Outside of Kennedy School
The Kennedy School features an onsite restaurant, multiple bars, a soaking pool, movie theater and brewery.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia

9 Offbeat Attractions to Experience in Portland

Pique Your Interest in Portland

A decidedly hipster vibe permeates Oregon’s largest city. Portland has a thriving art and music scene, which runs the gamut of low brow to high. Home to tons of breweries, coffeehouses and hyped up food trends, it’s the epicenter of cool among foodies in the Pacific Northwest.

Aside from its culture and culinary scene, it’s also known for gorgeous outdoor spaces, which many locals enjoy by foot or bike. There are a seemingly endless number of things to do in Portland and while they’re often slightly off-kilter or unconventional, they’re definitely never boring.

McMenamins Kennedy School

Formerly an elementary school, McMenamins kept the name but updated the space into a sprawling compound full of things to do. Although it’s primarily a hotel (with school and author-themed guest rooms), the Kennedy School also features an onsite restaurant, multiple bars, a soaking pool, movie theater and brewery.

Enjoy a beer in the Detention Bar, live music in the Gymnasium or opera in the Honors Bar. While it’s probably quite an experience to stay there, luckily you don’t have to be a hotel guest to enjoy the facilities.

Exterior of OMSIThe Oregon Museum of Science and Industry is great for families.Photo Credit: OMSI

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

One of the best Portland points of interest for families, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry boasts over 200 interactive exhibits to explore. From biology to space and everything in between, the museum has scientist-led labs and plenty of educational attractions such as a planetarium and a 4K IMAX theater.

Periodically, the museum also hosts events after hours such as the annual Portland Mini Maker Faire or their adults-only Edible Cinema program, which pairs food and beverage tasting with a specific film.

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Exterior of Powell's BooksSee what gems you can find on the selves of Powell's Books.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Powell’s City of Books

Although it’s an independent bookstore, Powell’s Books has been a Portland attraction since 1971. One of four stores in the area, the City of Books location is the largest, housing over one million books. Located in a former car dealership, you could easily lose track of time browsing through the store’s 3,500 different sections.

Aside from selling new and used books, there’s also a special rare book room at this location full of antique books, signed first editions and out of print titles. If you’re visiting in the evening, be sure to check out the daily events that range from children’s story-time to author conversations.

CocktailEnjoy some tiki-style cocktails at Hale Pele.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Hale Pele

A true tiki bar in the heart of Portland, Hale Pele merges traditional tiki-style cocktails with specialty drinks and a small menu of Polynesian plates. It’s a colorful oasis, especially in the winter, where locals and tourists go to warm up from the inside out.

With its fun tiki-style decor and a soundtrack that includes the approaching sounds of a thunderstorm, a visit to Hale Pele is a fully immersive experience. If you’re traveling with a group, be sure to give the Volcano Bowl — a rum punch with fresh fruit and tropical spices— a try which serves up to six people.

Busy street with vendorsExplore the many and varied stalls of the Saturday Market.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Portland Saturday Market

On Saturdays and Sundays, from March through December, Portland hosts an outdoor market in the Old Town neighborhood. Over 350 artisan vendors are onsite selling jewelry, art, knit goods and beauty items. In typical Portland fashion, craft beer makers, indie bakeries and even kombucha sellers populate the rows of vendors.

After perusing the stalls, take a break at the international food court in the middle of the market where you can try everything from Ethiopian to Mexican food. You can also enjoy live music in the afternoons while the kids participate in a structured activity at the onsite Kids Korner.

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Rose garden in Washington ParkA visit to Washington Park is easy on the wallet and a fun way to get outside.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Washington Park

Although it’s only half the size of Central Park, Portland’s Washington Park houses an arboretum, rose garden, zoo, children’s museum, forestry center and Japanese garden. Most of the attractions and facilities are free, but even those with admission prices are affordable at $15 a person or less.

Enjoy relaxing, cultural performances and demonstrations at the Japanese Garden or take a self-guided tour through the Shakespeare section of the International Rose Test Garden, where flowers are named after some of the playwright’s most famous characters.

Kids will love experimenting with different careers in the permanent exhibits of the Portland Children’s Museum or observing the 232 species inside the Oregon Zoo. Old or young, boredom doesn’t exist inside Washington Park.

Thai food dishPok Pok is a must-visit eatery for those who want to try a fresh take on Thai street food.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Pok Pok

Chef Andy Ricker’s take on Thai street food hit Portland by storm in 2005 and has continued to expand ever since. Now, 13 years and six locations later, Pok Pok still remains a must-visit eatery that attracts both a huge lunch and dinner rush, especially on the weekends. Dishes are mainly eaten family style, with multiple shared plates arranged for a communal dining experience.

Their signature dish, Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings, is legendary and goes great with one of their signature cocktails or house-made drinking vinegars. It’s not your typical hole in the wall Thai place, but seeing as Ricker’s establishment earned him a James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Northwest, you’d do well to take your taste buds on a little culinary adventure.

Exterior of Portland Art MuseumThe Portland Art Museum is one of the oldest museums on the west coast.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Portland Art Museum

Ranging from ancient Native American artifacts to contemporary art and photographs, the Portland Art Museum is a cultural epicenter for the city. As one of the oldest museums on the west coast, and in fact the entire United States, it has amassed over 42,000 pieces of art spread across a 112,000 square feet campus.

Rotating exhibits have covered architecture, sculpture, modern art installations and animation, but the museum also has an impressive collection of permanent works featuring artists like Ansel Adams, Claude Monet and Jackson Pollock.

Film buffs should check out the Northwest Film Center as well, which shares a space with the museum, where they hold daily screenings, film festivals, community events and classes.

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Three ice cream conesTry out some unique (but delicious) flavors of ice cream at Salt & Straw.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Salt & Straw

It might seem impossible to improve on ice cream, but the folks at Salt & Straw have done exactly that. With flavors like Pear and Blue Cheese or Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper, they’ve created unique local favorites out of what might seem like strange culinary combinations.

Whether in a cup or cone, their ice cream has a magical quality that keeps people coming back for more. Intent on introducing the masses to unusual flavor combos, they offer tasting flights of their monthly specialties or your choice of four flavors.

Not in the mood for a scoop? You also have a choice of sundaes, floats and milkshakes or you can take home a pint of your favorite flavor. They even ship right to your door!

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