Trying to figure out the best way to spend a rainy day in Portland? Looking for ideas of what to do in Portland when it rains? Or maybe you’re just curious about the best indoor activities in Portland? I have you covered.
As a lifelong local, allow me to affectionately say “join the club – we have (waterproof) jackets.”
Portland is known for many things, chief among them is our reputation for rain. But dang, if it weren’t for the rain, our nature wouldn’t be a world wonder. That’s part of the charm of the Pacific Northwest in general. Our temperate rain-forest climate makes way for epic natural beauty you can’t find elsewhere.
But with the rain comes great responsibility imagination. You have to get clever with indoor activities to keep yourself occupied during the rainy season (which has many locals clawing at the wall come February).
I’ve had a few readers reach out and ask about the best indoor activities in Portland on a rainy day. And longtime readers know I aim to please. So without further ado, let’s cover how to spend a rainy day in Portland.
Table of Contents
Rain in Portland (FAQs)
Why don’t locals use umbrellas in Portland?
Portlanders are a practical sort. We can’t rely on umbrellas because we’d be spending 6-8 months of the year without access to both hands. And who wants to live like that?
An umbrella, while genius in design, is a bear to carry around when running errands. As such, most locals rely exclusively on high-quality rain jackets. If helpful, here’s the one I’ve had for the past six years (and will definitely repurchase, should the time ever come).
Do locals ever get used to the rain?
I get this question often. If you’re new to town (welcome!) you might be wondering how to adjust for the rainy season.
I’ve lived in the City of Roses for 31 years, and the rain in Portland still gets to me in the winter months. So as much as I’d love to tell you that the rain gets easier with time, I’d be doing you a disservice. Because, speaking from personal experience, that can’t been the case for me.
My best solution? Invest in two things. This bad boy (that I can’t live without – to be clear, not referring to my husband) and budget a trip to a sunnier place in February. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just somewhere really, really sunny.
Looking for where to stay in Portland? This is my favorite hotel (I recommend it to my own family and friends).
Park Yourself at a Top-Notch Brunch Spot
There’s no denying that one of the best things to do in Portland on a rainy day is to merge two things our city is best known for: good food and moody weather.
Corral your closest friends and make reservations at one of the best brunch spots in Portland. Most brunch spots don’t accept reservations for parties of less than six, so you’re going to need to make some calls and get all your friends involved.
Ask for a table by the window, and if you’re lucky enough, the sassy staff may oblige. Then, spend the next two hours catching up over toothsome brunch fare and sparkling mimosas.
If you don’t have enough friends to call (judgment-free zone, folks in the Pacific Northwest are notoriously reserved), fret not. When there’s rain in Portland, the brunch lines seem shorter, so you may still snatch a table without much wait.
Bring your special someone, or hell – just bring yourself (judgment-free, remember?). No one will think anything of it because it’s one of the best indoor activities in Portland on a rainy day. And yep, brunch is an activity in my book.
If helpful, here’s a roundup of my (personal) favorite brunch spots in Portland.
Make a Meal Using Portland’s Best Cookbook
What better way to spend a rainy day in Portland than making a hearty meal using an award-winning Portland cookbook (I cherish this thing!). Buy a bottle of wine, open it, and act surprised when the recipe doesn’t call for it.
Or, if you feel so bold, why not take it up a notch and host a fancy mid-week dinner for your closest family and friends (ask people to bring a good bottle of wine and dress for the occasion!). This is a great way to get out of the seasonal funk we tend to fall into when there’s rain in Portland nonstop for months on end.
Better yet, swing by a farmers market to stock up on the ingredients (many Portland Farmers Markets are open rain or shine!).
Plus, it’s fun to shake the narrative that Portlanders are reclusive. Admittedly, I’m definitely an introvert, but even the most reserved among us can muster up the energy to laugh with good friends on a random Wednesday! Besides, sharing a meal with friends is one of the best indoor activities in Portland, rain or shine.
