to newcomers and to residents wishing to change careers and move up the economic ladder.

Portland is also host to over 20 major law firms, dozens of banks, numerous real estate and title companies, and many other administrative and white-collar businesses which provide thousands of current and new jobs to the regional marketplace.

Because of its central location, close proximity to the ocean and to rivers, lakes and recreational sites, Portland is home to a thriving tourist trade, and employment opportunities abound in the restaurant, entertainment, transportation and food service and hospitality industries.

With Portland International Airport; an assortment of modern medical facilities, clinics and private practitioners; millwork and forestry companies; variety shops and grocery stores; education facilities (including two major colleges), research centers and government-sponsored corporations; and wholesale, retail and blue-collar businesses – hundreds of other jobs are available year-round in entry-level and executive positions.

A plethora of job listings can be found online, and hundreds are advertised daily in The Oregonian newspaper – Portland’s major source for news and information – and in a dozen other regional publications and up-to-date job guides.

Temporary and part-time jobs are also plentiful throughout Portland and in neighboring cities. And a good number of temporary employment and placement agencies accept resumes and applications online as well as in person and via snail mail. Those interested in finding work can apply well in advance of their move to the sector and can subscribe to receive free up-to-date listings until relocating to the city and finding work.

With such diverse industries, a burgeoning economy and workforce, continued growth in major areas of commerce and trade, and rapid expansion of private-sector business – Portland is ideal for those wishing to live and work in a rural, opportunity-filled environment. It has become perhaps the most sought-after community to live and work throughout the sprawling Pacific Northwest.

Setting down roots

With over 200,000 housing units, a vacancy rate of 5.60% and a median mortgage cost of $632.00 and median rental of $397.00 (2001 census), Multnomah County for the last ten years remains the largest real estate market in Oregon.

With its tremendous population growth over the last decade, Portland – and more significantly – Multnomah County, continue to expand its low-to-median single dwelling and family dwelling real estate market. Construction of new homes are in the thousands and opportunities for both renters and buyers are equally bountiful. Central Portland and the metro area remain dense with commercial real estate, office buildings, apartment rentals, and condominium housing. But nearby communities in Washington and Columbia Counties, and Clackamas County east of the Willamette River, are expanding their markets with new home parks, suburban shopping centers, apartment complexes and housing projects.

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Beaverton, Tigard, Hillsboro, Forest Grove, Cedar Hills, Rockcreek, Oregon City, Clackamas and Lake Oswego are only some of the nearby communities within a short commute to Portland where new housing and available real estate can be found at rental and purchasing prices below the national average.

The Beverly Hills of Oregon, Lake Oswego is home to some of the most prime real estate in the country – much of which is shorefront property to the lake which provides swimming, boating, fishing and other activities. Some homes have boating docks and observation platforms, which can be quite spendy with a purchasing price in excess of five million dollars.

In June, 2002 the median home price throughout Portland was $169,000, with an average sales price of $206,500. The market time stood at 70 days, with an average sales price of 5.0% and median sales price of 2.8%.

In north Portland for example, the average home price was $122,500, with an average market time of 63 days. In southeast Portland the average price sold at $152,300, with an average market time of 55 days. Rental for similarly-sized homes can range from $350.00 to $700.00 a month.

In downtown Portland and east of the Willamette, single apartments and one-room flats can be had for as low as $200.00 per month. This might be significant to single people or young married couples who are just moving to the city and needing to find work before they can afford better housing.

In 2001 there were over 48,000 real estate listings for the area, and this availability of housing continues to increase proportionately each year.

Divided by the Willamette River, east and west Portland are accessible by a number of modern bridges; and Interstate Highway 5 – stretching from California to the Canadian border – connect the northern and southern sectors of Multnomah County and downtown Portland to communities straddling the Willamette and Columbia Rivers.

Local bus lines, taxi companies and the Tri-Met rail provide an excellent system of transportation for the entire region. Daily fares are low, service is pretty timely and quantitatively available, and travel between cities and counties is uncomplicated and free of gridlock and highway obstruction.

Portland has a number of Internet Service Providers and computer user groups, and a wealth of stores and consultants servicing the computer industry and other technical fields. There are also numerous athletic and social clubs, and private organizations serving residents and the professional community.

Multnomah County is home to over 160 elementary schools, high schools and education centers and enjoys the presence of Portland State Oregon and the Oregon Health Sciences University & Hospital. Over a hundred thousand students attend these schools year-round, and many thousands more are enrolled in night classes and adult and vocational-related schools throughout the County.

The Portland area has 9,400 acres of parks, including the smallest park in the world (Mill Ends Park) and the largest urban wilderness (Forest Park, over 5000 acres). With some 200 parks, Portland’s varied park system offers leisure and recreation opportunities for everyone including families, senior citizens and the disabled.

The lowest-in-crime and nicest places to live are in the nearby communities of Beaverton, Tigard, Tualatin, Aloha, Clackamas and Rockcreek. Businesses are plentiful, highways and other facilities are well-kept and up to date, shopping centers and recreational parks are clean and in great condition – and suburbia in these communities has a 21st century look to it.


