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The 12 Best Museums in Portland, Oregon [2024]

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Portland is known for its eclectic culture and has enough museums to suit virtually any interest. Whether you’re a fan of oddities, photography, or learning about other cultures, there’s an exhibit in the City of Roses for you. Here’s a list of the best museums to kick off your travel planning.

The Best Museums in Portland

Blue Sky Gallery
Image Credit: Blue Sky Gallery

Also known as the Oregon Center for the Photographic Arts, Blue Sky Gallery is one of the city’s premier exhibition spaces for photographers in the Pacific Northwest. Since its opening in 1975, the space has educated the public about photography and the world through its exhibitions. Initially, the space exclusively featured Portland artists but has grown in prominence over the years and hosts events honoring photographers from around the globe.

Recently, the space has also broadened its horizons as far as the art it showcases. While it still focuses primarily on photography, mixed media can also be found on display.

Blue Sky doesn’t house a permanent collection, so the museum is always fresh. Instead, it hosts rotating exhibitions throughout the year. Artists the gallery has highlighted include Ada Trillo, Richard Mosse, and Safi Alia Shabaik. Submissions from up-and-coming artists who want to showcase their work are also welcome.

Blue Sky is open Wednesday through Saturday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free for everyone. The nearest bus stop is Portland.

  • Address: 122 NW 8th Ave., Portland, OR 97209

2. Freakybuttrue Peculiarium

The Freakybuttrue Peculiarium and Museum
Image Credit: Freakybuttrue Peculiarium

Founded in 1967, the Freakybuttrue Peculiarium was a passion project of its founder, Conrad Talmadge Elwood, who wished to create a space full of dream-like art and objects.

The Peculiarium is both a shop and a museum, where visitors can peruse oddities from strange miniatures to one-of-a-kind works of art. The site focuses mainly on figures from legends and tales of cryptozoology. Some of the most popular oddities on display at the Peculiarium are a life-size Krampus sculpture, statues of aliens, and vintage books on topics such as ventriloquism.

Though the museum is family-friendly, some of the items might be frightening to young children. While there are no time limits for visits, the space is rather small, so don’t expect to spend hours at the facility. It’s possible to rent the museum for events of 40 guests or less, though all attendees must be at least 18.

The museum is open daily from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Admission is $10 for everyone but $7 on Tuesdays. The nearest bus stop is Northwest 23rd Avenue and Thurman.

  • Address: 2234 NW Thurman St., Portland, OR 97210

3. Japanese American Museum of Oregon

Japanese American Museum of Oregon
Image Credit: Japanese American Museum of Oregon

Portland’s Japanese American Museum of Oregon (JAMO) preserves the history and legacies of the Pacific Northwest’s Japanese-American families. Specifically, the space showcases the experiences of Japanese-Americans in the region during the Second World War. Through photos and artifacts, the museum brings the stories to life and advocates for the continued protection of civil rights.

Today, JAMO houses the state’s largest collection of pieces dedicated to showcasing Japanese-American history. This permanent collection is divided into 6 main categories, each delving into specific stories or moments in history. Some highlighted wings include the “Oshu Nippo Translation Project” and the “Hirahara Collection” of photography.

In addition to the permanent exhibits, the museum regularly hosts temporary galleries featuring the work, stories, and artifacts of specific people. JAMO also works with other facilities to participate in traveling exhibits around the country. To ensure the preservation of history, the museum accepts donations of artifacts that can further help highlight Japanese-American culture.

JAMO is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free for children under 11 and members, $5 for students, $6 for seniors, and $8 for adults. The nearest bus stop is Northwest Glisan and 3rd.

  • Address: 411 NW Flanders St. STE 100, Portland, OR 97209

“We welcome visitors of all ages to learn another side of local history at the Japanese American Museum of Oregon. Explore 140 years of history, art, and culture through artifacts, oral histories, and interactive displays that will bring you back in time. From early immigration to World War II incarceration through to the present day, we invite you to experience this history from the perspective of those who lived it.”

