Over the past 20+ years of living in the City of Roses, I’ve definitely learned a few interesting facts about Portland, Oregon.
Some Portland facts have surprised me, others impressed me and many have made me appreciate my hometown all the more.
Today I’m rounding up the 20 most interesting facts about Portland I’ve learned. I hope you enjoy!
Facts About Portland, Oregon
#1. Portland is the most bike-friendly city in America
With more than 350+ miles of bike lanes, Portland is considered the most bike-friendly city in the country.
Year after year, Portland clocks in as one of the best cities for cyclists due to extensive biking trails and advanced bike infrastructure.
I can tell you from first hand experience that biking around Portland is enjoyable, safe and a great way to explore the town (this is coming from someone that scares easily!).
In fact, biking is so popular in Portland that on average 5.3% of residents commute to work by bike, far exceeding the national average of .5%.
Hop on the local BIKETOWN bikes and take a lovely ride along the Willamette River to see exactly why Portland is called Bridge City. And whatever you do, don’t miss an opportunity to bike across the Tilikum Crossing bridge!
Take your bike for a spin at Waterfront Park, which is especially beautiful in the spring, if you want proof, read: Local’s Guide to Cherry Blossoms in Portland.
#2. Portland is home to the smallest park in the world
In 1971, Guinness World Records confirmed what most Portlanders already knew — Mill Ends Park is the smallest park in the world.
Clocking in at a mere two square feet, Mill Ends Park is officially recognized as the smallest park in the world. It wouldn’t Portland if it wasn’t weird, right?
Regardless, this little park is a beloved Portland treasure and visiting it is one of the quirkiest things to do in Portland.
The tree was actually stolen once (in 2013) but promptly returned presumably due to remorse.
Further Reading: 12 Stunning Parks in Portland, Oregon
#3. …and one of the largest urban forests in the country
Spanning more than 5,200 acres and offering 70+ blissful miles of trails, Portland’s beloved Forest Park is one of the largest urban forests in the country and it is ripe for exploration.
If you’re looking for active things to do in Portland, take a hike in Forest Park.
Forest Park swallows you up and makes you forget you’re anywhere near a city because of the towering old-trees, making it a great stop for anyone that gets overwhelmed by cities.
I especially like small portions of the Wildwood Trail (which connects Washington Park and Forest Park), the Ridge Trail and Lower MacLeay to Stone House (“Witch’s Castle”).
Further Reading: 17+ Epic Hikes Near Portland
#4. There’s a volcano within city limits
Portland is one of four American cities to have an extinct volcano within city limits. The culprit? Mount Tabor.
But since Mt. Tabor is considered a dormant volcano it’s not expected to erupt.
Since volcanoes sit at a higher elevation, they offer great vantage points of the beautiful city skyline. In fact, Mt. Tabor Park has one of the best views of Portland.
It’s hard to find a better spot for a summer picnic with friends!
If you’re interested, the other three cities in the United States that have extinct volcanoes are Bend, Oregon, Jackson, Mississippi and Honolulu.
Further Reading: 10 EPIC Portland Viewpoints to Check Off Your List
#5. Portland is consistently ranked as one of the BEST cities for millennials
Portland has a decent mix of generations, but through and through, it feels like a millennial city.
In fact, Portland often ranks as one of the top 15 best cities for millennials in the country. Which means a ton of shops cater to things millennials enjoy — like handmade crafts, vintage clothes and plants …. lots of plants.
This makes Portland a great place to meet folks going through similar phases in life (if you’re a millennial, of course).
#6. Portland is the 9th greenest city in America
According to a 2019 report released by WalletHub, Portland is the 9th greenest city in America. How was this determined? The survey collected data from the 100 largest cities in America and used 28 key indicators of environmental friendliness and sustainability.
The survey took into account how well cities promote a green lifestyle, green job opportunities per capita, greenhouse emissions per capita and energy policies and initiatives.
In fact, Portland recently passed a green tax that taxes large corporations and uses the revenue to fund energy efficiency initiatives in under-served communities. The first city in America to pass such a tax – hard not to like that!
#7. Portland is ranked as the BEST city in America for vegans and vegetarians
Forbes recently released a list of the best cities for vegetarians and vegans and Portland clocked in at #1 — even beating out Los Angeles and New York City. Let that sink in!
Healthy living is a way of life in Portland and locals take great pride in sourcing/cooking with local and seasonal vegetables. Therefore, it doesn’t surprise me that we have so many restaurants catering to vegetarians and vegans.
#8. Portland has the OLDEST public rose garden in the U.S.
