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Keep Portland Weird: Unique and Weird Portland, Oregon Attractions
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.
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.