When you visit Portland, Oregon, it’s easy to hit the typical hot spots where all the tourists go, such as Washington Park and the Japanese Garden. If you really want to experience the city like a local, put these cool places to visit on your vacation bucket list. You might not have realized that Portland is home to so many unusual spots until you see them for yourself.

  1. Aerial Tram – The Aerial Tram will take you up in the air, moving 3,300 linear feet between South Waterfront and Marquam Hill on the Oregon Health & Science University main campus. During your four-minute ride, you’ll gain 500 feet in elevation while moving 22 miles per hour. From the air, be ready to experience breathtaking views of the Willamette River Valley and downtown Portland.
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  2. The Witch’s Castle – Located in Forest Park, the Witch’s Castle is the source of some interesting local ghost stories. Visit for yourself to decide whether its haunted or not, if you dare. The hike starts on Lower Macleay Trail where you’ll follow Balch Creek for less than one mile. Before you know it, you’ll arrive at Stone House, also called the Witch’s Castle. There’s a sordid story surrounding this house that involves forbidden love, a murder and an eventual hanging, which led to ghostly presences being reported around the property. After you explore the Witch’s Castle, you can keep walking along Wildwood Trail until you get to Pittock Mansion, which is a popular tourist attraction in Portland.
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  3. Naked Bike Ride – Thousands of people gather in Portland every summer to participate in the Naked Bike Ride. Even if it’s not something you want to participate in, it’s definitely one of the more unusual things to experience in Portland.

  4. Mill Ends Park – Visiting huge parks with sprawling green spaces is a common activity for tourists. How about visiting the world’s smallest park instead? Mill Ends Park in Portland comes in at the top of the list of smallest parks at only two feet in diameter. You’ll find it in the median where Southwest Naito Parkway and Taylor Street intersect. Dedicated in 1948, this tiny circle of land officially became a park in 1976. Over the years, contributions have come in for park improvements, so you’ll find a tiny swimming pool, a miniature Ferris wheel and more in this park.
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  5. Shanghai Tunnels – Those into the scary and unusual should check out the most haunted place in the country: Shanghai Tunnels. A network of kidnappers smuggled people through these tunnels, and it’s rumored that some visitors can hear their screams and moans during the tour. If you’re at all curious about these shady activities, don’t miss a chance for an underground walking tour of the Shanghai Tunnels. You’ll be guided by knowledgeable guides who will tell you fascinating and sordid stories about these unsavory activities.
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  6. St. John’s Bridge – St. John’s Bridge spans the Willamette River, and Cathedral Park sits under the bridge. Dating back to 1931 when work was completed on the cable suspension bridge, it was once the longest bridge of its kind west of the Mississippi River. The Gothic architecture makes for an impressive sight, definitely worthy of a few pictures to add to your vacation album.
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  7. Casa Diablo – Nothing quite sums up the essence of Portland like a vegan vampire-themed strip club. Though not suitable for kids, it’s the perfect place for adults to unwind and let loose.

  8. World Forestry Center – The World Forestry Center can be found in Washington Park. Anyone who ever wanted to learn more about trees will enjoy exploring this museum. With exhibits to present Pacific Northwest forests and their integral role in wood production, animal habitats, ecology and recreation, you can’t help but be entertained while you learn. You’ll also find a wide array of exhibits to educate visitors about the importance of global forests.
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  9. Freakybuttrue Peculiarium  – When you visit Portland, be sure to stop at the Freakybuttrue Peculiarium where admission is free and there are more than enough oddities to go around. Enjoy a sundae topped with real bug larvae while exploring the unusual exhibits.

  10. Oregon Zoo – Don’t miss a chance to pay a visit to the animals at the Oregon Zoo during your stay in Portland. The zoo features five different areas, grouping animals together based on continents and habitats. You can tour Africa, Asia, Fragile Forests, the Great Northwest and the Pacific Shores. If you have a favorite animal or two, be sure to put them on your list of creatures to see. You could also schedule special behind-the-scenes tours to meet animals or chat with zookeepers.
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  11. Portland Japanese Garden – Imagine the ethereal peace you can experience by spending a day at the Portland Japanese Garden. If you allow yourself to slow down and really drink in the simple and stunning beauty of this garden, you may never look at a garden the same way again. As you wander and explore, you will not only be learning about nature, you’ll be learning about Japanese culture as well. Volunteers are available between May 1 and Labor Day between 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. to give guided tours. These tours are included with your admission into the garden. You might also enjoy exploring the indoor exhibitions, which delve even deeper into Japanese culture.

  12. The Hat Museum  – It’s no surprise that Portland is home to one of the largest hat collections in the country. Check out fashion trends through the ages as well as hats used for different jobs in generations past.


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Step outside of the ordinary as you explore all of these things to do in Portland. This exciting city has much more to offer than you may realize.