Hanako Wakatsuki-Chong, executive director, Japanese American Museum of Oregon

4. Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at Portland State University

Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at Portland State University
Image Credit: Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at PSU

Hosted by Portland State University, the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art (JSMA) aims to showcase artists from around the world. The museum’s main focus is education since it’s affiliated with the university. Panels, discussions with artists, and competitions among the school’s art students are frequently hosted on-site.

Keep in mind that some of these events require reservations. The museum’s exhibitions represent virtually all types of art, from traditional painting to mixed media, to help expose the public to different forms of visual arts.

Some of the pieces regularly displayed are “Beneath the Water” by Lonnie Holley, “Khan” by Rae Mahaffey, and “Score” by Heather Watkins. However, the museum frequently rotates the pieces featured in its gallery. Student showcases are also regularly featured, allowing visitors a chance to see the work of tomorrow’s great creatives before they’ve broken into the art world.

JSMA is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. All exhibits are free to the public. The nearest light rail station is PSU Urban Center and South-West 6th and Montgomery.

  • Address: 1855 SW Broadway, Portland, OR 97201

5. Oregon Historical Society Museum

Oregon Historical Society Museum
Image Credit: Oregon Historical Society

Founded in 1898, the Oregon Historical Society Museum has a collection of over 85,000 items that help recount the city’s history. While many of the museum’s wings focus on the area’s history since Portland was founded, it also pays respect to the region’s ancient history. For example, it preserves a sandal found in the Pacific Northwest that can be traced back to 10,000 years ago.

Other highlights from the museum include the “Portland Penny,” which was used in a coin toss to decide the city’s name, the reproduction of a ship’s hull, the counter from a diner that was once open in the area, and artifacts collected by the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Temporary exhibitions are also frequently hosted on the premises. These exhibitions focus on artifacts, arguments, or periods of Portland history. Many of these exhibitions are photographic, offering a more visual understanding of Oregon’s development and wildlife.

Oregon’s Historical Society is open to the public Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free for members, Multnomah County residents, and children under 6, $5 for kids 6 to 18, $8 for teachers, students, and seniors 60+, and $10 for adults. The nearest bus stop is South West Jefferson and Park Avenue.

  • Address: 1200 SW Park Ave., Portland, OR 97205

6. Oregon Maritime Museum

Oregon Maritime Museum
Image Credit: daveynin via Flickr (license)

Located on the “Portlandia,” the last steam-powered tugboat in the U.S., the Oregon Maritime Museum showcases the area’s boating history. Since 1980, the museum has aimed to preserve artifacts relating to maritime history for both public and academic education and research.

Through the equipment and photos housed by the facility, the museum is also able to honor and remember the lives and careers of the countless mariners who lived and worked in Oregon and the Columbia River Basin. Since the museum is located on a docked boat, visits are conducted via guided tours. So feel free to ask any questions you might have about the ship or any of the exhibits.

Make sure to check out the ship’s library when there’s a librarian on duty. This space houses over 20,000 items, split between photos and books, which are available to the public for research and education. However, materials aren’t available for checkout and must stay on the premises.

The museum is open Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets cost $4 to $7. The nearest bus stop is Southwest Oak and 1st.

  • Address: 198 SW Naito Parkway, Portland, OR 97204

7. Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
Image Credit: Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) began as a museum of random artifacts displayed in City Hall. At the time, its largest collection consisted of 12,000 items. In the years since it officially opened as a museum in 1944, OMSI has grown in popularity among both local and out-of-town visitors, and the facility has also grown with it.

Today, the museum has 6 exhibits, including the USS Blueback submarine, which is docked outside the facility in the Willamette River. Temporary and traveling exhibitions are also hosted on the property. All the museum’s exhibits educate visitors about the history and advancements of science and technology.

Some of the space’s most popular exhibits are the hands-on “Chemistry Lab,” the “Van de Graaf Generator,” and the live animals that inhabit the “Life Sciences Hall.” There are also multiple auditorium spaces, including a large-screen theater, used for special lectures, fairs, and even private events.

OMSI is open from Tuesday through Friday and Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission is free for children under 3, $14 for kids 3 to 13, $16 for seniors 63+, and $19 for visitors 14+. The nearest light rail station is South East Water and OMSI.

