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20 Fun Facts About Portland, Oregon

Before spending your weekend on a vacation or even relocating to the City of Roses, you might want to consider learning a thing or two about the city. 

Here are 20 fun facts you’ll learn about Portland!

1. Portland’s name was decided upon by a coin toss.

Portland's name was decided upon by a coin toss

In 1842, the city was on the verge of being called Boston, Oregon. 

According to an early account, the game of chance was between the city’s founders, Misters Lovejoy and Pettygrove, who proposed the names Boston and Portland, respectively. 

Unable to decide between their respective hometowns (Lovejoy is from Boston, while Pettygrove is from Portland, Maine), they agreed to let a coin flip decide who would have the honor of naming the settlement. 

After a best-of-three series, the coin clearly swung in Pettygrove’s favor. 

The original Portland Penny from this history is now on display at the Oregon Historical Society in downtown Portland.

2. The city has the world’s smallest city park.

The city has the world's smallest city park

Originally an empty lamppost cavity, the 24in (61cm) ring of vegetation that makes up Mill Ends Park in Downtown Portland is the world’s smallest city park, a title it was given in 1971 and continues to hold today. 

Dick Fagan, a journalist and veteran of the war, was instrumental in establishing the park in 1948. On St. Patrick’s Day 1976, when Paddy’s Day festivities took place, it was declared a city park.

The small park has been expanded over time to include statues, a miniature Ferris wheel, a butterfly swimming pool, and even one or two flying saucers. 

A border made of clover leaves surrounds the area to safeguard the family of leprechauns that is said to live there. Great places to jog and stay in shape too, by the way.

3. Portland has the most strip clubs per capita of any city in the United States.

Portland has the most strip clubs per capita of any city in the United States

In the City of Roses, a welcoming neighborhood strip joint is definitely a thing. While other cities might have more clubs, there are, in fact, at least 54 strip joints in Portland. 

This gives away that the city’s 650,000 residents live so close to strip clubs that you can never be more than a short walk from a daytime or nighttime party. 

By integrating them into the city’s culture, Portlanders make the most of this sizable group of clubs. Portland’s strip clubs are renowned nightlife hotspots and historical landmarks, drawing tourists who enjoy fine cuisine.

4. Portland is home to the world’s largest independently owned bookstore.

Portland is home to the world's largest independently owned bookstore

If you’re a book lover, you may want to contact a moving company today so you can access the best literary paradise in the country! 

Powell’s City of Books, located in the Pearl District in Portland, is the headquarters of Powell’s Books, a local chain of bookstores dubbed the world’s largest independently owned bookstore. 

The bookstore, which was founded in 1971, is a local institution and has been named one of the top ten bookstores in the country.

Powell’s Books spans an entire city block and features ten color-coded rooms housing over four million books in new, used, rare, and out-of-print editions, as well as a one-of-a-kind rare book room. Every day, the bookstore purchases over 3,000 used books.

5. Portland is America’s most bike-friendly city.

Portland is America's most bike-friendly city

Portland was named a “platinum” bicycle-friendly community by the League of American Bicyclists, its highest rating, and was also named the #1 bike-friendly city by Bicycling magazine for several years in a row.

According to the Portland Bureau of Transportation, 6.3% of Portland commuters bike in 2017. This is the highest percentage of bike commuters for a large city in the US, implying that approximately 22,647 Portlanders choose to bike to work. 

Portland currently has 385 miles of bikeways in operation, with another 95 miles under construction. Over thirty-one intersections in the city have bicycle-specific traffic signals, which improve safety by reducing conflicts and unpredictability.

With all that said, you can still purchase a new vehicle if you want, especially if you have a small family. Nonetheless, the rest of the errands you can do on foot or with your bike.

6. The city has the country’s largest forested park within its limits.

The city has the country's largest forested park within its limits

If you think Mills End Park is small for a park, wait until you see Forest Park, just northwest of downtown. 

Forest Park, which stretches for more than 13 kilometers and offers breathtaking views of the Willamette River, is one of the largest urban forest reserves in the United States and the largest within city limits.

