Fun and Interesting Facts About Portland, Oregon

Portlands residents are known for their quirkiness, but the citys history has its fair share of peculiarities too
Portland's residents are known for their quirkiness, but the city's history has its fair share of peculiarities too | © Jesse Kraft / Alamy Stock Photo
Kevin Johnson

What you don’t know about Portland might surprise you. The city’s secret history is just as rich as the one on the surface – and as a home for everything weird, Portland’s fun facts truly break the mould. The Rose City can count volcanoes and secret tunnels amongst the reasons for its unique charm – but that’s not all. Here are some fun and interesting facts for those curious to get the best out of Oregon’s largest city.

Portland’s name was chosen in a toss-up

One of the most important historical facts relating to Portland is also one of the least-commonly known: in 1842, the city was just a coin flip away from becoming Boston, Oregon. The game of chance, according to an early account, was between the city’s founders, Misters Lovejoy and Pettygrove (names Portlanders will likely recognize from streets and buildings across the city), who proposed Boston and Portland respectively. Unable to settle on a name, they decided to flip a coin, and the rest is history. Too wild to believe? Today, visitors can see the actual Portland Penny on display at the Oregon Historical Society in downtown Portland.

See the penny which decided the city’s fate at the Oregon Historical Society Museum

The Shanghai Tunnels are a local legend

The city is home to the world’s smallest city park

It doesn’t take much for Portlanders to get on board with something quirky, and Mill Ends Park is a perfect example. The Downtown Portland “park” is a 24in (61cm) ring of flora that was transformed from an unused lamppost cavity into the world’s smallest city park, a record bestowed upon it in 1971 and which it still holds today. A local journalist began drawing attention to the patch of dirt in 1946, writing about in his whimsical column in the Oregon Journal that it was the “only group of leprechauns to establish a colony west of Ireland”. The column’s popularity led to city recognition not long after, and the spot received park status officially in 1976.

Mill Ends Park is officially the world’s smallest park

Portland has the most strip clubs per capita in the US

Step aside, Sin City: Portland, per capita, is the strip-club capital of America. While other cities may have more clubs, the density of strip clubs among Portland’s 650,000 residents means you’re never more than a few minutes’ walk from a day-and-night party. Portlanders capitalize on this sizable collection by bringing them into the city’s culture in a big way: strip clubs in Portland are historic landmarks, top-tier destinations for nightlife and even attract foodies from far and wide.

There’s a volcano within the city limits

The Portland area’s love of playing on volcanoes is well known – Mount Hood stands as case in point – so it should come as no surprise that Southeast Portland’s Mount Tabor is one of the city’s most well-loved parks. The volcano itself is extinct, but much of the hill is made up of ancient volcanic lava, which proved useful in paving the park’s curving roads and sloping staircases. This fun fact doesn’t just belong to Portland, however; Mount Tabor is one of six extinct volcanoes in the US to sit within city limits.

Portland’s public water fountains are a popular part of its history

Portland’s drinking fountains are known as Benson Bubblers

Water fountains aren’t typically a city landmark, but the Benson Bubblers of Portland – part public art and part public service – are some of Portland’s rarest and most historic attractions. In 1912, local businessman Simon Benson donated $10,000 to the city to begin installing four-bowled bronze drinking fountains in downtown Portland, reportedly in an effort to redirect loggers heading to bars for a drink during lunch. Currently, 52 four-font fountains are in place, all doubling as useful landmarks in the heart of the city. In an effort to keep them unique, the Benson family has prevented new bubblers from being built anywhere but downtown Portland.

landscape with balloons floating in the air

KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?

Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

X
Edit article