  • Address: 1945 SE Water Ave., Portland, OR 97214

“OMSI has something for everyone, no matter their age. Guests can experiment in our hands-on labs, tour the USS Blueback submarine, see an immersive show in our planetarium, explore our interactive exhibits, and, if you want a fun adults-only museum experience, our After Dark programs feature different themes and are perfect for your next date night.”

Akiko Minaga, vice president of learning experiences, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

8. Oregon Rail Heritage Center

Oregon Rail Heritage Center
Image Credit: Oregon Rail Heritage Center

Oregon’s Rail Heritage Center (ORHC) preserves the history and locomotives of the city’s rail industry. The museum’s collection includes several historic locomotives, including the Southern Pacific 449, the Spokane, Portland & Seattle 700, and the Oregon Railroad & Navigation Co. 197. In addition to these train cars, the museum houses numerous industry artifacts, photos, and documents.

One of the ORHC’s most beloved features is its train rides. Between April and October, train rides are available each Saturday, taking guests who reserve a spot on a short trip along the Willamette River. Christmas-themed train rides are available during the holiday season.

While the museum center is fully accessible for visitors with mobility concerns, the trains are not since they are historic cars that can’t be refitted to increase accessibility. Arrangements can be made to help facilitate boarding and getting off the cars during train rides.

ORHF is open Thursday through Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are welcome. The nearest light rail station is OMSI and South East Water.

  • Address: 2250 SE Water Ave., Portland, OR 97214

“Embark on a journey through time with us at our museum, a dynamic hub fueled by passion and powered by volunteers. Home to Portland’s 3 majestic steam locomotives, we invite you to witness their awe-inspiring magnificence, delve into Pacific Northwest Railroad history, and experience the thrill of a train ride.”

Renee Devereux, executive director, Oregon Rail Heritage Center

9. Pittock Mansion

Pittock Mansion
Image Credit: Pittock Mansion Society

Built as a private residence for Henry Pittock, the publisher of the “Oregonian” newspaper, the Pittock Mansion shows what early 20th-century life was like for wealthy Portland residents.

Today, the public can visit many of the home’s 46 rooms as part of the facility’s permanent exhibits. These rooms are furnished with 20th-century items, including a Steinway grand piano and a set of Limoges china. While some of the items were acquired after the mansion was converted into a museum, the vast majority of the pieces on display belonged to the Pittock family.

Temporary exhibits are also frequently hosted at the mansion and typically included in general admission. These exhibits range greatly in topic, from focusing on specific people important to Portland’s history to how the city’s society changed and developed over time. The most common way to visit Pittock Mansion is through self-guided tours, but guided tours are occasionally available.

Pittock Mansion is open Wednesday through Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Tuesday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. From November through June, the mansion is open until 5 p.m. Admission is free for children under 6 and members, $12.50 for kids 6 to 18, $14.50 for seniors 65+, and $16.50 for adults. The most convenient bus stops are West Burnside Road and North West Barnes Road; follow the street signs.

  • Address: 3229 NW Pittock Drive, Portland, OR 97210

10. Portland Art Museum

Portland Art Museum
Image Credit: Portland Art Museum

The Portland Art Museum (PAM) is one of the city’s most exciting art spaces. With a growing permanent collection of over 40,000 pieces, the space has grown to include 6 different centers dedicated to various art styles.

Some of the pieces housed in the PAM’s collection are “Natitingou Man, Benin” by Hector Acebes, “Man Carrying Cardboard” by Gerard Albanese, and “Bachelor’s Bed” by Jules Altfas. Notably, the museum also preserves pieces from some of the world’s most famous artists, including Van Gogh and Monet. Special events are also frequently held at the museum. These include temporary exhibitions that rotate throughout the year and typically highlight specific art styles or creators.

One of the most famous events is the Contemporary Northwest Art Awards, which is held every 2 years and allows artists from a variety of northwestern states a chance to showcase their work in the hopes of winning a sizable prize.