Get Lost at the Largest Independent Bookstore in the World
Rated by CNN as one of the coolest bookstores in the world, Powell’s Books, dubbed City of Books, is the largest independent bookstore in the world – selling both new and used titles for all to enjoy.
Home to more than one million new and used books, the store covers 4 floors. If that sounds overwhelming, grab a map before embarking on the adventure.
Arrive early or be prepared for crowds, visiting Powell’s is by far one of the best indoor activities in Portland on a rainy day.
Fun fact: Pop into the Gold Room during your visit to see the rarest books in the store. The most expensive book at Powell’s is an 1814 copy of the Lewis & Clark Journal which includes Captain Lewis’ map safely tucked between the pages. The price? $350,000.
Dawdle at a Local Brewery
I’m probably not the first to tell you that Portland is a craft brew town through and through. In fact, Portland has been ranked the best beer city in America. Our area of expertise? Craft beers and IPAs.
We have some big award winners in our city, and while summer is definitely the best time to discover these gems, the rainy season in Portland isn’t a bad time either.
I recently embarked on this challenge myself and came up with a clean list of the 15 EPIC Portland Breweries Guaranteed to Quench Your Thirst. Why not test these out for yourself during a rainy day in Portland?
Short on time? I got you covered. Here’s the breweries I highly recommend for folks visiting Portland on a rainy day (or any day of the year, really).
- Breakside Brewing: From a local’s perspective, no brewery shines brighter than Breakside Brewery – largely thanks to the plethora of awards and accolades bestowed upon it. The prestigious awards span the gamut and there’s simply too many to list, but the Gold Medal at the Great American Beer Festival is worth mention.
- Stormbreaker Brewing: Stormbreaker is a crowd-favorite among local Portlanders for their hoppy IPAs, memorable ciders, and great outdoor seating. Founded in 2013, this beloved Portland brewery now boasts two lively locations. Enjoy a cold glass of cider or an IPA over pub fare (the nachos are worth mention).
- Culmination Brewing: Culmination Brewing is on everyone’s lips for a reason, this brewery churns out some of the most innovative and perfectly executed brews in Portland. Opened in 2015, Culmination has focused on creating a relaxed and welcoming space for the community by way of great beers.
Explore the Portland Japanese Garden
Originally opened in 1967, the Portland Japanese Garden is regarded as one of the most authentic Japanese gardens in America. And when you visit for yourself, you’ll quickly see why. The garden is perfectly manicured with a small pond, a handful of waterfalls, and moss-laden paths ripe for exploration.
But let’s address the elephant in the room because I can already hear you moaning “girl, are you serious?” The answer is yes, absolutely. Here’s the thing some folks don’t realize: visiting the Portland Japanese Garden is one of the best rainy day activities in Portland. Don’t let the drizzle scare you away!
The garden takes on a mystical and dreamy feel when it rains. Better still, the crowds dissipate, making way for the tranquility of nature and indisputable zen (who couldn’t use more indisputable zen?).
I don’t want to paint a false picture though, you definitely won’t be the only one exploring this beloved garden when there’s rain in Portland. Hardly.
You’ll still see a roundup of the usual suspects – love-struck teenagers, retirees, tired parents, and (if you’re lucky) the occasional awkward encounter with a coworker. If you need an escape, make a beeline for the cozy Umami Cafe for matcha and respite.
On a side note, my husband and I visited Japan in 2019 and completely fell in love with the country. Based on our trip, we can confirm that the Portland Japanese Garden is truly authentic. We felt like we were transported back to the tranquility and culture we so loved in Japan.
All told, locals know not to shy away from the rain. Hell, rain in Portland is all but guaranteed 6 months of the year, so it doesn’t stop us from enjoying things we’d do on sunny days. It just changes the logistics of the day (mostly the type of jacket we throw on).
To that end, I can’t recommend this experience enough for first-time visitors looking for things to do in Portland in the rain.
