Portland is an off-beat kinda place. Its a city that long ago adopted the unofficial mantra “Keep Portland Weird.” In honor of the city’s “weird” spirit, we present for your consideration Portland’s Top 10 Off-Beat Sights. These are the locations and attractions that are representative of the glorious weirdness that, to me, is part of the essence of this unique city. If you happen to be a bit off-beat yourself, wanna see Portland in all its finest oddity or if you’ve simply already plumbed all the more standard fare, consider checking out these sights for something a bit… different. I will also give you a few pro-tips to help you maximize your experience.
1. Quarterworld – A bit off the beaten path (see what I did?), its still easily accessible via public transit (check into getting a Tri-Met Hop card here) or by the only slightly less budget-conscious Uber (if you have been under a rock, you can get into that here). Either way, its well worth the small trip outside of downtown to indulge in one of the largest and least expensive arcades you’ll ever find. They have everything from a huge collection of vintage to modern pinball machines to first-person shooters to retro favorites and modern, immersive virtual-reality games. For less than $20 you are given a time-machine to fondly re-visit your childhood for a couple of hours. Pro tip: Head to branch for your bank, or non-fee ATM before heading to Quarterworld, you’ll want to put that $3+ for their ATM’s fee toward games instead.
2. The Portland Outdoor Store – What is so “offbeat” about an outdoor store? Nothing, typically, but as you’ll soon learn, Portland has a knack for taking the typically mundane and making it insane – in the best way possible! This is no ordinary outdoor store. With three floors, brands ranging from Stetson to Levi Strauss and items ranging from hiking boots to horse saddles, this is an outdoor store and a cowboy-wannabe’s fever dream all rolled into one. You can stock up on hiking supplies or make-believe you’re John Wayne – or you can just kill some time seeing what 10-gallon hat suits you best. Pro tip: Though the owners and employees here are accustomed to window shoppers, there are great knick-knacks and souvenirs here and a purchase is always welcome, so consider picking something up if you end up hanging around for a while. They have really potential gifts for the folks back home.
4. Darcelle XV Showplace – For a fun, nightlife experience, nothing tops a drag show, but leave it to Portland to provide you with a little something extra. Darcelle is the longest-performing drag queen alive, with an act that she’s been perfecting for over 52 years! Her show is filled with classic camp and the theatre at ‘Showplace’ is perfectly suited to her more traditional style of drag. She is joined by a troupe of other talented queens that surprise and delight with solo and group numbers. They’ll help you get “Right to the Point” in one of my personal fave numbers – it’ll make sense if you go. Pro Tip: Have fun and feel free to imbibe, but be forewarned, here at the Showplace the drinks are very strong. Sip slowly, children. OH, and tip well!
6. Powell’s Book Store – Shame on you if you dare to even stay a single night in Portland and don’t at least make a short trip to Powell’s. This book store is an institution in town and nationally; its also the largest book store in the United States with three floors, multiple expansive sections dedicated to each genre, a rare book room with texts dating back centuries and one of the best coffee shops in town. It’s not only a place that you can find just about any book you’d want (or have it ordered) but you’d also want to hang out in to read said book. It’s a great place to meet fellow bibliophiles and discuss mutual bookworm passions as well. Pro Tip: The rare book room is open 11 am to 7 pm every day or by appointment. It is the crown jewel of the store, so be sure not to miss it and make your visit within its operating hours.
7. Portland’s Many Bridges – Ok, so maybe being more than one location makes this a bit of a cheat, but I’ll take whatever punishment comes with the crime if the benefit is drawing attention to some of Portland’s most breathtaking sights. From the more industrial-style architectural beauty of bridges like the Steel Bridge and Hawthorne Bridge to more classic, older structures like Morrison or Burnside to the purely fantastical, almost cathedral-like beauty of the St. John’s Bridge, its as if there is a bridge to suit any taste. Another great feature of these sights – they’re completely free! Pro Tip: You’ll want to take pictures of these marvels of engineering, so be aware of your time and angles. Wanna see the bridge at sunset (my personal favorite) make sure its to your west and that you are at the apropos vantage-point to see it.
9. Prasad – I love to eat and I am huge foodie with a fairly critical palette. I also try to eat healthy when I can and as often as possible. These two elements of my persona have trouble finding an intersection and its even more so an issue when traveling, where availability of food more often than not means a pre-processed burger or re-hydrated potato product. Prasad is a welcome exception in Portland where you can find delicious food that will meet almost any dietary restriction and is made with some of the freshest ingredients. Oh, and did I mention that it’s DELICIOUS?! Even if you’re not conscious or even if you don’t care at all about health when it comes to your food, you’ll still leave here full and more than satisfied. Pro Tip: Try the Urban Bowl. It’s super tasty and filled with more super foods than you’ll see on an episode of Dr. Oz.