6 things you didn’t know about Portland, Oregon

We loved Portland – it’s been one of our favourite places that we’ve visited in the USA so far. The food culture is delicious, the people are friendly and the population is young and entrepreneurial.

And we were happy to discover lots of quirky facts about things we didn’t know about Portland.

Keep Portland Weird sign in Portland Double-Barrelled Travel

Portland is a weird city and proud of it

On the first morning we were there, we decided to do a ‘free’ walking tour to learn more about the city. The Secrets of Portlandia tour is run by Portland local Erik who knows the place like the back of his hand. He earns his money by the tip you decide to give him at the end. We thought he was great, so we gave him $20.

Erik from the The Secrets of Portlandia tour in Portland Double-Barrelled Travel

Erik our guide from the The Secrets of Portlandia tour in Portland

Erik certainly knows Portland well, but he won’t give you a boring run down of the city’s historical facts. Instead, he’ll give you an insight into the quirkiness of the city and tip you off on the best places to grab a bite to eat.

So what did we learn on the tour? I’ll break it down for you…

6 things you didn’t know about Portland

1. The most unique beers in the world come from Portland

Ok, so you’ll realise pretty quickly that the people in Portland love a tipple or three. The place is renowned for its boutique breweries and city wineries are becoming commonplace too.

Portland street scene in Portland Double-Barrelled Travel

A typical Portland street scene – it’s a laid back place that likes its beer!

But did you know that along with the Czech Republic and Belgium, Portland has the most unique beers in the world?

It’s evidently a good place to drink. Not only does Portland have a huge variety of booze, it also has twice as many bars per capita than Seattle. Now that’s our kind of place!

2. The water fountains you see all over Portland? They were installed to stop people drinking booze

It seems Portlandians have had a strong taste for alcohol for a very long time. When Portland was first being built, the lumberjacks had to cut down thousands of trees to make way for the town. But there was a shortage of water.

And cutting down trees is thirsty work.

water fountain in Portland Double-Barrelled Travel

One of the many water fountains you will see dotted around Portland

So each day, these lumberers would go to the local bars for lunch to quench their first with a number of beers. As a result, many men started losing fingers and arms in lumbering accidents in the afternoon.

To prevent further injury one of the town’s founders, Simon Benson, decided to install water fountains out the front of every bar. It caused many watering holes to go out of business and they weren’t too pleased.

But the water fountains have remained so just remember that every time you see one you know a pub used to stand nearby.

Indian food cart in Portland Double-Barrelled Travel

Yet another food cart in Portland

3. The food cart revolution began in the recession

But it’s not just booze Portlanders love, they have strong taste buds for good food too.

In fact, there are 1,200 unique restaurants and 700 food carts in Portland so if you eat at a chain restaurant while you are there then shame on you!

The food cart revolution started during the recession because everyone seemed to be moving to Portland (in fact, only 10% of the local population was actually born in Portland!) and there weren’t enough jobs to go round.

So the locals got entrepreneurial to keep themselves afloat and began food cart businesses.

Mexican food cart in Portland Double-Barrelled Travel

A delicious Mexican food cart in Portland

If you’re worried about eating at these food carts, don’t be. They serve very tasty food and in 2012 they actually were more highly rated for hygiene than the restaurants of Portland.

But if you want to cook instead, look no further than one of Portland’s farmer’s markets – there are 40 of them a week (!) – and you can find delicious fresh and local produce there.

4. Up until the late 1800s there was a domesticated elk living in Portland

Yep, as the city became more and more populated, this elk stubbonly refused to leave. He became loved by the locals and he turned into a domestic animal as they all fed him.

But don’t get the wrong idea – elk are dangerous!

Elk statue in Portland Double-Barrelled Travel

The elk statue in Portland

In fact, they kill more hikers in the USA than bears each year, yet even so, this domesticated elk hung out in Portland for 30 years until he died.

When the elk passed away a statue was commissioned to remember him by but the locals were so unhappy with the finished result (they thought it looked more like a giraffe or a camel than an elk) that the sculptor got death threats and the locals tried to throw the statue in the water.

5. Portland is the ultimate city for girl power

If there’s a place for feminism, Portland is it? Why? Many reasons…

First of all, the first female police officer in the US (in the 1920s) was from Portland.

Welcome to Americas bicycle capital sign in Portland Double-Barrelled Travel

The people of Portland are very environmentally conscious

She was put in charge of monitoring the strip clubs to make sure the women didn’t take off all their clothes. The men in the force all volunteered but the head of police was worried they wouldn’t stay focused on the job.

The strip clubs soon got too clever – whenever the police woman would arrive at a club, the bar staff would push a button to warn the strippers out the back not to take everything off.

Portland was also home the US’s first female mayor in the 1950s.

But she wasn’t much fun – she banned pinball machines because she thought it would make people get addicted to slot machines and gambling.

If you’re looking for an empowering fairy tale where the women rule the world, look no further than the feminist bookstore in Portland.

And if that isn’t enough… more than 50% of the businesses in Portland are owned by women!

6. Portland (and Oregon) is the home of weird laws

Oh the laws are so, so strange in Portland but they must’ve been invented because someone was doing it!

guy with snake walking around Portland Double-Barrelled Travel

Portland has strange laws but it is still legal to walk the streets with a live python around your neck… as we saw

Here are seven of their odd laws:

– You can’t wear rollerblades in the bathroom

– You can’t get out of your car and pump your own gas – you could be fined $500

– It’s illegal to modify the weather without a license

– It’s illegal to have a rooster for your own private use

– In Yam Hill (a town outside of Portland) it’s illegal to talk about the future

– You can’t feed canned corn to fish

And perhaps the strangest of them all…

– You can’t put a baby in your car seat and strap it to the top of a car with duct tape and drive it along the motorway

What the?! Someone did that?!

We’d love your comments! What are some quirky facts about Portland that you know?

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About the author

Carmen has been nomadic since May 2013 and the co-founder of Double-Barrelled Travel. She loves experiencing new cultures and learning new languages. She is having the most fun when skiing down a mountain, scuba diving in the Caribbean or curled up with a good book.

12 comments on “6 things you didn’t know about Portland, Oregon”

  1. Sally Reply

    Hahaha! The python is great. Portland seems like such a cool place, I am a terrible US citizen for never having been there. Enjoy the trip!

  2. Tyler Flood Reply

    I’ve been to Portland a year ago. Now I know seven things to do next time I’ll be there. Getting ready with my canned corn 🙂

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