Visit the Portland Historical Society
If you’re looking for great indoor activities in Portland when it rains, why not spend an afternoon learning something new about the city?
My favorite thing to see at the Portland Historical Society is the famous Portland Penny. The founders of Portland, Oregon were two settlers from New England. One from Boston, Massachusetts and the other from Portland, Maine.
Both settlers wanted to name the city after their respective hometowns and decided to settle for a coin toss. And that’s how Portland, Oregon got its name (yes, really).
If you’re looking for unique date ideas in Portland on a rainy day, I suggest swinging by the Portland Historical Society to see the famous 1845 penny used to decide Portland’s name. And while I can’t guarantee you’ll impress your date, the penny can’t hurt.
The Portland Historical Society is a gem of a museum and a great place to visit when there’s rain in Portland’s forecast. The best part? It’s free for Multnomah County residents, making this one of the best free indoor activities in Portland. If you’re not a resident, admission is $10 and worth every penny (some pun intended).
Tour Pittock Mansion
Anyone looking for fun rainy day activities in Portland would be remiss to skip the Pittock Mansion. A stunning French Renaissance-style mansion sitting atop the West Hills and spanning 16,000 square feet. Pittock Mansion boasts 46 elaborate rooms and is open to the public for tours.
The tours are really cool because you can see the original furniture from the time period and learn more about the family that called it home (these folks were loaded). Commissioned by the publisher of the Oregonian, Henry Pittock, no expenses spared, the house was built so well that even the original elevator is operational to this day.
Touring Pittock Mansion is one of the best things to do with kids on a rainy day in Portland. It’s fun to play I Spy with the kids while secretly adding up the exorbitant expenses of the things you’re pointing to.
Catch a Show at Mississippi Studios
Located in the popular Boise neighborhood, Mississippi Studios is a recording studio and music venue best known for hosting incredible performances year-round.
The venue exudes an easy-going vibe with its heated outdoor patio and great food & drinks. Catching a live performance at Mississippi Studios is a great way to spend a rainy day in Portland and makes for a memorable date too.
If helpful, you can check the roster at Mississippi Studios for upcoming shows.
Enjoy OMSI After Dark
The Oregon Museum of Science & Industry (OMSI) is a Portland rainy day staple. Most lifelong locals have memories of spending drizzly weekends at OMSI or visiting during school field trips. It’s a great place to get your fill of fascinating science exhibits, especially during a rainy day in Portland.
Indeed, those searching for the best indoor activities in Portland on a rainy day with kids will find plenty to do at OMSI. But even if you don’t have kids, you shouldn’t write off this gem. Rather, sign up for the fun OMSI After Dark experiences.
OMSI After Dark is a 21+ event that takes place the last Wednesday of the month (typically). Local vendors, scientists, and artisans host creative science-themed workshops. Visitors can get drinks, watch shows, or try a plethora of interesting demos.
What’s more, all the permanent exhibits are open during the event, which means you can explore to your heart’s content. Spending a day learning something new is one of the best ways to take advantage of a rainy day in Portland! Learn more here.
Catch a Movie at the Bagdad Theater
Located in the eclectic Hawthorne District, the Bagdad Theater & Pub dates back to 1927. The theater was purchased by the McMenamin brothers and underwent a major renovation in 2013.
Upgraded sound systems, larger screens, more comfortable seats, and an updated digital projector solidified that this beloved Portland institution isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Check the schedule of upcoming films and pop over rain or shine.
Fun Fact: The Bagdad Theater hosted the gala premiere of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in 1975.
Check the schedule of upcoming films and pop over when the urge strikes. The theater is stunning inside, as such, catching a movie is one of the best things to do in Portland on a rainy day.
If you’re itching to do something active, head over to the theater’s back room for billiards. It also makes my list of the best rainy day indoor activities in Portland.
