Portland’s annual Rose Festival is a bit of an institution that celebrates the ‘weird’ city’s colorful culture. The multi-month-long fiesta features a wide array of activities, like bright and lively parades, food and beer events and, of course, displays of impressive blooms of roses of many shades and hues. With such an extensive program of things to do and see, it might seem a little daunting to figure out what not to miss – but that’s what we’re here for! With the help of a couple of Portland natives, we’ve put together a handy guide to must-sees and –dos during the festival, with an unofficial event thrown in for good measure. All you have to do is pick the festivities that tickle your fancy, grab a couple of mates from HI Portland Hawthorne hostel or HI Portland Northwest hostel and enjoy the City of Roses!
1. The Starlight Parade
This super popular Rose Festival event celebrates its 40th year in 2016 and promises to be as extraordinary as ever. Portland’s diverse community will be represented in the parade of lit-up floats, glow-in-the-dark oddities, marching bands and quirky hand-built creations making their way along a 2-mile route in the city’s downtown. Thousands of people turn up to cheer the floats, and it ends up being a bright and beautiful celebration of Portland.
When: June, 4 2016, 8:30 p.m. – 11:30 p.m.
Where: Downtown Portland
2. Portland Rose Festival City Fair
Nothing says summer in the U.S quite like a carnival, and the City Fair at this year’s festival has all the trappings of a good one – fun rides, carnival food, games, live music and interesting booths. The City Fair kicks off on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend with a massive fireworks display synchronized to music followed by a performance by local band The Rocktarts. The pyrotechnic extravaganza, which is one of the largest in Oregon, is set to go off over the Tom McCall Waterfront Park.
When: May, 27 2016. Fireworks start at 9:45 p.m. The City Fair is open on the three weekends after Memorial Day as well.
Where: Tom McCall Waterfront Park
Cost: $8 per person
3. Spring Rose Show
This is the Rose Festival after all, and Portland is the City of Roses, so it would only be right that you spend some time admiring the beautiful blooms with your eyes and nose. Billed as the longest running rose show in the country, the Annual Spring Rose Show features flowers from growers from across the Pacific Northwest, with trophies being awarded to the most impressive roses. Take the time to sniff and see more than 4,000 of one of nature’s favorite creations.
When: June 9: 1:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. and June 10: 10 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Where: Lloyd Center
4. Sogetsu Ikebana Show
While you’re at the Rose Show, be sure to check out the Sogetsu Ikebana exhibit. Sogetsu Ikebana is a type of Japanese floral fine art, and since this is Portland, this display presents the Asian tradition with a twist. The theme for this year’s Rose Show is “Wild and Crazy”, so the arrangements are made with a combination of conventional and unconventional materials, like metal, paper, yarn, wood and glass. Go and be amazed!
When: June 4, 2016: 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.; June 5: 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Where: Oregon Historical Society
5. Fruit Beer Festival
It wouldn’t be an event in Portland without a beer element, and the Fruit Beer Festival offers a rather unique take on the hoppy beverage. Sip on the sweet tart beers and ciders fashioned by local and national brewers showcasing an array of fruit inspired drinks. The all-ages event takes place on the grassy North Park Blocks downtown, with food trucks and live music making for a perfect Portland party.
When: June 10: 11:30 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.; June 11: 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.; June 12: 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Where: North Park Blocks
Cost: $25 advanced general admission
6. Dragon Boat Races
More than 80 teams made up of local, national and international racers will descend on the Willamette River in flamboyantly colored dragon boats for an exciting battle near the Hawthorne Bridge. The Dragon Boat Races, which have been running at the festival for more than 26 years, features four-team heats paddling down the river every nine minutes as they are cheered by legions of fans on the river bank. Pick a favorite boat and let yourself get caught up in the heart-pounding excitement of watching these beautiful boats.
When: June 11 – 12, 2016: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Where: Tom McCall Waterfront Park – South End
Run by the “Infernal Order of Pirates, Buccaneers, Scallywags, and Privateers”, the Plunderathon is not an official Portland Rose Festival event, but it happens to coincide with the major affair every year. Participants are invited to dress as pirates for the all-in-one parade, bar crawl and public art spectacle, which meanders its way around the city making merry and arrrgh-ing from downtown to Chinatown. Put on your best pirate gear (or get some from one of Portland’s many thrift stores) so you can take part in this totally Portland off-shoot festival.
When: July 30, 2016 from 12:00 a.m.
Where: Downtown Portland TBD