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?

Add yours

    1. Ha! Thanks so much, Anneli!
      Other than the weather, I loved Portland and its peculiarities. 🙂
      I had a heart attack this morning after posting this since I just changed my theme. I got an “Oops, nothing is here,” message! Then it didn’t show up in the reader. Seems to be up now… I worried no one would find the comment box!!! (My old theme was retired.)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. These techie things can be so traumatic when they don’t work. Fantastic when they do. Lately, I’ve found that when I make any small changes, a photo might disappear. And also the hyperlink blue highlighting often appears when I want to type. I have to scroll down and then go back up a line to get rid of it. Keeps us on our toes.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. They may have retired your theme so the WP updates aren’t compatible. Some things weren’t working on my site like summary instead of full text. I “tried” a new one yesterday and published it by accident, hence the new theme! I need to find time to work on my header…

          Liked by 1 person

            1. I would ask a Happiness Engineer. Also, if your site is discontinued, you can’t upload it again if you don’t like another theme. I had been researching them and always tried them and avoided the publish button. Yesterday, I must have gotten to the theme site another way where “trying it” meant publishing it!!! Two heart attacks in two days.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. I did EXACTLY the same thing just now and have lost my theme!!!!! See you in the hospital! But first I’m trying desperately to find a theme that shows the font in a nice way and that has space for big photos.


                1. Oh, noooooooooooo! If you go to themes, you can search for themes for photographers. I wanted my sidebar to show up and it does when one post is up. I also searched under banners and bloggers. What I’m really pleased with is the summary under each story in my home page. I still have a lot of work to do in my widgets.

                  Liked by 1 person

  1. Another comment quickly, at first I thought Bigfoot was angered by the sight of those pink running shoes, but I see in the end he acquiesced and you two bonded. I love a story with a happy ending.


  2. I’ve lived in and around Portland for years, and I hadn’t even heard of some of these places. The white stag on the sign is in relation to the White Stag clothing company which was founded in Portland. It is apparently on the building that used to house to company. At Christmas season, the stag sports a red nose, so you weren’t far off with your reindeer notion.

    When I go to Powells, I always make sure my companions have their cell phones, and then when I am ready to meet up, I text them my location and they come find me. Otherwise, I would likely never find my way out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! Thank you so much for the information about the deer! That makes so much sense.
      We used our cell phones several times! I wouldn’t have found Danny for hours. What a great place and always busy!
      Thanks so much, Maggie!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. You probably did hear about it! There was so much to do with all the outdoor activities. The food was spectacular. I had to walk for 4-6 hours to keep from gaining weight. Ha!
      What’s super confusing is there’s a Portland, Maine on the opposite coast. When I booked our flights, I kept making sure I was going in the right direction. I bet it happens!


  3. – The streets in Grand Rapids and the surrounding area are NE/SW and suchlike. That’s how you know where an address is located, even if you’ve never heard of the town!
    – I heard once that it’s illegal to pump your own gas in Oregon. Must be weird visiting one of the last bastions of full serve in this country!
    – In Michigan, the humidity makes it warmer. I don’t know how many times I’ve looked at the thermometer in my life and discovered it was actually colder than I thought!
    – I think my layout was retired, too, but I still get it to work somehow! (Don’t ask me how…even if I hadn’t had a rough morning/early afternoon, I still wouldn’t be able to remember.)


  4. We went to my nephew’s wedding in Portland last summer and their wedding venue was one of the McMenamins, in neighboring Hillsboro. My nephew and his wife have recently moved there permanently and I hope to visit again at some point. I really loved Portland. I didn’t make it to Powell’s, which was very high on my list. I will definitely need to return! 🙂 It sounds like you made the most of the weird city. What a fun birthday!


  5. Indoor gas station is a very frightening thought.
    As for an indoor Gas station although it is open at both ends is an extremely bad and frightening idea. As Gas fumes / vapors are extremely volatile. And so nothing that I would get anywhere around. As it’s a potential bomb / building if should a spill happen and a rogue spark sets it off. Like wearing trousers that create a high level of static electricity as they are rubbed across the cloth seats and that is frightening for me to ponder. Burning alive is a really bad way to go out.