The park is a popular hiking destination, with over 70 miles of interconnected trails and lanes, as well as the 30-mile-long Wildwood Trail. It also supports over 100 mammal species and over 100 bird species. 

The park, which is blanketed in Douglas fir, is home to hundreds of species of flowers and shrubs, including trillium and sword fern.

7. Portland lies on top of a dormant volcanic field.

Portland lies on top of a dormant volcanic field

Portland is built on top of the Boring Lava Field, a dormant volcanic field. The volcanic field is made up of at least 32 to 50 small basaltic shield volcanoes and cinder cones, with a large concentration of vents located northwest of Boring, Oregon.

Talking about that, the field is named after Boring, which is located 12 miles southeast of downtown Portland. 

For reference, there isn’t much going on in Boring, but there are plenty of adventures to be had in Mount Tabor Park, which it sits on the edge of.

8. The city has a dormant volcano.

The city has a dormant volcano

Portland is one of only two cities in the United States with a dormant volcano. Mount Tabor, located deep in SE Portland, is an actual volcano, although a resting one. 

Well, technically, the extinct volcano is a dormant cinder cone of the Boring Lava Field. The lava field has been extinct for more than 300,000 years.

Mount Tabor is now a popular spot for picnics, hikes, and watching the sun rise and set in Portland. It even has a playground for children and an outdoor amphitheater.

9. Miniature horses can be found all over Portland.

Miniature horses can be found all over Portland

People leave miniature toy horses fastened to metal rings on the city’s sidewalks as part of the “Portland Horse Project.” The said metal rings were utilized in the early 1900s to secure equine carts. 

The practice of preserving and maintaining rings across the city of Portland is still in place today, which is why the project was created.

Its primary goal is to serve as a catalyst for people to recognize the beauty in the city’s details. There is a booming Facebook page where anyone can post their own horse pictures and share stories to continue building community and encouraging participation.

10. It is against the law to walk down the street with your shoes untied.

It is against the law to walk down the street with your shoes untied

Portland is also a strong supporter of personal safety, even making it illegal to walk down the street with one’s shoelaces untied.

Fortunately, this law does not appear to extend beyond the street, so you may duck into a storefront or stop in the park to tie your shoes and avoid trouble.

11. Portland is also called Stumptown.

Portland is also called Stumptown

Portland’s name was given to it in the traditional way: during the mid-1800s, when the city was expanding quickly, the land had to be cleared of obtrusive trees so people could live there. 

However, it turned out that it was simpler to cut down the trees than to remove the stumps, so they remained. Captain John C. Ainsworth, an American explorer, observed that there were “more stumps than trees,” which led to the nickname “Stumptown” for Portland.

However, Portland has many other nicknames besides Stumptown. Due to the explosion of high-tech businesses moving into the metro area, Portland has more recently earned the moniker Silicon Forest. 

The largest city in Oregon is also known as P-Town and Rip City.

12. Portland adopted Austin’s motto as its own.

Portland adopted Austin's motto as its own

Believe it or not, the idea behind “Keep Portland Weird” actually originated in Austin, Texas, where the phrase “Keep Austin Weird” was used to promote local businesses.

Terry Currier, the owner of Music Millennium, introduced the catchphrase to Portland after becoming aware of the movement in Austin, Texas. He even trademarked the term in 2007. 

By the end of the year, he had sold more than 10,000 bumper stickers. Portland’s official slogan, however, is “The City That Works,” which was adopted by the city council in 1995.

13. Portland hosts the World Naked Bike Ride every year.

Portland hosts the World Naked Bike Ride every year

Every June, as part of a global protest against dependence on oil, thousands of cyclists ride commandos through the streets of Portland as part of the World Naked Bike Ride.

The ride’s leaders only disclose the starting location in advance; the route is kept secret. Wherever the ride starts, participants strip off their clothes and paint their bodies, decorating them with a variety of designs. 

Then, thousands of naked bikers took to the streets, riding commandos through streets that Portland police officers (who were dressed in full uniform) had blocked off to cars.

And who knows, the fun event might even push you to invest in a new bicycle!

