Portland Walking Tours

The Benson Bubbler: A Refreshing Piece of Portland History

May 9th, 2016

No doubt you’ve noticed the elegant bronze water fountains in many locations downtown, and perhaps you even know that they are called Benson Bubblers. So what’s the deal behind these iconic pieces of Portland history that still flow reliably today? Let us tell you the true tale!

Benson Bubbler

There once was a guy named Simon Benson who was born in Norway and immigrated to Wisconsin with his family when he was 16. In 1880 he moved to Portland with his wife and children and proceeded to take over the Pacific Northwest timber industry by storm. In fact, as a lumber baron he became so wealthy that he was officially one of Oregon’s first millionaires. What did he do with his money? He used it to help others and make the world a better place.

In 1912, to try to prevent his workers from becoming drunk at lunchtime in the saloons, Benson gave the city of Portland $10,000 to create 20 water fountains. Read more »»»

5 Great Meals Around $5 Each for the Frugal Portland Foodie

April 8th, 2016

In most cities, including our own Portland, we know it can sometimes be difficult to find inexpensive dining options that also embody the flavors and essence of a great meal. Most would agree that high quality and sustainable foods are the most desirable choice, yet some of us just do not have the funds. Good news! We found some food spots in Portland where you can actually get a meal for around $5, not including tip of course. You heard us right! And some of these restaurants are actually outside of downtown which means you’ll be hitting up the spots of devout locals. You’ll be a true Portland foodie by the end of your expedition, and without even breaking the bank! Read more »»»

March is Portland Dining Month!

March 17th, 2016

In case you hadn’t heard, we eat well in Portland. Really well. Our local food scene is so celebrated that food aficionados worldwide have showered our talented and passionate chefs with an abundance of attention, awards, and accolades. Our heads have swelled up with pride at how delicious and recognized our culinary scene has become. So while we’re not hungry for positive comments about our restaurants, we are always hungry to try new places and re-visit some of our favorites. Enter Portland Dining Month, the perfect way to make this happen (and here’s the key) affordably! Here’s the skinny (we couldn’t wait to make that pun): 3 courses for just $29 at some of Portland’s best restaurants during the entire month of March. Seriously, we’ll take seconds and even thirds of this sweet deal!


Photo courtesy of Travel Portland

Read more »»»

Sip into Spring with a Local Tasting Event: Cider Rite of Spring

March 16th, 2016

Even though Fall has passed us and Spring is popping up all around us, there is still one thing that has stuck around in our minds that we can’t let go of…drinking some hard cider of course! Not only is drinking cider commonplace in the blustery season, it’s readily available and enjoyed year-round in Portland. And the best part — this upcoming weekend you will get the chance to sip, learn about, and enjoy some of the best ciders all in one place at the Cider Rite of Spring, voted best northwest cider festival by SIP Northwest Magazine. Just remember, it’s one day only so get your tickets now!


  • What: Cider Rite of Spring Presented by The Northwest Cider Association
  • When: Saturday March 19th, 2016 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM (*age 21+ only)
  • Where: Tiffany Center, 1410 Southwest Morrison Street, Portland, OR 97205
  • Price: $30 at the door, $25 in advance (*not including ticketing fees), and $20 for NWCA members (*not including ticketing fees)
  • Tickets: Click here to purchase advanced tickets.
  • Click here for more information.

Don’t forget, if you’re still in the mood for some cider and wouldn’t mind some other brewed, fermented, and distilled options including beer, wine, and cocktails, we’ve got you covered! Join us on the We Got Tipsy In Portland Tour which is offered every Saturday at 1:30 PM. To purchase tickets, gift certificates, or for more information, visit portlandwalkingtours.com or call 503-774-4522.

Article by Adriana Bordea


Off the Beaten Path: Hidden Tourist Attractions in Portland

March 15th, 2016

You think you really know Portland, right? Maybe not as well as you thought. There is so much more to discover other than the usual touristy spots. What speaks most true to the city are the hidden gems placed in between our neighborhoods. Maybe while exploring the outer city limits you might even discover a hidden landmark you didn’t know was there. Below are just a few that make Portland oh so adorable.

