Portland is the largest city in the U.S. state of Oregon. Sitting near the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers, the city is well known for being green, liberal and creative, housing big business and living life in the outdoors among the parks and forests.
Expatriates moving to Portland with children will find a large choice when it comes to schools in the community. There are six public school districts, the largest of which consists of around 100 schools covering kindergarten through to 12th grade, as well as special education, in varying combinations. There are also many private schools, including Catholic, Montessori, International, and Jewish schools.
When it comes to higher education, the public Portland State University is the largest public university in Oregon and is among the top fifteen percentile of American universities, according to The Princeton Review. Other options include the Oregon Health and Science University and Portland Community College. There are private universities also, including the National College of Natural Medicine which specializes in qualifications in naturopathic medicine, Chinese medicine, and research.
As one might expect from a major city, there are multiple options for people living in Portland to get around. Due to its environmentally conscious approach to land-use planning, however, Portland has been rated as the most pedestrian and transit-friendly city in the whole of the United States by Travel + Leisure magazine, and also the 12th most walkable city by Walk Score.
There are four MAX light rail lines servicing more than 80 stations connecting the city, airport, and wider region. The Portland Streetcar has two lines; the NS line runs from Portland State University to downtown, via the Nob Hill neighborhood and Pearl District. The more recent Central Loop or CL line has added an extra 3.3 miles and 28 stops, taking in the Lloyd District, Rose Quarter and Central Eastside neighborhood. Buses are operated by TriMet and cover the city and suburbs with full wheelchair accessibility.
A popular way to get around Portland is by bicycle. With hundreds of miles of cycle paths and the nation’s highest percentage of bike commuters (7%), Portland has earned itself the moniker of ‘Bike City U.S.A.’. Expats wishing to explore the city on two wheels can rent bikes, take tours, join in events, and even ride nude in the famous Portland World Naked Bike Ride. Most buses carry bike racks, making this a well-encouraged and environmentally friendly way to get around.
If biking isn’t of interest, most Portlanders make the daily commute by car. The Interstate Highway 5 which runs from Canada to Mexico runs through the city, and the Interstate 405 encircles downtown and the Pearl District. As you might expect from such a green-minded city, there are a number of car sharing options, too, which is a great way for expatriates moving to the city to get to know people.
For travelling further afield, Portland is serviced by the Portland International Airport, about 20 minutes northeast of downtown by car. There are also long haul train routes to Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, and Vancouver from Union Station, and any train buff expats will be delighted by the steam locomotives that can be seen pulling a special excursion train a few times a year.
Portland is often ranked as the ‘Greenest City in America’ and even mentioned as one of the greenest cities in the world. For that reason, much of a Portlander’s life is spent outdoors. Known as the ‘City of Roses’, there is an annual Portland Rose Festival and there are many rose gardens to explore, including the International Rose Test Garden, as well as the Hoyt Arboretum, Tom McCall Waterfront Park, and the hugely popular Washington Park. Expats can even get their winter sport fix with skiing and snowboarding on Mount Hood.
If the outdoors doesn’t appeal, however, expatriates with a penchant for food and drink will also find plenty to enjoy with a plethora of street food carts, microbreweries, and coffee houses. The Oregon Brewers Festival is held annually in Portland during the last weekend of July and is known to be the largest outdoor beer festival in North America. The city is home to over 60 breweries – more than any other city globally – so you will always be able to find somewhere to relax with a beer after a hard day’s work.
For expatriates looking for more highbrow culture, Portland has a mass of performance arts institutions to choose from. The Oregon Ballet Theater, Oregon Symphony, and Portland Opera are all based in the city giving regular performances throughout the year. The Portland Art Museum houses the city’s largest art collection and also presents touring exhibitions.
Lovers of film are well catered for in Portland, with many films having been shot in the city. Due to the number of breweries and the strong city link to beer, cinema-goers can experience the unusual feature of movie theaters offering ‘brew and view’ showings where viewers can sit back and watch with a beer in hand. Portlandia, the sketch comedy that has found international acclaim and is named after the statue on the side of the Portland building, shoots on location and satirizes the city’s liberal views and green lifestyle. The Portlandia statue is also worth a visit, seeing as it is the second largest hammered copper statue in the United States; only the Statue of Liberty is bigger.