10 Things To Do In Portland That Every Creative Should Experience

Don Draper had to get out of his element to come up with his greatest ad campaign. Perhaps you do, too. Whether you're new to Portland, or simply spend too much time in the office, we all should get out of our ad bubble and spend some time exploring the rest of our city.

In doing so, we can gain a wider view of life, and make our work more relevant to the people we’re selling to—— who, remember ladies and gentlemen of The Ham, are not ourselves. Here are 10 things to do in Portland that every creative person should try at least once, according to the long-time Portlanders at R2C Group.

10 Things To Do In Portland

  1. Experience a Timbers game. game. Don’t care about soccer? Doesn’t matter. This is a scene, man. Every single goal triggers an ocean of ritual; it’s just one big group expression of love. (And a masterful marketing success story.) Major League Soccer players from all over the world say Providence Park is their favorite place to play, because the fans are so inspiring. All 20,000 seats are sold out, but you can snag one on Craigslist or Stubhub. March through January.
  1. Ride the #4. There’s no better or cheaper way to take in the all the demographic variety that is Portland. This Tri-Met bus route goes from St. Johns through North Portland, through downtown, and then up Division clear out to Gresham. Hop on most anywhere along Fifth, have $2.50 in exact change, sit near the front so you can eavesdrop on the conversations between the passengers and the driver. Then watch the neighborhoods roll by, and imagine what the people who live there think of your ads.
  1. See the Oregon State Fair. Enter the commercial exhibition building, and you will undoubtedly fall for the sales techniques that are the ancestor of the infomercial. We dare you to get out of there without buying some crazy cool mop. Do not miss the table- setting competition, eat something deep-fried in butter, find out what 4H stands for, and it wouldn’t kill you to smell some actual farm animals. At the Salem Fairgrounds, August 25 through Labor Day.

  1. Watch the swifts. Every September, an astounding natural phenomenon occurs at Chapman Elementary school in NW Portland. About an hour before sunset, thousands of birds called Vaux’s Swifts swoop down into the chimney to stop for the night on their winter migration route. It looks like wispy, swirling smoke in reverse. These birds are unusual in that they spend most of their lives in flight. According the Audubon Society, they “forage, drink, court, collect nesting materials, and copulate all in flight.” And we have the largest known roost in the world, right here in Portland.
  1. Do Design Week. So many disciplines, so little time. From music to manufacturing to experiential design. Cram in as many of these events as you possibly can into this one week in April, and come away with an elevated feeling about what we do. Their mission says it better than we ever could: “To increase appreciation and awareness about design and its far-reaching effects on matters of cultural and social relevance, including community development, education systems, and the economy.” April 15-23.
  1. Take a Hidden History of Albina Tour. We work in one of the whitest industries in the whitest city in the country. Only 6.3% of our residents are African-American; about 38,000 people. Some sources say that number is less than 2%. And it’s shrinking, by the way, due to gentrification. For a northern, supposedly progressive city and state, our racist history is shocking and shameful. It’s time we learned something about the part of Portland that has historical and cultural significance to our black community. Take a two- hour walking tour of the Albina District of North Portland, which was was the heart of that community in the ‘60s.
  1. Go to the Oregon Jamboree Music Festival. Don’t be snooty about country music just because it takes no effort to love the sweet hooky choruses, the comforting harmonies, and the stories they tell. Listen to the writing. It’s sharp, witty, and densely packed with emotion. Get the full experience by camping out for the three-day festival. August 4-6 in Sweet Home, Oregon.
  1. Get to know PAM. Every Portlander should be intimately familiar with the permanent collection of our Portland Art Museum. If we’re going to steal ideas, we might as well steal from the best. The museum has 42,000 objects from Neolithic to contemporary, with extensive Northwest Native American holdings. Get a membership, so that you can pop in any time, even for just a few minutes, without feeling that you have to get your admission’s worth.
  1. Volunteer at the Green Acres Farm Sanctuary. At this rescue and shelter for farm animals in Silverton, you can join a volunteer work party and perform useful chores that most of us city folks have never dreamed of doing. After a day of cleaning barns and pastures, scrubbing feeders and water containers, grooming and socializing animals, and doing general farm maintenance, you’ll feel sore, dirty, and just a little more real. Year-round. Check their calendar.
  1.  Attend the Rosey Awards. Triumph! Inspiration! Envy! Resentment! It’s all healthy and perfectly normal. This year will be Portland Advertising Federation’s 67th Run for the Roseys, one of the oldest ad award shows in the country. It’s your best chance all year to see what the other agencies are up to, have some free food and drink, and meet past and future colleagues. April 26 at Bison Outpost.


Get out and enjoy our beautiful city!

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