Pioneer Courthouse Square, affectionately called “Portland’s Living Room,” is an urban plaza located at the heart of Portland, Oregon. So named due to its proximity to Pioneer Courthouse, which can be found directly east of the square, this gathering space has been the heart of Portland’s social events since its opening in 1984.
Pioneer Courthouse Square
The square, designed by the flamboyant designer William Martin, occupies an entire city block and measures 40,000 square feet in area. It features a number of attractions, including a fountain, ticket booth for public transportation, amphitheater seating, and outdoor chess tables.
The square offers events suitable for the young and old alike, the most famous of which is perhaps a city-wide pillow fight which occurred there in 2006. Protests, cultural festivals, musical performances, speeches, marches, and theatrical performances also frequently populate the square. Every Tuesday during the summer, the “Noon Tunes” concerts attract visitors to the square where they are treated to free music from regional musicians. The square is also often converted into an outdoor theater for its free “Flicks on the Bricks” movie screening program. Other notable cultural events include the Pan African Festival, India Festival, and Chinese Festival
Located just under 2 miles from the Oregon zoo, 1 mile from Washington Park, and just 7 blocks from the waterfront, the Pioneer Courthouse Square is truly in the center of much of what Portland has to offer. Pioneer Square has won a number of awards throughout its lifetime including being ranked the fourth-best public park on Earth by the Project for Public Spaces.
During the holiday season, the square is adorned with a massive Christmas tree which is lit each year on the day after Thanksgiving. The holidays welcome a number of special events to the square, including the Holiday Ale Festival and “Tuba Christmas.” Hundreds of tuba players flock to the square for this annual event where they all perform holiday songs together on their instruments.
The square also boasts a number of notable art installations including “Allow Me,” a bronze statue of an umbrella-carrying man who is affectionately referred to as “Umbrella Man” and located towards the south of the square. “Weather Machine,” another art installation, is a 33-foot tall metal sculpture that uses music, lights, and mist to reveal the city’s weather report each day at noon.
Any discussion of Pioneer Courthouse Square would be incomplete without a mention of the famous bricks located at the square’s center. These bricks, typically engraved with the name of an individual or family, cover the center portion of the square and can be purchased for $100 each from the square’s website. The bricks are famous city-wide and are a popular gift option for those who want to make themselves or a friend a permanent part of city history.
Hosting over 300 events per year and posting 11 million annual visitors, the Pioneer Courthouse Square truly is a robust reflection of Portland’s thriving social scene and a must-see point of interest for anyone fortunate enough to visit Portland.
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