Wednesday, October 5, 2022
Oct. 5, 2022

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Bridging the divide — 20 things to love about our neighbor, Portland

By , Columbian staff writer

We Vancouverites have conflicted feelings about Portland. That always-hipper-than-you metropolis lies just across the Columbia River — have you noticed? — but so many of us on the Washington side avoid going there.

Is it the voodoo in the doughnuts? The lovely Rose Garden that morphed into Moda? The twee, one-joke TV show that just put a bird on it and called that funny? Or is it that scary bridge (our bad), the impossible chokepoint on the freeway (their bad), the fear that a bridge lift (whose bad? boats?) may strand you south of the border forever?

Whatever the reason, don’t keep steering around Portland. When Vancouver was recently named the “most hipster” city in America — yes, it really was, by shameless clickbait generator MoveHub — Portland didn’t do all that badly in the same contest: No. 12. (Doh!)

We recommend exploring that runner-up city to the south, and thought we’d provide our own championship hipsters with a guide to Portlandia’s second-tier hip. We skipped the most obvious, most famous Portland attractions (Powell’s Books, OMSI, the Oregon Zoo, brewpubs on every block) in favor of the funkier and farther out.

But seriously, folks: Isn’t the divide between Portlandia and The Couve an obsolete mental block? We’re all friends here. Everybody’s got hips, and you can’t walk without a pair of them. Welcome to our hipster club, Portland! Here are 20 things we love about you.

Shopping, street scenes

1. Music Millennium ( It’s cool to note that Portland’s oldest and still-greatest music shop has been owned by Vancouver’s Terry Currier for decades. Did Portland know Currier is from The Couve when declaring Aug. 12, 2017, Terry Currier Day? The mazelike Music Millennium at 3158 East Burnside offers new and used CDs and records, in-store performances and, as of this spring, craft beer flowing from three taps.

2. Goodwill on Grand. The expansive secondhand store at the corner of Southeast Grand and Sixth Avenue is the famous flagship of Goodwill in Portlandia, where the hipster uniform remains lumberjack hand-me-downs. This Goodwill emporium gets high marks for being clean, well-organized and even literary, thanks to its large, rich book department.

3. Hipster headdresses. With its big selection of bowlers and caps, fedoras and fezzes, even Stetsons and top hats, the John Helmer Haberdasher ( at 969 S.W. Broadway is known as the tony spot to top yourself off. About a mile north, at 744 N.W. 12th Ave., is the totally hipster, all-consignment Haberdashery (

4. Street food. Cartopia, at Southeast 12th and Hawthorne, is Portland’s pioneering food-cart pod, still open ridiculously late (3 a.m. on weekends, midnight on weekdays) with a real ethnic smorgasbord. Portland Mercado is a Latino food-cart incubator and public market at 7238 S.E. Foster Road. And, the Alder Street pod (with no firm boundaries, but concentrated around Alder and 10th, downtown) is billed as “the largest concentration of street food in America.”

5. Endless breakfast. Fourth of July fireworks give you a patriotic pancake craving? Prefer scrambled eggs to Thanksgiving turkey? American diner food never goes out of style at the glowing-yellow-and-blue Original Hotcake House, 1002 S.E. Powell Blvd. Open all night, 24-7-363. Closed only on Christmas and New Year’s Day.

6. Hipster havens. Hawthorne. Alberta. Mississippi. Belmont. The Pearl. Trendy neighborhoods, each in its own way. Hawthorne and Alberta are where hipsters and hippies cross-pollinate; Mississippi and The Pearl are where gentrification has added pricey new funk to gritty old ’hoods. More microbreweries, cafes and indie boutiques than you can shake a kombucha at.

Just for fun

7. Ground Kontrol Arcade ( The “golden age” of video gaming — when electronic games and pinball machines came in starship-sized cabinets — has been preserved and even expanded in the remodel of Ground Kontrol, now 7,000 square feet of arcade and full-service pub at 115 N.W. 5th Ave. Ground Kontrol boasts 60 classic video games and 27 pinball machines, and is all-ages until 4:30 p.m. It offers tournaments, comedy shows, trivia nights and other special events.

8. Oaks Amusement Park ( The community was tasked with naming the new roller coaster at this hallowed 1905 amusement park. The winner doesn’t sound old-fashioned at all: The Adrenalin Peak. Oaks Park, at 7805 S.E. Oaks Park Way, is 44 acres of old-and-new rides, games, mini-golf, roller skating, live music and a grand carousel that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Package deals for birthday parties and other events are available.

9. Portland Pickles baseball game ( As their name conveys, the Pickles always retain a sense of humor and community spirit, hosting everything from LGBTQ Pride Nights to “Ride Your Bike to the Game” and “Keep Portland Weird” nights. That’s contributed to soaring popularity in the short time they’ve been around (since 2015). The wood-bat, college-level baseball team maintains a busy schedule at Walker Stadium in Lents Park, Southeast Holgate and 92nd. Tickets top out at $13.

