What Makes Portland Weird?

18 reasons Portland is weird and why you should go inside voodoo doughnuts with cute waitress

Have you heard that Portland, Oregon is weird? I have. Portlanders are proud of their motto, Keep Portland Weird. I was curious and traveled there for my birthday. What I discovered was pretty dang strange.

18 signs of weirdness in Portland:

  • The Freakybuttrue Peculiarium.

Caught in Portland’s weird culture at a strange museum.

Weird yeti attacks me in Peculiarium museum

  • An indoor gas station.

Weird indoor gas station in Portland, Oregon

Indoor. Gas. That doesn’t really make sense to me. Weird. But since it rains a lot, I can see where this would come in handy.

  • They pump your gas for you at self-serve stations.

It’s weird when you jump out of your car to pump gas and they run out and take the hose out of your hand. At first, my husband suspected the guy had stolen his charge card information.

  •  The street signs are marked NW, SW, NE, and SE instead of the usual directions.

The signs remind you of where you are in town since probably because there are microbreweries on every block. You may forget where you are.

  • Salt and Straw

Check out the line.

Line at Salt and Straw weird flavor Ice cream shop

This Portland original sells ice cream in weird varieties like pear and blue cheese, Arbequina olive oil, and strawberry balsamic with black pepper.

The ingredients of the butterfly yum –

Butterfly yum ingredients include salmonberry and goatcheese and basil

Inside Salt and Straw ice cream shop

  • Food Carts

When asking for restaurant recommendations, everyone raved about the food carts. Most were trucks, by the way.

People around in front of Food trucks in Portland

I walked up to the line of grimy looking trucks/carts and chose one with a line of customers. I ordered what the lady ahead of me ordered. Mango shrimp paradise. It was most excellent!

Their restaurants are amazing too and very reasonable compared to Colorado.

  • Tipping

The wait staff is paid minimum wage, unlike in most states where they are paid less and have to make it up in tips. You would think they would provide poor service since some customers may not tip as well. The opposite was true. Weird.

We tipped our usual 15-20%.

  • Voodoo Doughnuts

We have Voodoo in Denver but I haven’t graced their doorway. I didn’t understand the fascination until I bit into the heavenly goodness of old-fashioned ingredients and sweet, sweet perfection. The line was long but well worth it.

Voodoo Doughnuts panarama

  • Powells City of Books

Not so much weird as huge. Largest bookstore in the World!

Powells' Staff Pick with funny f-bomb

  • Colorful buildings

Wild and weird building in Portland

  • The underground train to Washington Park.

When you take the train to Washington Park, you end up 260 feet below the ground. The deepest in the US.

Fun facts from the depths:

Weird facts after landing in Washington park

Lots of weird facts from the train in Washington Park

Washington Park is no ordinary park. It has an arboretum filled with hiking trails, a Rose garden, a Japanese garden, a zoo, and lots more!

  • The weather

It’s super weird. It may be sixty degrees, but with the humidity, it feels like thirty. I wore my leather jacket most of the time. It rains a lot. But when it’s sunny, it’s wow, with views of Mount St. Helens and Mount Hood.

  • Strange museums.

They have a vacuum museum. Yep.

  • McMenamins

    Super cool and weird only that no one else has copied McMenamins‘ business plan.

    The first time you hear the name of this unique and charming enterprise you may ask again. I needed to see the spelling.


Two brothers bought historical buildings in several Oregon and Washington cities and transformed them into hotels and entertainment facilities. We visited a pub transformed from a speakeasy. The restaurant and bar area was filled with paintings. It had a back room filled comfortable couches and chairs for lounging. We were encouraged to hang out after dinner.

Danny and Susie at McMenamins

McMenamins Rams Head

We found one in Bend that was a converted Catholic School. It deserves its own post!

  • Aggressive birds

Okay, so this bird in a tree in the Chinese garden landed on my head!

Attack bird in the Japanese gardens in Portland

  • This sign.

Not sure why they chose a reindeer. I’m sure there’s a logical explanation.

Portland Oregon sign with reindeer lit up at night

  • These characters on a street corner.

Press the little arrow. You can listen and dance along.

People were super friendly and willing to help us which wasn’t weird at all. While walking to Washington Park, I asked a man if we were close to the entrance. “Another mile and a half in that direction,” he said and pointed across the bridge. He suggested turning around and taking the train.

This super nice man escorted us the entire way.

  • A weird speeding ticket

I didn’t see many police officers around nor heard many sirens, but I did get pulled over by a state patrol officer in a tiny town while driving down from Mt. Hood. Don’t worry, I only got a warning. Whew.

When I looked at the ticket a few days later, it had someone else’s name, license, and registration on it. WEIRD!

There are lots of other weird things to do in Portland like visit their Shanghai Tunnels or have coffee at Rimsy-Korsakoffeehouse. We’ll save them for next time.

Portland embraced me. I fit right in!

Being hugged by a Yeti in the Peculiarium

Anything weird in your town? Had you heard about the importance of keeping Portland weird?

Click for more adventure on the Wild Ride!

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66 thoughts on “What Makes Portland Weird?

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  1. I love this! Almost as much as I love Vancouver! Which is where my sister lives, and is, at least according to US, even weirder than Portland. (This, of course, is Vancouver WASHINGTON, not Vancouver B.C.) I was just there last week, in fact. The problem is that when I say I’m going to visit my sister in Vancouver, everyone thinks I mean Canada. Nope. I mean the Coolest Town in Washington! Check it out next time you’re in Portland — you won’t be sorry xoxoxo


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