Stop and Smell the Roses in Portland, OR

  • PEach Rose Blue sky

  • people gathered along a street to watch a parade

  • Man in a red coat guides runners in a parade

  • Parade float of a turtle made out of flowers

  • Big fireworks during a night event

  • People walking in the parade with luggage

  • people inside of a dragon boat

Most Portland natives have a favorite memory of the Portland Rose Festival and if you ask them, they will usually tell you that Rose Festival time is one of the best times to visit. For a city known for their International Rose Test Garden and dubbed “The City of Roses,” it is only fitting to celebrate with an international Rose Festival. Join me as I walk you through some of my favorite Rose Festival activities.

THE WATERFRONT
What’s a trip to any festival without the aroma of delicious fried foods, the sound of carnival games, laughter and live music at the RoZone, than a trip to the Portland City Fair? The opening night commenced on May 25th with a performance from the One More Time Around Again band and dance team as well as live music and the fireworks to paint the night’s sky. But don’t you worry if you missed opening night, there are plenty of activities and fun to be had.

For the maritime lovers, don’t miss the Rose Festival Fleet Week. You can find multiple naval ships from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, and the Royal Canadian Navy docked along Waterfront Park. Be sure to hop onboard one of the ships offering a free tour and be sure to thank our active and reserve military personnel. For ship information and tour times, click here.

CROWNING MOMENTS

Rose Festival Queen Coronation
For the princess in your life, don’t miss the Rose Festival Queen’s Coronation. Beginning in March high school ladies compete for their school’s nomination to be on the Rose Festival Court.  All ladies who qualify for one of the 15 spots on the Rose Festival Court will compete to be crowned Queen on June 9th at 8:30 am at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Royal Canine Coronation
Oregon, known to be one of the more pet-friendly states, strives to live up to its title! For the first time in Rose Festival history, the Portland Rose Festival teamed up with the Oregon Humane Society to create the very first Canine Grand Marshal, to ride in the Spirit Mountain Grand Floral Parade. To see the canine royalty finalist, click here or see the Canine Grand Marshal live in person at the parade on June 9th.

RACES

Dragonboat Racing
If you’re one who’s up for some friendly water competition, be sure to take a trip to Tom McCall Park located on the Willamette River and watch over 80+ local and international teams compete in the Portland Rose Festival Dragonboat Races. Hosted by the Portland-Kaohsiung Sister City Association (PKSCA), this is a free, full-day event on both June 9th and 10th.

Rose Cup Races
Get your earplugs on stand-by and head to the Portland International Raceway to watch cars compete in the Portland Rose Cup Races.  This is fun and exciting family-friendly event; however, the itty bitty’s may be startled by the loud revving of the race car engines. Come see the professional race cars and cheer on local amateur racers. This event happens July 13th-15th, so grab your sunscreen, sunglasses and get out and enjoy the beautiful Portland weather!

PARADES
Nothing beats a parade in Portland and the Rose Festival is known for two stellar parades – the  PGE/SOLVE Starlight Parade and the Spirit Mountain Grand Floral Parade.

The PGE/SOLVE Starlight Parade, one of my favorite parades and known to have over 200k+ people in attendance, begins at 8:30 pm, downtown Portland. Get there early to enjoy all the Starlight Run participant’s costumes. As the night falls be sure to pack a jacket or blanket to fully enjoy the parade that ends around 11 pm. If you have younger children, they will enjoy the band performances and twinkling lights!

To highlight all of the colorful flowers and foliage that the Pacific Northwest Region has to offer, be sure to attend the Spirit Mountain Grand Floral Parade. The floats created for this parade are adorned with natural elements and beautiful floral designs. You can catch the Grand Floral Parade immediately following the Rose Festival Queen Coronation on June 9th at 10 am. In fact, our very own Hilton Portland Downtown is an event sponsor for the Grand Floral Parade. Keep them in mind if you’re looking for hotel accommodations!

If you’ve never been to a parade in Portland, here are a few tips to make the best of your spectator experience:

  • Get there EARLY! Locals often pitch a tent and camp out on the sidewalks along the parade route to stake their claim on front row seats, sometimes 24+ hours in advance. Not into camping out? Definitely arrive at least 4 hours prior!
  • Bring your chairs, blankets, sunscreen, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, ball, cooler, snacks and Bluetooth speaker so you can enjoy the people watching and if you have younger ones, you can keep them happy and entertained.
  • Portland is known to have one of the cleanest and greenest parades in the US, so bring a garbage bag or grab a free one and be prepared to pack up your belongings about 15 minutes before the parade ends. Volunteers and clean up trucks will come by immediately following the parade to pick up your trash bags and spray down the streets. Move fast or you’ll get wet!

Whether you’re a Portland native, a transplant or thinking of visiting the City of Roses for the first time, exploring the city during the Portland Rose Festival comes highly recommended. With a variety of activities for all ages, get excited and start planning your trip to Portland and/or which festivities you want to attend!

To access more information about local restaurants, unique attractions, and special offers in Portland, visit our Destination Guide, or explore Hilton properties in Portland below.

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Desiree

This post was written by Hilton Suggests Team Member, Desiree G. Are you interested in traveling to Portland? Let us know if we can help you with any other recommendations. Tweet us for more great local travel tips!

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