The Wishing Tree
Location: NE Morris St and 7th Ave


Photo courtesy of Jason Houser on Facebook

Read more »»»

Nature in the City: Parks and Green Spaces in Downtown Portland

March 10th, 2016

Portland is a green city. We mean that literally. Green spaces are so accessible and plentiful, even downtown, that nature feels very immediate. Parks are an integral part of our day-to-day life here … in fact there are over 275 of them – accounting for over 37,000 acres! It’s easy to find one and sometimes they are even just a few blocks away from each other. Oh how lucky we are!

Some parks have been around for a while and have interesting histories and stories attached to them. Some are newer kids on the block. Some have water features. Many have public art. Whatever your fancy, the juxtaposition of urban surroundings and green oases in Portland is just plain wonderful. Here’s the lowdown on some of our downtown favorites, and may we add that on our Best of Portland walking tour, you will see and learn much more about a number of these parks and (teaser), even see the world’s smallest park!

Chapman and Lownsdale Squares


Photo courtesy of brx0 on flickr

These two side-by-side squares in front of the Courthouse were named after notable gentlemen who settled in Portland in the mid-19th century. Back then, only men could gather in Lownsdale, while women and children were segregated to Chapman. In keeping with the gender distinction, Chapman even features all female gingko trees! And while significant statues representing war memorials and the Oregon Trail are in the squares, it is a huge elk fountain between the two that is talked about the most. Its inaccurate rendering and position blocking traffic has been the subject of much controversy. Go visit it and see what you think! Read more »»»

Local Hot Spots to Experience Portland’s Legendary Music Scene

February 17th, 2016

Since we “stole” the “Keep Portland Weird” motto from Austin, we’ll let them call themselves the Live Music Capital of the World. But we not-so-secretly think we might be able to take them on in that category as well. Portland’s live music scene is extremely robust, and there are a plethora of venues that offer a wide range of settings to hear local as well as national and international acts. There really is something for everyone to discover and enjoy at any given time. We’ve chosen some of our favorites, in no particular order, but make no mistake, there are lots more throughout this very musical city. Just follow your ears!

1. McMenamins Crystal Ballroom
Downtown’s West End


Image courtesy of Crystal Ballroom on Yelp

The most famous attribute of this enormous, historic grand ballroom is its floating or mechanical dance floor which is purported to be the only one of its kind in the country. Even if you only went to feel what it’s like to “dance on clouds,” it would be worth it because let’s face it, everyone is going to ask if you have been to the Crystal Ballroom. Oh the things this elegant music palace has seen (and heard!) in its over 100-year history. All kinds of legends have come there since the 1960s when it became a must stop for acts like Ike and Tina Turner and the Grateful Dead. Nowadays you can find the ballroom filled with the sounds of rock ‘n roll, hip hop, swing, and more. And for additional onsite fun, the little sister of the Crystal Ballroom, Lola’s Room, is located on the second floor, directly below the Crystal where you can experience 10-foot screen MTV videos in the celebrated ‘80s Video Dance Attack. Read more »»»

Love Is in the Air in Portland: Creative Ideas for Valentine’s Day

February 11th, 2016

Still looking for something to do with your sweetie on Valentine’s Day? We’ve got you covered with five of our top picks for a fun, romantic, and creative Valentine’s Day.

1. Date Night Double Feature


Image courtesy of funhouselounge.com

Enjoy not one but two shows centered all around love at Funhouse Lounge. A comfy circus themed bar which has various performances per week is performing “Date Night Double Feature” which discusses love’s cruel effect on us. One show will even have performers spilling secrets to the audience, and the other show is about a girl looking for her prince charming in all the wrong places. This story sounds too real! Performances are $10 in advance, and $15 at the door and run through February 26th at 7:00 PM at Funhouse Lounge (2432 SE 11th Ave, Portland, OR 97214). Read more »»»

The Year of the Monkey: Lan Su Chinese Garden Re-opens Just in Time for New Year’s Festivities!

