HOW TO KEEP PORTLAND WEIRD
This is a slogan most associated with Austin, Texas (and the support of their local and small businesses) but one that can also fully apply to the gem that is Portland, Oregon.
If you just look around the city you will see why this slogan frequently inspires the debate as to the exact level of Portland’s eccentricity. Being someone who grew up in Portland I frequently tell people about the amount of weirdness and granola-ness that embodies this city.
Part of the “weirdness” of Portland is its history, charm and the things you must see and experience during your visit – it’s not only about the coffee.
POWELL'S CITY OF BOOKS
The largest independent chain of bookstores in the entire world! You’re going to need a map in order to find your way around the store – no joke. Get a true peek into the Portlander's love for books – grab a coffee from the connected café and cruise the aisles throughout the 68,000 square foot store which houses one million books throughout nine color-coded rooms.
1005 W Burnside Street, Portland, OR
OMSI (& OMSI AFTER DARK)
What is OMSI? It’s the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, and for all you science nerds it’s heaven. Placed right on the banks of the Willamette River, conveniently right next to the entrance to Tilikum Crossing (more on that later), OMSI is not just a science museum, it also happens to feature a state of the art IMAX theater.
The museum does have some pretty cool permanent exhibits but is also great at bringing in some awesome temporary exhibits including Body Worlds and the most current, Illusion: Nothing Is As It Seems. This exhibit was both fascinating and trippy to explore as it dove into our psychology and gave us a fun and new way to experience and explore sensory deception.
If you’re over 21 and happen to be in town when there is an OMSI After Dark event going on you must stop by! Varying in its theme this is a night at the museum filled with food, drink, and science fun you’ll never forget!
Basically, OMSI is the museum you can come back to over and over again and always see something new.
1945 SE Water Avenue, Portland, OR
SALT & STRAW
Another one of those famous eateries in Portland which is also known for its unique, and sometimes insane flavors, is ice cream pioneer Salt & Straw.
With their trademark “farm-to-cone” philosophy, Salt & Straw’s flavors epitomize Portland in a cone.
Created by cousins Kim and Tyler Malek they have featured some crazy combinations on their menu including, the Thanksgiving Salted Caramel Turkey and Buttered Mashed Potatoes & Gravy, Dracula’s Blood Pudding (made with actual pig’s blood), and Bone Marrow & Bourbon Smoked Cherries. The best part about it, every flavor has a story behind it!
If soft serve is more your jam, Salt & Straw also has their Wiz Bang Bar in Pine Street Market.
They always continue to innovate and at the beginning of this year are offering a new vegan menu until February 1st! For people like me who are lactose intolerant, this is a dream come true!
With 4 locations around PDX (including their froyo location) my suggestion is to go to the North Portland location on NE Alberta. Why? Because there is some pretty awesome street art around the corner that you must also see.
3345 SE Division Street, Portland, OR
2035 NE Alberta Street, Portland, OR
838 NW 23rd Avenue, Portland, OR
It’s not so much of a row as it is a neighborhood in Southeast Portland. It gets its name from the eight independent distilleries that are producing more than 30 unique spirits.
Known as the Lower East Side Industrial District you can make your way through and taste everything from vodkas, to gin, rums, to whiskeys, and even the more 'exotic' spirits including absinthe, aquavit, and flavored liqueurs.
The best way to experience Distillery Row is by getting the Distillery Passport. The passport is only $20 and waives all of your tasting fees at all locations. Keep in mind, you don’t have to visit all of the distilleries in one day! Probably best you don't do that anyway. Whatever your prerogative (you can visit up to 6 in one day) tackle the ‘row’ however you want.
The best part about the passport? It never expires (each distillery honors the passport until their location is stampled). But keep in mind if you purchase the mobile version you have one year to use it!
TIP TO NOTE:
You don’t have to purchase the passport to visit all of the distilleries, but if you go on your own and pay the tasting fee at each location you can easily rack up over $65 in individual fees.
MILL ENDS PARK (THE WORLD'S SMALLEST PARK)
Leave it to Portland, a city known for being green and its outdoor spaces, to take the title of having the ‘World’s Smallest Park’ – a title its held since 1971.
Planted by Dick Fagan, a columnist for the Oregon Journal, the park is named after his column in the paper, "Mill Ends." It’s literally located in a median along SW Naito Parkway in downtown, and is a circular park that's only 2 feet (0.61 m) across. The park was appropriately dedicated on St. Patrick's Day in 1976, as "the only leprechaun colony west of Ireland."
