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- Portland’s name was chosen in a coin flip
- The coin used in the aforementioned toss-up still exists
- "Keep Portland Weird" is one of the city's slogans
- Portland is home to one of the largest urban forests in the country
- The smallest park in the world can be found in the city
- The largest independently owned bookstore in the world is here
- Portland has an ungodly amount of strip clubs
- There’s a volcano within the city limits
- Portlanders celebrate World Naked Bike Ride
- Your beloved Simpsons characters are named after streets in Portland
- It is against their law to walk down the street with your shoes untied
- Stumptown is one of Portland's many nicknames
- Portland is home to one of the country's oldest amusement parks
- Water officials in Portland once drained 38 million gallons of drinking water from one of the city's reservoirs
- You can get married in a doughnut shop in Portland
- Portland, Oregon shares a latitude with Portland, Maine
- A college in Portland has its own nuclear reactor
- It is illegal to pump your own gas in Portland
- Portland is home to the country's oldest continuously operating public garden
- There are over 10,000 rose bushes in the International Rose Test Garden
- Portland Oregon isn't called Bridgetown for nothing
- The second-largest hammered copper statue in the United States (after the Statue of Liberty) is in Portland
- 'Last Thursday' is celebrated in Portland
- Pioneer Courthouse Square is Portland's living room
- One of Portland's towns was named after a historic event involving geese
- Portland's largest arcade venue has a bar
- Portland has a museum full of peculiar things
- There's an underground tunnel in downtown Portland
- Miniature horses are quietly taking over Portland’s streets
- A non-profit community radio station in Portland, Oregon, never plays Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven"
- The city’s most iconic and weirdest resident is ‘The Unipiper’
- Portland has a thing for water fountains
- The cherries that sit atop your ice cream sundae were developed in Portland
- There are trees in Portland that were marked with plaque
- You can find a bike lane in the middle of the street in Portland
- Portland has the largest open-air crafts market in continuous operation in the US
- Buying a joint in Portland is legal
- There’s an ice cream shop that sells ‘Bone Marrow’ ice cream
- You can visit a Witches' Castle in Portland
- The city hosts a soapbox derby for adults
Portland, Oregon, also known as the City of Roses, is a haven for peculiar stuff.
From the origin of its name to a minor detail about them, you’re bound to come across some truly odd information. And we guarantee that some of it will make your jaw drop.
Read on to see what we mean!
1. Portland’s name was chosen in a coin flip
Unable to settle on a name between two New England towns, the name Portland was chosen after a toss-up. As it was, the city was just a coin flip away from becoming called Boston, Oregon.
The game of chance, according to an early account, was between the city’s founders, Misters Lovejoy and Pettygrove. They proposed the names Boston and Portland, respectively.
2. The coin used in the aforementioned toss-up still exists
The penny used in the coin toss we just mentioned remains the same. Today, the actual Portland Penny is on display at the Oregon Historical Society in downtown Portland.
3. “Keep Portland Weird” is one of the city’s slogans
Since its inception in 2003, “Keep Portland Weird” has quickly become the city’s unofficial motto. It was inspired by the slogan “Keep Austin Weird,” which was created in the Texas capital to promote local businesses.
4. Portland is home to one of the largest urban forests in the country
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.
With over 80 miles of trails, it also provides the region with invaluable access to nature, making it a top destination in the city.
5. The smallest park in the world can be found in the city
If Forest Park is a large urban forest within Portland’s boundaries, wait until you see Mills End Park, which is located near the Willamette River downtown.
The grassy area has a diameter of 0.6 meters and a total area of 0.29 square meters, making it the world’s smallest park, according to the Guinness Book of Records.
This small park is a beloved Portland treasure, and visiting it is one of the most unusual things to do in Portland, giving visitors the expression “This is so Portland!”
6. The largest independently owned bookstore in the world is here
Located in downtown Portland, Powell’s City of Books is known as the world’s largest independent bookstore.
This massive book wonderland houses over a million books, including novels, art books, poetry, and many more. It also sells a wide range of gifts, from t-shirts and mugs to posters and notebooks.
Powell’s is also one of Oregon’s most famous landmarks.
7. Portland has an ungodly amount of strip clubs
Embracing its quirkiness, it’s no secret that the city is famous for its absurd number of strip clubs. In fact, we have the highest per capita population of any city in the country.
There’s a strip club for literally everyone – from intimate rock ‘n’ roll and gaudy clubs to blue-collar places. Vegan? There’s a spot for you too!
8. There’s a volcano within the city limits
Portland is one of the few cities in the United States that has a volcano (Mount Tabor) within its boundaries. But don’t worry, the Portland volcano is extinct and will not erupt.
