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12 Must-Have Portland iPhone Apps

Whether you live in Portland or are planning a visit, you’ll be pleased to know that Portlanders are app-happy. While there are a lot of apps actually made in Portland, this is a list of apps that are actually useful here in town. So here are 12 apps to live by in PDX.

1. CartCompass PDX

There are a lot of food cart apps out there, but most of them aren’t local so they’ll include 10-20 Portland carts. In a city with over 200 carts, that doesn’t cut it, so Cart Compass is the best I’ve found. You can navigate by cart pod (eg. Good Food Here, D Street Noshery, Cartopia etc) and also just browse the map. Cart Compass PDX Free

2. Google Maps

You might be thinking “duh”, but many visitors (and newcomers) to Portland overlook the ‘Transit’ button on the standard Google Maps app. This option is actually useful in Portland. Just type in ‘Current Location’ and wherever you’re headed, and then press the clock icon to see all the times and methods of transportation (eg. bus, MAX, streetcar) to wherever you’re headed. If you’ll be using your Google Map a lot, remember to use the “drop a pin” feature to bookmark your hotel or to drop a pin at the parking lot if you’re hiking etc (then you just have to type in ‘Current Location’ to “Hotel” to return). Tip: Google Transit uses the scheduled times, for up to the minute status of the bus, MAX, or streetcar use the following app (PDX Bus). Google Maps Free

3. PDX Bus

If you’re going to be in the city for a bit and want to see what time your bus is actually going to arrive (versus the scheduled arrival time), download the free PDX Bus app. You can browse all routes for a stop or just type in the stop you’re currently at and see that a bus is due in “3 mins” or “Due now”. PDX Bus Free

4. Cocktail Compass

Need a drink at a discount? Portland Mercury’s Cocktail Compass app lets you search by nearest, neighborhood, happy hour, wifi etc. You can sort by distance and see how long you have until happy hour ends, and with Mercury Staff picks highlighted in yellow, you’ll also have a few hints on some better options. Cocktail Compass Free

5. Yelp

Unlike some cities, Portlanders are avid Yelp users and reviews are generally spot on. You can be fairly confident in star rating, just remember to look at the # of reviews (ie. 6 reviews versus 146). It’s hard to get bad food in Portland, but with so many excellent options, 3.5 Yelp stars is usually a good minimum. Tip: sometimes food carts don’t have a lot reviews so take a few chances, you’ll probably find something tasty. Yelp Free

6. Ride the City

If you’ll be biking around town and want more exact directions than following Google Maps (seriously iPhone and Google, why don’t we have bike directions for the iPhone?) you should check out Ride the City. While Portland is fairly well marked with green bike route signs, this app will lead you to our splendid bike boulevards. Ride the City also works in 35 other cities around the world from Paris to Sydney to Vancouver, BC. While this app could use a few minor usability improvements, my favorite thing about RIde the City is the option between Safer, Safe, and Direct. If you’re in an unfamiliar part of town or it’s late or raining, Safer is always a good option, but if it’s a summer day and you have somewhere to be on the other side of the city, it’s great to have a ‘Direct’ no-brainer option. Tip: bike routes and construction are always a variable with any map, so keep that in mind. Ride the City $2.99

7. Zipcar

If you’re going to be carless in Portland, Zipcar is a great way to take a day trip or overnight trip to the coast or hiking in the Gorge or Mt Hood area, without dealing with the hassle of picking up a rental car. With cars scattered all across the city, you’ll probably find one within walking distance. Also, you can honk the horn with the app. Just saying… Zipcar Free

8. Public Art PDX

Portland is full of public art from fountains to murals to statues, this app identifies over 400 works of art around town. You can use the map to view all the art, filter by type, or search for something specific. The app also shows a picture and a bit of history on each piece. Great for identifying fountains and finding statues to take pictures with. Public Art PDX Free

9. Foursquare

Even if you’re not wanting to record or broadcast your outings as a Foursquare user, you can still use the app’s “Explore” feature to see what places or events are trending in Portland right now. Example: a concert at The Crystal Ballroom, Voodoo Doughnuts (of course), the Farmers Market, Screen Door etc. Foursquare Free

10. Walking Tours from City Maps & Walks

If you’re looking for some ideas for a DIY walking tour, this app is worth checking out. The interface is a little clunky and the free version doesn’t give you turn by turn walking directions (yep, that’s a paid feature), it’s a still good to give you some ideas and a bit of history. You can always use Google Maps walking directions or if you find a walking tour you’re set on download the full thing. For example, they have a microbrewery tour that starts at Bridgeport, tours six sights ending at Bailey’s Tap Room.
City Maps & Walks Free (lite version)

11. City of Portland Citizen Reports

So you probably won’t need this one on your visit, but it’s kind of a cool app for locals. From the city where the mayor follows you on Twitter and you get a notification alert that your friend MayorSamAdams has joined Instagram (yeah, he also makes cameo appearances on Portlandia), you can expect to find the City of Portland Citizen Report app. Portlanders can use it to report graffiti, park maintenance, plugged storm drains etc. For the more passive aggressive among us, you can report illegally parked vehicles. Consider that next time you piss off the neighbors. City of Portland Citizen Reports Free (in some cases, karma)

12. Portland Art Museum

If the Portland Art Museum is on your itinerary, you might give their app a try. It’s complete with maps and description of their permanent collections. Also good for learning about new exhibits and events. Portland Art Museum Free

Did I miss any? What’s your favorite Portland app?