The impact of COVID-19 includes millions of canceled travel plans. Staying home and staying safe now tops the list of most people’s spring to-dos. Even with an unexpected homebody M.O., there are still plenty of ways to fall in love with a new city right from your very own couch. All you need is a tv, or a computer, an ipad, a phone...you get it. Technology brings us together, filling us with new knowledge and a fuel for future wanderlust. Portland is primed with a growing list of virtual entryways into the city and its culture.
Nature at your Keyboard
Caretakers at the Oregon Zoo are giving a behind-the-scenes look at what the animals are up to while the zoo is closed to the public. Kids and adults alike delight in the near daily animal videos that are posted to the zoo’s YouTube, Facebook and Instagram channels. On March 23, a fluffy new chick joined the Oregon Zoo's Humboldt penguin colony. The chick will spend the next three months living its life in parallel to much of the human world: nesting in a cozy box, growing and staying healthy, and drinking fish smoothies (okay, maybe not that last one). Watch all this—and so many more heartwarming moments—with the Oregon Zoo.
For a look at spectacular spring blooms, the Portland Japanese Garden showcases 360-degree photos and virtual photo tours of the garden. Go for a virtual “stroll” through the garden spaces, even sneaking much-needed peek at the Zen garden. This haven of tranquil beauty has been proclaimed one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan.
Immerse Yourself in the Arts
Portland Art Museum
Joining museums around the world, the Portland Art Museum is committed to making art accessible from the comfort of everyone’s homes with an online collection and downloadable art activities for kids. The museum’s YouTube channel is an especially good way to spend the afternoon, taking virtual tours of exhibits and watching interviews with world-class artists. Soak it all up as a primer for fall visits to the museum and its upcoming exhibits that feature the works of Frida Kahlo and Ansel Adams.
Literary Arts: The Archive Projects Podcast
Portland is a book town. Beyond Powell’s Books and the amazing number of independent bookstores, the city’s Literary Arts non-profit provides novel ways to absorb the bookish charm of the city from afar. Simply check out the organization’s “The Archive Project”. This podcast releases holy-grail recordings from some of the nation’s best authors speaking, reading and conversing at regal venues all throughout Portland. Whether you want to go down a dystopian funk with Margaret Atwood or feel the graceful-yet-powerful presence of Toni Morrison, this podcast has it all. For those that want something that’s less canon and more beat poet, checkout the Lit Crawl episode. The recording is from the 2019 event of poetry readings in Portland’s cool bars and hip hotels. Come November, Lit Crawl 2020 will be ready in-step with the Portland Book Festival.
Pittock Mansion is, in its own right, a piece of art. The free virtual tour of this historic Portland home goes beyond video and mere 360-degree photography. The footage is compatible with virtual reality devices, meaning history buffs and architecture aficionados can feel more up-close-and-personal with this magnificent home more than ever before. Go ahead, see what the room looks like when “sitting” in one of the grandiose chairs.
Front-Row Seats to the Best Concerts
OPB music festival
Leave it to Oregon Public Broadcasting to take music lovers on a morning-till-night tour of Oregon through the lens of local musicians. This collection of recorded music performances spans across the state of Oregon, ending with a slew of beloved and surprising Portland venues.
For instance, Portland-based songwriter Laura Gibson sings soulful songs on the Amtrak Empire Builder as she rides from Portland to the Columbia River Gorge. The jostling train sounds only add charm to her authentic performance. Later, the Revival Drum Shop on SE Sherman became the stage and instrument source for the 1939 Ensemble who then proceeded to use almost every instrument available in the room. The joyous performance is not only a musical feat, but a story of the resourcefulness and kinship that lives throughout Portland’s music community.
Alberta Rose Theatre Portland Music Stream
This intimate music venue has gotten creative amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. In lieu of shows with throngs of people in the audience, Alberta Rose Theatre has shifted to its Portland Music Stream subscription service. The service live streams performances five nights per week. The subscription is a one-time $100 fee that grants access to 20 concerts broadcasted live. It’s an inventive model meant to support small music venues, musicians, sound engineers, and the sentiment that social distancing cannot stop the music.
What’s more, Alberta Rose Theatre will use a portion of its revenue from the Portland Music Stream to donate to the Jeremy Wilson Foundation. The foundation supports Portland musicians with access to vital health services.
Low Bar Chorale Facebook Live Singalong
Visitors to Portland always feel welcome at the Low Bar Chorale drop-in choir. That said, it’s a wonderful tradition that is hard to continue in this era of social distancing. For as long as needed, however, the Low Bar Chorale will continue to lift spirits and sing loudly via Facebook live singalongs. Checkout the group’s Facebook page for dates, times, and lyrics to the songs on deck. The first session included “Free Fallin” by Tom Petty and “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper. Sing loud, sing proud, and know you’re not singing alone.
Oregon Symphony Minute for Music
A fancy date night at the symphony is not in the cards right now, but you can make classical music part of your daily meditations. The Oregon Symphony is posting videos of its musicians playing favorite pieces in surprising settings for, you guessed it, one minute. About to have an I’ve been in my house all week and I want to scream moment? Take a minute for music.
Lessons and Stories from Some Favorite Portlanders
Instagram Live with James Beard Award Winners
It’s no secret that the culinary community has been hit hard by the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak. In addition to takeout and buying gift cards from favorite restaurants, yet another way to support the people who feed you is to simply tune into their Instagram Stories. Two of Portland’s most lauded chefs, James Beard Award winners Gabriel Rucker (Le Pigeon and Canard) and Vitaly Paley (Paley’s Place, Headwaters, Imperial, and Rosa Rosa), will be cooking for followers. Get expert tips, ask questions on the fly, and see what the chefs cook in their own homes. Follow each chef on Instagram for updates on their next Instagram live events.
Portland, Unpacked Podcast
Portland is all about podcasts. So much so, that there’s a six episode podcast series dedicated to what makes Portland, well Portland. Each episode dives into the story of a beloved Portland local. Australian author Larry Heath puts the podcast in the context of this challenging time: “While nothing beats visiting the real place, for those of us not self-isolating in Portland – it’s the next best thing.”
Give Your Voice to Living History
Oregon Historical Society
Oregon Historical Society is at-the-ready with digital touchpoints to its mass amount of resources. Beyond learning about the past, however, Oregon Historical Society recognizes that the very present is a key historical moment. With that, they are undertaking the responsibility of documenting for future generations the stories of Oregonians living through the COVID-19 pandemic. Whatever Oregonians have to say about living in this unprecedented time, they can share it for posterity through mail (ideal for handwritten notes) or the easy online portal.
To further immerse yourself in all things Portland—right from the comfort of your very own home—you can always make your nights (or let’s face it, days) of streaming Portland-themed content with movies and shows set in the City of Roses.