Museums in Downtown Portland

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Founded in 1898, a year remembered by fashion historians as "the year of President McKinley Eyebrows," the Oregon Historical Society has sought to preserve and promote the history, politics, and culture of the nation's 33rd state through publications, lectures, and the exhibits at the Oregon History Museum. Befriend the past with the Oregon My Oregon exhibit, an award-winning and interactive look at the state's odyssey. It features 7,000 square feet of more than 50 displays showcasing numerous artifacts and antiques, including a 9,000-year-old sagebrush sandal. Beat the Independence Day rush with a visit to the exhibit Tall in the Saddle: 100 Years of the Pendleton Round-Up, running through July 4. The exhibit celebrates a century of the iconic bronco-busting rodeo event with video clips, authentic Round-up gear, and timeless photography. Also appearing at the Oregon History Museum is Becoming American: Teenagers & Immigration, a Smithsonian traveling exhibit with photos chronicling the experiences of first-generation immigrants and their children and how they have adjusted to the land of apple pie and processed-cheese singles. The exhibit runs through May 30.

1200 SW Park Ave
Portland,
OR
US

With an arsenal of informative magazines, elegant photographs, and illuminating documentaries, National Geographic has inspired planetary responsibility and natural wonderment for more than 120 years. Their latest filmed adventure, The Last Lions, ushers viewers into the wetlands of Botswana's Okavango Delta, where a lioness named Ma di Tau and her cubs fight for their survival. From fleeing raging fires and cub-killing rival prides to wading through crocodile-infested rivers and the supermarket at rush hour, this family suffers perils that leave audiences touched and awestruck. Crafted by award-winning filmmakers, Dereck and Beverly Joubert, and narrated by Jeremy Irons, The Last Lions aims to raise awareness of dwindling big-cat populations while sharing a compelling story of hope. The film is rated PG for depictions of the food-chain cycle without the accompaniment of an Elton John song.

846 Southwest Park Avenue
Portland,
OR
US

The Portland Mercury featured the Museum of Contemporary Craft and Frommer's very highly recommends it. More than 2,800 Facebookers are fans of the museum and Yelpers award it a perfect five-star average:

724 NW Davis St
Portland,
OR
US

The entire Earth spins inside of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. It's as if visitors have launched into outer space, where they can see everything—clouds forming over North America, hurricanes churning in the tropics, and millions of animals in migration. Night falls, and the major cities light up Earth's continents like misshapen Christmas trees. Just then, the planet disappears, and in its place rises a spinning orb of fire and violent solar storms: the sun. The display, appropriately titled Science On a Sphere, is actually a 6-foot animated globe powered by a series of video projectors. It serves as the perfect centerpiece for OMSI's Earth Hall, which explores geology, tectonics, and everything else that makes Earth a living planet. The hall's exhibits let visitors control wind turbines and launch satellites into space.

Earth Hall is only one section of the museum, however. More hands-on activities wait within Turbine Hall, where kids design bridges and boats. Visitors can tour the USS Blueback, a U.S. Navy attack submarine that guarded the Pacific for 31 years, or gaze towards the heavens inside of Kendall Planetarium, which uses real-time 3D graphics to transport audiences into the very heart of black holes. Even Theory, the onsite eatery, has an educational focus. The restaurant's displays explore food sciences while Chef Ryan Morgan and his team use local ingredients to cook meals in full view.

Although every corner of OMSI sparks scientific curiosity, the museum's educational programs take things one step further. The faculty hosts astronomy camps and teaches 50-minute interactive labs in which kids might make soap or dissect a squid—a requisite skill for any future biologist or sushi chef.

1945 SE Water Ave
Portland,
OR
US

The consortium of professional instructors at Fred Astaire Dance Studios, which was cofounded by the legendary toe tapper himself, shepherds adults of all ages and skill levels through lessons that span the style spectrum. Low-pressure private sessions allow enthusiastic teachers to fine-tune individual students' techniques and form, using their expert eyes and mechanical dancing shoes preprogrammed to do the cha-cha. Patrons can learn how to cavort through classic waltz and fox-trot romps or swivel through the modern steps of tango, swing, or rumba. For dancers hoping to hoof it up in a social setting, the group practice provides a one-night extravaganza of instruction, demonstrations, and amateur firewalking.

305 Northwest 21st Avenue
Portland,
OR
US

Hailed as the "scariest and best haunted attraction in the entire state of Oregon" by HauntWorld.com, FrightTown has elicited hair-raising screams for a decade. As its name suggests, FrightTown isn't just a single haunted house: it's a whole city block's worth of scares spread out across three very different haunts. Though the themes and the names of these haunts may stay the same from one year to the next, FrightTown overhauls each one annually to ensure that even the most loyal masochists find new reasons to scream around every turn.

As of 2014, FrightTown's longest-running attraction is Baron Von Goolo's Museum of Horrors. This madhouse mixes humor and horror into one unpredictable experience that leaves people simultaneously scratching their heads and sprinting for the door, just like a high-school calculus class.

300 N Winning Way
Portland,
OR
US