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22 Things to Know Before Moving to Portland, OR

By: Justin Chaplin
March 31, 2021

Considering moving to Portland, Oregon? There's a reason why this Pacific Northwest gem has become so popular. The city is known for its gorgeous backdrop along the Columbia and Willamette rivers and an unusual quirkiness. Picturesque views are everywhere you turn, as the city is pleasantly nestled in the shadow of the white-capped Mount Hood.

Living in Portland brings awesome urban amenities, stunning nature, and a proud, friendly community. However, before packing up and moving here, there’s a lot to know.

1. What it's Like Living in Portland

Portland, OR has a population of 653K people. It's the largest and most populous state in Oregon and is one of the most populous states on the West Coast.

Founded in 1843, Portland was created to provide accessible transportation of goods for the Oregon Trail. Then during World War II, Portland experienced an industrial boom. Since then, Portland has become a hub for footwear enthusiasts and tech entrepreneurs. Both footwear brands, Nike and Adidas, have established their North American Headquarters near Portland. Additionally, there's more than 1,200 tech companies in Portland, which has led to the nickname, "Silicon Forrest".

Another nickname you might hear Portland being called is, "Stumptown". Stumptown was a name used to describe Portland during its growth period in the 19th century. At this time, they needed to cut down so many trees to keep up with its rapid growth and hence, the nickname, Stumptown was deemed! Portland also is known for the slogan, "Keep Portland Weird", which was inspired by the Austin slogan, "Keep Austin Weird". Over time, this has become a Portland trademark and can be found on Portland merch and tourist tees.

2. Cost of Living in Portland

Moving to Portland gives newcomers endless amenities, but also commands a higher cost of living because of its desirability. However, there are a few areas, like utilities, that are surprisingly more cost-effective than most similar-sized cities. Here’s how Portland’s cost of living breaks down.

According to Payscale, the cost of living in Portland is 29% higher and housing is 79% higher than the national average.

Here’s an idea of how much things cost when moving to Portland, as reported by Payscale:

  • Energy bill: $130.77
  • Loaf of bread: $3.84
  • Doctor’s visit: $118.57
  • $2.78 for a gallon of gas

The average rent in Portland is $1,123 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,309 for a two-bedroom apartment. You’ll need an income of at least $40,428 a year or $19 an hour to live comfortably in a one-bedroom apartment.

For a two-bedroom apartment, you'll need to earn at least $47,124 a year, which comes out to $23 an hour.

The median income in Portland is $71,005, as reported by the Census Bureau in 2019. In comparison, the median income is $62,818 in the rest of Oregon.

If Portland seems too pricey for you, consider the cheapest places to live in Oregon!

3. Say Goodbye to Sales Tax

Moving to Portland, Oregon doesn’t exactly lend itself to rock bottom prices but does give you unique tax breaks. Oregon’s income taxes are actually higher than many other states but has no sales tax. The combination can help balance some of the costs of living in the City of Roses.

4. Who's Moving to Portland?

According to our migration report, renters who considering moving to Portland are thinking of staying on the West Coast. They’re searching for apartments in Salem, Los Angeles, or Seattle. People in Portland are also considering Seattle and Salem as their new home. However, they’re also searching for apartments in Phoenix.

5. Portland’s Job Market

It’s not always the case that a higher cost of living means better-paying jobs. However, those moving to Portland will enjoy a growing job market with diverse opportunities. Portland welcomes corporate giants like Intel and Nike. 

The food services industry is also a big job market in Portland, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting 104,900 in total employment. The diversity of the job market makes the city welcoming to both executives and entry-level professionals.

6. Portland is a Leader in the Remote Workforce

It’s not your imagination, there are a ton of people working remotely all over Portland in cafes and co-working spaces. With a thriving remote workforce, you don’t need to hold out for the perfect job before moving to Oregon’s largest city. Portland's workforce currently boasts the fourth-highest share of remote employees looking for a vibrant city to live in.

7. Locals Embrace the Weather

Yes, it rains a lot in Portland, but that doesn’t mean the locals don’t enjoy the weather. Residents layer up in wool hats and sweaters, plus a jacket, to stay warm in the winter months. But the city also sees relatively mild weather with year-round access to the mountains and coastline. Portland rarely gets too hot or too cold. Whether the sun is shining or it’s raining, locals still enjoy the city's walkable, bikeable streets.

