Are you thinking about moving to Portland? I’ve lived here for 20+ years and created a quick list of the pros and cons of living in Portland, Oregon.
Hopefully it answers some of your questions, if not, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I’d love to help!
The city known for keeping it weird and residents that grow chickens in their backyards. But is Portland really that weird?
If a picture’s worth a thousand words, the video below may leave you speechless.
As you read this, keep in mind that these pros and cons are based on my personal experience, not everyone feels the same way.
With that said, let’s jump right in.
Visiting Portland? Check out my personal guide on 25+ EPIC Things to Do in Portland (+5 Tourist Traps to Avoid)
#1. Portland is GREEN
I mean this two ways – Portland has a lot of green spaces (more than 279 city parks) and as a whole, is very environmentally conscious.
Did you know that Oregon was the first state in the country to introduce bottle deposits in an effort to reduce litter?
Respect for the environment is a big deal in Portland, so much so that grocery stores in Portland cannot offer plastic bags. And haven’t, for years now.
In fact, according to a 2019 report released by WalletHub, Portland is the 9th greenest city in America.
I love that about Portland. I love that recycling and composting are considered sport and littering is strongly frowned upon.
Also, Portland recently passed a green tax that taxes large corporations and uses the revenue to fund energy efficiency initiatives in under-served communities. The first city in America to pass such an ambitious tax – hard not to like that!
#2. Portland is a Millennial City
Portland has a decent mix of generations, but through and through, it feels like a millennial city.
In fact, Portland often ranks as one of the top 15 best cities for millennials in the country.
Which means a ton of shops cater to things millennials enjoy — like handmade crafts, vintage clothes and plants …. lots of plants.
This makes Portland a great place to meet folks going through similar phases in life (if you’re a millennial, of course).
But I don’t want to paint a false picture because in my experience, Portlanders tend to be reserved (which we’ll discuss in depth shortly).
Don’t get me wrong, Portlanders are friendly — just reserved.
#3. The Casual & Laid-back Vibe
Perhaps this goes hand-in-hand with being a millennial city? I like the easy-going culture here.
changed adjusted over the last few years, but Portland still feels more relaxed than most US cities I visit.
What better way to explain this than by example? I work in an office and wear jeans 4 days a week — and so does my boss.
You will very seldom see someone in a suit on our city streets – we simply don’t do that here.
We’re big on outdoor recreation and most of our closets reflect that, even in the office. Khakis reign supreme!
#4. Job Opportunities
The plethora (and diversity) of job opportunities in Portland definitely makes it easy to live here.
There’s a lot of big name businesses in town – especially athletic/outdoor companies like Nike, Adidas, Under Armor, Keen and Columbia.
But fret not, engineers are not forgotten, Intel and Daimler have homes here as well.
Honestly, there’s too many companies to name, if you’re interested in Portland’s largest employers, read: Metro Portland’s Largest Employers.
Did you know? Portland’s tech-industry boom has earned it the nickname Silicon Forest.
#5. Proximity to Nature
Perhaps my favorite thing about living in Portland is the beauty (& diversity of landscapes) of the Pacific Northwest.
There’s a reason the 7 Wonders of Oregon are known the world over!
Portland is a short road trip away from so many cool places – like the Columbia Gorge (windsurfing capital of the world), Bend (the second fastest growing city in the country), the Oregon Coast, Crater Lake National Park and the Alvord desert.
Waterfalls? Plenty. Beach? Yep. Desert? Covered. Mountains? Which one? There’s never a shortage of something new to explore.
But honestly, you don’t even need to hop in the car to explore the incredible scenery while living in Portland. Here’s a list of my favorite hikes within Portland city limits.
#6. Walkability & Manageable Size
Another perk of living in Portland is how walk-able the city is. This is especially true of the neighborhood we currently live in (NW Portland). Here’s photos of our current apartment.
Portland feels manageable because it’s not a big city (like our northern sister, Seattle).
Portland’s charm isn’t found in towering skyscrapers, but rather the unique neighborhoods throughout the city.
The manageable size of Portland makes it very easy to use alternative modes of transportation to get around. In fact, biking is HUGE, with about 7% of locals commuting by bike (the highest percentage of bike commuters in the country – the national average is 0.5%).
#7. Neighborhood Vibes
One of my favorite things about living in Portland is the charming neighborhood vibes that are as unique as the city itself! With so many areas to choose from, there’s definitely a neighborhood for everyone.
I think what separates Portland neighborhoods from other cities is that you will seldom find “housing farms” where all the homes on the block look the same.
Many neighborhoods in Portland weren’t built in mass clusters.
Rather, homes on blocks were built during different time periods so it’s not uncommon to see a home built in 1904 neighboring a home built in 1930 – it makes for some beautiful and unique neighborhoods.