Mt. Tabor in SE Portland has been turned into a park of the same name, and it has one of the best views of Portland as it offers great vantage points of the beautiful city skyline.
9. Portlanders celebrate World Naked Bike Ride
Yes, there is a law against being naked in public in Portland, but despite it, they continue to celebrate the World Naked Bike Ride every year since it was granted “tradition” status.
This event typically draws between 5,000 and 10,000 bicyclists, who use their bodies as canvases for body-paint messages in support of non-fossil-fuel-based modes of transportation. This is also to call attention to modern society’s reliance on oil.
While it is strikingly Portland, the World Naked Bike Ride takes place in other cities around the world too.
10. Your beloved Simpsons characters are named after streets in Portland
Matt Groening, a Portlander who grew up on Evergreen Terrace, borrowed the names of some Portland streets to name several of his goofy characters in The Simpsons.
Actually, Groening has never denied having Portland roots, but he has never stated that Springfield is Portland. However, while developing the show, he simply thought it would be amusing to name Simpsons characters after streets in his hometown.
11. It is against their 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. You might want to keep this in mind once you get a fresh set of kicks right out of the store.
Imagine your family’s surprise when they have to bail you out of jail for walking down the street with your shoelaces flapping around. Before the cops arrest you for such a heinous crime, you should duck into a storefront to tie your shoelaces.
12. Stumptown is one of Portland’s many nicknames
Rip City, P-Town, Bridge City, and the City of Roses are all nicknames for Oregon’s largest city. But why is Portland known as Stumptown?
In the mid-1800s, the city was rapidly expanding, and land needed to be cleared of unwanted trees so that humans could live there.
However, it turned out that it was easier to cut down the trees than to remove the stumps, so the stumps remained. Captain John C. Ainsworth, an American pioneer, observed that there were “more stumps than trees,” which led to Portland being dubbed “Stumptown.”
13. Portland is home to one of the country’s oldest amusement parks
Taking the family to Oaks Amusement Park is a long-standing Portland and Oregon tradition. This park, located in Southeast Portland’s Sellwood district, is the city’s only amusement park and has been in operation since 1905.
It has survived three major floods, including one of the worst in history, the Vanport Flood, which destroyed Oregon’s second-largest city of Vanport on Memorial Day in 1948.
14. Water officials in Portland once drained 38 million gallons of drinking water from one of the city’s reservoirs
After a teenager was caught urinating into the water supply, Portland dumped 38 million gallons (143 million liters) of water from Mount Tabor Reservoir in Southeast Portland in 2014.
A security camera captured a 19-year-old urinating through an iron fence in the reservoir, prompting city officials to flush millions of gallons of water.
This isn’t the first time Portland has done this; in 2011, the city emptied 7.5 million gallons of water from the same reservoir after a man urinated in it.
15. You can get married in a doughnut shop in Portland
Couples can get married at Voodoo Doughnuts by making a quick trip down to Portland (Old Town and Northeast Davis Street). Yes, they have legal weddings there.
Imagine you in a beautiful wedding dress as you exchange vows beneath the holy donut and pray for a blessed and hopeful marriage. It’s sweet, out of the ordinary, and completely awesome.
16. Portland, Oregon shares a latitude with Portland, Maine
Portland, Oregon has a latitude of 45:30, which is nearly the same as Portland, Maine’s latitude of 43:40. While it may seem counterintuitive, Portland in Oregon is further north than the one in Maine.
17. A college in Portland has its own nuclear reactor
Reed College in Portland has its own nuclear reactor. It’s been there since 1968, located beneath a “swimming pool” of water and consistently maintained by a team of 40 students.
The Reed College Research Reactor has been used for both research and education. While the reactor receives approximately 1,000 visitors per year (mostly students from other schools), it is not open to the public.
Reed is the world’s only liberal arts college with a nuclear reactor, by the way.
18. It is illegal to pump your own gas in Portland
Before purchasing a car In Portland, do note that it is illegal to pump your own gas. Oregon has had a ban on self-service gas since 1951, though the state relaxed restrictions for rural towns a few years ago.
Violators of this peculiar law face fines of up to $500. Additionally, Oregon and New Jersey are the only states in America where it is illegal to pump your own gas.
19. Portland is home to the country’s oldest continuously operating public garden
Situated at an impressive vantage point on the hilly west side of Portland in Washington Park is the International Rose Test Garden, the oldest continuously-running public garden in the United States.
It was founded in 1917 to preserve and test rose species thought to be endangered due to bombings in Europe during WWI. It’s one of the best gardens in Portland that you must see during your visits.
