Moving to Portland, OR? Read Our Ultimate Moving Guide
If you’re well down the path to planning a move to Portland, you probably already know about the city’s reputation as a unique, even quirky place. There’s much more to living in Oregon’s largest city, of course, from its vineyards to its exceptional neighborhoods. Check out our guide for more info, then find out how Suddath®‘s Portland residential moving services can make your move to Portland a breeze.
What’s a Little Rain?
What you’ve heard about the rain in Portland is true. The 40-inch-a-year total isn’t a lot worse than many other places, but here, it’s delivered a little at a time over a longer period of time.
The skies are frequently gray and misty, but the locals don’t let a drizzle get in the way of enjoying everything Portland has to offer. Plus, when the sun does come out, you’ll appreciate the deep green landscape even more than usual. On the flip side, the summer months are mostly warm and dry, but not too hot, and winters are cool but not bitterly cold.
Regardless of the season in which you decide to move to Portland, note that if you’re sensitive to a lack of sunshine, or suffer from seasonal affective disorder, it may be a good idea to invest in some light therapy and find ways to stay physically active on cold, cloudy days.
Getting Around Portland: Walk, Bike or Ride
This is one area where—despite the gray skies—Portland really shines. Walk Score put the city on its top 10 list of U.S. cities with the best public transportation, and wrote that “Portland might be the most walking, biking, and public transit friendly city on the West Coast.” Choices here include Amtrak, the MAX light rail system, TriMet bus system, and the Portland Streetcar.
Biking is big: Portland has more than 300 miles of developed bikeways that offer shared bike boulevards, off-street paths, and lanes dedicated to bikes. The city also touts itself as the “birthplace” of car-sharing in America, with a fleet of more than 200 Zipcar vehicles around the metro area.
For air travel, there’s Portland International Airport, whose PDX airport code is frequently used as shorthand to refer to the city itself.
Things to Do and See in Portland
We could write a separate guide on all there is to do in and around Portland. There are festivals in every season of the year to celebrate music, art and food, plus street fairs, outdoor concerts, and more than 400 free events sponsored by Portland Parks & Recreation during summer months.
Indoors or outdoors, the list of things to do is long, but we’ll focus here on a few of the highlights:
- The Portland Saturday Market is billed as the “largest continuously operating open-air arts and crafts market in the country.” It’s open every weekend from March through Christmas Eve and is located just south of the Burnside Bridge on the Willamette River.
- Hang out with more than 2,000 animals at the Oregon Zoo, located in Washington Park just a few minutes from downtown. The zoo is in the midst of a $125 million upgrade that’s expected to be completed in 2020. It’s open every day except Christmas.
- The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry is a renowned science museum with five halls filled with interactive exhibits for all ages. Don’t miss the planetarium theater, with its 360-degree, full-dome projection. (You can even rent the planetarium to host an event.)
- It sounds crazy, but one of the most popular stops for visitors is Voodoo Doughnut. Have you always wanted a doughnut topped with vanilla frosting and Oreo cookies? How about one with bacon and maple frosting, or a topping of Cap’n Crunch? You’ll find these and a lot more offbeat treats at every Voodoo location.
- One of the greatest surprises in Portland is the Lan Su Chinese Garden. It was built by Suzhou artisans in an authentic Ming Dynasty style, and spans an entire block in the historic Chinatown district. This tranquil botanical garden offers a real escape from the everyday.
- Get a fantastic view of the city, forests, rivers and mountains from Pittock Mansion. At an elevation of one thousand feet, the 1914 estate is open to the public as a historic house museum with a permanent collection and special exhibits.
- The Portland Art Museum dates back to 1892, making it the oldest museum in the Pacific Northwest. More than 112,000 square feet house 50,000 objects, including art of the native peoples of North America.
- Not every city has a bookstore on its must-visit list, but Portland does. Powell’s City of Books takes up a city block, has one million books, and is the largest new and used bookstore in the world. Thankfully, it has a color-coded system to help you find what you’re looking for in its nine rooms and 3,500 sections. Take the 45-minute guided tour on Sundays at the flagship store on Burnside Street.