Over fifty major hotels operate in Portland, offering rates as low as $45 per night to $160.00 for a single day’s stay. These lodging facilities offer their own fine dining and in-room service, with meals that are moderately priced; but fine dining restaurants and fast services outlets are usually located within walking distance.

A simple dinner for two can be had at a local Italian bistro or Mexican restaurant for as low as $30.00. For more elaborate cuisine, numerous regional and international restaurants of varying quality can be found throughout Multnomah County. These range in price from $40.00 to $300.00, and can be from a large salad-bar dinner or vegetarian buffet to a fancy five-course meal.

Romantic dining or dinner for the entire family can be experienced at a number of delightful restaurants located atop downtown skyscrapers or quaintly situated along the banks of the Willamette River. Reservations and formal attire are usually in order, but many delectable eateries welcome walk-ins and casual dress.

Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, The Riverside Restaurant offers a full, hot breakfast buffet and one of the best views of downtown Portland and Willamette River. Simple, tasty dinners are priced from $6.50 to $9.25, and the restaurant also features a full wine bar, local micro-brews on tap and live Friday night jazz.

Assaggio in downtown Portland is the place for pasta, interesting wines and a friendly atmosphere. Pastas are the main celebrities here but a search through the salad list is worth the effort. At La Provence Bakery and Bistro in nearby Lake Oswego, many mouth-watering dishes are offered, including seafood pasta, boeuf bourguignonne, Provence pizza, and sandwiches with soup-which are all moderately priced from $5.25 to $14.95.

While Portland’s many short blocks and winding streets are easy on the heart and feet and accessible to all, miles of biking and inline skating lanes wind and stretch throughout the city and connect via bridges and most major thoroughfares to outlying communities.

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…and soul

Worship in Portland is wide and varied and churches of almost every faith and denomination can be found throughout the city and greater Multnomah County. The largest percentage of residents are Catholic and have 28 churches in Portland. Baptist churches number 24, and the Lutheran and Methodist faiths have 42 places to worship and attend religious services.

There are 20 non-denominational churches in the city, and 18 Jewish temples and synagogues.


Portland nightlife is quite excellent and diverse. Number one on the list is the internationally-famous Oregon Symphony. Portland has a convention center and a number of fine theaters and concert halls. Neil Diamond recently performed to sold-out audiences, and other popular entertainers can be enjoyed at a number of first-rate concert halls.

Portland also has many local pubs and brewhouses that feature live bands performing rock, pop, jazz and blues music. Country music and line-dancing are favorite pastimes for Portland residents, and nightclubs offering these pleasures and inexpensive food and drink are in large supply throughout the County.

With hundreds of bars, pubs and drinking holes – good drink, live music or a friendly jukebox, as well as dancing and Karaoke singing can be found within a stone’s throw of where tourists and residents reside.

The Pearl District is home to many art gallery walks and cultural shops, and a number of prominent acts can be caught at some of the many comedy clubs that offer evening entertainment.

Sometimes seen in Portland is controversial, former professional figure skater Tonya Harding. When she is not saving heart attack victims or arguing with local constabulary, she can be found on the Internet and sometimes working out at the local ice arena or stopping to visit the Lost and Found Saloon bar on her way home to Vancouver, Washington, a few miles from Portland.

During basketball season, fans and visitors alike can attend a Portland Trailblazers game. Owned and operated by Microsoft co-found Paul Allen, the star NBA team is looking to have a championship season in 2005, and single-game and season tickets are no sale now.

Portland also has hockey and baseball for local fans as well as a professional soccer team. These and other sporting events – including a yearly marathon and high school and collegiate sports – can be experienced inexpensively and often for free, with little effort or driving distance.

With more than 20 major events, the Rose Festival offers something for everyone, including one of the top parades in the United States, a juried art festival, a world class air show, a CART championship series race and a waterfront festival. Two million people attended the festival last year.

One can stroll along the Tom McCall Waterfront Park and enjoy its many lawns, outdoor cafes, river walks and marinas; or experience the dancing waters of the Salmon Street Springs fountain, and then walk a little farther to gaze at beautifully snowcapped Mt. Hood.

Portland is home to a host of modern and antique book stores. The world’s largest bookstore is Powell’s City of Books which one can browse for hours on end and then retire to its friendly coffee shop to read or become a people-watcher.

Parents and kids alike can visit OMSI, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, where there is an exciting state-of-the-art science center, a giant screen Omnimax theater, the laser art planetarium and many interactive exhibits for both children and adults.

Oregon’s largest zoo can be accessed off of Interstate 5 before arriving in metro Portland. And the nearby Portland College campus with its many libraries and education facilities is also a neat place to visit.

A mile or so from the Interstate and before entering downtown Portland is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. With its sprawling lawns and reverent edifices, the Memorial is open to visitors most days of the year and without an admission fee.

Portland’s historic old town – besides it many galleries and museums – has a Saturday Market and Waterfront Park, and is within walking distance of many department stores, a fresh fish and food market and Portland’s downtown district.

Portland is also just a short drive from the spectacular Columbia Gorge and Multnomah Falls, windsurfing and sailing at Hood River, visiting valley wineries, snow skiing at Mt. Hood, fish watching and tours at Bonneville Dam, and all of the fun outdoor activities of the Oregon coast.