Moving to Portland, OR? Here’s What You Need to Know

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Portland at a Glance 

Friendly and funky, cosmopolitan and chill, Portland, Oregon, has made a mantra of keeping it weird. With a backdrop of Mt. Hood’s iconic peak and iconic spots like Powell’s Books and the Portland Saturday Market, the City of Roses always seems to outdo itself. This is a city of bicycles and breweries, urban farms and artisanal tofu factories, of art and music and fabulous food. And you’ll never need a car to get to your favorite spot in PDX.  

In recent years, the high cost of living has driven people out of the city and state, but its numerous amenities still charm newcomers to relocate here. There are family-friendly attractions, like the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), the Oregon Children’s Theatre and (ahoy!) Pirate Park. There are world-class performance centers and museums, killer coffee shops and hundreds of miles of bike paths and hiking trails to explore. And though the housing is spendy, it’s hard to deny its appeal — and it’s actually far more affordable than other big city markets in the Pacific Northwest and California.  

If you are looking for a trendsetting city with a lifestyle factor that breaks every U.S. chart, Portland, Oregon, may be the place for you. Learn more below about Portland’s weather, public transportation, popular neighborhoods, cost of living and our favorite spots around town.  

Portland’s Weather

Often foggy, gray, moody and mysterious, the City of Roses’ cool, cloudy weather epitomizes the climate of the Pacific Northwest (and just happens to be ideal for those fickle floribundas).  

If you haven’t spent much time on the West Coast, the dry summers may be something of a surprise. Even in this rainy city, July and August may only see a scant inch of precipitation combined. The rains are heaviest from November through January, when the city can receive 6-8 inches a month. These downpours gently taper off during the spring and pick back up in the fall, following a fairly predictable curve. 

As far as temperatures go, July and August are, once again, the standouts. The average high during these months breaks the 80-degree mark, but lows still drop into the 50s F. Portland rarely sees freezing temperatures, and from December through January, you can expect lows in the upper thirties and highs in the mid-forties to low fifties. Snow is an ephemeral and exciting anomaly — enjoy those days when they arrive, and venture to Mt. Hood for your true winter fix.  

Cost of Living in Portland 

Portland’s population grew rapidly from 2010 to 2020, but since then, the city of 635,067 has lost nearly 20,000 residents. According to the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis, there are two major, interconnected factors driving this migration. First, the cost of housing. Real estate in the metro Portland area is among the most expensive in the nation, and buyers and renters have both been squeezed.  

At $523,100, the median home value in Portland is $100,000 higher than the state average, but it is notably lower than it is in Seattle ($879,900), San Francisco ($1,348,700), San Jose ($1,149,600), San Diego ($783,300) and Los Angeles ($822,600). Likewise, the median gross rent in Portland is hundreds of dollars less than its Western coastal counterparts, but the $1,530 you’ll pay in the city for some very cozy digs is hundreds more than what you’ll find elsewhere in the state, where your bed might not have a full view of your oven.  

When the pandemic hit, and it suddenly became nonessential for white-collar workers to reside where they worked, many upped sticks for more affordable areas in Arizona, Washington, Texas and New York. Curiously, around one third of residents who migrated from Portland relocated to more expensive housing in California, Washington, New York and Colorado. Perhaps — tethered to their job only through cyberspace — these residents capitalized on a long-desired opportunity to live somewhere new. Only time will tell what will become of the WFH movement, but for the moment, it’s freed up some much-needed space in the city.   

Portland’s overall cost of living is higher than the national average, but you’ll also have more dollars to spend, since Portland’s median household income is $85,876 — roughly $10,000 more than the U.S. or state average. That income level also exceeds the averages in San Diego and L.A., but it’s miles behind Seattle, San Francisco and San Jose, which average between $116,068 and $136,689).  

Portland’s unemployment rate of 3.6% is negligibly higher than the national average, but unemployment in the city has declined since December 2022, when the rate stood at 4.2%.  

Explore Portland’s Unique Neighborhoods

The greater Portland area has six general districts, oddly known by the misnomer “quadrants,” all generically named for their direction (Northeast, Southwest, etc.). The Columbia River and the Willamette River, bisect the city into east and west and form the main boundary lines, and over 90 distinct neighborhoods populate the quadrants within. You’ll find little uniformity in neighborhood style, here — there really is something for everyone. Naturally, there are some unconventional placenames in this unorthodox city. Happy Valley and Sunnyside are two of the area’s more optimistic appellations, but then there is Boring. Boring, Oregon. Some residents just did not luck out with their namesake.  

Downtown Portland, the lively urban heart in Southwest Portland, centers around Pioneer Square. Here, food carts serve breakfast and lunch to eager commuters, and you can enjoy a Yolko Ono sandwich from Fried Egg I’m in Love in the scenic Tom McCall Waterfront Park. The area comes alive in the evenings with numerous bars, restaurants, performance spaces, including six concert halls and sports arenas. While weekends see a quieter street scene, the Portland Saturday Market, celebrating its 50th year, and the PSU Farmers Market draw crowds, making for vibrant weekend experiences. 

North Portland is known for idyllic spots like Sauvie Island, where those in the know come to cool off in the summer, shop the local farms and just ditch city life for a while. Nearby St. Johns is a sleepy but lovely spot just across the bridge from Forest Park. Bracketed by the Willamette River and the Smith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area, St. Johns is a haven for nature-lovers, who will be glued to their birding binoculars and tethered to their kayaks and canoes. In the summertime, everyone turns out for the St. Johns Bizarre, a market of oddities and oddballs, with eccentric music performances and great food and beer.  