10. Shanghai tunnels. Perhaps the tastiest of all Portland tall tales is the one about pirates snatching lost souls — young drunkards, street walkers — and hustling them through underground passages to waiting ships. Alas, the awesomely nasty legend appears to have been whipped up by sloppy Oregonian stories (no comment) that were seized upon by locals and walking-tour companies. That’s not to say “shanghaiing” never happened in Portland, but numerous historians have tried and failed to connect it with underground tunnels that were mostly used for moving merchandise. But you can still enjoy the legends and the overall creepiness during underground tours guided by the Cascade Geographic Society ( or Portland Walking Tours (

11. Aerial Tram ( It’s an actual commuter capsule to Oregon Health and Science University during rush hours, but during the rest of the day, Portland’s Aerial Tram is a quick, fun up-and-down for sightseers. It takes about four minutes to go 3,300 linear feet and 500 feet up, from the South Waterfront station at Southwest Moody and Gibbs to the upper patio where you can gawk at gorgeous views and fuel up at the nearby cafe. Round-trip fare is $4.70. (Note: The tram is closed for maintenance through July 30.)

12. Freakybuttrue Peculiarium ( A truly corny, yet truly scary horror and sci-fi museum, the home of monsters, ghouls, evil robots and, of course, Bigfoot. Bury yourself in a just-for-fun coffin and endure an alien autopsy photo opp, with you as the alien. While it serves ice cream sundaes too, the Peculiarium, at 2234 N.W. Thurman St., is not for children. It’s also diminutive and will horrify you for no more than half an hour, tops. Admission is $5, but “decent costumes and pets get in free.”


13. Oregon Historical Society and Portland Art Museum. Culture vultures know that the big brick buildings ( at 1219 S.W. Park Ave. boast a comprehensively great collection, antiquities through modern abstractions (and, car lovers will get a charge out of the aerodynamic summer exhibit, “The Shape of Speed: Streamlined Automobiles and Motorcycles, 1930–1942”). But, have you strolled across the grass — stopping to salute the Teddy Roosevelt statue, of course — to visit the Oregon Historical Society (, 1200 S.W. Park Ave? It features two floors of displays and artifacts that explore everything from geology and natural wonders to settlement and civil rights history. The third floor will reopen in February 2019 with a multimedia “Experience Oregon” exhibit.

14. Independent cinema. When a gloriously polished-up print of “2001: A Space Odyssey” took a 50th-anniversary victory lap recently, it played at the Hollywood Theatre, 4122 N.E. Sandy Blvd. When Prince’s 60th birthday rolled around on June 7, “Purple Rain” played at the Laurelhurst Theater at 2735 E. Burnside St. When “Wild,” based on the novel by local it-author Cheryl Strayed, premiered in 2014 with red-carpet reception and afterparty for stars including Laura Dern and Reese Witherspoon, it was at Cinema 21, 616 N.W. 21st Ave.

15. Library exchange. Thanks to Metropolitan Interlibrary Exchange, all Clark County residents can go in person to get a free Multnomah County Library system card. We recommend the central library at 801 S.W. 10th Ave., because it’s equally cool, in a grand-old way, as Vancouver’s downtown library in its modern, steel-and-glass way. But here’s what’s Draconian about the Multnomah system: They actually charge late fines for overdue items. One quarter per day, up to $10. (Whereas, our tender, loving Fort Vancouver library system has never whacked anybody with a fine for an overdue item. Why, that would be unkind!)

Great outdoors

16. Mt. Tabor cinder cone. Follow Southeast Hawthorne out to a dormant volcano in the city. Joggers and walkers love artistically designed Mt. Tabor, which is crisscrossed by paved and dirt paths, and so do performers who offer concerts and summer-night plays in the caldera amphitheater.

17. Forest Park. One of the largest urban forests in America, with 5,100 acres and dozens of trailheads. If Forest Park isn’t literally magical, it certainly ought to be; its Wildwood Trail even inspired the award-winning “Wildwood Chronicles” young adult fantasy novels. For easy access, take Thurman Street west out of the northwest neighborhoods until the road ends at Leif Erikson Drive, a wide, firm-gravel trail for hikers and cyclists. It’s 11.2 miles one way to the trailhead at Germantown Road.

18. Biketown PDX. This is where hipster starts to splinter, with some despising Portland’s new bike-share program because it was underwritten by corporate behemoth Nike and undermines mom-and-pop bike shops. Others wonder, what’s not to love? It costs $99 a year, $19 a month or eight cents per minute. There are over 1,000 bikes and 100 stations.

19. Tilikum Crossing, Eastbank Esplanade, Springwater Corridor. Got your bike? Now enjoy a mellow ride beside the Willamette River and the parade of humanity that hangs out there. The loop defined by Tom McCall Waterfront Park, the Steel Bridge, the Eastbank Esplanade and the gleaming new Tilikum Crossing (“Bridge of the People,” designed to echo the look and dimensions of Mt. Hood in the distance), is only 6 miles round-trip. But if you’re feeling ambitious, head south from OMSI on the Springwater Corridor trail to Sellwood, with more connections branching out from there. You can even out-and-back all the way to Gresham (16 miles one way) and Boring (21 miles one way).

20. Marine Drive bike path. This writer’s favorite bike loop dips into Portland but starts and ends up here in The Couve. Coast south on the (mostly downhill) I-205 bridge to link up with the super-scenic Marine Drive path, head west and through the little marina neighborhood called Bridgeton, then north up and over the I-5 bridge again.

Welcome home, Vancouver hipster!

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