Portland has a reputation for being weird, wonderful and quirky. It is not only home to some amazing restaurants, art galleries, breweries and museums, it also boasts some truly unique sights. There was a lot to choose from but we’ve researched them all and rounded up 7 weird things to do in Portland that you can’t miss.
1. Visit the World’s Smallest Park
There are two different versions of how this park came to be. It’s founder, Fagan, claimed he looked out of his office window and to his amazement, saw a leprechaun in the middle of the street. He instantly ran outside to catch it and when he was successful in doing so, the leprechaun grudgingly granted Fagan his wish that a park be named after him.
However, as Fagan hadn’t specified a size, the leprechaun—or Patrick O’Toole as he became known—granted the small, 2-foot circle of land for Fagan.
The other, less fantastical version is that Mill Ends Park was originally intended to be the place for a streetlight but after the hole was dug, no light turned up. Therefore Fagan planted flowers in the hole, named it Mill Ends and announced it to be the World’s Smallest Park. In 1971 the Guinness Book of Records agreed and as a result, the park has been used for many unusual things such as a miniature Ferris Wheel and a swimming pool for butterflies.
The only challenge to its title came from the town of Burntwood who claimed their Prince’s Park should be known as the World’s smallest as it had a fence around it. Mill Ends devotees responded by erecting a tiny fence around the miniscule perimeter and no more was said on the matter.
So if this story doesn’t immediately make you fall in love with Portland, we’re really not sure what will.
2. Visit China
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If after your visit to Mill Ends, you’re more in the mood for an outside space you can actually walk around, then we suggest leaving the USA for a brief period and stepping into China.
Portland is twinned with Suzhou which lies in the beautiful Chinese province of Jiangsu. This region is known for having outstanding Dynasty Gardens and it seems like Portland wanted to echo that reputation in their own city. Therefore they created what is known as the most authentic Chinese Garden outside of China in the Lan Su garden. This loosely translates to the Garden of the Awakening Orchids and is said to be a little piece of Asia right in Oregon.
Nothing is required of you except to appreciate its authentic beauty, so why not take a moment out of hectic city life and experience a small slice of tranquillity?
3. Explore the Shanghai Tunnels
Portland is currently known for its hippie, quirky vibe but did you know that between 1850 and 1941, it was considered one of the most dangerous places in America? This reputation could be based on the existence of the Old Portland Underground or as its otherwise known, the Shanghai Tunnels.
Built originally to move stock on and off ships, the tunnels were later rumored to be used by members of organized crime. But what they are really famous for was the part they played in “Shanghaiing” or rather kidnapping unsuspecting men in order to make them work for free on board ships. It is said that these unfortunate souls were dropped through trap doors or “Deadfalls” into the underground system and held in cells against their will before being sold to ship captains and made to set sail.
Now there is some evidence to suggest that the stories of the Shanghai Tunnels may not be entirely true or at the very least, have been exaggerated for the tourist trade. But we’re not so sure. Why not book yourself onto an Underground tour and find out for yourself?
4. Glow in the dark mini golf?
Let’s lighten the mood now, quite literally with the happy knowledge that Glow in the Dark Mini Golf exists. Yes, that’s right. Ever wanted to play Minigolf but just been too blinded by that gosh darn sun? That’s not a problem at the basement located Glowing Greens miniature golf course where you can enjoy 18 holes of pure, neon colored, radiating fun. Go on your birthday and get a free round!
5. Take an ancient selfie
We all love a vintage filter but what if you could get that effect completely authentically? The folks at Ace Hotel have lovingly restored a vintage photobooth, plopped it in their hotel lobby and made it available for anyone to use. The 100-year-old technology means you’ll be stepping back in time in order to preserve the present moment.
Simply pop in $4, strike 4 poses and wait 4 minutes. You’ll have your very own strip of photos just like your recent ancestors would have done. Pro-tip, make sure to smell the photos afterward. Apparently, the rotten smell is a sign of authenticity. That’s what they tell us anyway.
6. Take a Submarine Tour
Sadly or perhaps thankfully, the submarine on display at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry doesn’t actually go under the water anymore. But apart from that, it’s still a totally authentic navy experience.
Tour highlights include touching a torpedo, looking through a working periscope and visiting a completely restored and fully operational radio room. Although this submarine hasn’t been in active service since 1990, it’s still the closest thing to submarine living that any of us land lovers are likely to get.
7. Skate your way to a trophy
Finally, end on a high note and skip down to America’s largest roller skating rink. Oaks Park holds regular events for kids, couples and everyone in between. Even better, you can enter one of their many competitions and obviously it’s dependent on your skill level, but we really think you could win it!
If you somehow don’t manage to snag a prize, you can commiserate yourself by heading to the amusement rides, games and other family-friendly activities available at the park. What a brilliant end to your Portland trip.
Can you think of any more wonderful and weird things to do in Portland? Feel free to comment below!
Suggested next reading: 6 Things To Do That’ll Make You Fall In Love With Seattle