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Keep Portland Weird: Unique and Weird Portland, Oregon Attractions

Updated on May 7, 2012

Coming from a conservative part of the midwest, one of the things that most attracted me about Portland, Oregon is its unconventional side. Hit the streets on any given day and you're sure to run into at least one "Keep Portland Weird" bumper sticker. Amen, I say! This wonderful city of ours is famous for the unusual... from freaky apparel to mind boggling cuisine to bizarre hangouts, there's something for everyone.

Portlanders, no doubt have some inside scoop into the more unusual attractions in the Rose City. Some of these destinations are somewhat famous, while others are more like little secrets the natives have yet to share. I'm hoping to unveil some of these more clandestine spots with the hopes that all visitors can truly experience Portland's "weirdness".


Portland's Underground- Also Know as the Shanghai Tunnels

If you're into ghosts and history, then you cannot miss seeing Portland's Shanghai Tunnels. From 1850 to 1941 a practice called "Shanghaiing" was commonplace and the reason this city used to be called "The Forbidden City" or "The Unheavenly City". Unsuspecting men and women were basically kidnapped after being dropped underground via trap doors (also called "deadfalls") systematically set up throughout the waterfront. The men were then turned into slaves after being sold to sea captains. One step on one of these deadfalls and the men would find themselves en route to the Orient. A Shanghaiid woman's destiny was usually being sold into prostitution. The tunnels are basically a catacomb system comprised of building basements all interconnected by tunnels. The victims were held in cells until they were called out to sea by the captains.

Tours of the underground were initiated by the Cascade Geographic Society. They begin at Hobo's Restaurant located at 120 NW Third Avenue in the heart of Old Town/Chinatown. I've been and can only say it's pretty darn creepy. Ghost stories abound, it's dark and dusty, you'll be clutching your flashlight for dear life and you'll see shocking artifacts and cells that will make your hair stand on end. And... if you're quiet enough, you just might hear something. Never mind what you might see, or even worse feel!

The Bar-None Coolest Coffee Shop in Portland

A good friend of mine introduced me to Rimski Korsakoffee House quite a few years ago, I've subsequently told my dear friends about it as well. I take any and every opportunity to visit this unique dessert/coffee/music joint. I don't want to ruin the surprises, but let's just say some of the tables are not ordinary. In fact, you might begin to think you've overindulged in one of their mouth-watering, to-die-for desserts. Oh, and when you're there... make sure you take a trip to the bathroom. Chances are you'll need to go anyway since they have some of the best coffee treats in town. I will say no more.

Rimsky's Korsakoffee house is located at: 707 SE 12th Ave. in the Buckman/Belmont area.

The Voodoo Doll
The Voodoo Doll | Source

Voodoo Doughnuts: Tantalizing Yet Slightly Disturbing Doughnuts

Voodoo Doughnut's slogan is: "The Magic is in The Hole!!" I'd say the magic is also in their extremely unique menu. You might be a little shocked the first time you go, let's just say the choices and names of the doughnuts are like none you've ever heard before. Since some of the names are not "family-friendly", I leave you to your imagination. But, I do recommend you try the Bacon Maple Bar... I know it sounds weird (kinda the point of this article though), but it somehow just works.

Brace yourself for a potentially long wait for the downtown store... most of it being outside since it's a very small establishment. Summer-time can be brutally hot in Voodoo Doughnuts as it's not air-conditioned. There are very few tables at this location, so expect to either wait or just mosey around downtown while you eat your meal (I'm not kidding here, the doughnuts are huge!). I've yet to go to their second location, but from the looks of it, there's a bit more space.

You MUST visit this famous Portland landmark... trust me it's worth the potential wait.

Locations: 22 SW 3rd Ave, Portland, OR and 1501 NE Davis Street, Portland, OR

Portland Alien Museum

That's right... an ALIEN Museum! It's one of those places you can do justice by describing. You'll definitely feel like you've landed yourself on an episode of the X-Files, however. And, mind you, it's not meant to be funny, it's serious stuff here. It's located in an old converted house and filled with newspaper clippings of UFO sightings and close encounters, a wide range of videos as well as gems from the infamous Roswell incident. The newest attraction is what's called the Gunnar Transmissions. Basically they have in their possession tapes of a speaker from the Andromeda galazy who identifies himself as "Gunnar". Judge for yourself, but it's a fabulous afternoon of entertainment nevertheless.