Portland is often referred to as the City of Roses because the local climate creates the perfect conditions for growing roses and nowhere is this more evident than at the exceptional Portland Rose Garden within Washington Park, which is usually in bloom from May to October.
Portland’s beloved rose garden is both the largest rose garden in America and the oldest. Home to an impressive 650+ varieties of roses and more than 10,000+ bushes, it’s easily one of the best free things to do in Portland.
The history of the rose garden is equally as fascinating. Originally started in 1915 by Jesse Currey, (an Oregon Journal editor and rose hobbyist), the rose garden was created in an effort to preserve roses susceptible to eradication during World War I.
You don’t have to be a rose-enthusiast to appreciate this beautiful garden. It’s no wonder why this is one of the most visited places in Portland.
Location: 400 SW Kingston Ave, Portland, OR 97205
Further Reading: Visiting the Portland Rose Garden (Local’s Guide)
#9. Portland is the 10th fastest growing city in the U.S.
This Forbes article found that Portland is the 10th fastest growing metropolitan area in America. The growth rate clocks in at 1.8% per year.
What’s more, a Portland State University population study found that Oregon gained 400,000 residents in the last decade. Suffice it to say, both Portland and the entire state of Oregon have a large appeal on folks.
Hard to blame anyone for wanting to live in Portland though, the access to nature is spellbinding.
#10. Portland’s NEWEST nickname: Silicon Forest
Did you know that Portland’s tech-industry boom has earned it the nickname Silicon Forest.
Portland has a lot of big name businesses in town – especially athletic/outdoor companies like Nike, Adidas, Under Armor, Keen and Columbia.
But fret not, engineers are not forgotten, Intel and Daimler have homes here as well. Honestly, there’s too many companies to name, if you’re interested in Portland’s largest employers, read: Metro Portland’s Largest Employers.
Further Reading: 8 Quirky Portland Nicknames (& the Meanings Behind Them)
#11. Powell’s Books is the LARGEST independently-owned bookstore in the WORLD
Located in the trendy Pearl District and spanning a full city block, Powell’s Books is the largest independent bookstore in the entire world.
The local bookstore houses approximately one million books and spans 4 floors. Pop into the Gold Room to see the rarest and most expensive books at this incredible book shop.
Fun fact: The most expensive book at Powell’s is an 1814 copy of the Lewis & Clark Journal which includes Captain Lewis’ map safely tucked between the pages. The price? $350,000.
#12. Portland is tied to the Simpsons
Few people know that the creator of The Simpsons, Matt Groening, grew up in Portland, Oregon.
As such, you may notice that a lot of the streets in NW Portland seem familiar. The reason? A handful of Simpsons characters are named after Portland streets!
So if you’re looking for unique things to do in Portland, why not go on a self-guided tour and search for all the streets that the Simpsons characters are named after?
Further Reading: The Simpsons & the City of Portland
#13. Portland’s name was decided by a coin toss
Heads or tails?
Most Portlanders already know this fun little Portland fact, but just in case you don’t, here’s the story:
The founders of Portland, Oregon were two settlers from New England. One from Boston, Massachusetts and the other from Portland, Maine. Both settlers wanted to name the city after their respective home towns and decided to settle for a coin toss – the rest, as they say, is history.
Speaking of Portland, Maine, did you know that the two Portlands lie at practically identical latitudes? Portland, Oregon lies at a latitude of 45:30, and Portland, Maine lies at a latitude of 43:40.
My husband and I visited the “other” Portland and had a fun time comparing the two cities. Read: Portland, Oregon vs. Portland, Maine.
#14. Portland is home to one of the largest roosts of Vaux’s Swifts in the world
Like clockwork, every September, Portland’s Chapman Elementary is swarmed with locals eager to catch a glimpse of migrating Vaux’s Swifts as they fly into the school’s chimney by the thousands to nest for the night.
This is one of the largest roosts of Vaux Swifts in the world! See video here.
Portlanders make an entire event out of this incredible sight because it’s such a great free thing to do in Portland. Bring a picnic blanket or chairs and enjoy an evening of wander surrounded by friends.
Further Reading: How to see the famous swifts in Portland
#15. Portland International Airport (PDX) is often ranked as one of the BEST large airports in America.
As someone that used to fly frequently (pre-COVID), I can attest that the Portland International Airport is a gem, I absolutely love flying in and out of the airport – it’s always been hassle-free in my experience.
#16. Portland is rated as the BEST beer city in America
Of all the things Portland is known for, perhaps the most notable is Portland’s beer scene. In fact, Portland is often rated as the best beer city in America.
Our area of expertise? Craft beers and plenty of them.
