Just about everyone knows about places like VooDoo Doughnuts and Powell’s Books, but what about the lesser-known things you can do in Portland? After all, sometimes it’s a lot more fun to stray off that well-beaten tourist path.
Zoobombing is a weird and wacky sport that’s quintessential Portland. More for fun than competition, locals get dressed up in costume, or sometimes wear nothing at all, and race down hills in kid-sized bicycles of all types. A tower of mini-bikes is anchored to a bicycle rack, referred to as “Zoobomb Point,” serving as a spot for people who don’t have one to borrow one, as well as being a popular landmark.
Pick Wild Blackberries
Blackberries can be found growing just about anywhere. You’ll often see locals picking them, and eating them right from the bush. They can be found along fences, roadsides and many other spots from around mid-July through mid- to late-September. Just be sure to bring a pair of tough gloves as the vines are extremely thorny.
Discover Portland’s Seedy Past in the Shanghai Tunnels
The Shanghai Tunnels are home to the seedy underground secrets of the city’s criminal past. For nearly a century, from around 1850 to 1941, Portland was known as one of the most dangerous ports in the world, and was often called the “Forbidden City of the West.” The series of tunnels under the streets linked hotel basements and bars to each other, and the Willamette River docks. While the tunnels were used legitimately by many, like keeping ship supplies out of the rain and away from street traffic, there were far more illicit acts carried out here.
Visitors can take a tour of the tunnels to learn about Portland’s sorted history while viewing the remains of the physical underground as well as exploring underground subcultures and hearing the myths behind the legends.
Take in Some Free Live Theater
Portland Actors Shakespeare in the Park lets locals and visitors enjoy free live theater – it’s one of the free best attractions in the city, and is hosted at several outdoor venues throughout Portland, including Laurelhurst, Mt. Tabor and Washington parks. Bring a picnic and a blanket, and enjoy a fabulous time outdoors.
Go on a Cruise
A cruise on the Columbia River is probably something you haven’t considered, but it can be the highlight of any visitors time in the region. USA River Cruises offers a four-night Highlights of the Columbia Cruise on an old-fashioned paddlewheeler, which includes highlights like Multnomah Falls, Astoria and Mount St. Helens.
Watch a Movie at a Brew ‘n’ View Theater
Portland’s “brew ‘n’ view” theaters run the gamut from quirky to swanky, serving brews, food and films. Plus, admission is less than $10, and at some places it’s only the cost of a pint. McMenamins properties offers movie theaters that show recent releases, cult classics and art films along with handcrafted ales and pub fare, while Living Room Theaters, a downtown art house featuring new indie and foreign films on six screens, along with a gourmet menu and full bar, is another great choice.
Check out the Witch’s Castle in Forest Park
Just a 10-minute drive from downtown Portland will take you to Forest Park, a 5,157-acre wooded park with 80 miles of trails as the largest forested natural area within a city limits in the country. Not only does it offer the chance to enjoy the tranquility of nature, just a few minutes from the city, but it supports more than 112 bird and 62 mammal species and hosts the Witch’s Castle. The castle has had a number of lives, and a rather frightening history, having been built by a murderer in the mid-1800s. It was abandoned in the 1960s, and today, the moss-covered stone wall ruins that are reportedly haunted, is known as the Witch’s Castle.
Coffee and Dessert at Rimsky-Korsokoffee House
Considered one of Portland’s true hidden gems, the mysterious Rimsky Korsokoffee House is an original “Keep Portland Weird” coffee shop, tucked away in an unmarked Victorian home. Open nightly for dessert and coffee, it’s most famous for its ghostly atmosphere, live classical music and to-die-for homemade desserts. It does no advertising and has limited hours, yet it’s been busy for over a quarter century. Owner Goody Cable believes his place is haunted by some former tenants, a couple of writers who bore witness to the Russian revolution, which is why he named each table for deceased composers.