#8. There’s No Sales Tax
Are you deciding if moving to Portland is right for you? Well, here’s something that’s good to know — Oregon doesn’t have sales tax. Making it one of only 5 US states without sales tax.
And since there’s no sales tax in Oregon state, anything you buy in Portland will be sold to you tax-free. If you’ve been eyeing a MacBook or an iPhone, pick it up in Portland! You can save hundreds on big purchases.
#9. The Portland International Airport
For many folks, one of the easiest things about living in Portland is the quick access to the Portland International Airport (PDX), which is often rated as one of the best airports in the country.
In fact, it was rated the most efficient airport in America in 2017. This is a big deal for our family because my husband flies about two times per week.
Based on his travels, he believes Portland’s airport to be the easiest to manage.
Everything from departing to arriving is a pleasant experience and, coming from someone that averages 100,000 miles a year, that’s saying something!
Also worth mentioning is how many direct flights are offered through PDX. We scored a phenomenal deal flying direct to Tokyo, Japan for $520 round trip.
#10. The Summer Weather
Summer in Portland is a real dream. Summer temperatures rarely exceed 90°F and you can count on sunshine from mid-May through mid-September. Believe me, the summer weather definitely makes up for the winter blues.
In fact, many of our friends refuse to leave Portland because summer here is better than most other cities.
They’d sooner rent/purchase a home to escape for winter, but couldn’t fathom moving out of Portland altogether because of the blissful summer season.
It’s never humid or muggy so you can linger outside and enjoy the great outdoors!
Another big perk of living in Portland? We’re consistently ranked as one of the least challenging cities in the country for folks with allergies.
#11. Portland’s Food Scene
Here’s a fun fact: You know the uber prestigious James Beard Award? Well, the legend that is James Beard was from Portland!
The food in Portland is dream-worthy and one of the reasons people are moving to Portland in droves. You can live in Portland for 10+ years and still find yourself discovering new restaurants, like I do.
It’s easy to find options that offer elaborate farm-to-table meals and delicious yet unfussy quick fare, you can have it all.
It’s very rare to see locals eating at chain restaurants because there’s so (so, so, so) many unique small restaurants. And Portlanders are big on supporting small businesses.
Regardless of where you choose to eat, expect to find well-run restaurants offering cuisine from all over the world, in addition to local and seasonal produce.
Here’s my absolute favorite cookbook from a local Portland chef! Some of the best meals I’ve ever made hail from it.
#12. Portland’s Beer Scene
Did you know that Portland is often rated as the best beer city in America?
This should come as no surprise, considering there’s 58 breweries in the city.
Listen, Portland without beer is like a pirate without a hook – nothing worth talking about. Portlanders take beer seriously, especially craft beer and IPAs. As a result, breweries are held to a (very) high standard.
Grab a flight from any breweries and find yourself perplexed by the pleasant depth of interesting notes and flavors while discussing whether moving to Portland is right for you. Hint, by the second glass the answer is usually yes.
Further Reading: My personal guide to the 15 BEST breweries in Portland, Oregon.
#13. The Coffee Scene
Year after year, Portland is listed as one of the top 3 coffee cities in America, which is a huge perk of living in Portland!
Coffee is taken SO seriously in Portland and locals can’t help but benefit from it. The intense knowledge Portland baristas have regarding sourcing, roasting and preparing beans is mind blowing.
I feel like I can ask a question about ANYTHING related to coffee and someone will have an answer for me. I mean, I once had a barista explain everything I needed to know about oat milk for 10 minutes!
Needless to say, even if I don’t personally know much about coffee, I sure can appreciate the taste of a great cup. Which is why we can’t live without this.
Further Reading: 15+ Charming Portland Cafes You Can’t Help But Love
The Cons of Living in Portland
But alas! I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the cons. We all know that there’s pros and cons to everything and as much as we love Portland, here’s some things we don’t necessarily enjoy.
The homeless problem in Portland is severe, so it’s hard not to mention this first. Homelessness is a very contentious issue in Portland because there’s two camps to choose from: those that sympathize and those that are frustrated.
Of course, most folks find themselves in both camps, but dare you mention the needles you saw on your way home to some of our friends and …. well, nice knowing you.
Here’s why I don’t like it: For me, it’s a safety concern. Once, while walking to the grocery store, I saw someone shooting drugs. I’m not tying homelessness to drug addiction, I’m really not.
But the folks that are addicted to drugs are “front and center” and it makes it hard for me to picture raising kids here.
#2. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Ah yes, the infamous gray Portland rain that everyone talks about – it’s real, folks and it’s the reason so many people are hesitant about moving to Portland.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a disorder that makes folks prone to getting bummed out due to lack of sunshine (this is obviously not a medical definition).
Honestly, I don’t mind the rain in Portland, but between January – March, the gray skies have me clawing at the wall!