Eat, Drink, Then Eat and Drink Some More
Maybe it’s the weather, or maybe it’s just the natural result of having a populace that really loves great food, wine and beer more than most. Whatever the reason, the people of Portland have created a terrific food city, and it’s a brag that’s backed up by topping lists such as the Washington Post’s 10 Best Food Cities from a few years back.
Portland was ahead of the curve while the rest of the country was catching up on the farm-to-table wave, thanks to an area that’s surrounded by the abundance of the Willamette Valley’s growing season. Whether it’s a chef focused on regional-only ingredients or a one-of-a-kind food truck, Portland is the place to eat and drink.
Here are just a few of the more interesting spots, as noted by Eater.com:
Food trucks and food carts in Portland:
- Gumba for Italian
- Matt’s BBQ
- Hapa PDX Ramen
- Wolf and Bear’s for vegetarian dishes
- Wild North for wood-fire, nose-to-tail fare
Portland doesn’t have quite as many big-name teams as other cities its size, and there’s a glaring lack of an NFL team. There are only three professional sports teams in Portland: The NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers, the National Women’s Soccer League’s Portland Thorns FC, and Major League Soccer’s Portland Timbers. Two NCAA Division 1 sports programs are also here: the Portland State Vikings of Portland State University and the Portland Pilots of the University of Portland.
For spectators looking for sports teams that are a bit outside of the mainstream, there’s a rugby league, roller derby association, Australian rules football, and underwater hockey. (Yes, underwater hockey! It’s Portland, after all.)
Education in Portland
According to the Portland Public Schools website, there are nearly 50,000 students across 81 schools in the PK-12 urban school district. The district has recently broadened its offerings to include a greater focus on Career Technical Education, Dual Language Immersion, early childhood education, and arts education.
A number of innovative programs are available at area charter schools, such as:
- Portland Arthur Academy
- The Emerson School
- Le Monde French Immersion
- Portland Village School
- Trillium Charter School
Several universities and colleges are in Portland and the surrounding area, including these public and private institutions:
- The American College of Healthcare Sciences
- The Art Institute of Portland
- Lewis & Clark College
- Portland Community College
- Portland State University
- Reed College
- The University of Portland
- Concordia University
- Oregon Health & Science University
Portland Neighborhoods and Districts
Okay, we need to talk about quadrants. There are five, not four, “quadrants” here, but the apparent discrepancy doesn’t bother anyone. The city is divided into these sections: Southeast, Southwest, Northwest, Northeast and North. Knowing this matters, since addresses include their quadrant’s prefix, and that can help you get around it’s almost 100 neighborhoods.
Here’s a quick overview of each of the five quadrants:
Southeast: It’s eclectic here, from its shops and restaurants to its entertainment and home styles. There are a lot of small businesses and food carts everywhere. Mt. Tabor Park (in a neighborhood by the same name) is 190 acres set atop an extinct volcano. Other landmarks include Reed college and the historic Moreland Theater.
Southwest: Homes sell quickly in this popular area, thanks to its cultural offerings, beautiful parks, and everything that downtown Portland has to offer. The Portland Art Museum is here, as well as Portland State University, the Oregon Zoo, the Portland Children’s Museum and much more. It’s also the heart of the public transportation system.
Northwest: This quadrant is known for its great food and shopping (the Pearl District!), and streets lined with historic houses. There are parks throughout the neighborhoods here, including the 5,000 acres of Forest Park, popular among hikers.
Northeast: Notable landmarks include the Oregon Convention Center, Lloyd Center, and Portland International Airport in the Northeast, Portland’s largest quadrant. The area is one of the most walkable and bike-friendly in the city, which also makes it one of the most desirable.
North: This area is changing (and expanding) quickly as neighborhoods that were once neglected are coming back to life. Turn-of-the-century homes sit next to brand-new construction here, where there’s a mix of industrial, commercial and residential spots. The University of Portland is here, as are the Portland International Raceway and Portland Expo Center.
