Portland is one of the most fascinating, dynamic cities in the United States. It's the quintessential Pacific Northwest city, with a thriving art scene and a diverse community. The downtown area is home to all sorts of attractions ranging from serene parks and gardens to magnificent museums and Kafkaesque strangeness. There are a number of unusual, unique activities and destinations that promise to be the most fun you'll ever have while completely bewildered. It's not a coincidence that the city motto is 'keep Portland weird.'
The St. Johns Bridge is a stark, imposing steel suspension bridge that’s as impressive as it is massive. The bridge itself has a distinct, gothic style that characterizes every part of the structure. Beneath the bridge, you can visit the beautiful Cathedral Park—an excellent, unusual spot to relax in the sun or enjoy a picnic with friends or family. It derives its name from the artistic flair of the bridge supports, which bear a resemblance to cathedral arches of the medieval era.
Within Washington Park, you will be greeted by 12 acres of colorful Japanese Maple and beautiful cherry blossom trees. The Portland Japanese Garden is the perfect spot to enjoy the beauty of the seasons and the tranquility of a well-tended garden. The carefully manicured bushes, traditional architectural works, and collection of lush foliage make for a stunning and extremely photogenic sight. You’ll definitely need to take your camera on any visit here.
The Freakybuttrue Peculiarium is an art museum dedicated to the macabre and strange, complete with an ice cream parlor and a gift shop. The reserved, frontier design and hot pink paint job clash dramatically and let you know that you’re in for a strange experience when you enter. The exhibits are filled with fake-gory scenes, bizarre ‘facts’ about things like organ donation, and remarkably strange artwork. Watch out for the Sasquatch when you leave—you might want to take a picture with it.
Portland may be the City of Roses now, but it once had a more foreboding nickname. Known as the Forbidden City, Portland was a Western smuggling capital for all sorts of illicit goods; smugglers utilized an extensive network of underground tunnels to get around the city undetected. Nowadays, you can walk the Old Portland Underground—also known as Shanghai Tunnels—and go underneath the Old Town Chinatown neighborhood through these passages.
The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry—or OMSI for short—takes many different sciences that are regarded as "boring" and then uses them to create inspiring and interactive lessons for all ages. The Planetarium exhibit offers some of the most fun you’ll ever have while learning about the solar system while the great exhibit on mummification is endlessly fascinating. In all, OMSI is a must-visit for families and individual visitors alike.
Everyone knows Voodoo Donuts is a must-stop destination in Portland. However, locals often agree that this low-key alternative beats out Voodoo Donuts in terms of quality. To double down on their super-local charm, Doe Donuts sources all of its ingredients fresh from local suppliers. The donuts themselves have an incredibly delicate, almost cloud-like texture and are positively bursting with flavor. As an extra plus, the donuts are vegan—probably the best vegan donuts you’ll ever eat.
If you consider yourself an art lover, you need to visit the Portland Art Museum. It boasts an impressive and diverse collection of artwork from recent centuries. The Color Line exhibit pays homage to W.E.B Dubois’ work on portraying the lives of African Americans at the turn of the century. The frontier-era portraits range from excellent to surreal and provide a compelling glimpse into the past.
Portland isn’t known as the City of Roses for nothing; the city has the perfect climate for roses and practically grows forests of them. The Rose Festival runs throughout June and the centerpiece of the festival is the June 8th Rose Festival Parade, where floats parade through the main street. There are also markets, fireworks, carnivals and all sorts of fun for the whole family. As a whole, the festival is a delightful and eccentric celebration of Portland’s unique place in the fabric of American culture.
The Lovejoy Fountain Park is a memorial to one of the founders of the city, Asa Lawrence Lovejoy. It’s a hidden gem that’s tucked away from the busy streets of Portland. Despite being located in the middle of a loud, exciting urban center, the park it’s as peaceful and quiet as it is gorgeous.
The Pittock Mansion Museum uses the viewpoint of one of Portland’s most influential families to teach the history of the city. One of the most iconic exhibits, The Permanent Collection is filled with period furniture, clothing and other authentic remnants of the city's frontier days. The museum’s exhibits serve to present Portland's history through the eyes of the past and to celebrate the people who call the city home.