Portland: The Quirky, the Strange and the Eclectic

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Portland, Ore., has the reputation for being one of the most eclectic cities in America. Look no further than “Portlandia,” the quirky television series featuring Fred Armisen, a “Saturday Night Live” cast member, that both lampoons and celebrates all things Portland. From tree–huggers and grungy musicians to cage-free eggs and microbreweries, the series paints a loving (and satirical) tribute to the City of Roses.

In the 1960s, if you were the type of person who beat to a different drummer, chances are you fueled up the VW Bug and headed to the diverse streets of San Francisco. Today, yuppies have taken over San Fran, pricing out the artists, musicians, and all the weird and wonderful people who used to flock to the West Coast city. Portland is the 21st century San Francisco, and in 2013 it was named the 10th fastest growing city in America. If you’re an international student looking to study abroad on the West Coast, Portland has one eccentric block after another, and the residents are some of the friendliest in the States.

Before you descend on the Pacific Northwest for your study abroad program, you’ll need to obtain a passport and student visa. Don’t forget to purchase international student insurance, either. Travel can be unpredictable, so it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Also, you might want to pack an umbrella because Portland is as well known for its rainy weather as it is its quirky characters. Here are a few of Portland’s highlights.

1. In 2012, Portland was voted the #1 greenest city in America. There are trees everywhere, and locals are serious about cons

ervation and reducing their carbon footprint. Forest Park overlooks Portland’s main waterway, the Willamette River. This bucolic setting is the perfect place to walk, run, bike or walk a dog. Forest Park has over 70 miles of walking trails to choose from.

2. The Pacific Northwest is coffee country. While Portland isn’t the birthplace of Starbucks—that honor goes to Seattle, Portland’s brother to the north—it has some of the best coffee in the United States. Head down to Portland’s Pearl District and order a latte from one of the numerous coffeehouses. Or take the java to go and explore Portland’s Saturday Market.

3. Amazon and Barnes & Noble might have a monopoly on the book industry, but you’d never know that in Portland. Powell’s City of Books is the largest independent chain in the world, and the flagship store in Portland is so big you’ll need a map (or GPS) to find that latest Chuck Palahniuk book.

4. Portland has a slew of nicknames. Rip City and Stumptown are two examples; Beervana is another. Microbreweries are all the rage on the West Coast. There are 31 microbreweries in Portland, which is more than any other place in the world. Whether you like Belgian-style Tripels or Russian Imperial Stouts, get out and explore the pub scene.

5. Portland is a city of bridges. These aren’t just your run-of-the-mill bridges, either. The Hawthorne has the title of being the oldest operating lift bridge in the U.S., while the Steel Bridge is a double-decker lift bridge. What’s the best way to experience these architectural marvels? Go green and rent a bike like a true Portlander.

Portland is a great place to visit in order to experience the best the American West Coast has to offer. Just be sure to bring a rain jacket and an open mind!


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