20. There are over 10,000 rose bushes in the International Rose Test Garden
The garden itself is a sumptuous visual feast. There are over 10,000 rose bushes in every color imaginable, representing hundreds of species.
Today, one of the garden’s main goals is to test out new types of roses, so expect to see some strange yet extraordinary flowers. The roses and other plantings there are tended by many volunteers.
21. Portland Oregon isn’t called Bridgetown for nothing
Portland’s location on the Willamette River near its confluence with the Columbia has resulted in a slew of bridges connecting West and East Portland.
In fact, the city is home to 12 bridges that span the Willamette River, earning it the descriptive moniker “Bridgetown.”
The St. Johns Bridge is widely regarded as Portland’s most beautiful bridge. It has stunning Gothic towers and was the first bridge to feature aviation clearance lights on its towers.
22. The second-largest hammered copper statue in the United States (after the Statue of Liberty) is in Portland
Located above the entrance of Michael Graves’ Portland Building in downtown Portland, Oregon, is Portlandia. It is a sculpture made by Raymond Kaskey which is a product of Portland’s Public Art Program.
The statue, modeled after the city seal, depicts a woman dressed in classical attire, holding a trident in her left hand, and reaching down with her right hand to greet visitors.
Portlandia is crouching at 35 feet high and would be about 50 feet tall if standing.
23. ‘Last Thursday’ is celebrated in Portland
Alberta Street in Portland comes alive on the last Thursday of every month. The street is closed to traffic, and hundreds of musicians, artists, performers, and vendors gather to perform and sell their wares.
This event, which spoofs the First Thursday art walk in the Pearl District, began in 1997 as a celebration of the arts and has since evolved into a celebration of life.
24. Pioneer Courthouse Square is Portland’s living room
Pioneer Courthouse Square, located in the heart of downtown Portland, is known as the city’s living room. It is an urban park that serves as a hub for events, community, and everything Portland.
Pioneer Courthouse Square hosts over 300 events each year that connect the city and its residents. It also services as an informal gathering space for long-term residents and visitors alike.
25. One of Portland’s towns was named after a historic event involving geese
Goose Hollow is a neighborhood located in Southwest Portland, Oregon. Curious? The town was named through early residents’ practice of letting their geese run free in the now-buried Tanner Creek Gulch and Tanner Creek Canyon.
Additional fact: the area is also home to Providence Park, the home stadium of the Portland Timbers and Portland Thorns soccer teams.
26. Portland’s largest arcade venue has a bar
Quarterworld, Portland’s largest arcade venue, is an old-school hangout with arcade games and pinball machines, plus two full bars.
They serve a creative selection of cocktails, draft beers, and a variety of delicious non-alcoholic beverages to complement their hearty burger and a massive slice of pizza.
27. Portland has a museum full of peculiar things
The eclectic shop/museum known as the Freakybuttrue Peculiarium exemplifies the city’s unofficial slogan, “Keep Portland Weird.” Nob Hill’s Peculiarium is a bizarre combination of an oddity museum, an art gallery, and a gift shop.
Take the tour, and you’ll find a genuine vampire hunting kit, a horrifying haunted doll house, a “buried alive” simulator, and the chance to eat insects among the friendly faces.
It’s a great way to spend the afternoon with lovers of the strange and unusual.
28. There’s an underground tunnel in downtown Portland
A tour of the “Shanghai Tunnels,” which lie beneath Old Town’s streets, is one of Portland’s most popular tourist attractions.
It is a network of passageways underneath that connects the basements of many hotels and taverns to the Willamette River’s waterfront.
Its original purpose was to transport goods to the river’s docks, but it was allegedly used later to kidnap men and women and sell them into the sex trade.
However, historians have stated that while the tunnels exist and shanghaiing was occasionally practiced in Portland and elsewhere, there is no evidence that the tunnels were used for this purpose.
29. Miniature horses are quietly taking over Portland’s streets
Tiny toy horses are silently invading the streets of Portland through the Horse Project that was started by one dude in 2009. People tethered the horses to sidewalk rings that were once used to secure real horses and buggies in the early 1900s.
Today, people leave these horses to draw attention to the beautiful and strange surroundings, as well as to preserve the rings that began to disappear as urban development took hold.
30. A non-profit community radio station in Portland, Oregon, never plays Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”
Robert Plant, the English rock band Led Zeppelin’s lead singer and lyricist from 1968 to 1980, once donated $10,000 to KBOO, a non-profit community radio station in Portland, Oregon, to never play the band’s song “Stairway to Heaven” again.
Plant was driving to a show in Lincoln City when he came across the station and learned that KBOO would promise never to play the song again in exchange for a $10,000 donation, so he decided to pledge his money.
