Looking for weird things to do in Portland? You won’t have to look very far, but here’s a list to get you started on exploring the strange and quirky!
To me, “weird” is a compliment. Luckily, Portland feels the same way. The city knows how to do quirky and strange and weird just fine.
Previously living in Washington, I made my way to Portland several times and it always charmed me with its hipness, grit, and weirdness.
Use this guide to explore some of the weirdest and most unique things to do in Portland.
Lone Fir Cemetery
Cemeteries are one of my favorite places to visit. Lone Fir is one of the largest and best-kept cemeteries in the city. This particular one is the final resting place for 25,000 souls.
It’s also one of Oregon’s most treasured historic places and Portland’s second-largest arboretum.
Eat a Donut (or Get Married?!) at Voodoo Doughnuts
You’ve probably heard of Voodoo doughnuts -but did you know it all started in Oregon?
They now have locations in Austin, Universal Orlando, Universal Hollywood, Denver, and Houston, and, of course, a few different ones in Oregon.
The donuts are unique, just like the city. Want bubblegum on top, what about Captain Crunch, or the get the famous-looking Voodoo Doll donut.
Open 24 hours a day.
A Museum Inside a Submarine
Contributed by Anda of Travel For A While
Something you won’t stumble upon too often is a retired submarine serving as a museum. Yes, they have that in Portland. The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry has a decommissioned sub partially submerged in the river just outside the museum. The USS Blueback was the last one of its kind, a diesel-electric submarine of the US Navy. The Blueback was retired in 1990 after 30 years of service in the US Navy.
The museum organizes 45 minutes standard tours of the submarine every day. The tour costs 7,5 USD and takes you through the narrow lanes, the tight crew quarters, peeping through the periscope, and even see the torpedo room.
Every month, on the second and fourth Sunday, you can visit the submarine on a special tour, guided by a submarine veteran. This tour lasts about 2 hours and costs 15 USD.
They even organize overnights aboard USS Blueblack, a complete package that will allow you to sleep in the crew quarters and experience first-hand life in a submarine. The package comes with dinner and breakfast, as well as admission to the museum the following morning. Still, if you’re claustrophobic, this is probably not for you. One more thing, you have to bring your pillow and sleeping bag for this one.
Portland Aerial Tram
Contributed by Constance of The Adventures of Panda Bear
Portland, Oregon is known to be particularly quirky and one of the coolest things to do in Portland is to take the Portland Aerial Tram. This tram is more of a locally known spot because it is actually also a method of transportation. It takes students, hospital employees, doctors, nurses, and patients of Oregon Health & Sciences University (OHSU) up to the university’s hospital.
The tram consists of a lower station and an upper station with trams departing as people board roughly every 5 minutes. The ride itself takes approximately 4 minutes each way making it a quick trip up the hill. The view from the upper station is amazing as you can see the entire city and in the fall, you can even get gorgeous views of the autumn leaves. Plus there is also a cafe and a patio there for you to enjoy!
Because the tram is operated by the university, it does sometimes close for holidays and specific Sundays during the year. Be sure to check their schedule ahead of time for operating hours. Tickets are available for purchase at the kiosk at the lower tram station, here you can purchase one-way and round trip fares depending upon your preference.
The First Amusement Park in the West
Contributed by Carole of Travels with Carole
Portland, Oregon, is home to the seasonal Oaks Amusement Park–the first amusement park in the West.
More than 100 years old, the park has been here since 1905 and was once called “The Coney Island of the West.” The non-profit enterprise charges no admission fee, and parking is free. Visitors just pay for the well-priced rides.
Many locals bring along a picnic to enjoy at the scenic location next to the Willamette River. Amusements include kiddie rides, miniature golf, and bumper cars, as well as a miniature train that chugs all around the park and an elaborate hand-carved 1912 Herschell-Spillman “Noah’s Ark” carousel.
But not all the rides are retro. Oregon’s most extreme roller coaster known as Adrenaline Peak also operates here, as does an updated and more exciting version of the midway classic Zero Gravity.
