Choosing a Portland Neighborhood: A Mom’s Guide to North Portland (NoPo)


North Portland is quickly becoming known as one of the city’s fastest-changing areas. Lovingly referred to as NoPo, this stretch of Portland spans from the Williams-Vancouver corridor on the east side all the way up to St. John’s on the west, buttressed on two sides by the Columbia and Williamette rivers.

When I first moved to Portland in 2008, I didn’t know the city well and found my dream house near N. Williams at a price I could actually afford. I asked everyone I met what their opinion of NoPo was, and encountered mixed reviews. It became apparent just a year or two after moving in that our old Portland neighborhood was in a state of rapid transition as high rises began shooting up just blocks away from our home. Ten years from when we first moved in, the area has seen an influx of apartments, retail, and new inhabitants. Love it or hate it, North Portland is on the move, and it’s now home to some of the hippest spots in town. With a mixture of long-time residents, brand new families, and a younger, trend-setting crowd, NoPo is an eclectic and exciting place to call home.


The Schools

Those with children in North Portland likely know that the state of the schools is constantly in flux. At the time of this write-up, Portland Public’s Sitton and James John Elementary are the options in St. John’s, with Rosa Parks, Cesar Chavez, Chief Joseph, Woodlawn, Peninsula, Astor and Beach (home to a Spanish immersion program) being the other area public elementary schools. Trillium Charter School is another public school alternative. A few private schools are also located in NoPo, including Trinity Academy (6 to 12th grade), Holy Redeemer (Pre-K to 8th), and De La Salle North Catholic High School.

The Parks


Some of the best parks in the city are located in North Portland. Peninsula Park offers a great area for sports, picnics, and ceremonies, as well as a delightful rose garden. Overlook Park is at the very base of NoPo, offering great views of the city across the river and a dog-friendly area. Our family’s favorite is Kelly Point Park, at the northernmost point of North Portland, where the two rivers come together. This is a dog-friendly option that seems to never be overcrowded, and a nice way to get away from the hustle and bustle without ever technically leaving Portland proper.

Dining and Date Nights

This part of Portland is becoming more and more of a destination, and the foodie scene is exploding. Simply walking around N. Mississippi, Kenton, N. Williams, or St. John’s, you’ll encounter tons of options for good eats. Here are a few faves:

  • Tasty N Sons: Known for their amazing brunches, Tasty N Sons has lit up the N. Williams food scene since its arrival. Get there early or prepare to wait in line.
  • Vendetta: One of the N. Williams originals, this standard Portland dive bar has a generous outdoor seating area perfect for summer nights. 
  • Drunken Noodle: Located in Portsmouth, Drunken Noodle looks unassuming from the outside, but serves up some of the tastiest Thai food in the city. Prices are reasonable, to boot!
  • Poa Cafe: Maybe not a preferred choice for date nights, but more a place the whole family can enjoy, Poa offers healthy treats with a kids’ play area. They recently converted their back patio to allow for more space during the months of nicer weather. 
  • Prost: This German bar serves food of its own, but is also handily located near a food cart lot. If you opt to try Prost’s delicious food, consider the beer cheese soup!
  • The Alibi Tiki Lounge: The Alibi is more than just a bar/restaurant. It’s a Portland experience. Everybody should go to this tiki establishment at least once, For the more adventurous, consider going on a karaoke night.
  • Mississippi Pizza: The whole family can enjoy a night out at Mississippi Pizza, where you buy your dinner by the slice and can often enjoy live music. Daytime shows are also frequent, catering to a younger audience.
  • El Coyote: This St. John’s food truck is heralded by many as having the best tacos in all of Portland. Reasonably priced and delicious? Winning combo.


Additional Amenities

NoPo has plenty of local community centers for local events, including pools at Peninsula Park, Columbia, and Pier Pool. This part of Portland also hosts some of the best street fairs in the city, particularly the Mississippi Street Fair, but also offers smaller versions in St. John’s and Kenton. Even without the additional excitement of a street fair, these North Portland neighborhoods, along with bursting N. Williams, make for a pleasant stroll day or night. 

Do you live in NoPo? What do you love most? Share your feedback in the comments!

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Lee Ann moved to Portland in 2008 following an eight-year stint in Paris, France, where her eldest was born. Though she thought nowhere could compete with the City of Lights, the City of Roses immediately stole her heart. As a great place to raise kids, she loves getting out and exploring the city and the PNW with her husband and four young children. While in France, Lee Ann earned a B.A. in Journalism and a Master's in Linguistics at the American University of Paris and L'Universite de Paris - La Sorbonne, respectively, before returning stateside to become a Speech-Language Pathologist through the Portland State University graduate program. Throughout her studies, she kept one foot in the digital world, writing content for publications and creating websites for clients. After many years as a medical Speech Pathologist, she left to the field to continue freelance writing, become the owner of Portland Mom Collective (!), and to create a crafting/workshop space for PDX makers. She likes to spend whatever "me" time she can muster making soap, geocaching, jogging, sewing, and staring at the wall with no small humans talking to her. Get in touch by sending a note to leeann {at} portlandmomcollective {dot} com, or follow her on Instagram.