The Pearl District in Northwest Portland lives up to its semi-precious name as one of the most desirable districts in the city. First Thursdays draw large crowds to the neighborhood’s many galleries, like ILY2, Blue Sky, and Augen, and cool coffee shops and even cooler bars and restaurants complement this upscale, artsy scene. Powell’s Books, a 50-year-old nerdtopia, is a daytime hotspot, while weekends offer spicy brunch options at Kaliente Drag Brunch and Southern-fried delights at Screen Door. 

On the opposite side of the Willamette, Southeast Portland is filled with natural treasures like Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden and uncut gemstones like Books with Pictures — an indie comic store. Northeast Portland, where the airport and Oregon Convention Center are located, is one of the most diverse areas of the city, and its Alberta Arts District is a destination for visual feasting as well as conventional dining at its numerous, tasty establishments. One of the most desirable residential neighborhoods in the city — Laurelhurst — straddles the border of these districts, and its charming, historic clapboards are as enchanting as any fairy tale cottage you might imagine. (No surprise that the popular TV series Grimm was set and filmed in Portland.) 

Note: If you’re planning to move to Portland, it’s important to thoroughly research the neighborhoods and areas in the city you might be interested in living. Before you decide where you are going to reside, make sure you understand the neighborhood’s cost of living, commute time, tax rates, safety statistics and schooling information. 

Ready to Get “Weird” in Portland

By now the secret is out, and Portland’s original weird attractions have become highly publicized destinations. But that hasn’t diminished the city’s zeal for the zany in the least, and some of the city’s biggest idiosyncrasies may be things that you simply happen upon, rather than ones you venture out to see.  

The Freakybuttrue Peculiarium lives up to its name, and the Witch’s Castle in Forest Park is a mossy marvel worth exploring. The Vacuum Museum pays homage to the mundane, and you might catch the Unipiper serenading you during your journey between oddities. Don’t miss the Zymoglyphic Museum, showcasing artificial lifeforms and relics from ages that transcend reality. 

One unintentionally weird spot is Mt. Tabor Park, sitting atop a volcano with ancient cinder pathways. In summer, colorful pianos await your public serenades, and the adult soapbox derby is a must-watch. Washington Park offers scenic walks, and the rose garden in Laurelhurst Park is a floral delight. The Portland Water Lantern Festival at the duck pond is a winter spectacle. 

And then there’s Mt. Hood, a moody peak rising in the east, perfect for midweek adventures or winter sports. For a unique overnight stay, book Mt. Hood’s Fivemile Butte Lookout, a solar-powered perch 40 feet above the mountain with breathtaking views. 

Portland’s culinary scene is a feast for the senses, featuring patisseries, taquerias, food carts, and sushi bars. Whether you crave artisanal tofu, truffles, pinot noir or a variety of craft beers, Portland has a picnic basket to satisfy any epicurean. 

With over 70 breweries, Portland proudly holds the title of the Craft Beer Capital of America. Upright Brewing and Wayfinder offer diverse options, from cherry trippels to rustic lagers, complemented by inspired pub food. For a quirky dining experience, Wonderwood Springs, an immersive fantasy café, invites you to enjoy the magic while dining. 

Voodoo Doughnut, a Portland icon, tempts with both sweet and risqué treats. Indulge in Tame Janes or venture into adult-only temptations like the Old Dirty Bastard and the Ring of Fire. The cheekily named Cock N’ Balls doughnut is an explicit delight, filled with Bavarian cream and slathered with chocolate frosting. Portland’s culinary landscape is as diverse and unconventional as the city itself, promising a taste adventure like no other. 

Getting Around Portland

Let’s talk about getting around Portland—it’s a breeze! Their streetcar and light rail system — MAX — is so extensive and easy to use that it feels like more of a hassle to take a car. The five lines converge at the Portland Transit Mall near Portland State University (PSU) with arteries travelling north, south, east and west to reach the airport, suburbs like Hillsboro and Gresham, the Expo Center and the South Waterfront. During the weekdays, WES, the Portland area commuter rail, picks up where the MAX leaves off in Beaverton and travels 15 miles south to Wilsonville. 

And let’s not forget about the buses—they’re frequent and quite nice, covering over 80 lines, including a high-capacity service in Southeast Portland. Plus, there’s the aerial tram that whisks you from the South Waterfront over the city to Marquam Hill every day except Sunday. 

If you do decide to ditch your car, you’ll be in very good company. Portland is a city cyclist’s paradise in the nation’s second highest ranked bike-friendly state. Massachusetts takes first prize in this contest, but we’ll have to note that #1 Mass scores a D for traffic laws & practices — it seems those East Coast drivers could use a dose of West Coast chill. All of Oregon’s scores are a B+ or higher, and you’ll find it easy to navigate the bike lanes, and will appreciate the sensible, cyclist-centric traffic laws. If you’re new to two-wheeled commuting, try out the bike share for an afternoon or rent a scooter. The Classic Waterfront Loop will take you around the banks of the gorgeous Willamette, passing by the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge, and you can pick up the trail from numerous points around the city.  

Relocating to Portland? Let Mayflower Get You There

Ready to move to the City of Roses from across the country? Mayflower’s trusted team of long-distance movers can help you relocate to Portland from anywhere in the United States. As the nation’s most trusted mover for nearly 100 years, Mayflower is dedicated to helping make your move simple and stress-free. All your moving needs will be met by our customized, full-service moving packages. Our experienced movers can take care of your storage needs, packing and unpacking, shipping your car to Portland, removing debris and more. 

Making a local move in Portland, Oregon? Our interstate Oregon movers can help you move locally under their own businesses and brands. 

No matter where you move to and from, we want to help you Every Step of the Way®. Check out our tips to hiring the best movers, understand how moving quotes are calculated and follow our week-by-week moving checklist

Get a moving quote for Portland, Oregon, from Mayflower. 

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