February 8th, 2016

How does the song go? “They paved paradise to put up a parking lot.” Well, in Portland we did the opposite — in the year 2000 a beautiful walled Chinese classical garden opened to the public on a site that was once a parking lot. Right in the middle of the Old Town Chinatown neighborhood, occupying an entire city block, the beautiful Lan Su Chinese Garden is the most authentic Chinese garden outside of China. Built by artisans from Suzhou, Portland’s sister city which is renowned for its Ming Dynasty gardens, the Lan Su Chinese Garden is an oasis of calm and inspiration created by the harmonious blending of nature, art, and architecture. Trust us, as soon as you enter the gates you definitely feel like you have left the cares of the modern world behind. We highly recommend a visit.


Photo courtesy of lansugarden.org

We have been missing the garden for several months while it was closed and undergoing some renovations, but we are so happy to announce that it is opening its gates once again on February 8 . . . just in time for a very special New Year’s Celebration of the Year of the Monkey. Over the course of 15 days, many fun events are happening, starting with a jam-packed day on February 8 when each visitor will receive a hong bao, a traditional lucky red envelope. Also on this day, the first 100 visitors will get the opportunity to roll oranges and coins over the threshold of the front door to bring forth prosperity in a tradition called “Roll in the Wealth.”

There are so many wonderful activities planned for bringing in the Year of the Monkey that we can’t possibly list them all here, but if any of these sound intriguing, be sure to get yourself to the garden: folk art demonstrations, calligraphy workshops, lion dances, puppet shows, martial arts demonstrations, feng shui talks, and wishing tree activities. Capping it all off are four nights of lantern viewings on February 19-22 where you can see the magnificent splendor of 150 red lanterns hanging from pavilions and 250 floating lanterns on newly renovated Lake Zither as well as a dragon procession and a lion dance. Lions and dragons and lanterns, oh my!


Photo courtesy of lansugarden.org

Chinese New Year is the most popular time of year to visit the garden, so purchasing tickets in advance is highly encouraged. What’s great is that all New Year’s events are included with admission except for the Lantern Viewing Evenings. And, the garden is just a few blocks from the starting location of our Underground Portland Tour, so a stop at the garden either before or after your tour would be a wonderful addition to your itinerary.

We wish you a very happy, healthy, and prosperous Chinese New Year!

Article by Natasha Kelly

Portland Walking Tours FAQs – Answers to All of Our Most Frequently Asked Questions!

February 5th, 2016

Thinking about booking one of our fabulous tours? Already booked a tour and still have questions? We’ve got the 411 on our most popularly asked questions.

What if it rains?

Lucky you, you’re going to get the full Portland experience if you do a walking tour in the rain! It’s hard to avoid our liquid sunshine during certain months of the year, and we hope you will embrace it like we do. Our tour guides come dressed for the Oregon weather, and we recommend our tour guests do the same. Umbrellas are even available for sale in our box office!

Should I tip my tour guide?

That is always a great way to show your guide that you have enjoyed the tour, and will be very much appreciated by them. Feel free to use the 15-20% scale that you would give at a restaurant or other industry of service.

How much of the Underground Portland tour explores the Shanghai tunnels?

OK this is probably the most asked question we get. So here’s the skinny folks: about ¼ of the tour goes into a subterranean space to explore the area that once led to the legendary Shanghai tunnels. The actual tunnels have been closed off since the 1970’s, and no one, not even the water bureau, can go into them. But we show you what’s left of them (and yes you need flashlights, and yes we provide them!) and give you all the expert and true information about the practice of “crimping,” or kidnapping, that is a very real part of Portland’s history. That said, just because you are not going into any tunnels does not mean that this is not the most incredibly fascinating tour giving you all kinds of information about the dark side of Portland’s criminal past, including other “underground themes” such as gambling, ethnic crimes, corruption, and much more.

I live here in Portland. Why would I want to take a tour?

We literally hear every week from locals who say things like, “I’m finally getting around to learning more about my city!” — or as is more frequently the case — are accompanying their out of town guests, and remark “I cannot believe how much I learned on my tour. And I thought I knew Portland! Ha!” Don’t let the out of town visitors leave more knowledgeable than you are about your beloved hometown!

Can I bring my dog on a tour?

Portland is a very dog friendly city, so we do allow pet dogs on our Best of Portland tour. That said, other guests need to be comfortable with your pet dog being on the tour, and we ask that you keep it leashed, well behaved, and not take it into any buildings. Only certified service dogs are welcome on any of our tours.