P.S. Those looking for rainy day activities in Portland with kids should definitely consider popping over to the Bagdad Theater. There’s typically a family-friendly movie somewhere in the lineup, making it fun for the whole family.
Or, Enjoy a Performance at the Oregon Symphony
Even during rainy days in Portland, the dating scene must go on. The biggest challenge is coming up with a list of Portland date ideas on a rainy day because damn – that requires some next-level creativity.
If I may offer a suggestion, I think the Oregon Symphony might be worth a shot.
This Grammy-nominated symphony ranks as one of the best orchestras in America. Currently led by Music Director David Danzmayr, the Oregon Symphony hosts more than 100 concerts per year and sees more than 235,000 visitors annually.
I’ve seen a few performances by the Oregon Symphony and can tell you from firsthand experience, it’s a great way to shake things up.
An evening serenaded by award-winning classical music while the rain patters outside, this is definitely one of the most romantic things to do in Portland on a rainy day. There’s no formal dress code, but most folks dress up for the occasion. Everyday attire is completely fine too (this is Portland after all), but if you need an excuse to dress up, this is it.
Fun Fact: The Oregon Symphony is the oldest orchestra west of the Mississippi. Reason alone to visit during a rainy day in Portland! To check the roster (or purchase tickets) click here.
Get Active at the Portland Rock Gym
If you’re one of those weirdos with a six-pack, why not continue your good habits and keep yourself unrelatable to the general public in winter too? Staying active outside during a rainy day in Portland is too much for us mere mortals to handle, which is where the Portland Rock Gym comes in.
There aren’t many indoor rainy day activities in Portland that don’t revolve around beer, so you have to take advantage when you can. Enter: The Portland Rock Gym.
This is a great activity for those hoping to stick to their New Year’s Resolutions past January 8th. If it’s your first time trying rock climbing, sign up for the Intro to Climbing class or buy a day pass and learn the ropes under guided supervision by opting for the First Ascent experience.
I only know about the Portland Rock Gym because my cousin is an active nut and swears it’s fun. He invited me, and I joined him for a day and had an absolute blast. I was so sore the following three days and can confirm – this Portland indoor activity will keep you in shape.
The Portland Rock Gym offers day passes. Learn more here.
Find the Best Pizza in Portland
Winter is a long season, mostly because the rain in Portland makes it feel never-ending. As such, you’ll get plenty of time to pop around and visit some of the top pizza spots in Portland.
As you may have heard, Portland recently outranked New York City as the best pizza city in America. No easy feat, as you can imagine.
And sure, we could talk about how Portland, Oregon was recently rated the Best Pizza City in America. We could talk about the discernible eye-rolls and sardonic sighs evoked from resolute east coasters.
Or we could talk about the tepid applause from Portland locals because the sensational headlines only confirmed what we already knew – the pizza in Portland was underrated for too long, and we meant to keep it that way.
Between the traditional New York style, artisanal wood-fired Neapolitan, or the beloved deep-dish Chicago style, Portland can satisfy the needs of any ardent pizza lover. Sampling pizza is a must-do for foodies looking for the best things to do in Portland, Oregon, on a rainy day.
Read the complete list: 15 Perfect Portland Pizzas (Ranked by Pizza Type)
Cozy Up With a Book at a Local Cafe
Portland consistently ranks as one of the top three best coffee cities in America (our neighbors Seattle and San Francisco are always in the mix too). As such, one of my favorite things to do during a rainy day in Portland is to cozy up with a good book at a local cafe.
And I can tell you from firsthand experience that Portlanders are spoiled for choice when it comes to quality coffee and charming cafes, making this one of the most popular indoor activities in Portland (rain or shine).
Need a starting point? Here’s a roundup of the 15 Most Charming Portland Cafes You Can’t Help But Love.
