Every Question You Have About Portland Answered

By Teo Spengler

Exploring everything weird and wonderful in Portland Ore.

Every Question You Have About Portland Answered

Portland, Oregon has gone from a well-kept secret to an urban legend in just a few short years, but it retains the delightful small town vibe and off-kilter wackiness that's earned it diehard fans. Overflowing with natural beauty (think the Willamette River meandering through town and lofty Mount Hood standing guard), Portland is also celebrated for its vast parks, extensive bike trails, fabulous coffee and craft beer.

Q: Can you see Mt. Hood from Portland?

A: Mt. Hood is part of the Cascade Range and rises some 11,239 feet tall. It is one of the landmark sights on the Portland skyline, visible whenever the weather is clear. It also makes an excellent day trip from Portland, with excellent hiking.

Q: How many bridges in Portland?

A: Ten automobile bridges traverse the Willamette River in Portland, no two alike. Some are vertical lift spans, others double-leaf Bascule drawspans. The Steel Bridge is the oldest, constructed in 1912, while the Sellwood Bridge is the most recent, completed in 2016 (and replacing the older Sellwood Bridge built in 1925). In addition, Tillikum Crossing, built in 2015, carries trains, buses, streetcars, cyclists and pedestrians – but no automobiles. There is also one railroad bridge in Portland for a total of 12 bridges. From north to south, they are: St. Johns Bridge, Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge, Fremont Bridge, Broadway Bridge, Steel Bridge, Burnside Bridge, Morrison Bridge, Hawthorne Bridge, Marquam Bridge, Tillikum Crossing, Ross Island Bridge and Sellwood Bridge.

Q: Why is Portland called Stumptown?

A: In Portland's infancy in the mid-1800s, it attracted immigrants. Land was cleared to accommodate them, and when trees were felled, stumps remained. People would jump from stump to stump to avoid the wet and muddy streets. Neighboring towns claimed that the young settlement had more stumps than people and began calling it "Little Stumptown."

Q: Why is Portland called Rip City?

A: Another colorful nickname for Portland is Rip City. The city has Bill Schonely, the first play-by-play announcer for the Portland Trailblazers, to thank for it. In a game against the Lakers in 1971, Portland Trail Blazers player Jim Barnett sank a long shot that tied the game. Schonely called out in excitement: "Rip City. All right!" and the term stuck.

Q: How long is the train from Seattle to Portland?

A: It's a pleasant and scenic train ride from Seattle to Portland. Amtrak runs multiple trains a day taking from just under four hours to just over four hours.

Q: What to do in downtown Portland?

A: You may have trouble winnowing down the list of exciting things to do in downtown Portland, running the gamut from parks to museums to gardens. Tom McCall Waterfront Park lines the west bank of the Willamette River, offering green grassy places for loafing as well as paved sidewalks for biking and skating. Pioneer Courthouse Square, a brick plaza in the heart of the downtown, is known as "Portland's living room," gathering crowds for farmers markets, concerts and rallies. It's a perfect place for people watching. The Portland Art Museum is also in Portland's center, known for its excellent collection of Native American carvings. And don't miss Washington Park with its 400 acres and attractions. If you are visiting Portland on a summer weekend, stroll the Portland Waterfront to catch the famous Saturday Market, with arts and crafts, diverse food booths and street entertainers.

Q: What is the weather in Portland?

A: Portland has a pleasant climate with warm, dry summers and wetter, cooler winters. Summer highs climb to 81 degrees F, while winter nighttime lows drop to 35 degrees F. Spring and fall are mild, with temperature ranges from the 40s to the 60s.

Q: Does it snow in Portland?

A: It snows in Portland, but not too often. Still, every year Portland sees at least one big snowfall. According to the state Department of Transportation, winter weather can change so fast in Portland that everyone driving in winter should carry chains. The city sends out snow plows to clear the streets, but it can take time.

Q: How often does it rain in Portland?

A: It rains frequently in Portland, especially in the winter. The clouds release about 36 inches of precipitation a year over Stumptown. Wet days per month range from 19 in December to three in July, with most rain falling between November and March.

Q: What to do in Portland on a rainy day?

A: In Portland, it doesn't often rain cats and dogs. Rather, rain comes in on little cat feet. If you have rubber boots and a raincoat, there is no need to stay indoors. Fortunately, the city offers many great indoor activities, just in case. Drive or take a taxi to the top of the West Hills to tour the Pittock Mansion, the former home of the owners of the Oregonian newspaper. It has a greenhouse, servants' residence and panoramic views of the city. Another rainy-day choice is the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. Although many exhibits are aimed at children, adults enjoy the planetarium sky shows the museum offers.

For a plunge into Oregon history, visit the state's most important history museum called the Oregon Historical Society. It offers free-admission days, so check the website first. Or escape the rain like so many Portlanders do, by hanging out, reading, sipping a latte and people watching in Powell's Books. It's a huge, welcoming spot occupying an entire city block.

About the Author

Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Spengler splits her time between French Basque Country and California.