Which tours are child friendly?

Our Best of Portland tour is a delight for children, and if your child is okay with ghosts as a theme, our all-ages Beyond Bizarre ghost hunting tour at 7:00 PM is a lot of fun. Our food tours are also fun for children, depending on how comfortable they are with trying new things. And of course you are the best judge of the adventurousness of their palates. Keep in mind, every person on a food tour needs to purchase a ticket, even children. We don’t recommend the Underground Portland tour for children under 13 since the topics covered are for a more mature audience, but again, it is at the discretion of the parents. The only tours that are specifically age restricted are the 10:00 PM Beyond Bizarre tour (18 and over only) and the We Got Tipsy in Portland tour (21 and over only).

Should I buy tickets in advance or can I just show up?

Our tours regularly sell out, therefore we highly recommend that you buy tickets in advance as that is the only way to guarantee your spot on the tour. There are three ways to purchase advanced tickets: on our website, by calling 503-774-4522, or by visiting us in person at our box office located indoors under Pioneer Courthouse Square (701 SW 6th Ave). If you are not able to purchase advanced tickets, you can take your chance and show up early to purchase the tickets on-site if there are still tickets remaining for the tour.

Do you have a tour today?

We sure do . . . we have tours literally every day of the year! Our tour schedule varies depending on the day of the week and the time of year (and we have seven different tours to choose from!), so feel free to give us a call or visit our website to discover your options.

Can I cancel or change my tour?

Because we operate a ticketing system as opposed to allowing reservations, our tickets are sold as a non-refundable and non-exchangeable purchase to a specific event — your tour. We keep our tour numbers small to give you the best experience possible, so if you do encounter an emergency and you won’t be there for the tour, let us know as soon as possible so we can open up spots for other people.

Where do I meet my tour guide?

Your guide will be waiting for you at one of two locations depending on which tour you are taking. For the Best of Portland, Epicurean Excursion, Flavor Street, Chocolate Decadence, and We Got Tipsy in Portland tours, the starting location is the Theater on the Square under Pioneer Courthouse Square at 701 SW 6th Avenue. For the Underground Portland and Beyond Bizarre tours, the starting location is 131 NW 2nd Avenue between NW Davis and NW Couch at the Old Merchant Hotel Building.

Where will we go on the Epicurean Excursion, Flavor Street, Chocolate Decadence, and We Got Tipsy in Portland Tours?

While we do have several regular stops on all of these tours, the selection can vary depending on several factors, so we leave that as a delicious surprise for our guests. Also if you come back and do the same tour again, you might very well experience a whole different variety of places!

Do I need to print my tickets?

No! We try to make it as easy as possible for our guests. As soon as you make your purchase, your name goes on a guest list for the tour, and all you need to do when you arrive for your tour is tell the guide your last name, how many are in your party, and you will be all set. You don’t even have to show your guide the confirmation email on your phone.

How early do I have to arrive for my tour?

Check in time is officially 15 minutes before the start of the tour, and we greatly encourage that you arrive by then because we start our tours promptly at their designated times. We wouldn’t want you to miss yours!

How can I pay for my tour?

We accept credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover) on our website and through our box office, and in person you can also pay with cash.

Which tour should I take?

Each of our tours are quite different from each other, and all offer a wonderful combination of fun and information, so it is just a matter of what you are looking for. We have a description of each tour on our website, or feel free to call us and we’ll help you decide. And why not take more than one?

I have dietary restrictions, can I still go on your food tours?

Absolutely! Your guide will ask the group before the start of the tour if there are any dietary restrictions, and they are often times able to provide alternate tastings when available. This does not guarantee that there will be alternate tastings at every stop, but the guides will do their best to accommodate you.

What is the difference between the all ages Beyond Bizarre tour at 7:00 PM, and the adults only tour at 10:00 PM, and why is their a price difference?

The 10 PM tour covers the same tour route and topics, but there is no holding back with adult language and expressions. You are paying for the guarantee of having an adults only experience.

If you still have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask them! You can contact us through our website or call us at 503-774-4522. We look forward to seeing you on a tour soon!

Article by Natasha Kelly


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