Shopping Isn’t Taxing Here
There are currently only five states in the entire country with no sales tax, and Oregon is one of them. That makes Portland the country’s largest city with tax-free shopping.
So, where to go to enjoy this advantage? Here are a few ideas:
- Head to the Alberta Arts District for funky handcrafted finds, imported goods, and outsider art tucked into the galleries. Go for the Last Thursday artwalk/street fair.
- Upscale stores span several blocks downtown at Pioneer Place. Go for the high-end brands, stay for the restaurants and entertainment.
- Urbanites revitalized the Pearl District in the 1990s, and now it’s a mix of residences, restaurants, art galleries, shops and more. Check out the popular art walk on the first Thursdays of each month.
- Get ready to do some walking at Bridgeport Village, a spread out, open-air mall with everything from a Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5th to the state’s largest Regal Cinema IMAX theater.
- Washington Square Mall is where to head when you need a Pottery Barn, J. Crew or Cheesecake Factory fix. It has a serious food court and more than 170 stores (including Lego for the kids).
- What city doesn’t have a great outlet mall just off a nearby interstate highway? For Portland, I-5 takes you to Woodburn Premium Outlets, billed as the largest tax-free outlet in the west. About a half-hour east are the Columbia Gorge Outlets.
- Shop and skate? Yes, indeed—the Lloyd Center is the state’s largest shopping center and it includes nearly 150 shops, indoor ice skating and a movie theater with 10 screens. Keep an eye out for pop-up shops as well.
- Just a couple of rail stops from the airport is Cascade Station, where you’ll find Oregon’s only IKEA, plus name-brand retailers such as DSW, Bath & Body Works, and Ulta.
Quick Statistics on Portland
- The metro population is just over 2,382,000
- Residents’ median age is 37.8
- The average commute time is under half an hour
- The median home price is $375,400
Important Portland Links
Whether you’re planning a move to Portland or any other city, it’s good to know in advance where to go to get utilities, your license, and other things a new resident is sure to need.
Driver’s licenses: Find your nearest Department of Motor Vehicles office on this map to get your driver’s license or an Oregon state ID.
Voter registration and voting locations: Oregon’s Motor Voter Act of 2016 made voter registration automatic when obtaining an Oregon driver’s license. Learn more about where to find your ballot drop box, vote by mail, and more on the Multnomah County website.
Vehicle registration: The Oregon Driver & Motor Vehicle Services website has information on titling and registering your vehicle in Oregon.
Utility companies: The major utility providers include:
Moving to Portland, OR: FAQ
With its reputation as a mecca for young people, Portland comes in at a surprising #20 on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Places to Retire list and first on MagnifyMoney’s list of the best cities for relocating retirees. Factors that influenced these rankings include the city’s costs of services and goods (which are below the national average) and a high score for medical costs and quality. In addition, the absence of a state sales tax is a big plus for those on a fixed income.
One of the downsides for retirees in Portland: The city ranks low for the availability of nursing homes and continuing care retirement communities, and housing costs continue to rise.
If you’re still weighing whether moving to Portland is right for you, here are a few of the ups and downs to consider.
• Diversity: The population, the neighborhoods, and even the things-to-do-and-see list are each exceptionally diverse, making Portland a good fit for all types of people.
• Nature: Parks and mountains provide nearly endless opportunities to get outside and explore the pristine scenery.
• Culture: Portland is famous for attracting creative types and investing in its cultural institutions.
• Sales tax: There’s no sales tax in the state.
• Crime rate: Portland has a lower crime rate than other metro areas that are about the same in size.
• Climate: Some people don’t mind the long stretches of gray, misty weather, but it can be challenging to go weeks without seeing the sun.
• Rentals: Available rentals haven’t kept up with an influx of new residents, so it can be tough to find an affordable place in your desired neighborhood.
• Costs: The overall cost of living is higher than it is in comparable cities.
Like many of the western U.S. coastal states, Oregon has plenty of established technology companies and startups. (In Portland, Intel is the city’s largest employer.) Apparel companies also have their headquarters here, including Adidas North America, Columbia Sportswear, Dr. Martens and Nike World Headquarters.
