Perhaps because of their city's frontier and port history, the people of Portland retain something of a nonconformist outlook. Outgoing, and good-natured, the folks who live in the "City of Roses" seem even more casual and a bit more rambunctious than their Seattle cousins to the north. The architecture gives the downtown a look found nowhere else -- a combination of modern towers and renovated warehouses. Outdoor pursuits abound, especially on the gorgeous stretch of the Willamette River that runs through town. Beaches with nude stretches of gay interest can be found on the Columbia River nearby at Sauvie Island to the west, and at Rooster Rock State Park to the East. Pacifc Ocean beaches, temperate rain forests, and Mt Hood, Oregon's highest peak and one of the most prominent of the Cascades volcanoes, are all just a short drive from the city.
Portland is known for having a large number of microbreweries and microdistilleries, as well as an uncommon variety of downtown street food carts selling good food of many cultures at bargain prices. Coffeehouses abound and the many bookstores here include Powell's, one of the world's finest new and used book emporiums. Cinema is another local passion (Gus Van Sant hails from here), as is music - with plenty of venues to enjoy them both. Combinations include old-style movie houses like the Bagdad Theatre & Pub on SE Hawthorne, with beer and pizza to eat while you watch. The dark-irony vaudeville of Vagabond Opera, burlesque shows and eclectic musical performances at Star Theater, glitzy-glamourous drag shows at Darcelle XV and the naked-as-they-want-to-be male dancers at Silverado and Stag all suggest that Rose City remains a tad different than your average American town.
During this past year Portland residents have been able to purchase recreational-use marijuana from about 30 local medical marijuana dispensaries, and stand-alone retail stores are set to open soon. Cannabis-only, no-alcohol parties and some large-scale marijuana-themed events had started up, until the city began to enforce Indoor Clean Air Act prohibitions on public area/ work place smoking. Continuing events include the Oregon Dope Cup in October, and the Cannabis Classic PDX in November. Some other Oregon cities continue to ban weed. At national forests, parks, monuments, and all other federal properties, and when crossing between states, possession is still illegal. For more information on a changing situation, see the websites of the Oregon chapter of NORML, and PotGuide, with Colorado, Nevada and Washington, as well as Oregon news. Dope Magazine and High Times are also informative.
The Oregon Ballet Theatre at Keller Auditorium features a celebrated company of dancers and the Oregon Symphony, founded in 1896, presents concerts at Portland's Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. This 1928 Italian Renaissance-style former vaudeville venue, still referred to locally as "the Paramount" is now part of a cluster of downtown theaters of the Portland'5 Centers for the Performing Arts. The hall is also home to the Portland Youth Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Youth Symphony, the White Bird Dance Company, and Portland Arts & Lectures, with concerts and films too. The Portland Art Museum has art exhibits that include masterworks to modern paintings and ceramics from around the world, to photography - gelatin silver prints to contemporary digital works. The Museum’s Native American art collection is housed in the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Center for Native American Art. The Northwest Film Center presents a year-round exhibition program of foreign, classic, experimental, and independent cinema.
Portland International Airport has buses, shuttle buses and car rentals at, or near the terminal building. TriMet MAX Red Line light-rail trains run to downtown every 15 minutes or better most of the day, every day. Service is less frequent in the early morning, mid-day and evening. The 40-minute trip costs $2.50.
The Amtrak Cascades train links Eugene OR (Eugene Station), Portland OR (Union Station) and Seattle WA (King Street Station) to Vancouver BC (Pacific Central Station), a trip of about 12 hours from one end to the other, running five times a day.
Pedestrian-friendly Portland has excellent public transit, with four MAX light rail lines (with another to open in 2015) and two Portland Streetcar lines. Services cover both sides of the river, including the gay districts. A no-zone flat fare is $2.50 for two hours of travel, or $5 for an all-day pass. - buy at vending machines, supermarkets or from the driver. Weekly and 14-day passes can also be bought at machines, or during business hours at the Pioneer Square ticket office. See TriMet for more information.
