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What’s Wrong with Portland, Oregon?

Portland, Oregon, is a popular tourist destination, but some recent stories make it seem like something is wrong there.

From beautiful scenery to a thriving arts scene, there’s a lot of awesomeness to experience. But between political tension and certain types of crime on the rise, some may think twice about planning a trip to the City of Roses.

Today we’ll cover the good and the bad to help you decide if Stumptown is worth visiting. 

Let’s check it out!

What is Portland Known For?

Portland is located right where the Willamette and Columbia Rivers meet. Settlers established it in the 1840s and named it after the town in Maine. The nickname Stumptown is a nod to the vast amount of trees they cut down to live there.

The area is in a seasonal temperate rainforest with beautiful waterfalls, lovely mountain trails, and incredible greenery. Locals love spending time outside, even though it rains 164 days a year. Cycling, hiking, and kayaking are everyday hobbies for many residents. And it’s just a short drive from the beach. 

The City of Roses is known for its counterculture, love of coffee, and general quirkiness. Farmers’ markets and pop-up art shows show the city’s passion for local and handmade things. For years, the TV show Portlandia spoofed the quirky hipsters that called the city home. And the series wasn’t exactly wrong about Portland, but the reality isn’t always funny.

Is It Safe to Visit Portland?

Portland is certainly seeing an increase in problems over the last few years. However, most data shows that the city is safe for visitors. It has lower violent crime rates than many parts of the country, though theft is worse here. But most stolen items are necessities like diapers and laundry detergent. However, most crime happens outside of popular tourist areas.

But one thing to be aware of around Portland is wildfires. Uncontrolled blazes are increasingly common in many areas across the west coast. Keep an eye on the forecast when planning your trip. 

Pro Tip: Considering a trip to Portland? These are 5 Reasons to Avoid Portland, Oregon.

Portland, Oregon sign
A visit to Portland, Oregon is high up on many travelers bucket lists.

What’s Wrong with Portland?

Some key issues have made many people question this city’s safety. However, the local “soft on crime” approach is a hot topic, and politics create a divide. Let’s take a closer look at what some people say is wrong in Portland. 


The city has seen a sharp rise in homelessness in the last few years. Numbers have climbed from 4,000 to over 6,500 in the metro area. Rent prices, which were already high, are still increasing, worsening the issue. Portland is struggling to find resources to right the wrong. 

Unhoused people have as many as 800 sanctioned camps throughout the city. Drugs are a problem with unsheltered people in the area, and people have noted seeing needles lying around sidewalks and parks.

Political Tension

For decades, Portland’s progressive policies helped make the city one of the best places to live in the country. But the issues continue to become contentious as crime and homelessness are on the rise. 

The shifting politics in the region made it a hub for far-right groups. Groups from the far left and right clashed numerous times in the last few years. Multiple protests in 2020 and 2021 turned into riots, with heated clashes occurring. Police used smoke bombs and tear gas to halt protests and counter-protests. 

While issues continued in 2022, they were far less frequent. Still, national matters like Supreme Court rulings can escalate quickly in politically divided cities. 

High Crime

In 2022, Portland had a record-breaking 101 murders in the city. It was a 30% per capita increase. Assaults and vehicle thefts also climbed sharply. While things are starting to normalize as the economy recovers, it’s still at historic highs. 

Fatal drug overdoses, fueled by the fentanyl epidemic and rising housing insecurity, doubled over the course of two years. It’s worth noting, though, that the trends across the US aren’t much different, and many places are worse. Portland remains about as safe as many big cities, especially for visitors. 

Pro Tip: While traveling through Oregon, spend the night at one of these 7 Best Free Camping Spots in Oregon.

View of Portland, Oregon
Portland, Oregon has seen a rise in homelessness and crime in recent years.

Tips for Visiting Portland

While there’s a lot of attention on everything going wrong in Portland, it’s still a great destination. We’ve got some tips for how to enjoy your time in Stumptown. 

Plan for Rain

Portland is in a temperate rainforest with an average of 43 inches of annual rainfall. The dry season lasts from May to October, with August seeing the fewest days of precipitation.

Locals embrace events, rain or shine. That’s probably because the town mostly sees light drizzles. Rather than carrying umbrellas, most people just wear waterproof outerwear. So bring a light raincoat and good shoes, and you’ll be fine. 

Embrace the Weird

There’s nothing wrong with getting weird in Portland. Residents there have turned it into a way of life. From niche stores that sell handmade trinkets and found objects to unusual restaurants, you’ll find something you’ve never seen before. 

You can always try something new, whether it’s an underground mead hall with live-action role-playing or magic book shops. They also have unique events all year, like the adult soapbox derby and the world’s largest naked bike ride.

Shop Local

Stumptown is proud of local businesses. It’s one of the few large cities where big box stores and national chains haven’t slowed small local stores. Many of the storefronts strictly sell regionally made items to embrace sustainability. 

It’s also one of the best places for thrifting and buying vintage items. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, pick from the many excellent restaurants and food trucks that go big with weird ideas. Wherever you go around town, shop local for the whole experience. 

Use Bike Lanes to See the City

Portland loves bicycles, and the town is one of the best places to ride safely. More bike commuters live here than anywhere else. In addition, bicyclists have a dedicated lane on most roads. Not only is it a good way to get around town, but you can also find many trails to explore.

If you’re driving a car, share the road or face a penalty. And if you didn’t bring a bicycle, renting one is easy. You can even borrow a bike for free for some local weekly races. 

Plan to Spend a Few Days

The City of Roses is too big to take in with a quick trip. You’ll want at least five days to enjoy the sights and soak in fun. And the best part is you don’t need a car to enjoy most of the town. 

But if you have a chance, plan a few extra days to enjoy some sights beyond the city limits. This should also give you enough time for a day trip to the beach or to check out Crater Lake National Park

Is Visiting Portland Worth It?

Portland has been facing its share of problems recently, and locals are waiting for the government to right some wrongs. But don’t let the news scare you away. The Pacific Northwest is a friendly place for visitors, and you’ll start planning your next trip before you know it. 

You may encounter some homeless people, but for the most part, they’re harmless. Just do your research before leaving your car in specific neighborhoods, and you’ll have a good time.

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