8. Plan on Living Green

Living in Portland, Oregon means adopting a green-friendly culture and fierce sustainability practices. The city recycles, composts, reuses, up-cycles, and anything else you can think of to curb the waste. Just don’t be surprised that the “City of Roses” showcases brown grass and underwhelming landscaping in the summer. This is when locals do their best to conserve water and any other resources they can think of.

9. Portland Loves Its Craft

Music and art aren’t the only things trending in Portland. Craft beer and coffee, micro vineyards, fine dining, and food carts are also a really big deal in Portland. Portland locals take their craft seriously no matter what they’re creating (or consuming). Here you’ll find a community loyal to small businesses and local artisans.

10. You Can’t Pump Your Own Gas (yes, really)

Cruising up to a gas station and finding someone waiting to pump your gas often surprises newcomers. Oregon and New Jersey banned self-service gas stations years ago. That means people living in Portland can't pump their own gas, so kick your feet up and relax for a few minutes. You deserve it.

11. Portland’s Main Attraction is a Bookstore

Portland’s quirky, independent spirit makes it a prime location to house the world’s largest independent bookstore. Powell's was founded in 1971 and buys around 3,000 used books a day to keep their ever-growing inventory of over 2 million volumes well-stocked. And even if you're not an avid reader, you can still come for daily events ranging from Drag Queen Story Hour to author readings.

12. Portlanders Prefer to Bike

Instead of waiting around for gas to get pumped at local stations, most Portland locals prefer to bike everywhere instead. Bike parking spaces and valet are common, making it easy to leave your car at home. If you are living in Downtown, you can even get by without a car. The city embraces a bike-friendly culture. 

13. The City has a Laid-Back Vibe

Moving to Portland from big cities like San Francisco and Seattle can feel jarring. The city has a laid-back, slower vibe. The dress code is casual and people value their work-life balance. Sure, working is valuable and affords a nice lifestyle in Portland. However, the locals want time to enjoy the perks of the Pacific Northwest. 

14. Say Hello to... Strip Clubs?

Portland has the most strip clubs per capita in the United States. Who would've thought Portland would beat out a city like Las Vegas for this esteemed honor?

15. Getting Around Portland

Portland is also easy to get around on the TriMet lines, which can get you to downtown and the surrounding suburbs. Locals have their choice of MAX light rail, WES commuter rail, streetcars, and buses. Traveling in and out of the city is also a breeze, with the Portland International Airport (PDX) is also ranked as the number 1 World's Best Airport by Travel & Leisure

However, the best form of transportation in the city is on foot. Portland is a walker's paradise with a walk score of 97, meaning daily life doesn't require a car. Walking and biking have become second nature to Portlanders.

16. Portland is Filled with Unique Neighborhoods

Portland’s neighborhoods each have a unique vibe with a diverse mix of amenities. With each neighborhood offering something different, everyone can find what they’re looking for. 

To get an idea of the layout of the city; Portland is divided into four quadrants divided by Hwy-26, I-5, and I-84 with a mix of old homes, new constructions, and condos.  Here’s the breakdown of some of Portland’s popular, as well as up-and-coming, neighborhoods.

17. There are Plenty of Things to Do in Portland

There’s no lack of things to do in Portland. This is why Portland scored high on our ranking for best urban amenities at #7 for our best cities for remote workers. From bars and nightlife to day trips and culture, you’ll never go bored. You can live here for years and never run out of fun and “only in Portland” things to do. Make it your mission to explore some of the best things Portland has to offer. 

18. Sip on Craft Beer and Cocktails

Portland’s nightlife scene is always evolving with new venues and iconic local-favorite haunts. Start your evening with cocktails and oysters at Jake's Famous Crawfish, a Portland institution. For karaoke, locals gather at the former horse and buggy stop in the 1800s turned tavern and eventual party bar at Alibi

Portlanders love whiskey, and the Multnomah Whiskey Library delivers on upscale libations sipped from cozy, leather sofas. Binge on highballs and other specialty cocktails at the charming Solo Club, or rum from the Rum Club dive bar. 