Citywide bicycle maps can be obtained from the Portland Bureau of Transportation. The Portland bike share project, BikeTown, has 100 automated bicycle rental kiosks throughout the central city and many eastside neighborhoods, providing bikes for short trips 24 hours a day, 365 days a year = sign up at their website, a mobile app, or a kiosk. Single trips of up to 30 minutes cost $2.50 (10¢/ min thereafter), day passes are $12 (180 minutes ride time), and with an annual membership the rate is just $12/ month. Daily pass holders can take up to 4 bikes at a time - each extra billed at $6 per hour.
The main gay districts had been downtown around Southwest Stark Street and in Old Town around Northwest Davis and Northwest 3rd with other places of interest across the river, including Northeast Broadway, Southeast Stark and Northeast Sand. Stark Street has changed a lot with the loss of many gay clubs recently, so LGBT bars and clubs are now more scattered around the city.
Neighborhoods along Southeast Belmont and Southeast Hawthorn are pleasant to browse, with lots of little shops and restaurants. Some retain remnants of 60s counterculture that all but disappeared elsewhere in America.
Media & resources
Just Out is a free paper full of local news, events and listings for the LGBTQ community. PQ Monthly is another source for what's on in queer Portland. Fabulous PDX has a calendar of gay and happenings around town.
The Willamette Week is the area alternative paper with news, general events, arts, entertainment and restaurant listings and reviews.
The Adventure Group is an outdoors club /LGBTQ community outdoors group for the Portland region with activities from hiking and skiing to camping and kayaking.
Pivot (209 SW 4th Ave) is a social and educational community space for 18+ men into men, with free coffee and WiFi, HIV testing, films and other events and services.
The PDX Q Center (4115 N Mississippi Ave), is the local LGBT community center, with art and culture events, film screenings, social services and a coffeehouse.
In Other Words (14 NE Killingsworth St), is a feminist bookstore that has expanded into a women's community center, with workshops, readings, and events such as film screenings.
Portland Pride is in June each year, PDX Latino Gay Pride is in July, and Leather Pride takes place in September. The Rose Festival, with annual city-wide festivities, has been a part of Portland's popular culture for 105 years.
The Imperial Sovereign Rose Court has their annual coronation in October, with various events happening all year-long.
For locations and website links to businesses listed below, see our gay Portland map & listings pages.
Ace Hotel (1022 SW Stark; 503-228-2277) modern, informal rooms, economy or deluxe, cable TV, free wi-fi, near gay clubs.
Hotel de Luxe (729 SW 15th Ave; 503-219-2094), tribute to Hollywood's Golden Era, with 130 art deco rooms, Gracie’s Restaurant.
Hotel Lucia (400 SW Broadway; 503-225-1717), oasis of calm at city center, stylish photography, original art, cutting-edge yet comfortable; Imperial Restaurant.
Lion and the Rose B&B Inn (1810 NE 15th; 503-287-9245), brewery magnate's Queen Anne mansion, full of style, sophistication, tradition; 8 guest rooms, garden courtyard, full breakfast.
Mark Spencer Hotel (409 SW 11th; 503-224-3293), gay-friendly historic landmark, 102 guestrooms and suites, perfect location near downtown gay clubs, kitchens, rooftop deck.
A Painted Lady (1927 NE 16th; 503-335-0070) grand 1894 Victorian home, 3-guestroom gay-friendly oasis in hip Northeast Portland; sumptuous breakfast, garden patio.
Bars & Clubs
One of the few American cities to allow fully nude male entertainment, Portland has several clubs at which dancers may strip off as much clothing as they want. Locals complement this admiration for the male physique with another PDX penchant, a reverence for drag and burlesque, often at the same establishments.
Burnside & West of Broadway
BOYeurism at Star Theater (13 NW 6th Ave), each first Thursday, mostly male PDX variety/ cabaret and burlesque show, with circus artists, drag pros, and musicians, featuring "a testosterone tornado of the region's sexiest dancers, aerialists, vocalists, acrobats and performers!"
Casey's (412 SW 4th Ave), neighborhood lounge/bar, mixed crowd, pool and games, digital jukebox.
