My Favorite Weird Things To Do in Portland: Powell’s Books, Bagdad Theater, Voodoo Doughnut

voodoo doughnut - weird things to do in portland

Visiting Voodoo is a must if you’re looking for unusual and weird things to do in Portland.

This month’s Featured Travel Destination is one of the coolest cities in the nation, Portland, Oregon. These are a few of the places I can’t wait to visit every time I travel to the city.

If you’re looking for weird things to do in Portland, there’s an endless supply. This list just touches on a few. But there’s a reason that “KEEP PORTLAND WEIRD” signs can be found all over the city. It’s a wonderfully strange place!

A Few Weird Things To Do in Portland

MILL ENDS PARK

This tiny patch of soil on a median in downtown Portland, Oregon is recognized as the smallest city park in the world. Mill Ends Park is just 452 square inches and only two feet wide. You can’t do anything there except observe whatever flowers or plants happen to be growing in the space.

mill ends portland oregon

There’s a fascinating backstory behind the history of Mill Ends Park, involving a newspaper columnist and a tribe of invisible leprechauns. You should stop by just for the chance to take a weird instagram photo with the little park.

POWELL’S BOOKS

Not many bookstores are thriving these days, but Powell’s seems to be growing strong. Occupying an entire city block, Powell’s is easily the best bookstore I’ve ever been to.

I don’t normally even buy books (thank you, public library), but at Powell’s I was inspired to make a few purchases, especially since some of them were used (cheap) books. Powell’s is where I finally broke down and bought ‘On the Road’ by Jack Kerouac, a book widely regarded as one of the great travel narratives of all-time (although it ended up boring me!)

powells books portland oregon

I don’t get too bothered when a Borders or Barnes & Noble goes out of business, but Powell’s had better not suffer the same fate. They have an active online store in addition to the main building and a few smaller shops around the city.

Powell’s is only “weird” in the sense that it’s massive, more than you can possibly imagine. And they have lots of weird books, old books, and out-of-print books that you can’t find anywhere else. You can easily get lost inside here, which is why direction signs are posted in every room.

VOODOO DOUGHNUT

donut flavors voodoo

I mentioned Voodoo Doughnut in my first post on this site, and my love for this strange place hasn’t faded. Voodoo is known for using strange elements as toppings, like Captain Crunch and Fruit Loops cereal, grape dust, oreo crumbles, banana chunks and even Tang – yes, a sprinkling of the orange powder drink Tang!

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My favorite is the chocolate cake donut topped with chocolate icing and Cocoa Puffs. The bacon maple bar is a popular one, and so is the cream-filled donut shaped like a penis. Yes, really.

Many of the offerings are vegan. The wait is long, but it’s so worth it. My only complaint? They use the old-fashioned spelling of “donut.” We don’t have time to write out extra silent letters in today’s modern, fast-paced society!

Bizarre fact: Voodoo was recently the target of a smear campaign by the same loonies behind the Pizzagate political conspiracy. They claimed that Voodoo was responsible for running a child trafficking ring, which is preposterous and untrue. But there was one wacko protesting outside Voodoo during my recent visit, trying to convince people that the sugary donut company was evil.

MOUNT TABOR PARK

What makes Mount Tabor weird is the fact that it’s an actual volcano within city limits. It’s one of only three American cities, in fact, to claim such a distinction. But the volcano is extinct and hasn’t erupted in more than 300,000 years, so you can feel safe while traversing its hiking trails and getting some cool views of the Portland skyline.

mount tabor park sign

The elevation is only 636 feet, so it’s not a challenging hike to the top. But it’s a popular spot for afternoon recreation if you want to get out into nature without going too far outside the city.

GLOWING GREENS

This place is just another blacklight glow in the dark mini golf and axe throwing establishment! Nothing unusual about that!

gloweing greens weird portland

I had a lot of fun playing the mini golf course in the strange lighting. Glowing Greens has a pirates-and-skeletons kind of theme. As mini golf courses go, it’s actually really good. The holes layouts are challenging but doable, with just the right amount of obstacles in your way. And the axe throwing area is another chance to participate in a strange and unusual competitive endeavor.

BAGDAD THEATER

bagdad theater

Theaters that serve alcohol and show slightly older films at discount rates seem to be big everywhere now. The Bagdad Theater in the Hawthorne District was one of the first of those types of establishments that I ever went to. I was a bad customer, because I was on a budget, so I didn’t buy any food or drink and was content with just the film.

The Bagdad sometimes hosts comedians and musicians as well. I love that the movies are still dirt cheap here, most just costing $3. My local second-run discount theater in Chicago just remodeled and doubled its prices, so I would love to have a place like Bagdad in my neighborhood.

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Which of these would you most like to visit? Do you have another favorite weird place in Portland?

About Quirky Travel Guy

Scott Shetler is a Seattle-based freelance writer & fan of indie rock, road trips, ice cream, squirrels on power lines, runaway shopping carts, and six-way intersections. Looking for a hotel? I always recommend Booking.com where you can easily compare hotel rooms, prices, and availability. Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, which may earn me a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you make a purchase.

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15 Comments

  1. Thanks Scott! We are driving up to Portland at the end of the month. Glad you gave me ideas of more things to see. I had heard about Voodoo donuts, but love your description. Will be a destination each morning:-)

  2. I LOVE Powell’s, and since we’re heading to Portland next weekend for my grandparents’ 70th wedding anniversary celebration, we’re hoping to sneak in a few hours to browse. I also want to hunt down some doughnuts!

  3. McMenamins are one of the best things bout the Pacific NW. When I was a kid my parents took us to see Breakin’ there. It was a very sketchy part of town at the time. What I love is that it is not at all unlikely that you could go see Breakin’ there today, only now it is a great part of town and you can get beer and cajun tots.

  4. I head home in 28 days and this post on Portland is getting me even more excited! I agree. Powell’s Books is the absolute best bookstore around. I sing its praises to anyone who will listen!

    VooDoo has two locations now so you don’t have to wait quite as long. My favorite is still downtown though. Did you know you can (or could) take Swahili lessons there? So bizarre, but that’s why it’s great, right?

    I usually go to Laurelhurst theater but maybe I’ll check out the Bagdad this summer. So many great things in Portland to explore.

    Fun post. Looking forward to exploring more of your blog.

    1. Swahili lessons? How peculiar! I still like the downtown location since it’s the original. Thanks for reading!

  5. I love the Bagdad theater! We went and saw Pumpkin Head 2 there (it wasn’t even around halloween). And I couldn’t believe how cheap it was either.

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