Portland comes by its eclectic reputation honestly. Sure, we celebrate normal stuff like roses and beer, but we also throw in regular events dedicated to quiet music, strange films and riding bikes while wearing crazy costumes — or nothing at all. From quirky to downright bizarre, here are some of our favorite “Keep Portland Weird” events.
Year-Round Weird Events
Weird Karaoke Nights
In addition to standard karaoke bars, Portland has several unusual singalong offerings: Karaoke from Hell (which happens at multiple bars around Portland, including Dante’s and Spare Room) lets you sing with a live band. In Southeast Portland, Baby Ketten Klub features custom mixes of impossible-to-find songs (and was called “America’s greatest karaoke night” by The New York Times.)
And while karaoke is great, drummers and strummers at heart will love Rock Band Karaoke at Ground Kontrol. This regular gathering of Rock Band video game players offers an astounding selection of more than 3,500 songs, along with professional-level lighting and sound systems. Organized like classic karaoke, musicians can take the stage to be background performers on any song (any level of experience is welcome).
Last Thursdays on Alberta
Closing off 15 blocks of Northeast Alberta Street to cars during summer months, Last Thursday on Alberta has grown fantastically since it started more than 20 years ago. With artists, performers and craftspeople filling the streets and sidewalks, Last Thursday is a great place to get a purely Portland souvenir. And with thousands of people in attendance, it’s also a great place to take in the local flavors.
Weird Events by Month
Filmed by Bike Festival
Showing just how bike-crazy Portland is, the Filmed by Bike festival at Northeast Portland’s historic Hollywood Theatre features bike-themed short movies (each no longer than eight minutes) made by independent filmmakers from around the world.
UFO Festival in McMinnville
Thousands of earthlings flock to McMinnville, a quiet Willamette Valley town located an hour southwest of Portland, every May to attend the city’s famous UFO Festival. Second in popularity only to the UFO festival in Roswell, New Mexico, Oregon’s annual celebration features three full days of parades, costume contests, expert speakers, dance parties, live music and family-friendly fun.
Every summer since 2002, local cyclists have crammed the calendar with hundreds of bike-related events over multiple weeks. The Pedalpalooza roster includes everything from Portland’s iconic World Naked Bike Ride (see below) to the Flamingo Ride (where people dress up themselves and their bikes as — you guessed it — flamingos).
World Naked Bike Ride
Wearing nothing but helmets and smiles (and maybe some body paint and fairy wings), thousands of bicyclists take to Portland streets every summer to protest oil dependency. Portland’s edition of the World Naked Bike Ride is the largest on the planet, but it’s not as serious as it sounds — the nighttime ride snakes all over the city with crowds cheering on the buck-naked bikers.
PDX Adult Soapbox Derby
Every August since 1997, the PDX Adult Soapbox Derby has seen select teams of grown-up kids piloting homemade soapbox derby cars down Southeast Portland’s Mt. Tabor Park. Vehicles have included miniature A-Team vans, Batmobiles and the always popular Flintstones-mobile. Crowds line the track with picnics and bring-your-own beer and wine, cheering on the daring speedsters.
Every year in December, Santa Claus comes to town. A mob of Santas, actually. This annual pub crawl takes over Portland with hundreds of jolly St. Nicks making the rounds to local bars, spreading holiday cheer over holiday beers.
Every May, thousands of visitors flock to the city’s famous UFO Festival, featuring four days of parades, costume contests, expert speakers
Every year, Pedalpalooza brings over four weeks of biking fun with special rides and events throughout Portland. With over 100 different events (most organized by individuals), bikers of all persuasions are likely to find many events of interest. Nearly all events are free.
GeekCraft Expo is a curated craft market specializing in handmade, “geek”-themed crafts of all kinds; clothing, accessories, toys, home decoration, furniture, art . . . if it’s geeky and made by hand, it can be found at a GeekCraft Expo. Cosplay is highly encouraged and admission is free (you just need to pre-register).
This boisterous street fair attracts independent artists, performers, local bands, troupes of acrobats, buskers, makers and more to celebrate their art on Northeast Albera Street. Held year-round, the event is biggest from June through August, when the street is closed to traffic during the festivities from 15th Avenue to 30th Avenue.
Every June, thousands of cyclists cruise commando through Portland streets as part of the World Naked Bike Ride.
The Portland Zine Symposium is an organization that hosts, among other events, a yearly free conference and zine social exploring facets of independent publishing and DIY culture. This event has been held in Portland, Oregon every summer since 2001 and hosts over 150 tablers from around the world each year, as well as many free…
Oregon Northwest Merfest is a festival for the entire family that brings awareness to conservation with a fun “under the sea” theme. Join Oregon Mermaids for a day of mermaids, pirates, sea-themed entertainers, puppet shows and ocean-themed yoga. Oregon Mermaids impart their love of the briny deep, its wildlife, the ocean beaches and conservation information…
The PDX Adult Soapbox Derby at Mt. Tabor Park pits grown-up kids against each other every August in pursuit of speed and laughs.
For lovers of the strange and unusual, enjoy Portland’s Oddities and Curiosities Expo. This annual event features local and national vendors with items such as: TaxidermyWet and dry preserved specimensAntiquesJewelry made from bones, skulls and insectsOriginal artworkSkulls and bonesCuriosities, and all around creepy, strange and bizarre itemsThere will be sideshow performances and live human suspension…
This annual race series consists of paddlers piloting a gaggle of gigantic gourds through a water course.
OryCon is Oregon’s premier, fan-run, annual science fiction/fantasy convention held in Portland since 1979. OryCon is a 100% volunteer-based production of Oregon Science Fiction Conventions, Inc. (OSFCI), which is a non-profit, tax-exempt 501(c)3 corporation.