While most singers’ egos would take a hit if the radio station they were listening to begged listeners to pay them to stop playing their most famous song, Plant isn’t wired that way.
31. The city’s most iconic and weirdest resident is ‘The Unipiper’
The Unipiper is well-known for being one of the city’s most iconic and eccentric residents.
Brian Kidd, a unicyclist, street performer, bagpiper, and internet celebrity, was dubbed the Unipiper “shortly before he moved to Portland”. But he invented it in Portland, where he was influenced by the city’s tolerance for quirky characters.
He dresses up as the iconic villain Darth Vader and rides around local neighborhoods playing his on-fire bagpipes. He can also be seen dressed as other mainstream media figures, such as Game of Thrones and Pokémon characters.
32. Portland has a thing for water fountains
Water fountains aren’t typically considered city landmarks, but Portland’s Benson Bubblers, which are part-public-art and part-public-service, are among the city’s most unique and historic attractions.
The Benson Bubblers are yet another feature that sets Portland apart from other cities around the world, as the majority of Portlanders believe.
Today, there are 52 iconic drinking fountains scattered throughout downtown Portland, and that is pretty much where you will find them. In fact, new bubblers cannot be built anywhere other than downtown Portland in order to preserve the uniqueness of the existing ones.
33. The cherries that sit atop your ice cream sundae were developed in Portland
Maraschino cherries, the sugary-sweet, neon red cherries that sit atop your ice cream sundae, were created in Portland.
A professor at Oregon State University worked between 1925 and 1931 to solve the problem of cherries spoiling too quickly. He perfected the modern method of producing these candy-like fruits.
As a result of this work, Portland, Oregon, has become a hub for maraschino cherry research and development, as well as a global player in the maraschino cherry industry.
34. There are trees in Portland that were marked with plaque
There are interesting trees to be found everywhere in Portland. However, the most interesting and notable trees in the area are referred to as “Heritage Trees.”
The City Council has officially recognized them for their unique size, age, and historical, or horticultural significance. Once approved by the Council, Heritage Trees will be marked with a small plaque and listed in the Heritage Tree Database.
Since the program’s inception in 1994, more than 300 trees have been added to the database, with more being added each year.
35. You can find a bike lane in the middle of the street in Portland
Nothing compares to what the Portland Bureau of Transportation has accomplished at the offset intersection of SE Stark and 41st. PBOT decided to build bike lanes in the middle of the street at this location.
They even added some plastic wands and strong buffer striping for extra safety.
36. Portland has the largest open-air crafts market in continuous operation in the US
Portland Saturday Market, founded in 1974, is the largest outdoor arts and crafts market in continuous operation in the United States. It takes place every Saturday and Sunday from March 1 to December 24 in Tom McCall Waterfront Park beneath Burnside Bridge.
There you’ll find an array of quality arts and crafts, baked goods to take home, and 26 food booths in their International Food Court – all filled with the colors and flavors of more than 300 artisans of all ages.
37. Buying a joint in Portland is legal
Recreational marijuana use in a private residence is legal in Oregon if you are over the age of 21. As a result, there are numerous dispensaries throughout Portland where you can walk in, talk to an expert about strains, and then walk out with a joint.
Just don’t try to smoke in public or bring it with you across the border.
38. There’s an ice cream shop that sells ‘Bone Marrow’ ice cream
There are numerous ice cream shops in Portland that offer unique flavor combinations that combine sweet and salty. But Salt & Straw was the first to think outside the box.
They sell a product called ‘Bone Marrow & Bourbon Smoked Cherries,’ which literally contains bone marrow and bourbon-smoked cherries. It actually sounds good given that bone marrow is mostly made of fat – a natural fit in ice cream, which is one of the fattiest foods.
39. You can visit a Witches’ Castle in Portland
The Witches’ Castle, located on the Lower Macleay Trail, is a historical landmark in Portland. Back then, the Witches’ Castle was a stone structure built in the 1930s as a park ranger station and hiker restroom and was later heavily damaged.
Now, the structure is covered in moss and graffiti and is a popular weekend party spot for teens.
Don’t worry, it has nothing to do with actual witches. It’s just a creepy old structure on a really beautiful hike in Portland’s Forest Park.
40. The city hosts a soapbox derby for adults
Since 1997, Portlanders have been building coaster cars powered solely by gravity to race down a hill at Mt. Tabor Park every year. It’s called the Adult Soapbox Derby, and it’s open to adults only.
Each of them creates their own “cars,” which range from amusing to extremely innovative and everything in between. The event is enjoyable for the entire family, and thousands of people attend to see the costumed teams compete for awards.
Nothing beats Portland when it comes to complete quirkiness. Let us know your favorite fun fact and we’ll bring you more weird things in the future!