7 reasons why Portland is weird


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As soon as you rock into Portland, Oregon you’ll notice a unique vibe to the city, and the local’s pride in their weird nature and eccentricities. Maybe you think weird has a bad connotation but that’s not the case for Portland – think of it more as another word for lovable.

The weird aspects about Portland are what draw people to it so often, it stands out from the crowd. There is a famous piece of street art near Old Town that says “Keep Portland Weird” and I couldn’t agree more, that weirdness has become the essence of the city.

Portland is home to the smallest park in the world, the most strip clubs per capita in the USA, is notorious for man buns, and that’s just hitting the surface. These are the other unique and random bits of Portland culture that I enjoy.

7 reasons why Portland, Oregon is weird

The Zoobomb

The Zoobomb is a long-standing weekly Portland tradition that includes tiny bikes and a big hill. Yep, every Sunday in Portland you can go and join the zoobombers, called such because they all assemble at a big hill near the Oregon Zoo and bomb down it on kids’ bikes or minibikes. Anything unusual goes, so you could probably bring a unicycle if you desired.

The Zoobomb began in 2002 and has since become a much loved activity to do on Sunday nights in the city. Everyone takes their tiny bikes on the MAX Light Rail to Washington Park and then they proceed to the top of the West Hills near the zoo where they go as fast as possible down the hill. This is repeated usually about three times throughout the night with much socializing and drinking between rides.

Zoobomb in Portland, Oregon

Photo via Flickr

There is a local landmark in Portland called the Zoobomb pile where extra tiny bikes are piled up and tied to a pole. These are given to those zoobombers who don’t have their own bike for the night’s festivities but still want to participate.

World Naked Bike Ride

You can bet with a bicycle capital like Portland there would be more than just one type of fun cycling event in the city.  The World Naked Bike Ride is next up with everything you’d imagine it to be. There are plenty of bits and pieces hanging out and good times to be had all around.

Although the concept is not new with many college campuses taking part in undie or naked runs before finals, this is a city-wide event that brings thousands of people to participate – most of them naked.

World Naked Bike Ride in Portland, Oregon

It began in 2004 as a protest against the use of cars and fossil fuels and it has only gotten bigger and better each year. This event is actually held in more than 20 countries and over 75 cities but Portland has the largest attendance out of any. If you want to experience the event make sure to be in Portland in late June!

Voodoo Doughnuts

Although not the best doughnuts you’ll find in Portland (that’s Blue Star!), Voodoo Doughnuts is the place that started the donut trend in Portland and its bright pink history offers up its own kind of Portland weirdness.

This famous shop is known for their crazy and out-there donut styles, like their popular bacon maple and even a cream filled donut that is in the shape of a voodoo doll with a pretzel sticking out of it.

Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland, Oregon

As a late-night donut shop they’ve always catered to the nightlife clientele, which is why they used to have donuts such as the NyQuil Glazed doughnut and the Vanilla Pepto Crushed Tums doughnut. These are no longer available due to the health hazards involved with selling over-the-counter drug-laced donuts, but still, it makes for a hilarious story. Rumor has it that the Pepto doughnut was the inspiration behind their bright pink packaging.

If you time it right you can sometimes find little to no line at the Old Town location, but a lot of times there is a line around the block. It’s cash only, so remember to have some dollars before you wait in line for half an hour.

PDX Adult Soap Box Derby

Every year in August Portlanders get together to put on the Adult Soap Box Derby to the glee of a public audience. The derby is located on the scenic extinct volcano that is Mt. Tabor Park, where participants create colorful homemade contraptions on wheels to fly down a big hill on. Are you noticing a trend yet in Portland?

Last year there was a group of 3 who flew down the hill on a giant hot dog on wheels. Things definitely get interesting at the summer Soap Box Derby! It’s a free event and beer and picnic fixings are welcome, as well as water balloons to throw at the participants.

PDX Adult Soap Box Derby

Photo via Flickr

Dean’s Scene

Dean’s Scene is a bar located in the basement of a middle-aged dude who brews his own beer. It’s not technically a bar since there is no liquor license for the place, but it’s seen as a local speakeasy of sorts. How he gets around the liquor license issue is by asking for cash donations at the door, about $5, and then giving you free reign to have as much beer as you see fit.

Since it’s still considered a private household, there is also marijuana available to be smoked since that is now legal in Oregon. Dean once even brewed a weed beer which was the talk of the town for awhile. This place is popular with a varied crowd and the only common denominator you can count on is that people who go to Dean’s Scene love beer. If you can find it, this is definitely worth a stop to experience an alternative side to Portland’s bar scene.

Dean's Scene in Portland, Oregon

Photo via Flickr

Stripperoke 

It’s no coincidence that Portland has the highest number of strip clubs per capita in all of the States. This city loves its strippers and free expression no matter what form it comes in. The weirdest strip club you may come across may just be Devil’s Point, which offers up a chance to sing karaoke that strippers will dance to.

It could be your worst nightmare or the best night ever, but regardless of how you feel about hearing your own voice as a soundtrack to a lady stripping, you’re bound to have an interesting and slightly weird night at Devil’s Point.

Stripperoke at Devil's Point in Portland, Oregon

Photo via Flickr

Portlandia 

And lastly there is even a weird, quirky and sometimes funny sketch comedy show about Portland called Portlandia. You’ll be surprised at how even though its an over exaggeration of the culture here, it’s not off by much!

Portlandia sketch comedy show about Portland, Oregon

Photo via Flickr

Have you been to Portland before? What weird quirks do you enjoy about the city? 


About Mimi McFadden

Mimi is the founder behind The Atlas Heart blog and has traveled through 4 continents since her first trip abroad at 18, including a two year stint living in Oceania. From jumping out of a plane in New Zealand, to eating snakes in Vietnam, learning how to cook in Italy, and scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef, she is always looking to live with an open mind and an Atlas Heart. She's currently based in the Pacific Northwest.