Escape (818 SW First Ave), alcohol-free Friday/Saturday night 11pm-2am all-ages gay dance and drag show club - new location as of September 2016.
Hotflash/ Inferno at Bossanova Ballroom (722 E Burnside), women's dance night on two floors, fourth Saturdays each month, welcoming all women, queers and allies; dancers and entertainers, pool tables and video games. Also second Saturdays at Trio Club (909 E Burnside St).
Scandals (1125 SW Stark), friendly staff, big beer selection, local microbrews, food, games, sidewalk tables, hot DJs, weekend dancing, karaoke, weekly local bands, art exhibits, annual block party.
Silverado (318 SW 3rd), non-stop nightly male erotic dancer rotations, nude as they want to be, amateur nights, friendly mostly male party crowd, divas, heart pumping dance music, Monday karaoke, Wednesday Latino nights, food, games, poker machines, outdoor terrace; special holiday and Rose Festival events.
Stag (317 NW Broadway), new "gentlemen's lounge" strip club, male pole dancers, nude if they want to be, private lap-dance areas, amateur nights; bar food nightly, Saturday and Sunday brunch 11am-3pm.
CLOSED: Boxxes dance club complex (1035 SW Stark); Fish Grotto, seafood restaurant/bar; Fez Ballroom (SW 11th), alternative mixed crowd, live music.
CC Slaughters (219 NW Davis), lively and diverse crowd, 7 nights of parties, DJs, dancing, go-go boys, Hip Hop nights, Diva Megashows; underwear and towel nights, go-go girls on TnA Tuesdays; quiet chill-out martini lounge.
Darcelle XV (208 NW Third), legendary glitz and glamour, comedy, drag pageants, dinner cabaret, Friday/Saturday midnight male strippers.
Embers (110 SW Broadway), infamous drag shows, karaoke, large dance floor, superb DJs, diverse crowd, cheap drinks.
Fox And Hounds (217 NW Second), neighborhood bar, supper club, Sunday brunch, affable older crowd, bears' events.
Hobo's (120 NW Third), quiet lounge, courtyard fine dining, stylish piano bar, premium cocktails, game room.
North & East
Crush (1400 SE Morrison) bar and restaurant, outdoor seating, Saturday/Sunday brunch, burlesque & boylesque, classic bingo, cash prizes, wild queens. Monthly parties include Pants Off clothing optional dances,
Eagle (835 N Lombard), friendly watering hole in North Portland, bears, leather/uniform men, hearty bar food.
Holocene (1001 SE Morrison), music + arts events, nightclub; folk to minimal techno, local musicians, mixed dance and multimedia parties.
Joqs (2512 NE Broadway), popular men's sports bar, gay softball team, friendly regular guys, pool table, wild holiday stripper parties, American food cafe.
Local Lounge (3536 NE MLK), entrees and sandwiches good deal daily menu, gay-friendly all-ages mix; dancing and entertainment.
CLOSED: Starky's (2913 SE Stark), Eastside gay favorite, food and spirits, late-night weekend menu.
Saunas & Sex Clubs
Steam Portland (2885 NE Sandy) lively, modern spa, open 24 hours, visitor rates, hot tub, four-channel video rooms, video lounges, slling and tunnel play areas, blackout parties, billiards, nude tanning deck.
Hawks PDX (234 SE Grand Ave), bathhouse, sex and social club for men; steam and dry sanuna, maze, g-holes, slings, game room, dark room, water sports area, HDTV videos, snack bar, plus patio for sunning, smoking and Sunday BBQ. Monthly CumUnion sex parties for men, the third Saturday of each month.
Portland has restaurants and cafes of every kind, plus a wide variety of street vendors and food carts for a quick nibble featuring international foods of every sort. There are now almost 500 food carts in the city, with a large cluster in the blocks between SW Washington and Alder Streets, at SW 9th and 10th Streets, downtown.
Restaurants -- West of the Willamette
Gracie’s Restaurant (729 SW 15th Ave), Hotel de Luxe, classic American and innovative Pacific Northwest fare. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, brunch items all day.