The museum is open Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is free for school groups, kids under 18, and members, $22 for students 18+ and seniors 62+, and $25 for adults. The nearest light rail station is Art Museum.

  • Address: 1219 SW Park Ave., Portland, OR 97205

11. World Forestry Center

World Forestry Center
Image Credit: World Forestry Center

Portland’s World Forestry Center aims to educate the public about forests and trees and their impact on the world. One way the center achieves this is through its museum.

Through impressive, scaled representations of Oregon’s forests, hands-on exhibits, and easy-to-understand information, the museum teaches visitors of all ages about how crucial forests are as a natural resource. The museum can reach learners of all kinds through visual, written, and tactile media.

The museum’s first floor is mainly dedicated to how forests and forest habitats affect people’s daily lives, even those who live in cities. The second floor looks at forests around the world and how they differ.

Temporary exhibitions are also featured on the second floor. One of the most popular exhibits hosted on-site is the current “State of the Forest” gallery, which examines wildfires and their impact on forests and the world at large.

The center is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free for children under 3, $5 for kids 3 to 18, $7 for seniors 62+. and $8 for adults. The nearest light rail station is Washington Park.

  • Address: 4033 SW Canyon Road, Portland, OR 97221

12. The Zymoglyphic Museum

The Zymoglyphic Museum
Image Credit: The Zymoglyphic Museum

Portland’s Zymoglyphic Museum is the first and only facility of its kind in the world. This entire space is dedicated to displaying art and artifacts that depict the history of the fictional “Zymoglyphic” region. 

Part experimental art museum and part satire, the museum mimics the layout and exhibits of history museums to create fascinating displays. It’s such an immersive experience that visitors almost forget that they’re not learning about an actual part of the world.

Currently, there are 8 exhibits housed at the facility, which feature sculptures, figurines, and paintings. However, the museum is continuously growing, so more exhibits and pieces are likely to be added in the future.

This is considered a family-friendly museum perfect for young fans of science fiction and fantasy. However, some of the items may be a little startling to particularly small children. While visiting, photos are encouraged, and the museum requests that guests submit their favorite snapshots to be shared with fans.

The museum is open on the second and fourth Sunday of the month from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is free for everyone. The nearest bus stop is South East Belmont and 62nd.

  • Address: 6225 SE Alder St., Portland, OR 97215

How To Get Free or Reduced Admission to Portland Museums

We’ve indicated with each museum whether or not children, students, or seniors receive free or reduced admission. There are also several other programs that offer similar concessions.

The Museums for All program offers free or reduced admission to museums through the U.S. for those receiving food assistance (SNAP benefits). Participating attractions in the greater Portland area include the Architectural Heritage Center, the Japanese American Museum of Oregon, the Lan Su Chinese Garden, and the Oregon Historical Society.

Bank of America’s Museums on Us program offers cardholders free general admission to the following Portland museums on the first full weekend of every month: the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry, the Portland Art Museum, and the Portland Japanese Garden.

Participation is subject to change; please verify participating museums and entry conditions before your visit.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re visiting Portland alone, with friends, or alongside your family, there are plenty of museums in the city to keep you busy for your entire trip. We hope this list has helped you narrow down your options so you know which to add to the top of your itinerary.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Portland have famous art?

Portland’s exhibits and museums house pieces from some of the world’s most important artists. Andy Warhol, Claude Monet, and Winslow Homer are just a few renowned artists represented by exhibit spaces in Portland. The city also has many contemporary artists.

Are Portland museums free?

About a third of the museums in Portland offer free or reduced admission prices to visitors all the time, while others offer free admission on the first Thursday of the month. Each museum can participate in these initiatives.

What is the most visited museum in Portland?

The Portland Art Museum is generally considered the most famous museum in the city because it houses some of the most famous works of art in Portland. However, the city’s history and science museums are also famous on the West Coast.

How many museums are there in Portland?

Over 50 museums are located in Portland’s city limits. However, this number doesn’t include all pop-up exhibits or small temporary installations. It’s also subject to change as museums close, open, or expand to include more locations. Most of these museums are family-friendly.

Amar Hussain's image

About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.

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