7 Weird and Wonderful Facts about Portland
Living and studying English in the United States can be great adventure; you’ll not only improve your language skills, but you’ll also have the chance to visit many amazing and diverse places. Every city in the US has its unique style and way of life – and you’ll be sure to encounter some truly quirky characteristics as you make your way from coast to coast!
As part one of our series exploring the more unconventional side of American towns, we’re taking a closer look at the charming and lush-green city of Portland, Oregon. Portland is located on the Northern Pacific Coast and is, by all means, one of the coolest and weirdest cities in the US. Take a look at some of the things that make Portland such a lovable and peculiar place.
1. Portland is home to the word’s smallest park
Mills End Park, located near the Willamette River in downtown, is recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the smallest park in the world. The grassy area has a diameter of 0.6 meters and a total area of 0.29 square meters. The park was originally intended to be the location for a light pole, but when this failed to appear, Oregon Journal columnist Dick Fagan planted flowers in the hole. It was recognized as an official city park in 1976.
2. The name of the city was decided by a coin toss
Two of the city’s founders, Asa Lovejoy and Francis Pettygrove, couldn’t agree on how to name the patch of land they had recently acquired, so they decided to flip a coin. Whoever won would get to name the place after their hometown. Pettygrove, a native of Portland, Maine, won the toss and the future Oregon capital was named. Had Lovejoy won, the city would be called Boston, like his Massachusetts hometown.
3. One of the city’s slogans is “Keep Portland Weird”
You’ll definitely encounter bumper stickers, signs and even street art with the popular slogan “Keep Portland Weird.” The slogan was brought to the city in 2003, and was inspired in the tagline “Keep Austin Weird,” a campaign developed in the Texas capital to promote local businesses. In Portland, the slogan became an unofficial city motto for most residents that promoted individuality, expressionism, local art and the city’s unusual lifestyle.
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4. Portland is home to the largest independently owned bookstore in the world
Located in the Pearl District, Powell’s City of Books is the headquarters of Powell’s Books, a local chain of bookstores dubbed the largest independently owned bookstore in the world. Founded in 1971, the bookstore is a local institution and has been named among the top 10 bookstores in the country.
Powell’s Books has more than four million books between new, used, rare and out-of-print editions. The bookstore also buys over 3,000 used books every day. And the best part? This jewel for literature lovers is also located about five minutes away from our Kaplan English school in Portland.
5. Portland has more microbreweries per capita than any other city in the world
Residents in Portland are well known for embracing purchasing their goods and services locally, and it’s no different when it comes to buying beer. Often referred to as Beertown, the city has more microbreweries than any other city in the world. Some of Portland’s must-visit spots for cold brews are BridgePort Brewing Co. (which is located a few blocks away from our English school), Laurelwood Public House & Brewery and Cascade Brewing Barrel House.
6. Meet the Unipiper, a unicyclist in a Darth Vader mask who plays a flaming pipe
Known as one of the city's most iconic – and weirdest – residents, the Unipiper is a street performer, musician and unicyclist. He moved to Portland from North Carolina in 2007 and developed his act and character based on the city’s love for quirky characters. He rides around local neighborhoods dressed as the iconic villain Darth Vader while playing his bagpipes, which are literally on fire. He also appears dressed as other mainstream media icons such as characters from Game of Thrones and Pokémon. Because, why not?
7. Portland has the largest forested park within city limits in the country
If Mills End Park is impressively small for a park, wait until you see Forest Park, just northwest of downtown. Stretching for more than 13 km and offering breathtaking views of the Willamette River, Forest Park is one of the largest urban forest reserves in the US, and the largest one within the limits of a city. The park is a top destination for hiking, with more than 110 km of trails. It’s also home to more than 100 bird species and over 60 mammal species.
Have you ever studied in Portland? What are your some of your favorite spots in this cool and quirky city? Share your stories with us on our Facebook page or in the comment section below.