Located at: 1716 NE 42nd Ave, Portland, OR


Woodstock's Mystery Hole

The best part of Woodstock's Mystery Hole is just that... it's mysterious. It's a fun and slightly spooky outing for a family, unless you have severe claustrophobia. It's basically a big, deep hole in a suburban backyard and no one's sure how it came to be. It could have been dug, perhaps it was used as a shelter or kiva, no one really knows. Bottom line, once you climb down a 20 foot-ladder, a whole new world awakens. Strange codes are inscribed on the walls and mysterious doorways and chamber abound in the heart of the hole. A giant double arch has odd glyphs inscribed upon it.

People theorize the hole contains a glimpse into an ancient civilization. Others believe the hole is undeniable evidence of extraterrestrials. Regardless, it's a must-see place. Some even believe it can cure illness, help find love or even make you rich by breathing in its cold air. Heck, what do you have to lose, right? Plus, it's free!

Located just 2 miles off I-205 at 4326 Woodstock Blvd, Portland, OR

Clothing Optional Choices!

If you find clothing just a bit oppressive and confining, then Portland could be the city for you. Check out Sauvie Island's clothing-optional beach, for one. If you travel East, towards the Columbia Gorge, you won't want to miss Rooster Rock's naked beach, either. Family friendly? Well, no... In fact, we accidentally stumbled onto Rooster Rock's beach with the entire family en tow and spent an entire afternoon answering questions.

Oh, if you enjoy a full epidermis breeze, make sure to partake in Portland's World Naked Bike Ride held every summer. Now, I had no idea about this event until I was driving home around midnight one night, making my way across the Sellwood Bridge when I was suddenly bombarded by barren bottoms! I thought I'd lost my mind for a second until I did a little Google search. I kid you not, thousands of Portlanders strip off their clothes for a fully-exposed night ride. It's a hoot!

A Freaky Store You Can't Miss

The Peculiarium located at 2234 NW Thurman Street. They have a wide variety of simply bizarre artwork, monster, robots and a fun place for a treat called the Church of Ice Cream. If you like edible insects, you're in business!

In Need of Worshipping While in Portland?

Well, you're in luck! Look no further than Portland's very own Church of Elvis, located at 401 NW Couch. This is its third location, so I hope it stays for a while. Anyway, this place has surprisingly little to do with Elvis Presley himself, but is heavy on memorabilia. The walls are adorned in any and every imaginable product from years gone by, think Donny and Marie and the Smurfs. The owner and artist, Stephanie Pierce has a unique way of giving tour guides. Let's just say, she has rewards for odd behavior! Oh yeah, by the way, although it's full name is the 24 Hour Church of Elvis, it's not open 24/7.


Submit a Comment
  • LotusLandry profile image


    6 years ago from Southern California

    Totally 'on the money' of what is going on in Portland.

  • SherryDigital profile image

    Sherry Duffy 

    8 years ago from Here. There. Everywhere. Currently: Portland, OR

    Great tips! I cant wait to check out the tunnels next time I'm in town.

  • wordscribe43 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elsie Nelson 

    9 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

    Oh my gosh, sooo funny. My son who's is completely obsessed. I'm completely surprised he's yet to burn down one of Oregon's state forests. We have to watch the kid like a hawk!

    You are a brave one, Scarlett!

  • Scarlett My Dear profile image

    Scarlett My Dear 

    9 years ago from Missouri

    Camp-A-Thon review...

    Boys like fire.

  • wordscribe43 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elsie Nelson 

    9 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

    Wow, that's funny about Ballwin. My husband's father lives there... off Baxter Road. That's where we stay when we come in for Christmas and such.

    I'm am completely in awe of your bravery: eleven 13 yr. old boys. Wow... That sounds a lot like my house. We normally have quite a few non-genetically related kids running around our house. This weekend we pulled the plug on it since we needed a bit of sanity. We spent all morning watching our twins soccer games and running errands. Not much R+R, but oh well!

    So nice chatting with you, too. Let me know how the Camp-A-Thon went. It sounds like a lot of fun.

