In Portland, being dubbed “weird” is never an insult. Locals delight in enjoying the pleasantly unexpected, whether it be watching adults zoom down an extinct volcano in soapbox derby cars, joining in on one of the world’s largest naked bike rides, or crafting deliciously strange new types of doughnuts. Do as locals do and embrace the city’s quirky vibes using our guides the Portland’s weird culture, then check out our events calendar to find even more unique things to do on your next trip to The Rose City.
Know Before You Go
To slow the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant, effective Aug. 27, a statewide mask mandate is in place. Oregonians and visitors ages 5 and up are required to wear face coverings in all public indoor settings, as well as crowded outdoor public spaces where physical distancing is not possible, regardless of vaccination status. This rule does not apply to individuals actively eating or drinking.
Additionally, some event organizers and venues may require proof of vaccination, or a negative COVID test, for admission. Other events may be canceled, postponed or held virtually. Please check individual event websites for the most up-to-date information.
Nowhere is this more evident than at Voodoo Doughnut, a multiple-location Portland shop that attracts customers with one-of-a-kind treats like the Maple Bacon Bar and the strawberry-dusted, vanilla-frosted, chocolate-cake Neapolitan doughnut. Open 24 hours a day, almost every day of the year, Voodoo is a unique take on breakfast, whatever time you wake.
Wyrd Leatherworks and Meadery, set in the basement of a vintage Portland building in the Woodstock neighborhood, is a medieval fantasy-themed mead hall. Made with Bee Local honey in their subterranean space, expect to find LARPers and fans of cosplay kicking around this one-of-a-kind bar.
With several small bars and a brewery, McMenamins Kennedy School is an unusual place to get an education in hops and barley. Now home to a 57-room hotel, the decommissioned 1915 schoolhouse features a soaking pool and even allows cigar smoking (in the “Detention Bar”). And with Portland’s 70 breweries there’s no better place to work on your advanced degree in craft beer appreciation.
Serving up original recipes all over town, from the PB&J Fries at Potato Champion to the Korean tacos of Koi Fusion hundreds of local food carts also help define Portland’s inimitable DNA.
Portland’s culinary scene, home to acclaimed restaurants like Le Pigeon and Paley’s Place among many others, has garnered international attention for its dedication to local ingredients, its unbridled creativity, and its affordability.
Brew ‘N’ View – Movie Theaters That Serve Beer
Portland’s beloved “brew ‘n’ view” movie theaters run the gamut from funky to swanky, serving up all manner of drinks, food and films.
Feast Portland Food and Drink Festival
This foodie festival, held every September, has cemented Portland’s reputation as a culinary capital of the world.
Since 2003, Portland's Voodoo Doughnut has sold millions of wacky, sugary snacks — and the 24-hour downtown landmark still attracts lines at all hours of the day.
Portland’s Shanghai Tunnels
In the late 1850s, a lonely logger might get more than he bargained for at his local tavern. See Portland's historic underbelly on a Shanghai Tunnel tour.
Portland is rife with spooky lore and tales of things that go bump in the night; find them with these mysterious spots and spirited walking tours.
Though it was built by artisans in Suzhou and imported brick-by-brick from China, the Lan Su Chinese Garden is pure Portland. Taking up an entire block of the Old Town Chinatown district, the oasis has a relaxing tea house that serves authentic brews from local purveyor Tao of Tea.
Many of the blooms found in Washington Park’s International Rose Test Garden were also imported, but as a testing ground for new hybrids, the colorful park is a must-see (and -sniff) landmark.
As you wend through the West Hills, hike your way to the Witch’s Castle in the 5,172-acre Forest Park. As the largest, forested natural area within city limits in the U.S., it is home to more than 100 species of birds and dozens of kinds of mammals, it’s an unparalleled urban wildlife asylum with miles of hiking and biking trails, and epic views of Mt. Hood.
As for man-made marvels, Stumptown has more than its share. Built by skateboarders without the city’s permission, the Burnside Skatepark is a massive cement mecca to the sport located under the Burnside Bridge’s eastern side. Eventually approved by the local government, the rebellious ramps and half-pipes are community run and packed with skaters — sometimes even pros like Tony Hawk stop by, too.
The atmosphere is much less competitive at Oaks Amusement Park where the Northwest’s largest roller rink still features a nostalgic old pipe organ. Since opening in 1905, the park has provided nearly a century of nonstop kid-friendly games, rides, and memories.
And while the renovated Crystal Ballroom is not quite as old, it has an equally astounding vintage feature: a 90-year-old, mechanical “floating” dance floor that has springs under its surface, with high ceilings, a balcony, grand chandeliers, and wide floor-to-ceiling arched windows. The music comes in a bewildering range of styles—folk, jazz, a hundred flavors of indie rock, soul, singer-songwriter. The list of touring bands and locals goes on and on. This music venue is keeping dancers bouncing around and moving like nowhere else.
To understand the bumper stickers and Old Town mural calling to “Keep Portland Weird,” look no further than the weird ways that Portlanders celebrate, from the thousands-strong World Naked Bike Ride, the summer-long Pedalpalooza, to the daredevil antics of the Zoobombers and the Portland Adult Soapbox Derby. Not as weird, but no less distinctive, are the beer festivals held nearly every month (and nearly every week in the summer), which include celebrations of specific types of beer, like organic, sour, rye, and fruit.
About 40 minutes southwest of Portland, you can find McMinnville’s UFO Festival. The family-friendly UFO Festival includes three days of special events, including live music, expert speaker panels, a colorful parade, a pet alien costume contest, and more.
Every May, thousands of visitors flock to the city’s famous UFO Festival, featuring four days of parades, costume contests and expert speakers.
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 Alberta 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.
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 watercourse.
Kumoricon showcases anime and Japanese culture every November in Portland. Gaining its namesake (kumori) from the Japanese word “cloudy,” Kumoricon embodies the best parts of fandom and what it is to live in the Pacific Northwest. Stretching across generations, anime fans have gathered together for an amazing annual event. The Kumoricon family is growing with…
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