However, there are ways around SAD while living in Portland — invest in a Happy Light – here’s the one I use daily.
A Happy Light, you say? Yes, it’s a bright lamp that emulates sunlight and provides benefits similar to sunshine. We use ours every single day, plus it helps our plants grow like crazy, too.
My husband likes to joke that Portland weather has two settings: rain and bliss.
#3. Housing Costs
Living in Portland used to be a desirable prospect because of affordability, unfortunately housing prices have skyrocketed over the past 10 years and that is no longer the case. Heck, Portland’s not even in the same time zone as affordable now!
One of my coworkers purchased a home 30 years ago for $60,000 that is currently valued at $800,000 – a profit of $740,000.
I know what you’re thinking – 30 years ago?! Girl, give me a comparison I can relate to! But here’s the thing – folks in other parts of the country paid much more for homes 30 years ago and have gained much less (my in-laws’ home has only appreciated by $260,000 over 30 years — that’s nowhere near $740,000).
The housing market in Portland exploded over the last few years and as a result, decent starter homes (that require some TLC) start around half a million. If you have a missing rich uncle, now’s the time to find him.
I get it, these prices are not shocking for folks from bigger cities. But Portland used to be known as a transition city where you could get back on your feet, but no anymore. Buying a home is not realistic for most folks, especially millennials.
And yes, I know this isn’t unique to Portland, but for the sake of transparency, I wanted to mention it.
The median price of a home in Portland currently clocks in at $536,000 (an increase of 19.4% from last year alone). If helpful, the chart below shows the recent uptick in housing values and costs.
Oh, and lest I forget to mention the property taxes – mercy! My coworker updated her 1940’s home and now pays $12,000 annually in property taxes. Nice.
#4. Reserved Locals
I recently read an article where the writer described Portland folks as being super friendly and went so far as to say, “Living in Portland means your Uber driver will probably expect you to sit in the front seat. (You might even hurt their feelings if you don’t.)”
I want to know where that Uber driver is hiding whenever I hitch a ride from the airport! Here’s the thing: Most Portland folks are indeed friendly, but they are very reserved.
For example, my (super social) husband moved here three years ago and has found it incredibly challenging to start friendships, and he actively makes an effort. He reaches out to folks, follows up via text and still finds it hard to get a commitment to meet up in person.
In many ways, it seems that most Portlanders are content with the relationships they established long, long ago (maybe in the second grade??) and they don’t seem interested in newcomers.
Again, this doesn’t apply to everyone, but I’ve heard this enough times from recent transplants and it warrants mention. This seems to be one of the hardest hurdles for a lot of folks that move to Portland.
Whether or not you consider this a pro or con is completely up to you. I grew up in this environment, so I’m familiar with reserved Portlanders. But I understand not everyone will feel the same, so heads up.
#5. Nightmare Traffic
Dante’s inferno needs an update, and I’m nominating Portland traffic.
The constant traffic is one of the worst parts about living in Portland and it seems like rush hour extends by an hour every week!
Just in case a real-life example can put this in perspective, allow me to share that before I moved to into the city center, my 15-mile commute from Vancouver, Washington took one hour each way. It was brutal.
Because of the mass influx of folks moving to Portland, the city streets and highways cannot keep up with the unexpected demand. So traffic has become a complete nightmare.
You’ll never mistake Portland for L.A. but it’s pretty bad, especially for a city with a population of 600,000.
In fact, Portland’s nightmare traffic has officially clocked in as the 6th worst in the country, with an estimated 89 hours a year spent in traffic for the average commuter.
#6. Portland Lacks Diversity
Can I be blunt for a second? Portland is a very white city (78% white, in fact). There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it. I don’t like it. It’s always refreshing to visit other cities and be reminded of the beauty of ethnic diversity.
In fact, it’s not until I leave Portland that I realize how bad we have it in terms of diversity. Gentrification is rampant, similar to San Francisco.
Make no mistake, Portland can be more ethnically diverse and I’m glad to see the demographics slowly shifting. With that said, I do want to share one area where Portland really shines and that is in having a healthy gay community. In fact, Portland is considered the 6th gay-friendliest city in the country.
#7. AC, what’s that?
My husband, being from the south, cannot fathom how Portlanders live without AC. He’s right about that, you will seldom find a home or apartment with a built in AC, which keeps electricity costs low.
Most folks resort to purchasing portable units to make it through summer. My husband cannot live without the portable AC, he rolls it around the house and it follows him like a tail (seriously!).
But honestly, our summers aren’t crazy hot, we only used the AC eight times during the summer of 2020.
And there you have it, my friends. This is my personal list of the pros and cons of living in Portland, Oregon.
Now to you – let me know if you have any questions below! Happy to help if you have any questions. Plus, it’s always so nice to hear from you.
Love Portland? Here’s some articles you may find interesting
Until next time,