It’s almost impossible to be disappointed at most Portland breweries but there are some clear standouts you can’t afford to miss.
Breakside Brewing: Breakside opened with a bang in NW Portland and has become so well-loved it’s hard to remember what we did before they came to town.
10 Barrel Brewing (from Bend, Oregon): Their sours are worth writing home about and the seasonal salad is dream-worthy, especially if salmon is involved.
Deschutes Brewery: The interior alone is worth the visit, so charming and rustic. This brewery is very popular and gets very busy very quickly because it’s the brewery everyone wants to visit. It’s not uncommon for folks to wait in line for 2+ hours before being seated. Come early or have snacks to tide you over, the experience is worth it.
But does this fact about Portland really surprise you? How else would we get through the gray winter months?
#17. Hood to Coast is the longest and largest relay races in the world
Did you know that Oregon’s annual Hood to Coast relay is the the longest and largest relay races in the world? The beloved relay starts at the base of Mount Hood (Timberline Lodge) and ends in Seaside, Oregon.
For the past 28 years, the event has reached it team limit — there’s a maximum of 18,000 runners and walkers allowed per year). For the past 21 years, the event sold on on opening day. Needless to say, this is a beloved Oregon tradition indeed.
#18. Portland consistently ranks one of the best coffee cities in the country
Portland consistently ranks as one of the top 3 best coffee cities in America (our neighbors Seattle and San Francisco are always in the mix, too).
And I can tell you from firsthand experience that Portlanders are downright spoiled with good coffee options.
It’s hard to accept a mediocre cup of joe when you live in a place like Portland which is why I highly recommend drinking as much coffee as you can while you’re visiting the city — and whatever you do, DON’T go to Starbucks (their coffee is subpar at best compared to Portland cafes).
In fact, one of my favorite things to do in Portland with out of town guests is to start every morning at a different cafe and have them rank them.
So far, these are the top five favorite coffee shops: Coava, Heart Coffee, Stumptown, Good Coffee and Barista.
#19. Portland is home to the second largest copper statue in America
Sitting pretty at nearly 35 feet, the Portlandia Statue is the second largest copper statue in America — second only to the Statue of Liberty in New York City.
The City of Portland commissioned a sculptor named Raymond Kaskey to create the sculpture after the figure on the Portland seal (fun fact, he modeled the statue’s face after his wife).
Kaskey completed sections of the statue near Washington D.C. and began shipping it to Portland (piece by piece) via boat. It was assembled in Portland and finally installed on the Portland Building in 1985.
You might ask yourself why such an iconic statue is not better known. Well, the sculptor guards the rights to the statue strictly and doesn’t allow photos of it to be used for commercial purposes, and threatens lawsuits when his request is not met.
However, the statue may look familiar to Portlandia fans because the show received permission to use the statue after hefty negotiations and an agreement not to use it in a “disparaging way.”
Image courtesy of Oregon Live
#20. Stalin’s granddaughter runs an antique shop in Portland, Oregon
Definitely saving the best for last. I’m not going to spoil the fun, here’s a New York Post article that answers
all most of the questions you probably have.
Interesting Portland Facts (Post Summary)
In sum, here’s a quick list of the most interesting facts about Portland.
- Portland is the most bike-friendly city in America
- The creator of the Simpsons is from Portland
- Portland is home to the smallest park in the world
- And one of the urban forests in the country
- The Portland International Rose Garden is the oldest rose garden in America
- There’s a volcano within city limits
- Portland consistently ranks as a great millennial city
- The largest roost of Vaux swifts come through Portland
- The city has earned a new nickname: Silicon Forest
- Portland is the 10th fastest growing city in America
- Ranked as the best city in America for vegans and vegetarians
- Portland is the 9th greenest city in America
- The Portland International Airport is considered one of the best in the country
- Portland is home to the second largest copper statue in America
- The city’s name was decided by a coin toss
- Powell’s Books is the largest independent bookstore in the world
- Portland is ranked as one of the best coffee cities in the world
- Hood to Coast is the longest relay in the world
- The oldest public rose garden is in Portland
- Stalin’s granddaughter lives in Portland
Love Portland? Here’s some articles you may find interesting
- 20 HONEST Pros & Cons of Living in Portland
- 25+ EPIC Things to do in Portland (+4 Tourist Traps to Avoid)
- The 7 BREATHTAKING Wonders of Oregon (+4 More We Should Add ASAP)
I hope you enjoyed this quick list of interesting facts about Portland! Did you learn anything new? Do you know any interesting Portland facts that should be added to the list? If so, let me know in the comments below!
Until next time,