When talking about exploring new cities, it’s common to focus on walking and biking tours. But by mastering public transit, it’s often possible to see a wider range of the city — and that’s definitely the case in Portland, Oregon.
The Portland MAX line consists of five different light rails: blue, red, green, yellow, and orange. It takes visitors all the way from the Portland International Airport — which is great if you want to save a few bucks and stay right by PDX — to main attractions like Moda Center, the Convention Center, the Expo Center, and all the way out to Beaverton. Plus, a one-day pass is a mere five bucks!
Let’s take a look at some attractions spread out across Portland, which you can squeeze into one day with the convenience of the light rail.
If you’re indeed coming from the airport — part of the red line — hop off in northeast Portland at Lloyd Center (and maybe even stay at the DoubleTree there). Just a few blocks north of the rail stop is Broadway Street, which is lined with cute shops and food carts like Taco Pedaler. This eatery started as a mobile catering cart but opened its first brick-and-mortar location a 15-minute walk from the MAX stop.
Need a pick-me-up after stuffing your face full of tacos? Head across the street to Costello’s Travel Caffe, a cozy spot featuring videos of the owners’ worldwide travels.
Once back on the MAX rail, go just a few stops westbound to the river. Getting off at Rose Quarter is the simplest next step. Once off MAX rail, head south, and you’ll come right upon a beautiful view of downtown Portland, along with a bridge if you’d like to get there by foot.
If it’s the weekend, you’re especially in luck — right across the river is the Portland market featuring a mix of vendors and food trucks. The market goes every Saturday and Sunday from March through Christmas Eve. The closest MAX stop, in case you don’t want to head there by foot or in case you’re coming from another part of the city, is Skidmore Fountain, which is on the red and blue line.
And the closest stereotypical Portland attraction isn’t far away either: Voodoo Doughnuts. While you’ll likely have to wait in line for your box of pink doughnuts, crazy flavors featuring everything from bacon to Froot Loops make the wait worth it — as evidenced by the fact that Voodoo is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city.
The last stop on this one-day MAX rail tour of Portland should be Washington Park — which is also the name of the stop. For reference, it’s just a 24 minute ride from Rose Quarter, on the other side of the river, to Washington Square, where visitors will find the Oregon Zoo, Portland Children’s Museum, World Forestry Center Discovery Museum, and Hoyt Arboretum via the red and blue lines.
That’s just a quick sample, too — the light rail is fast and cheap enough that you can make your own adventure and get to know parts of Portland beyond the riverside while you’re there! With that in mind, here are a few tips on how to get the most of out the MAX rail.
- Buy a pass — probably one-day — as opposed to paying hourly. The trips add up quickly!
- Do your homework on the TriMet website as you plan your trip; some trains only run every 30 minutes during the later hours, for instance.
- Of course, it doesn’t have to be walking and biking OR MAX rail. The train does have places to load your bike if you want to take a hybrid tour of the city.