  • Scarlett My Dear profile image

    Scarlett My Dear 

    9 years ago from Missouri

    I worked in Ladue for several years in my twenties. Lived in Ballwin, off Clayton Road growing up. Have family and friends that went to WashU.

    I do like the snow in November and December. By late January, however, I'm done. I wrote a hub, Winter Stomp, about our family's annual outing.

    The west coast seems to have it all! Snow, Sun, Mountains and Surf. I found the beauty in Missouri eventually, but my inspiration comes more from mountains and oceans than midwest farmland.

    I'm off here... we've got 11 thirteen year old boys here at our place tonight camping out in tents and sitting around the campfire! Well, most likely not sitting~ Running around in the dark and raising a ruckus is more likely. I hear my husband out there on the tractor hauling wood now. He just returned home from Portland this morning. Says he didn't make it to Dante's. Can't say I'm disappointed. (;

    So good talking with you!


  • wordscribe43 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elsie Nelson 

    9 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

    I've aged a year since the "43", but yes you have my age right, Scarlett. I lived the first 8 years of my life in Ladue. When I moved back to go to Wash U. I lived in Clayton. So, I never went to high school there... The only bad thing about Portland is the incessant rain during the winter. It's gets a bit depressing, but you get somewhat used to it. I also really miss the snow. I wish my kids and I could play in the snow without having to seek it out up in the mountains. But, alas... how can I complain when we HAVE mountains and the ocean, right?

    Hope you're well, Scarlett!

  • Scarlett My Dear profile image

    Scarlett My Dear 

    9 years ago from Missouri

    Exploring in and around Sweet Home was a dream come true for me. I am so much more in love with this place after walking through it with more than my fingers. I will most certainly be back! Would love for my kids to see it someday.

    If your wordscribe "43" is your age, perhaps we have more in common than I thought. I moved with my family to the outskirts of St.Louis (West County) when I was 15. I'm 43 now. Kentucky and Family are very dear to me! But, there is just something wild and free and beautiful in Oregon that talks to my spirit. I think if I ever get my feet dug in there, I wouldn't budge either.

  • wordscribe43 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elsie Nelson 

    9 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

    Blondie, you live in a beautiful part of Oregon. Hope you come visit Portland again and experience more "weirdness". Thanks for coming by/

    Funny thing, Scarlett... I'm from Missouri originally. Moved away when I was 8, but came back to attend graduate school at Washington University in St. Louis. But, I must say I just love living in Portland. It's a beautiful city in a breathtaking state. Wild horses couldn't drag me away. Well, I say you need to come back.

    Wow, Sweet Home, huh? I've spent quite a bit of time there as a friend of mine has a family farm there. We have lots of summer get-togethers in Sweet Home.

    Thank you both for coming by!

  • Scarlett My Dear profile image

    Scarlett My Dear 

    9 years ago from Missouri

    Ahhhh, Portland!

    (My husband is there as I type this...Jealous!)

    I spent a week in and around Portland with my sister-cousin, her treat! She called me up and gave me three destinations for a getaway... California, Chicago or Portland. She knew, given the ultimate destination of my characters in the novel I am forever "working" on, that I would choose Portland!

    We booked four days at the Jupiter Hotel ~ and I can tell you, I wish I'd met this place twenty years ago! Breakfast every morning at the Doug Fir restaurant/bar/nightclub ~ Intimate gathering to listen to Sondre Lerche and his guitar ~ some cool people, some not in the parking lot after hours...

    We traveled North to Mount St. Helens on a day trip to look for Sasquatch, South to Sweet Home to explore the possibilities, West to the some of the most beautiful coast line I've ever witnessed and straight to Hell when we entered into Dante's Bar in downtown Portland! (NOT for the faint of heart/soul/or pesky morals!)

    I've lived in Missouri most of my life. Kentuckian at heart! But, I can say honestly that Oregon calls to me like no other.

    Thanks so much for the peek!


  • blondiepooh profile image


    9 years ago from The Oregon Desert--yes, desert!

    Oh I hope you have more! I live in La Pine, south of Bend and we're always coming over the mountain to visit the parents. I'd love to read about more little off the wall places to go to. Thanks for sharing!


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