14. Portland is ‘Beervana’.

Portland is ‘Beervana’

The city continues to lead the brewing revolution. No other city in the world has as many breweries (52) as Portland. With 69 breweries in the greater metro area, it is also America’s largest craft brewing market.

According to a 2019 study, stated in an article by Oregon Live, Portland ranks eighth in the country in terms of the number of breweries per capita, with nine for every 50,000 residents.

Portland Beer Week, America’s first organic beer festival, The Oregon Brewers Festival, and other events make sure that the city’s beer culture is strong all year long.

15. Downtown Portland has an underground tunnel.

Downtown Portland has an underground tunnel

A network of 150-year-old tunnels that run beneath Portland’s downtown connects the city’s oldest buildings’ basements to the Willamette River and Chinatown. 

These tunnels, known as the Shanghai Tunnels, were constructed by Chinese laborers when Chinatown served as the commercial hub.

Some claim that long ago, the tunnels were also utilized as covert entrances to underground brothels, opium dens, and gambling dens, as well as makeshift jails for kidnapped men and women.

The Shanghai Tunnels are primarily utilized as a tourist destination today. However, because many of the tunnels have collapsed over time, are dangerous, or lead nowhere, they shouldn’t be explored on your own.

16. Portland made it to the top 10 greenest cities in America.

Portland made it to the top 10 greenest cities in America

According to a 2019 Wallethub report, Portland is the ninth greenest city in the United States.

WalletHub compared the 100 largest U.S. cities across 28 key indicators of environmental friendliness and sustainability to determine which cities promote a “green” lifestyle. And Portland clearly took ninth place out of the aforementioned number of cities in America.

Furthermore, Portland recently enacted a green tax that levies a tax on large corporations and uses the proceeds to fund energy-efficient initiatives in the city.

17. The city is home to the oldest public rose garden in the United States.

The city is home to the oldest public rose garden in the United States

Because of its ideal climate for growing roses, Portland is referred to as the “City of Roses.” 

The oldest official continuously run public rose test garden in the United States is located in Portland’s Washington Park and is known as the Portland International Rose Test Garden.

It is not surprising that this garden is a well-known landmark in the City of Roses. The garden has more than 10,000 roses and provides breathtaking views of Mount Hood and the city. 

You can enjoy it for free, which is another fantastic feature of the location. It’s a truly beautiful location that deserves a high-quality photograph for memory.

18. Portland brings out ‘The Simpsons’ vibe.

Portland brings out ‘The Simpsons’ vibe

The Simpsons creator, Matt Groening, was raised in Portland, Oregon, on a street called Evergreen Terrace. When naming some of his cast of absurd characters for The Simpsons, he took titles from notable Portland landmarks.

You can, therefore, take a tour of The Simpsons Landmark in Portland the next time you visit. Start at Lincoln High School to see a drawing of Bart Simpson wearing his trademark T-shirt and shorts on the ground. 

Groening placed the words “Class of 1972” there to commemorate his graduation from Lincoln High.

19. It’s home to the United States’ second-largest copper statue.

It’s home to the United States’ second-largest copper statue

Portlandia stands 36 feet tall and is the second largest copper repoussé statue in the United States after the Statue of Liberty. It’s located in downtown Portland, above the entrance to Michael Graves’ Portland Building.

If standing, this woman statue would be about 50 feet (15 meters) tall. The statue is elevated above street level and faces a narrow, tree-lined, bus-only street. 

Portlandia is an example of the city’s Public Art Program, which collaborates with the public and private sectors to integrate art into communities that span disciplines, media, and thought.

20. There’s no sales tax in Portland.

There’s no sales tax in Portland

In Portland, and more specifically in the state of Oregon, you can shop until you drop. Well, the state has no state sales tax, which is a great incentive for many to splurge.

You’ll save a lot of money buying big-ticket items like a new cell phone or laptop, or even a nice dinner because there’s no sales tax in the city on top of already friendly prices. 

Visit one of Portland’s outlet malls to make your shopping experience even more guilt-free!

Want to find more fun facts about the city? Check out the rest of our articles!

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