    Those are very aggressive and territorial birds, they do not like anyone walking close to within vacuity of their nests. I can tell you how many students at the Universality that walked down the side walk across from a Star Bucks coffee shop, the Bird nested in a traffic signal and it was constantly diving on the heads of passersby.

    There were four guys playing gold that pissed off a Goose and it out right attacked one of them. I have even heard of Squirrels attacking people. But the worst of the worst are Seagulls. They are just evil. Did you ever watch the Alfred Hitchcock’s psychological horror – thriller film (loosely based on the 1952 story of the same name by Daphne du Maurier), starring Melanie Griffith’s Mother ‘Tippi Hedren’ Called ‘The Birds’ (1963). That scared the hell out of me back in the 1960’s when I watched it by myself one late winters night while home alone.

    Powell’s Book store is as cool as it is a huge establishment. And they have some very impressive collectors’ rare books and editions in their rare archived book room.

    But it is Oregns’ almost 400 miles of awesome Oregon Beaches, and shores, with awesome beach houses to be rented. We have spent weeks at a time in summers past in rented beach houses just the two of us and have as well rented beach houses with good friends. Exploring Antique shops and malls. And fine dining in Oregon restaurants.

    We have twice annual whale migrations, and so did you stay on the coast and enjoy the whales? The only thing I must always mention is to never turn your back on the ocean as many have been suddenly taken away by Rouge Waves called Sneaker waves, as sudden rising huge rouge waves born far out at sea in storms not seen or noticed on the coast.

    There have been many tragic losses. So like flash floods must be in the minds of southern desert campers in Southwestern States, Rogue waves / sneaker waves must be in the minds of beach goers and especially if they have little children playing upon shore. Or waters are cold, and we also have many rip currents. So beach going must be of respecting the wild ocean. We have a resident whale that frequents ‘Whales Cove, and Depoe Bay.


    1. Thanks for the tips, Brock!
      We did get to the Oregon shore but didn’t wade in. It was pretty chilly!
      I’ve never been attacked by a bird, so it took me by surprise!
      I loved Powells and will have to check out their rare book collection next time.
      Have a fabulous day, Brock! Thanks again for reading.


  6. Portland, Oregon weird? Who would have thought? It does explain why the producers of “Grimm” may have used Portland as their location for all the strange happenings. I loved that show and it really did make me want to visit Portland. Now you have put the icing on the cake. It shall move on to my bucket list.


  7. Looks like a grand time! Not much weird where I live. But because it’s a logging town, there are very cool chainsaw sculptures here and there downtown. And historical murals painted on the side of buildings.


    1. I’ll have to check that out! I haven’t seen anything by those two actors for a while.
      Porlandia is a thing too, but I only watched about ten minutes of it. Too weird. Ha!
      Thanks for stopping by!


  8. This looks like a super fun trip. The ice cream labels are amazing. I love that. Washington Park also seems like a great place to visit for a nice long stroll and maybe an intentional chance to get a little lost. Vacuums are amazing, so of course they deserve their own museum! 🙂


  9. I’ve not heard of weird associated with Portland before, but I have heard it in association with Austin. I like the indoor gas stations…if they have good ventilation. New Jersey also has attendants. It’s always a surprise because I’ve been pumping my own gas since the 1980’s.


  10. I have never heard about this before maybe because I live in another part of the world where the US is not so important! Thanks for this information. Now I know!


  11. Ha, ha, ha! The first two ice cream flavors you list for Salt & Straw are the very two I tried when I was there last fall!!! I must be weird, I loved them. And FYI, if you are the first one there before the store even opens, there is not line! You mention most of the reasons/places I love Portland, including the food carts and McMenamins. I’m glad you had a fun time, I visit several times a year and always find some new treasure to love!


    1. That’s so great to hear, Snuffy!
      I tried them, but went with the safer chocolate flavor. YUM! The food was so good there, I have to work out every day to get back in shape. 🙂
      Have you ever been down in the Mystery Hole? I think it’s in someone’s backyard so you have to call ahead. Weird. Ha!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No! Mystery Hole?!? Going to have to add that to the list. And I agree about the food. That’s why I always plan at least one hike when I am there!


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