Don’t forget to venture out to sip on cocktails where Portland's craft cocktail scene first thrived at Teardrop Lounge. There are more bars and watering holes than you could possibly mention, making moving to Portland an easy choice for endless nightlife. 

19. Portland’s Food Scene

Moving to Portland, Oregon opens the door to a foodie paradise. Locals are loyal to their favorite spots, but are always down to try the newest eateries. 

Taste the Thai fusions at Hat Yai, and foie gras bonbons at Beast. Locals craving a taste of back home (only better) head to Mothers Bistro for heavenly breakfast, lunch or dinner. For an incredible sandwich with a twist, Lardo sells pork drenched burgers and sandwiches designed with excess in mind.

Portland’s food trucks and carts are also ingrained into the fabric of the city’s foodie scene. You’ll find elaborate dishes you would never think could be thrown together and savored on the go. 

Gumba serves up delicious pappardelle in braised short ribs, and the Texas-style food cart Matt's BBQ features mouth-watering brisket and ribs. Wherever you eat, the food carts are usually a knockout.

Portland’s discerning chefs rely on the freshest, seasonal ingredients right out of Willamette Valley, as well as a mix of fun and flavorful treats like the iconic Voodoo Donuts.

20. Discover Portland’s Live Music Scene

Music has long been a staple in the Portland nightlife scene, with spots like the Aladdin for everything from metal to folk. The Jupiter Hotel’s Doug Fir showcases top-notch cocktails and a cozy basement venue for intimate performances. 

Over at Laurelthirst Public House, locals tap their feet along to the bluegrass and Americana beat with local and regional acts. For a mainstay venue, try Wilfs Restaurant for live jazz and tantalizing food, or garage rock at The Liquor Store

There's something for every music lover in Portland, including dancing and funk music at Goodfoot. And for anyone who wants to “keep Portland weird,” head to the Clinton Street Theater at midnight on Saturdays for an interactive performance that draws you into the show. For a more upscale evening, the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall attracts symphony lovers to its opulent Italian Rococo Revival architecture and grand staircase. Moving to Portland, Oregon also comes with the pleasure of discovering iconic nightlife spots for the first time like the century-old Crystal Ballroom with a mechanical floating floor. Needless to say, this is a city for live music lovers. 

21. Explore the Outdoors on a Day Trip

Residents living in Portland love the music and brewery scene, but also embrace the great outdoors. With plenty of options for a lovely day trip, Portlanders spend lots of time outdoors.

The views of Mount Hood from several of Portland's neighborhoods entice locals to venture out for snow-capped skiing, hiking, and fishing. The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area also attracts visitors to its gorgeous vistas, hiking trails, waterfalls, and windsurfing opportunities. Living in the Pacific Northwest means endless outdoor opportunities. 

Although the Rose City is known for its breweries, the region is also home to the serene Willamette Valley wine country. Head out on a day trip to sample the local wines and fresh food. And for locals who want an extended day trip or overnight, the Oregon Coast awaits with rocky vistas and public beaches where people fish, stroll and surf on the Pacific Ocean.

22. Family-friendly Activities

Moving to Portland, Oregon provides a vibrant backdrop to raise kids where the spirit of the city meets ambitious professionals. Families can pick and choose neighborhoods known for their excellent education opportunities, as well as kid-friendly attractions. Weekends are filled with trips to the tranquil Washington Park to explore the Japanese Garden, Rose Garden, and the Oregon Zoo. 

Kids ages 12 and under love PlayDate PDX for indoor fun in a 3-story play structure. Parents gather over a beer or coffee in the on-site cafe, or open up their laptops and get some work done while kids spend hours climbing and playing.

Tucked between the Willamette River and Sellwood area, Oaks Amusement Park is one of the oldest, continuously operating amusement parks in the country with old-school rides. And on those rainy Portland days, the Portland Children's Museum encourages hands-on interactive fun.  Or try the Mt. Scott Community Center and Indoor Pool, featuring indoor skating rink and pool with lots of water features. 

Final Thoughts

Ready to start your Portland apartment search? Start your apartment hunt with our quiz!

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Justin is a Content Manager and contributing author at Apartment List, helping people navigate the world of renting. Justin previously spent his time earning his BBA in Marketing from Boise State University. Read More
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