Exploring Portland's Quirks

How could you NOT love a place that has the world's largest book store, the world's smallest park and the world's only 24 hour Church of Elvis?

Our two day visit wasn't enough to see and do all that we wanted but we sure had fun trying.

Exploring Portland's Quirks

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Re Carroll on August 22, 2001

Portland is divided by the Wilamette River with the majority of tourist attractions on the west side. We stayed on the east side and used the MAX lightrail system to get around.

We wandered through areas like China Town with its large colourful gate. One of our favourite places was the Saturday Market along the waterfront. It is a fascinating combination of arts and crafts, food and buskers that kept us entertained for hours.

We also discovered Portland’s quirky side and some attractions that were definitely off the beaten path. It took about 10 seconds to explore Mill Ends Park, supposedly the smallest in the world. On the opposite end of the scale, Powell’s New & Used Books bills itself as the world’s largest and our feet certainly agreed after traipsing through numerous rooms checking out every type of book imaginable. Our most bizarre experience was at the 24 Hour Church of Elvis which almost defies description but was definitely a memorable experience.

Portland successfully combines a small town atmosphere with big city attractions and amenities and has wonderful west coast scenery to boot. Definitely a place to return to!${QuickSuggestions} A good place to visit is Pioneer Courtyard, a large, open area with life-size bronze statues and a helpful Tourist Information Centre.

There are lots of shops and restaurants nearby. ${BestWay} Most of the sightseeing happens to be in zone 1 of the MAX public transit line. It's called "fareless square" which means it's free so there's no need to bother with a car.

Best Western Inn at the Convention Centre

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Re Carroll on August 22, 2001

Located on Portland’s east side, this hotel is just a few blocks from the large Lloyd Centre shopping mall, the Convention Centre and the stadium where sporting events and concerts are held. Main attractions like Historic Old Town and The Saturday Market were just a short walk across the bridge or only 3 MAX stops away.

The rates for this hotel were much less than many of the other Portland hotels I checked out. I think this is partly due to the fact that the hotel is older and doesn’t have a lot of amenities. It is located in an area that seems a bit gloomy at night but we didn’t encounter any problems when walking around after dark. One real benefit was the MAX light rail line that was just across the street which meant we could leave the car at the hotel. The hotel had a private parking lot near the entrance and there was no additional charge for parking.

Our room was decorated in rust, cream and green and had two queen size beds and a separate reading area with a table and a couple of chairs. Although a bit dark, it was large enough to accommodate the four of us comfortably. As in most hotels, air conditioning was standard but the room also had large sliding windows that opened to let in fresh air and we had a good view of the large glass spires atop the Convention Centre.

The bathrooms facilities were separated with tub and toilet in one room and the sink, hairdryer and large make up mirror outside the door. This worked well for us since there were four women and we could reduce our morning prep time because one person could do makeup, hair, etc. while someone else was in the shower.

Each floor had a vending machine selling snacks and pop and ice machines were located on every second floor. The hotel restaurant, called Marsens, was basically a coffee shop that was open for breakfast and lunch but we didn’t eat there.

The woman at reception was pleasant and helpful and didn’t bat an eye at our requests for extra pillows, change for the pop machine and information on tourist attractions.

Overall, the hotel had an almost institutional feel to it - not much of a warm and cozy atmosphere but as mentioned above, the location was ok and the hotel was very reasonably priced ($75. for 4 people). I’d recommend it as budget lodgings but next time we’d probably pay more to stay right downtown at a hotel with amenities like a pool, sauna, etc.

Inn at the Convention Center
420 N E Holladay Street
Portland, Oregon, 97232
(503) 233-6331

Portland's Parks

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Re Carroll on August 22, 2001

Portland is a city that loves nature and there are green belts and parks throughout. The Governor Tom McCall Waterfront area is a long, narrow stretch that follows the west side of the Wilamette River and ends at the Saturday Market. At the opposite end, the Salmon Street Fountain entertains young and old alike with its changing water patterns. It is extremely popular with cyclists and pedestrians who like to run (or walk if you don't mind getting wet) through the individual jets. It's a good way to cool off on a hot day.

Make sure you have your camera ready for a picture of Mill Ends Park. Measuring only two feet, Guinness has recognized it as the world's smallest city park. At one time, it was just a pole hole but an enterprising Portland resident lobbied to have it turned into a park and it now features a plaque that makes it official. I had one heck of a time finding this park and even the few residents I asked weren't quite sure. When you see the park, you'll understand why it's not easy to locate. It sits in the middle of the road, at the end of a traffic median on S.W. Naito Parkway but somehow people manage to hold weddings and other celebrations here. It is supposedly looked after by a resident leprechaun who seems to be doing a good job.