Best Coffee in Portland (According to Locals)
- Stumptown Coffee at the Ace Hotel: We can’t talk about the best coffee in Portland without mentioning the original, Stumptown Coffee. Still considered the most iconic coffee shop in Portland, this gem has spread to several locations across the country. Swing by to see why locals maintain a steadfast devotion to Stumptown regardless of all the new cafes that have cropped up over the years.
- Coava Coffee Roasters: Coava roasts its own beans, which are so well-known that many Portland cafes choose to use them exclusively. Specializing in pour-overs and espresso, rather than latte art, this is the place to go if you want a great cup of coffee with a focus on the beans. The baristas are some of the friendliest I’ve come across and take great pride in sharing their knowledge of the day’s beans.
- Heart Coffee: Started by a married couple that began roasting beans out of their home, Heart Coffee has a cult following in Portland thanks to their delicious high-quality coffee and Instagram-worthy interiors.
Spend a Day at the Kennedy School
This is one of the best things to do in Portland on a rainy day with out-of-town visitors. It’s also a great Portland date idea on a rainy day!
The Kennedy School is a beloved Portland staple. This once-abandoned school has been converted into all sorts of fun. The boiler room is now a restaurant, the gym is a movie theater, and the detention room is a bar.
This is one of the best Portland indoor activities for those that always thought school should be more fun. The Kennedy School is great for dates or catching up with friends. Grab a brew and plan to linger a while, there’s a lot to discover.
Get boozy and slow the evening down with a plate of tempting tater tots before you make your way over to the movie theater to catch a classic re-run. It’s great fun.
Tip: You can actually stay at McMenamins Kennedy School because the classrooms were converted into hotel rooms. What’s more, guests get access to the soaking pool.
Sweet Tooth? Order the Hot Chocolate at Creo
Creo Chocolate is an award-winning mom-and-pop shop in Portland’s Lloyd District. You know the drill: hot chocolate and rainy days go hand in hand. So if you’re searching for the best hot chocolate in Portland, make a beeline for Creo Chocolate for a rich and velvety cup of quality hot chocolate you won’t soon forget.
As someone with an insatiable sweet tooth, I used to reward myself with this delicacy every Friday while working a particularly demanding job.
If you’re a next-level chocolate lover (*averts eye contact), sign up for the chocolate-making class! You’ll walk about with a custom-made chocolate bar and pick up some interesting facts about the chocolate trade.
Play Arcade Games at Ground Kontrol
I’m going to be transparent with you. If given the choice between spending an afternoon playing arcade games in a dark basement or spending the night with a scream, teething child, I’d pick the kid. Arcade games are not my idea of a good time, but my husband loves this Portland rainy day activity, so I thought I’d share it.
About twice a month he calls his friend over, and they head out to Ground Kontrol to drink beer and play arcade games for a few hours. There’s no denying it’s one of the more unique indoor activities in Portland on a rainy day, but hey – to each their own. Minors allowed until 5 pm.
And if you need to drop off a screaming toddler before heading over to Ground Kontrol (admittedly one of the most popular things to do in Portland on a rainy day), you know where to find me.
Rain in Portland: Road Trip Ideas
The Oregon Coast
Nothing screams Pacific Northwest like the striking Oregon coastline, even on a moody day. A scenic 1.5-hour drive from Portland will lead you directly to the salty sea. I’ve often found that when there’s rain in Portland, that doesn’t translate to rain at the coast.
Check the forecast and you might get lucky! If you’re pressed for time, make Cannon Beach your top priority.
Cannon Beach is the most popular beach on the Oregon Coast; you may have seen photos of Haystack Rock before (it’s very famous). As such, this is a perfect day trip from Portland.
My childhood is freckled with memories of summer at the Oregon coast, so I’m definitely biased. It took my husband a few visits to fall under the coast’s spell, but as soon as he discovered crabbing and clamming – he was hooked!
