Portland Aerial Tram Ride – Unique Perspective of Portland

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Portland Aerial Tram

(Update – be sure to call ahead for current availability to board. They have limited it to essential workers during COVID, so you will want to make sure it is open to everyone before planning a visit). 

Every time we drive thru Portland, I always look up at the Aerial Tram & wonder what it would be like to view the city from that perspective. On Monday, my husband and I had the chance to check out the Portland aerial tram on a quick trip to Portland. This is a must-do experience in Portland  to give you that breathtaking view of downtown Portland, the Willamette River, and Mt Hood in the distance that you won’t get anywhere else!

The Aerial Tram was not designed as a tourist attraction, which visitors may think, but instead as a necessary transportation option for the many people who work & visit OHSU, the Children’s Hospital & the medical schools on Marquam Hill. As many as 20,000 people visit OHSU, yet there are just two 2 lane roads to access the hill, so this was created as public transportation option to make it easier for people to access the hospital.

Portland Aerial Tram Views

Tram Prices:

The tram ride is affordably priced, and free for kids 6 & under. I felt like this was a very reasonable price for this unique option to see Portland as you rise 500 feet up to the top of Marquam Hill (or 3,300 linear feet) to have a panoramic view of the city, waterfront, mountains & more.

The ride is pretty short as it only takes 4 minutes to the top & 4 minutes down, but still enough time to be able to take pictures of the various views &  be able to look all around.

If you are a patient at OHSU for a doctor visit, your doctor’s office should give you a free pass so that you can park at the bottom near the tram & not have to deal with driving up the hill & finding parking, but instead take the leisurely tram ride up the hill to your appointment. {Just make sure to ask the dr’s office ahead of time about sending you a pass}

If you know Portland transportation well, you could take the bus up to the top of the hill & then ride the tram down for free, too. Reader Rebecca also reported that she has seen tram tickets on Groupon as well, so that’s another option to look for discounts on tickets.

Tram Times:

Weekdays: 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Saturday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Sunday: open 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. May 18th to Labor Day

The tram does run about every 6 minutes or so, so we liked the fact that we could basically get right on with barely a wait at all.

I will encourage you that you should consider not riding it during the busy traffic times, which are when people are arriving & leaving work (maybe 4-6pm). We rode it at the end of the day around 4:30-5 & they absolutely packed people in. There was definitely no sightseeing on that trip down – thankfully we didn’t have many people on our ride up so we’d taken all of our pictures then.

Portland Aerial Tram from Ground


Transportation to the Tram:

There are several different ways to reach the tram station near the waterfront. You can easily access the location by car, just 2 minutes or so off of I-5.  You’ll find street parking or an OHSU parking lot near the tram. They also offer free bike valet, so you can leave your bike below to take the tram in to work easily.

If you’re staying in downtown Portland, the Streetcar drops off right at the tram station, making this very easy to access from all around downtown. I thought this was a nice, easy option for travelers if you’re staying in downtown.

Things to Know:

Close Up of Portland Aerial Tram.jpg

  • The tram does not have any seating. However, it is a very smooth ride – on our ride back when there were so many people, we weren’t able to hold on to anything but there was no need as it was such a smooth ride (it was designed by a company in Switzerland so they know what they’re doing with tram rides). Strollers should be just fine on the tram ride, as well as riding with little kids.
  • There is an outdoor viewing area, with a few tables & chairs, at the top of the tram which provides great views of the tram coming & going from the station and just views from the top. All we had time to do was ride the tram & sit & relax for a few minutes at the outdoor balcony watching the tram go by & then headed back down. But it was worth the trip

Restaurant Options::

Old Spaghetti Factory – From the bottom tram loading area, it’s just a short walk to the Old Spaghetti Factory restaurant right on the waterfront. My husband & I used to go here frequently when we lived in OR & I love this location as it’s a beautiful spot right on the river & the furniture & furnishings inside are so unique! {Thanks Stephanie)

OHSU Farmers Market –  open on Tuesdays 10am  – 2pm from June – October. Reader Stephanie shares this is a great place to grab lunch, eat outside & enjoy live music. Thanks for the tip, Stephanie!

If you’re exploring Portland via the popular 4T Trail, the downhill tram ride is one portion of the trail. The 4 T’s refers to trains, trams, trails & trolleys! A great way to try out the various public transportation options available in Portland, all while getting a good feeling for what the city of Portland is all about.

More Portland family fun activities:

Portland Family Friendly Activities, Money saving tips & more

Family-friendly Restaurants around Portland

Mt Hood Outdoor Family Fun for all Seasons

Summer Adventure Park at Skibowl – Mt. Hood

If you’ve ridden on the Portland Aerial Tram, do you have any more tips to share, especially regarding any other activities to do once you are up on the Marquam Hill or around the waterfront. We’d love to hear about your experiences, especially from those of you who live in the area. 

One Comment

  1. The tram is really fun. We did it when we did the 4 T’s. Another great thing about the 4 T’s is the Trolley drops you off near tons of food carts, which are very affordable and really good. From there you grab the Train and keep on going.

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