Above and Beyond: Riding (and loving) Portland’s Aerial Tram

Growing up between New York and Philadelphia means that my definition of city transportation usually involves underground tunnels, urine streaked floors or a bus pass.

Not in Portland, though.

In Portland, if you want to commute to the other side of the city, you just casually take the Aerial Tram at the intersection of SW Moody & Gibbs to Oregon Health & Science University’s campus. Here’s how it all went down.

On our last day in Portland, my fiance John and I stared at the hoards of brochures we grabbed from our hotel’s waiting area trying to figure out how we should spend our last few hours in what we officially dub, the greatest city in the world. If you’ve never visited Portland before, a lot of local businesses are closed on Mondays so that eliminated our interest in visiting the Portland Art Museum, the feminist bookstore and community center, In Other Words and a few other ideas we had of just walking around, coffee in hand, taking peeks into local shops. One thing that peaked my interest was the Aerial Tram which just so happened to be available until 9:30pm.

After spending the day on the breathtakingly beautiful Oregon Coast, admiring the Pacific Ocean while not caring that I was potentially ruining my brand new suede ankle boots, we drove back to town eager to ride the tram.

First off, it’s weird. The closest I’d ever been to a tram had been in Walt Disney World, but even that was nothing compared to driving down 84 and in the rear view mirror watching as this tiny gondola just glides hundreds of feet in the air across the city. The last time my fiance and I had been remotely close to being that high off the ground was on a trip to Disney Springs in 2015 when we rode the Aerophile which only gives you a bird’s eye view of Epcot and downtown Orlando from 400-feet high. The Portland Aerial Tram glides 500 feet high for the 3,300 feet stretch to the other part of the city.

Riding the Aerial Tram is just like grabbing the train in New York. You go up to a kiosk, buy a ticket and stand there waiting for the next tram car to arrive. When we first entered, John and I definitely looked like tourists. You can tell from the shiny, purple lipstick.

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We immediately grabbed a seat and held onto the handrail – another rookie, tourist move. Most people on the tram stand eerily close to the edge of the car, up against the windows looking breathlessly down onto a lighted Portland. The regulars stand, looking down at their phones but for us, we looked out the windows, soaking in how the city twinkles. Once you’re up in the air, you aren’t thinking about how high up you are; you’re thinking about how magical the entire experience is. Our first ride was on an incline to get to OHSU. Once we got off our tram, we turned right back around to stand in line and take it right on back. You pay for a round trip ticket which is awesome.

Heading back down to downtown Portland is when the experience gets exciting. As you decline you get a bird’s eye view of the city. We rode at night, around 8:00pm when the city is in full sparkle mode. We couldn’t stop beaming the entire 4-minute journey back down to reality.

It’s an experience unlike one I’ve ever embarked on. Leave it to Portland to commute enthusiastic tourists like me across the city on a wire.

When I undoubtedly move there, I hope it’s a form of transportation I get to take every single day. I just hope that magic never wears off.

3 thoughts on “Above and Beyond: Riding (and loving) Portland’s Aerial Tram

    1. So, so beautiful! I was so nervous getting on the tram for the first time especially since I’m scared of heights. But it’s truly a sight to see all of downtown Portland illuminated and sparkly. I just kept getting a kick out of everyone who was pushed up against the glass looking down at their phones while I’m gripping the sides of my chair terrified. Lol.

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