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Keeping it weird
Embracing the quirky and weird in Portland
Portland is proud to be weird. It’s so quirky that the city has coined a marketing slogan, “Keep Portland Weird.” And weird is wonderful. Every time we we make our pilgrimage to Portland we try and discover the oddest stuff we can find. Only in Portland can you find a bakery that looks like it was designed by Tim Burton, a whole country contained in a city block, or trap doors that lead to slavery.
To find Portland’s wackiest attractions, make your first stop Voodoo Doughnut. This local legend is a bakery that specializes in racy and wild takes on classic doughnuts. Bacon maple bars, bear claws dripping with peanut butter, and huge doughnuts shaped like voodoo dolls are just a few of our favorites. Be sure to get there early though, as the lines get long and the good stuff usually is snatched up quickly.
Another stop on the tour of weird: the Pied Cow. This place is an old Victorian house that has been transformed into a restaurant with a vampire theme. The food here is to die for (get it?). The ambiance is pretty trippy, too. It’s like stepping into a scene from “True Blood.”
Chris and I also like weird-questing in the city’s Lan Su Chinese Gardens. This park is designed to make a city block feel like infinite space. When you enter it’s like you’re stepping across the border into China. There are koi, caves, and even a tea house. This is the place in Portland to achieve serenity now.
Viewfinder Tip: Always bring raingear when you’re out and about in Portland; the weather here changes quickly.
An oddball attraction with great history: Portland’s Shanghai tunnels. Take a tour of these catacombs and you’ll learn about the underworld that existed in Portland for nearly 100 years starting in 1850. Back then, young men would get drugged our clubbed and (no joke) dropped through trap doors in saloons into a maze of tunnels and rooms beneath the city. Once in the underground city they would be kept in cells until they were sold to sea captains and made to work without pay as they sailed to the Orient. (This is where the term “Shanghaied” comes from.)
Finally, for a dose of weirdness with diversity, check out Washington Park. If variety is the spice of life then Washington park is a veritable spice shop. The place has a train, a zoo, a Japanese garden, and the Hoyt Arboretum. All of these parts convalesce into a constellation of good times. Stand in the middle and pick a direction, there is no wrong choice.
How do you seek out weird and quirky stuff when you travel?
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Chris and Tawny have had articles and videos published on USA TODAY TRAVEL, BBC Travel, Matador Network, as well as appeared as guest stars on TLC Asia's Fun Taiwan television series. When not on the road, you can find Chris and Tawny nestled in their home in Tacoma, Washington fueling up on coffee and cat cuddles while planning their future adventures. You can follow their travels on their blog, Instagram, and YouTube