“Keep Portland Weird” isn’t just a fun saying you see on Portlander’s bumper stickers. It’s the motto locals live by. So when you visit, let Portland set your weird side free.
Here are 10 unusual ways to discover the weirdness you’ve heard so much about.
This attraction is a combination of prank shop, oddities museum and art gallery. The front part of the building sells weird objectsand funny gag toys. And then for $5, unless you’re a dog then you get in free, you can walk around the museum/gallery part to see local artist’s pieces as well as a Bigfoot statue, collection of Sci-Fi items, unique movie props, an alien autopsy and a buried alive stimulator.
When you think of touring a local museum, you probably think art and history. Well in Portland, one of their art and history museums is a downtown showroom showcasing decade’s worth of the household suction. Three hundred vacuums of various brands fill a small wing inside Stark’s vacuum store. It’s not your average museum—but Portland doesn’t do average. And admission is free, so hey, why not?
3. Mill Ends Park
Speaking of small spaces, Mill Ends Park is the smallest park in the world, measuring only 2 ft. wide. It started out as a hole in a median where a light pole was supposed to go but never did. Weeds starting taking over so a local, who could see it from his office, decided to plant flowers there. It became an official city park in 1976 on St. Patrick’s Day. The park is a festivities site on St. Patty’s Day, has been home to a small pool and diving board for butterflies and yes, is also a colony for leprechauns.
Back in the 1800s and early 1900s, Portland was a dangerous port. It even earned the nickname “Forbidden City of the West.” In the Portland Underground, or Shanghai Tunnels, there were bar and hotel basements and tunnels used for reasonable things, like keeping ship supplies out of the rain, as well as opium dens and prohibition drinking hideouts. Legend has it that 3,000 men and women were “shanghaied” and sold into sea slavery, hence its name, but most believe those stories never happened. But, take a tour, hear the stories and decide for yourself.
5. Rimsky-Korsakoffee House
Portland is full of coffeehouses, but none like this one. Rimsky-Korsakoffee House is inside an old Victorian house in Southeast Portland. The coffee is coffee, but the desserts are heavenly—even though the slightly disturbing ghostly atmosphere and decorations are far from heavenly.It’s the desserts and local musicians who play here that have made this a unique point of interest.
6. The Witch’s Castle
This site started out as a family cabin; a cabin where a man was killed. Portland Parks and Recreation then owned and usedit as a park ranger station and a restroom for hikers. For decades it was abandoned, until in the 1980s when high school students discovered it, threw parties there and named it “The Witch’s Castle.” Although this stone structure has nothing to do with witches, the ruins residing in strange Forest Park live to tell haunted tales of its past. And it’s an easy, enjoyable half or three-quarter mile hike to get to it (depending on where you come from).
7. The Paul Bunyan Statue
Paul Bunyan is a giant, 31-foot-tall standing roadside guard made of steel and cement. He’s been there since 1959. While the statue itself is an odd roadside attraction, what’s even weirder is why someone put him there. This lumberjack from American folklore wasn’t even from Portland…or Oregon. Nonetheless, it makes for a quirky roadtrip photo.
This old Portland school didn’t make our list because the building itself is different. Rather, it’s what happens here every fall. Since the mid-90s, every September—from an hour before sunset until 30 minutes after sunset—thousands of small birds migrating south end up here. They gather together in the air, execute aerial maneuvers and then end the show swarming into the school’s chimney to roost. Hundreds gather each fall to watch, so join the bird-watching crowd and see what all the weird fuss is about.
This three-week span, which happens every June and sometimes goes into early July, is nothing but a bunch of cyclists participating in bike-related events. It’s been happening since 2002, and has included more than 100 events nearly every summer. Some of the past favored and offbeat events include Unicycle Polo, Zoobomb and the World Naked Bike Ride.
Mario Kart is for kids. Real-life racing down a Portland volcano is for adults. Every August, teams of grownups, who need to let their inner kid out, build cars to race down the curves and straightaways of Mt. Tabor. While locals compete, traveling out-of-towners should definitely pack a picnic and hang out along the course watching and laughing at every adult flying by in a Batmobile or Flintstone car. It’s fun and free entertainment for kids and adults you can’t find anywhere else.
Where to Stay in Portland
Once thing normal about Portland is its array of nice hotels. So after a day of keeping it weird, rest up for another day of unusual adventuring at one of these Portland hotels.
1441 NE 2nd Ave.
For the highest standard of comfort, conveniently right next to the airport, choose the Crowne Plaza Portland Downtown. Enjoy luxury amenities, an intimate bar and guest bikes you can take out to enjoy the Pacific Northwest like many locals do.
1510 SW Harbor Way
This is the perfect spot for a relaxing couples weekend.The Kimpton RiverPlace Hotel offers luxury, comfort, high-quality service and a scenic location as it sits downtown right on the river.
303 SW 12th Ave.
If rock ‘n’ roll is your passion, the Crysal Hotel is your kind of setting.The hotel is right across the street from the legendary McMenamins Crystal Ballroom music venue, and each room features its own musical theme, inspired by a song or performance from the Crystal Ballroom’s past.