Nicole Dial shares some cheap thrills in Portland.
I love San Francisco, but it’s a tough town to be broke in. But that’s not the case in Portland. Most of the city is geared towards having fun on the cheap, that and embracing all things weird and wacky. Wandering the streets, it’s easy to see why people call Portland a zoo. It’s filled with an eclectic mash up of old time hippies, hipsters, grunge kids, musicians, artists and anybody else that happen to stumble through this Oregon city.
Embracing your inner child:
Though the Avalon Theater may not look like much on the outside, but go inside and get two dollars’ worth of nickels at the front desk. There are two rooms where you can play arcade games for hours. They have all the classic games like skee ball, pin ball, air hockey and shoot ‘em ups. And when you cash in the prize tickets, you can get some sweet prizes from the front desk. If you’re still bored after all that, they have movies showing all day. And if you still can’t get enough head over to Ground Kontrol. It’s another classic arcade on the other side of the river from the Avalon. Ground Kontrol features tons of arcade games plus a bar and occasional DJs. They even have free play parties twice a month. Booze, music and arcade games, you really can’t go wrong.
Fastest thing on wheels:
Every August, Portland puts on an adult soapbox derby starting at the top of their inactive Volcano, Mt. Tabor. Drunken spectators cheer as sleek racecars zip down the mountain. These racers really get into too and each racecar looks like a work of art. Just don’t get too drunk and wander into the track.
And for all you bike lovers out there, there’s a bike event called Zoobombing that takes place every week in Washington Park in the West hills near the zoo- namely tons of cyclists descending from the city’s hills through the many trails. Since it started, there has even been a monument of unused bikes all piled together affectionately known as the “pyle.”
If you’re feeling particularly spiritual for something wacky then head over to the 24 hour church of Elvis. You can have your fortune told, take the holy Elvis vows to be married and check out the weird collection of dolls, posters and art inside the display.
Once you’re done there, hoof it over to Voodoo donuts- a donut shop filled with pinball machines and voodoo memorabilia (Like a coffin couch) with donuts each boasting their own humorous title. Get the classic voodoo doll donut- its shaped like a voodoo doll with a pretzel stabbed through its heart, and inside is filled with red jelly. You can also be married (legally) at Voodoo then feast on bacon and maple donuts. Yum.
Hungry for more:
This is a foodie’s holy land; the food is cheap and the beer and coffee even cheaper. Portland and the surrounding area has a huge percentage of microbreweries for your drinking convince. It may just be the best place to get your drink on, especially with all of city’s happy hours and specials. There are plenty of bars and pubs that also double as movie theaters like the Bagdad where you can watch a movie for two dollars while sipping on some locally brewed beer and some pizza.
They also have cornered the market on street carts, they takes their food carts seriously. Most are located downtown, but there are some pretty freaking fantastic food carts scattered around town. For a few bucks you can get nearly anything like pad Thai or waffles or a weird thing called Poutine- French fries with gravy and cheese curds. (It’s a Canadian thing.) Portland also has blocks of farmers markets all over town with organic produce galore. You really can’t go hungry in this town, even the bums look well fed.
If you need a little pick me up, head over to one of the hundreds of coffee shops all over town. Forget Starbucks, go get yourself some real java at Stumptown or any indy coffee shop. Trust me on this one, you’ll never feel more caffeinated in your life. Once you have some coffee, head to any of bookstores and engage that cute hipster in a philosophical debate over fixies and the resurgence of plaid shirts.
Nicole Dial is a freelance writer and photographer by night and a starving artist by day. You can follow her at @nicolemdial or at http://nicolemdial.wordpress.com/