Portland City Grille (111 SW 5th; 30th floor), steak and seafood restaurant and bar, captivating city and mountain views, mixed crowd.
Ringside Steakhouse (2165 West Burnside), downtown steakhouse, prime ribs, seafood; meat-eaters' standby since 1944.
Roxy (1121 SW Stark), gay-popular, kitschy greasy spoon "Delicious Big Fat Food!" diner, open 24 hours, jukebox, after-bars breakfast rush.
Stumptown Coffee Roasters (1026 SW Stark), quality, in-house roasted coffee of many regions, ground floor of stylish Ace Hotel.
Voodoo Doughnut (22 SW Third), open 24 hours, handmade many-flavored doughnuts include "cock and balls;" fun afterhours crowd and Rogue Ale flavors, including Chocolate, Peanut Butter & Banana and Bacon Maple. Voodoo Two (1501 NE Davis) second location out on Sandy at Davis.
Restaurants -- East of the Willamette
Bread & Ink Cafe (3610 SE Hawthorne), blintzes, wholesome breakfasts, lunch, dinner pasta, steaks; fresh-brewed coffee for 25 years.
Bridges Cafe & Catering (2716 NE MLK Jr), local-source organic products, breakfast and lunch daily from 7am.
Cadillac Cafe (1801 NE Broadway) inspired breakfast and lunch, from scratch, flavorful comfort foods, vegetarian, vegan options; creative cocktails.
Clark Lewis (1001 SE Water), farm-to-table organic, seasonal, sustainable foods, Pacific Northwest lunch/dinner, Italian/French influences; wines, bar.
Cruzroom (2338 NE Alberta), taco bar, creative Mexican/American/Asian combinations; equally inventive liquor mixes.
Fire on the Mountain (1708 E Burnside), best hot-wing joint in town, sauces galore, many local brews, live music.
Grendels Coffee House (729 E Burnside), coffee shop, sandwiches, bagels, veggie and vegan friendly, free wi- fi
J&M Cafe (537 SE Ash), hearty daily breakfast, served all day on weekends, lunch, self- service coffee.
Milo's City Cafe (1325 NE Broadway), breakfast, lunch, dinner, brunch, many options big menu; four variations on Eggs Benedict, crab cakes, veggie options.
Night Light Lounge (2100 SE Clinton), bar and cafe, live music, patio seating, art gallery, no cover, mixed crowd.
Tin Shed & Garden Cafe (1438 NE Alberta), lesbian-owned good-vibe eatery, farm collective grows produce for the table.
White Owl Social Club (1305 SE 8th Ave), vegan/vegetarian and omnivore burgers, small plates and salads; draft beers, wines, cocktails.
Wild Abandon Restaurant (SE Belmont), locally grown organic food, affordable Classic American comfort food/pub grub, amazing breakfasts, pleasant and unpretentious atmosphere, wine and cocktails.
CLOSED: Old Wivees' Tales (1300 E Burnside), large menu, moderate prices, vegetarian and gluten-free options, salad bar, awesome mushroom soup.
Shopping & services
Portland is a great place to go shopping. You can expect to find a great collection of all the big name stores, small boutiques and great eclectic shops. But in Portland, as with the rest of Oregon, one thing you won't find is any sales tax.
Bagdad Theatre & Pub (3702 SE Hawthorne) old- fashioned movie palace, first run movies, luxury rocker seating; pizza, burgers, sandwiches and beer at your seat.
Powell's City of Books (1005 W Burnside) huge store, new and used books, paperbacks, classics, photo books, maps, posters, rare editions.
Q Center (4115 N Mississippi) gay community center, health services, art gallery, cultural events, concerts, readings, film festivals.
Taboo Adult Video (237 ML King), erotica for all, sale and rental DVDs, magazines, toys, oils, lubes, novelties.
Underu4men (800 SW Washington), live model shows, brand- name undies, cosmetics and skin care products, clothes, accessories; new expanded location with larger selections.