Open year-round, the Oaks Park roller skating rink still employs an organist who performs live on a beautiful Wurlitzer at scheduled times. This rink is the largest in America, and the last to include a live pipe organ. An odd fact is that the rink’s original floor was destroyed in a flood in 1948 and replaced by an ingenious barrel flotation system that has saved it from disaster several times more.
The World’s Smallest Park
Contributed by Charles of McCool Travel
During a Rose City visit after my Columbia River Uncruise sailing, instead of walking from Pioneer Courthouse Square to the Willamette River on the obvious Yamhill or Morrison streets, I tried Taylor Street.
Focused on crossing Naito Parkway and getting on the waterfront trail, I was suddenly distracted by something in the middle of the crosswalk. Torn between hustling to beat the crosswalk timer and checking out this obstacle, I stopped and was so glad I did.
What might be the weirdest thing to do in Portland is this two-foot diameter cement hole, called Mills End Park and recognized by Guinness World Records as “World’s Smallest Park.”
Dick Fagan, a journalist, overlooked the intersection from his office, saw an empty hole (once inhabited by a telephone pole), and conjured a fantasy world. He wrote tales about Mills End Park in his Oregon Journal column—mostly stories involving the leprechauns living there—starting in 1948 and for over 20 years. He died in 1969 and Mills End Park finally became an official Portland City Park on St Patricks Day 1976.
The current park is not the original one. Due to street construction, it was replaced and then re-dedicated on St Patricks Day 2007. When you visit, you might be lucky to see a resident’s fun addition—like a plaything for butterflies or leprechauns to enjoy.
Powell’s Book Store
Contributed by Kate of Our Escape Clause
Located on the edge of Portland’s popular Pearl District, Powell’s City of Books holds a claim to fame that will excite bibliophiles everywhere: it is the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world.
While Powell’s does have multiple locations these days, its original location is the one dubbed the City of Books and stretches across several floors and an entire city block–in other words, this is a bookstore that you can truly lose yourself in.
Founded in 1971, Powell’s has long been considered one of the coolest bookstores in the USA, and, for that reason alone, it is definitely worth visiting if you have a few days in Portland.
Book lovers, be sure to leave a little extra room in your suitcase when you head to Portland: it’s hard to escape the dizzying maze of Powell’s inventory, which is estimated to be around one million books.
With an onsite cafe, there’s no reason to hurry: grab a snack and a coffee before settling in, and you may just lose track of how much time you spend in Powell’s.
Powell’s City of Books is open seven days a week, from 9:00 AM to 10:00 PM, and is a fantastic place to visit when exploring the unique corners of Portland.
Contributed by Chrysoula of Travel PassionatePittock Mansion is one of many interesting places to visit in Portland, Oregon and it has a rich and varied history that stands the test of time.
The mansion was built by hard-working pioneers Henry and Georgiana Pittock who met and were married in Portland after working together on the Oregonian newspaper. The couple moved on from working in journalism to explore the fields of transportation, mining, real estate, banking and charitable endeavours; being extremely active members within the community.
After toiling for many years in different jobs, the Pittocks decided to treat themselves to a fancy new mansion; a French-Renaissance building designed by architect Edward Foulkes. At the time, this mansion was filled with mod-cons such as in intercom system, an Otis elevator and even a “human car-wash”-style shower which are still intriguing visitors today! The mansion grounds also feature lovely manicured gardens with fantastic views of Mount St. Helens and Mount Hood.
Unfortunately, the Pittocks didn’t have much time to enjoy their new home, as just a few years later both Georgiana (1918) and Henry (1919) passed away.
While the home was kept in the family, it did not become a popular tourist attraction until many years later, when the City of Portland decided to buy the property. The house was due to be demolished after extensive storm damage in 1962, but the City of Portland decided to turn it into an attraction as an exemplification of the hardworking men and women of Portland.
Stop and Smell the Roses
Maybe not weird, but still unique is the International Rose Test Garden.
This is the oldest official continuously operated public rose test garden in the country and it features over 10,000 rose bushes. It also offers beautiful views of the city.
This museum and video rental store (just that is “weird” enough these days!) are devoted to rare and obscure films.
You’ll find original costumes and props from movies like The Wizard of Oz and The Sound of Music.
Not weird enough? They also have the shower scene knife from Psycho.