According to U.S. News & World Report, the 2018 unemployment rate in Portland is below the national average and salaries are above it. As with most sizeable cities, hospitals and healthcare companies are large employers. Manufacturers are also here, including Boeing and Daimler Trucks.
Recent statistics show that Oregon’s median home value is nearly $350,000, with prices higher in populated (and popular) areas such as Portland. Rent in the state is similar to the national medians of $1,200 for two bedrooms and $982 for one. In Portland, those numbers rise to $1,330 and $1,130, respectively.
Healthcare costs are high in many of the metro areas along the western U.S. coast. While notoriously expensive cities such as San Francisco have healthcare prices far above the national median, the Portland area is about 18% above.
Income taxes are high—in fact, Oregon’s highest rate of nearly 10% is the third-highest in the country after Hawaii and California. The good news is that there are no local or state-level sales taxes.
According to BestPlaces.net, Oregon’s cost of living is higher than the national average for groceries, housing and transportation, but lower on utilities.
The city has plenty to offer families, and Portland Mom’s Blog has done the legwork on the list of things to do and places to go when kids are in the mix, such as the waterfront Oaks Park Amusement Park, Oregon Children’s Theatre and NW Children’s Theater, and the 64-acre Washington Park complex.
If you’re moving to Portland from a sunnier and/or warmer place, you may need to be a bit creative when it comes to keeping the kids entertained on the chilly, rainy days. Of course, you won’t have to dress them up like snowmen to send them off to the school in the winter, and summers are beautiful for sending the young ones outside to play.
Keep in mind that a move to Portland is a move to a progressive city, which isn’t a surprise if you’re familiar with other West Coast cities. Politically, residents tend to be more toward the liberal side, and the community is very inclusive, celebrating its diversity with events throughout the year. You’ll also find a strong emphasis on respect for the environment (no plastic bags here) and plenty of vegans and vegetarians. That doesn’t make Portland family-unfriendly, of course, but it does make for interesting menus!
These cities, towns or suburbs are with 15 miles of Portland:
• Lake Oswego, OR
• Beaverton, OR
• Cedar Mill, OR
• Milwaukie, OR
• Vancouver, WA
• Minnehaha, WA
• Fairview, OR
• Oregon City, OR
In addition, these are some of the largest cities within approximately 250 miles of Portland:
• 145 miles to Seattle WA
• 204 miles to Victoria, Canada
• 258 miles to Vancouver, Canada
Portland is an exceptional home base for taking day trips to places unlike any other.
Here are some of the best:
• The Willamette Valley wine country is a little more than half an hour from downtown Portland. Explore hundreds of wineries—including Villa Catalina Cellars, Cooper Mountain Vineyard, and Helvetia Winery—and quaint towns throughout the area.
• The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area attracts two million visitors every year, and for good reason: It’s simply spectacular. Soaring cliffs, waterfalls and the mighty Columbia river provide stunning vistas at every turn. Visitors of all ages and abilities can enjoy the gorge, where activities include waterfront walks, mountain biking, windsurfing, hiking, picnicking, fishing and camping.
• Ski, camp, fish, hike or just take in the scenery in Oregon’s Mount Hood Territory. Rent a canoe on Trillium Lake, take a kayak tour at Willamette Falls, tube down the Clackamas River, or go on the ultimate adventure and climb Oregon’s tallest peak.
• Head west to the Oregon coast for one of America’s most unspoiled coasts. More than three hundred miles of shoreline are protected by state law, ensuring free access to the public. Wade in tide pools filled with starfish, get close to sharks at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, hike or camp in one of the dozens of state parks, or search for whales during their December and March migrations.
According to Travel Oregon, these are a few of the “did you know” fast facts:
• Oregon covers more than 98,000 square miles, making it the ninth-largest U.S. state.
• Oregon’s Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the U.S. at 1,932 feet.
• One of the richest fossil sites in the world is in Oregon.
• It’s illegal to pump your own gas anywhere in the state, with the exception of some rural areas.
• Close to 30 million acres of Oregon is forested, which is close to half of the entire state.