Although you can't stroll through Mill Ends (one step and you're out of the park), Portland has lots of other parks to enjoy. The three level International Rose Test Garden showcases hundreds of varieties of roses throughout the spring and summer and the Japanese Garden is one of the most authentic ones outside of Japan. Both these parks are on the MAX transit line at the Washington Park stop.

Mill Ends Park
Median Strip of SW Naito Parkway & Taylor
Portland, Oregon, 97204

24 Hour Church of Elvis

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Re Carroll on August 22, 2001

It seems Vegas isn't the only city that keeps Elvis busy. I read about this place in a ten year old edition of National Geographic Traveler and just had to check it out.

It's in a rather seedy area and I wouldn't recommend visiting here at night, alone or on foot, but is was fine during the day.

Be warned: You MUST have a warped or unusual sense of humour since this place is like nothing you've probably seen or will see again. There is no rhyme nor reason to it but rather a bizarre mix of toys, memorabilia, etc. from the 60s right up to today. See the cardboard statues of Jennifer Lopez, Kathy Ireland...and Elvis, of course. Listen as the "curator" gives you a rambling, non sensical oratory on who knows what. See the vibrating tin can, watch the doll that actually bites into a Big Mac (it's magic!) and be prepared to be jovially insulted. There are no set times, you just walk in and join the loose tour at whatever stage it's at.

When I arrived, a couple from Texas were the only victims, I mean guests. Within 20 minutes, some people from Germany and other couples wandered in and our group grew to about 13. My nieces came to find me and they also got sucked into the Elvis tour void - definitely lost in space here. Sometimes, the guide would back track and go through part of her spiel again; other times, she changed topics like men change channels with a remote control. I was lost but judging from the bemused and befuddled expressions on the faces of the others, so was everyone else. So far, nothing had to do with Elvis but there was so much to look at, we didn't mind...or maybe we just didn't notice.

As we progressed from the clutter filled back room to the larger and more clutter filled main room, Elvis walked in; or should I say, Elvis in disguise? He sat down near an unfinished jigsaw puzzle for a few minutes, then got his gold lame cape and took off for parts unknown. We later saw him with his guitar chatting to people on the street and even later, busking for the crowd at the Saturday Market.

After about 20 minutes of the tour, and with no end in sight, we decided to make a break for it since we had to meet up with my sister. As we left, I noticed the others in the group still looked confused but all seemed to have goofy grins on their face. I have a feeling that this is a place they'll remember -I know I will!

There didn't appear to be any charge for the tour although they did have tee shirts, including glow in the dark ones, for sale - the perfect memento from the Church of Elvis.

24 Hour Church of Elvis
720 SW Ankeny St
Portland, Oregon
(503) 226-3671

Skidmore Fountain Building and Saturday Market

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Re Carroll on August 22, 2001

Located in an old brick building right in the middle of the Saturday Market hubbub, this was like a retro shopping mall with a number of small stores selling records (I mean CDs), Asian cotton and hand painted batik clothes, blown glass perfume jars and other gifts and books.

The inside hasn't been modernized much. The floors are squeaky wooden planks and the interior walls are old exposed bricks. As well as stairs, there is an elevator for second floor access.

One store sells only clothing, food and other items from Australia and is called, what else? - the Australia Shop. If you're a fan of Marmite, the vegetable paste spread that Aussies are so fond of, you'll find it here. This is also the place to buy trendy Blundstone boots.

The small cafe just inside the entrance of the building does a booming business. It's open for breakfast and lunch and serves scones, muffins, bagels, sandwiches and on weekdays, soup. We tried the crumb cakes which were very moist and delicious. This is also the place for tea, espresso, Italian sodas and my niece's favourite, tangy strawberry lemonade. Prices seemed to be less than outside at the market.

If you leave through the back of the building, you're right into the market chaos but if you're still hungry stop, at Limey's. The owner is from England, hence the name. He sells take away pastries, sausage rolls, Scotch eggs (deep fried, crumb coated, shelled, hard boiled eggs), shortbread cookies and very rich and very large slices of cheesecake with fruit topping.

Most of Skidmore's stores sell clothes, mainly cottons made in Asia and the prices are very reasonable. Herbs, new age books and oriental gifts and ornaments are also available.

If you can tear yourself away from shopping and eating at the Skidmore Building, head outside to the Market for lots more of the same. You'll find stalls selling fish and chips, burgers, falafaels, fudge, Mexican food, etc. as well as what seems like hundreds of stalls where artisans sell everything from handmade jewellery to candles. You can even find artists who'll draw your portrait while you wait.

This is also a great place to watch the entertaining buskers. I was especially impressed with a woman who played the sax (and very well I might add) while expertly keeping her hula hoop in motion. Elvis was here too...taking a break from the Church of Elvis, I guess. The Skidmore building is open seven days a week but the Market only operates on Saturday and Sunday.

Portland Saturday Market
108 W Burnside St.
Portland, Oregon, 97209
(503) 222-6072


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