Cultural District

Walk Description:

This walk is a mostly shady stroll through the South Park Blocks and the leafy downtown streets. In a short distance, you will see museums, theaters, and public art.

Follow this route:

  1. Pioneer Court House Square – 701 SW 6th Avenue
  2. Simon and Helen Director Park – 815 SW Park Avenue
  3. Portland Art Museum – 1215 SW Park Avenue
  4. Oregon Historical Society – 1200 SW Park Avenue
  5. Historic First Congregational Church – 1126 SW Park Avenue
  6. The Portland 5 Theaters – 1111 SW Broadway 

On the Walk

Pioneer Courthouse Square

Pioneer Courthouse Square
Pioneer Courthouse Square

Known as Portland’s ‘living room’ and is the city center. Get maps and transit passes at the visitor center, enjoy a picnic, people watch, listen to music, or hang out with a cup of coffee from Starbucks, which overlooks the square.

Simon and Helen Director Park

One block west on Yamhill Street, this is the downtown’s second major activity center. Stroll into Director Park, check out the big chess board, do a little people watching, grab a sandwich or cup of Mama Lil’s Soup from Flying Elephant Deli. When you’re ready, walk up SW Park Avenue south for one block.

Portland Art Museum

Portland Art Museum Warhol Exhibit
Portland Art Museum Warhol Exhibit
Portland Art Museum Blue "Her Leaving" sculpture by Robert Melee, 2008
“Brushstrokes” by Roy Lichtenstein, 1996

Ahead, you’ll see the entrance to the South Park Blocks. Walk into the park, checking out the Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt statues along the way. At the Roosevelt “Rough Riders” statue, look left (Oregon Historical Society) and to your right (the Portland Art Museum). Both offer permanent and ever-changing contemporary exhibition. The art museum recently featured major exhibits on how animated movies are made, and a collection of one-of-a-kind cars from the 1930s built for speed and beauty. Tip: on Saturdays, you can walk a few blocks south to Portland State University’s farmer’s market.

Oregon Historical Society

The Oregon Historical Society is open to the public (free to Multnomah County residents) and offers exhibits on Oregon’s history and contemporary exhibits of general interest, like the exhibit from JFK’s time as president and before, as a celebration of his 100th birthday. Click here for a list of upcoming events.

Painted on the building next door is a giant mural showing highlights of the Lewis & Clark Expedition.

First Congregational Church

Historic First Congregational Church
Historic First Congregational Church

One of the pioneer churches, it was built between 1889 and 1895. The church is now used as a venue for entertainment and lectures. Stained glass windows are a highlight, as well as the tall bell tower, which makes a great photo opportunity.

The Portland 5 Theaters

Famous Portland Theater Sign lights up Broadway
Famous Portland Theater Sign lights up Broadway.

Five major theaters are located in buildings along the South Park Blocks. Plays, concerts, meet-the-author evenings, and lectures are held here. You can check the ticket office for a last-minute seat at an event.

Places to eat:

  • Food carts, such as Olympic Provision, in Pioneer Square
  • Pieology (pizza) on Yamhill Street
  • Pastini, Swank, and Swine (good happy hour), and Flying Elephant Deli at Director Park
  • Art Museum Grounds Coffee Shop
  • The Portland 5 Art Pub offers wine and beer on Fridays from 5-8 p.m.; dinner during performances.
  • Honey’s Cafe, 936 SW Jefferson Street, offers sandwiches and other food with an Asian flair. We like teriyaki and rice.