Things to do at the Oregon Coast:
- Hike God’s Thumb
- Visit Haystack Rock
- Explore Ecola State Park
- See all 11 lighthouses in Oregon
Further Reading: 15+ Charming Oregon Coast Towns You Can’t Help But Love
Everyone knows that Oregon is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream, rain or shine. Our state’s drastic (and diverse) natural landscapes can keep you entertained for years.
But what’s the point in hiking without a proper reward afterwards? Well, Oregon has you covered in that department as well – in fact, Oregon is the 4th most wine-producing state in the country.
And of all the notable wine regions in Oregon, perhaps none is more famous than Willamette Valley because it is home to 500+ wineries.
Sitting at the same latitude as France’s notable wine regions, Willamette Valley is known for producing knock-out award-winning Pinot Noirs that can hold their own in worldwide competitions.
Sipping a velvety smooth glass of pinot noir while refreshing the forecast app and waiting for the rain in Portland to pass is my idea of desperation a good time. The drive over is 1.5 hours but worth every minute if the valley has blue skies, especially when it’s raining in Portland.
Don’t want to make the drive over? No problem. Check out these 15 cozy wine bars in Portland, Oregon instead. Splitting a bottle of wine with good friends is one of the best things to do in Portland when it rains.
In terms of best day trips from Portland, it doesn’t get better than a visit to the Columbia Gorge, especially during a rainy day in Portland.
Few know that the Columbia River Gorge is America’s largest National Scenic Area. And once you drive through this stunning landscape, it won’t take long for you to realize that the honor is well-deserved.
The Columbia Gorge is a study in contrast. From alpine meadows and jaw-dropping waterfalls to desert landscapes and tepid rainforests, there’s something for everyone.
As any Portland local will tell you, you absolutely must take out-of-town visitors to see the glorious Columbia River Gorge. It’s popular for a good reason!
Less than a one-hour drive from the city, the Columbia River Gorge makes for a great day trip from Portland even if you only have half a day to spare.
Getting Around Portland in the Rain
- Biking is the number one way to get around Portland. It’s not ideal when there’s rain in Portland, but locals manage regardless. Portland is rated the most bikeable city in America year after year. So grab a BIKETOWN bike to explore town and don’t let the drizzle stop you.
- Driving in the city is fairly easy (especially if you’re comfortable driving in cities), and parking is reasonable at $2/hour in the downtown metered area.
- For longer stays, the City of Portland has 5 parking garages that charge the same rates as on-street parking ($2/hour or $13-$16 all day).
- Public Transportation is easy to use and fairly inexpensive ($2.50 for two hours/$5 all day). In addition to the bus, Portland offers the MAX and Portland Streetcar.
- Uber/Lyft/Taxi are operational in Portland and (based on personal experience) reasonably priced.
When driving in Portland, it’s important to know that pedestrians ALWAYS have the right of way – even if sidewalks are unmarked.
Best Things to Do in Portland on a Rainy Day (Post Overview) | Indoor Activities Portland
In sum, here’s a quick roundup of outdoor and indoor activities in Portland on a rainy day.
- Park Yourself at a Top-Notch Brunch Spot
- Make a Meal from Portland’s Best Cookbook
- Get Lost at Powell’s Bookstore
- Visit a Local Brewery
- Catch a Show at Mississippi Studios
- Explore the Portland Japanese Garden
- Visit the Portland Historical Society
- Tour Pittock Mansion
- Enjoy OMSI After Dark
- Catch a Movie at the Bagdad Theater
- Enjoy a Performance at the Oregon Symphony
- Get Active at the Portland Rock Gym
- Find the Best Pizza in Portland
- Read a Book at a Local Cafe
- Spend a Day at the Kennedy School
- Order the Hot Chocolate at Creo
- Visit Ground Kontrol
- Day trip to the Oregon Coast
- Explore Willamette Valley
- Visit the Columbia River Gorge
Map of Portland Rainy Day Activities | Rain in Portland
No list of Portland rainy day ideas is complete without a map, enjoy!
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Indoor Activities Portland, Indoor Activities Portland