Bike lanes and streetcars, craft-beer breweries and coffee roasters, green spaces and green buildings -- this trendsetting city enjoys its clean, healthy, and easygoing lifestyle.
And then there's its quirky side -- with a capital Q.
This is a city that was named by a coin toss, whose sea captains beefed up their crews by shanghaiing sailors, and that attracted tourists with a "monstrosity of art." Today, it boasts the world's smallest park -- about the size of a manhole cover. And a Chinatown with no -- zero -- Chinese residents.
It all starts with Voodoo Doughnuts.
"When you're talking quirky, you're talking Voodoo," says Herb Spice, the quirky guide of a Quirky Portland tour.
The cash-only, takeout-only doughnut shop opened seven years ago, "mostly for people with hangovers after the bars closed," Spice says. He opens a box of assorted "classic" doughnuts, including the "blood-filled voodoo doughnut" -- a rectangular, chocolate-iced doughnut with arms, red-iced eyes and mouth, and a pretzel stick in its belly.
"Think of someone you don't like or who's done you wrong," Spice says, chuckling. "Then push down the pretzel, and if the voodoo doughnut bleeds (raspberry jelly), see how that person's doing in a few days."
Nearby, the gateway to the section marketed as "Old Town Chinatown" is larger than San Francisco's, decorated with 78 dragons, 58 mythical characters, and two golden lions.
"Our Chinatown is missing something that every other Chinatown in the world has," Spice says. "Chinese."
The district does have the Lan Su Chinese Garden and the House of Louie Chinese restaurant, but Chinese residents live across town, Spice says.
As we stroll toward the neighboring Pearl District, Spice points out the 200-foot-long blocks -- less than half the length of a New York City block. City founders Asa Lovejoy and Francis Pettygrove recognized that shorter blocks meant more higher-priced corner lots.
It was Lovejoy, from Boston, and Pettygrove, from Portland, Maine, who wanted to name the new city after their respective hometowns. To break the impasse, they flipped a coin three times, and Pettygrove won twice. Today, the "Portland Penny" is on display at the Oregon Historical Society.
The Pearl District has been transformed in the last 15 years from factories and warehouses to art galleries, chic shops, fashionable restaurants and modern residences. Yet its history has been retained, led by fixtures such as Powell's City of Books, which claims to be the largest independent bookstore in the world, and Henry's 12th Street Tavern, on the site of a brewery that produced beer for more than 140 years.
There are 31 other breweries in the city and six more in the metro area, leading to Portland's self-proclaimed title: Beer Capital of the World.
Why are there so many craft and microbreweries that the city is nicknamed Beervana?
"It's the water," Spice says -- pure, tasty and plentiful, flowing from Mount Hood, its snowy peak towering 60 miles to the east.
I slurp it straight from one of the 52 Benson Bubblers scattered around the city. From 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., water gurgles continuously in an array of four drinking basins named for lumber baron Simon Benson. In the early 1900s, workers could only get water by ordering a drink, so Benson commissioned the bubblers to cut down on drunkenness, Spice says.
Running through the Cultural District are the South Park Blocks -- 12 small parks greening the city, each featuring a statue or other work of art. We admire a garden of multicolored roses, protected by a $500 fine for picking them. One of the parks, Chapman Square, was originally for women only, with female ginkgo trees and only one bathroom -- for women.
But that's merely a blip on the Quirky Meter compared with the famous -- or infamous -- bronze elk statue north of the square.
Roland Hinton Perry -- he sculpted the golden Commonwealth figurine atop the capitol dome in Harrisburg, Pa. -- was commissioned to produce the elk statue for a drinking fountain for horses and dogs. One problem: Perry had never seen the elk that once grazed in the area, or any elk, Spice says.
At the dedication in 1900, members of the Exalted Order of Elks stormed out, calling the statue "a monstrosity of art" because of its antlers and neck (too long) and legs (too thin).
The statue became the most controversial piece of art in Portland, Spice says, and its biggest tourist attraction.
Jake's Famous Crawfish is one of the oldest and most popular bars and restaurants, dating to 1892. On my Quirky Portland tour, Spice directs us to peer through the windows at the handsome oak bar and concave black-and-white tilework on the floor along its base.
"Women wouldn't go here. That's a pee trough -- you'd drink your beer and then relieve yourself," Spice says, adding that it's no longer used.