Legend has it one day Fagan looked out the window and spotted a leprechaun digging in a hole. He ran outside and grabbed the leprechaun - which meant that he had earned a wish. Fagan's wish was for a park of his own, but since he had not specified the size of the park in his wish, the leprechaun just gave him the hole he was digging in.
56 SW Taylor Street, Portland, OR
Held weekly on Saturdays and Sundays for the past 44 years the open-air Portland Saturday Market features over 250 booths by local Pacific Northwest artisans. The market is in the Old Town/ Chinatown neighborhood and runs from March through Christmas Eve.
Not only will you find some quality handmade goods the people watching is where you will see all sides of the city come out - and probably smell an abundance of cannabis.
2 SW Naito Parkway, Portland, OR
THE WITCH'S CASTLE IN FOREST PARK
Wait a witch? I mean kind of.
Originally built as a park ranger station and restroom for hikers, the stone structure was abandoned in the 1960s. In the 1980s local high school students found the stone ruins and named them “the Witch’s Castle”. From there the tradition of holding large keggers every other Friday night was born.
The “castle” is located in Forest Park (the largest wooded urban park in the United States), which can be found on the hills on the west side of the city, just 10 minutes by car from downtown.
What could be cuter than a bunch of goats (including baby goats) running around and jumping all over you while you stretch it out on a yoga mat? If you have been reading my Portland posts you’ve already seen my full write up about 2018’s cutest fitness craze.
This trend has taken the country by storm but when in Portland you should head down to Albany (you can wine taste in the Willamette Valley along the way) to the original at ‘No Regrets Farm’. Lainey Morse is the brains behind the operation and not only will her story charm you, she has multiple goat yoga options for a variety of interests – including Goat Yoga and Wine Tasting!
No Regrets Farm: 34196 Oakville Road N, Albany, OR
Now let me just caveat the fact that I prefer Blue Star Donuts over Voodoo, many Portlanders do, but when you are talking about the weirdness of PDX you can’t leave this place out.
Voodoo has since expanded outside of Oregon, but the OG is right downtown (conveniently located across the street from the ‘Keep Portland Weird’ mural).
From their unique flavors, to their namesake donut shaped like a voodoo doll that oozes blood red jelly, to their Cock-N-Balls donut which oozes white cream (yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like), to the fact that the employees can legally marry you and your sweetie (completely true), Voodoo ticks off all the weird boxes.
22 SW 3rd Avenue, Portland, OR
1501 NE Davis Street, Portland, OR
This place was a new discovery for me but is one of the cutest places ever! Yes, Portland is known for its coffee but why not try something new for a change – you aren’t obligated to go to Stumptown on a PDX trip.
It’s not just about providing top notch coffee and espresso (which they do), Never Coffee is also all about pushing the flavor and concept envelope as they are always trying to innovate. From their signature drink menu which features the ‘Holy Grail’ (turmeric, ginger, and orange blossom water, topped with local cherry wood smoked honey, sea salt & tellicherry pepper), to the ‘Rich Kid’ (made with rose water, saffron and cardamom), Never Coffee will take your taste buds on a wild ride.
4243 SE Belmont Street #200, Portland, OR
I mentioned Tilikum in my ‘Most Instagrammable Places in Portland’ post, but it also deserves a place here.
A unique aspect of Portland’s weirdness, it was the trailblazing, first of its kind, non-auto bridge in the entire US. Why is it called the Bridge of the People? Because it’s the only bridge that has banned motor vehicles. Leave it to Portland to fully embody their green granola-ness into one bridge.
Also known as the Old Portland Underground it's a group of passages that run underneath Portland which connect the Old Town/Chinatown neighborhood to the main business center.
Originally they were built to help transport goods from the ships that were docked on the Willamette River to the basement storage areas of various businesses - and was also a way to avoid the streetcar and light rail traffic.
Try to squeeze in a tour to the underground while you're in town. Offered by a few tour companies you can walk through the remains of the underground and its subcultures and history.
Tour address: 120 NW 3rd Avenue, Portland, OR
Have you experienced Portland's weirdness?
What unique things have you seen that make it what it is? Obviously it's hard to do everything when you are in town visiting, but if you've seen or done something super cool that I didn't include let me know in the comments! Don't forget to pin the images below for later!