Only in Portland: 5 quirky things

Only in Portland: 5 quirky things
CNN
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Tuesday, January 14, 2014 - 4:35pm

(CNN) -- Portland, Oregon, is so quirky that locals just take it for granted.

For those still operating under a normal paradigm, here are five things you will find only in Portland:

A doughnut shop where you can get married. It was a sad day in Portland when its longtime 24-Hour Church of Elvis, a roving storefront art installation dispensing marriage licenses and 25-cent pop culture trinkets, closed this summer. Luckily, Voodoo Doughnut was there to fill in the gap. This cash-only, 24/7 doughnut shop performs about 400 legal weddings a year. It was started in 2003 by Tres Shannon, a flamboyant one-time mayoral candidate, and Kenneth "Cat Daddy" Pogson to feed the hangover crowd. The FDA eventually put the kibosh on the Nyquil, Robitussin and Pepto-Bismo doughnuts, but their signature voodoo doughnut lives on. It's shaped like a gingerbread man and comes with a pretzel stick in the belly for stabbing and drawing blood, er, raspberry jelly. As for weddings, which come with coffee and doughnuts for up to 60 guests, Pogson says his favorite involved a groom in a psychedelic suit who brought his mother in an urn.

An ice cream counter that tops sundaes with worms. At the Freakybuttrue Peculiarium, an art gallery, novelty shop and café in Portland's Alphabet District, you can pick up everything from zombie slippers and fake dog poop to plastic eyeballs to float in your gin and tonics. Lots of people show up just to pet Bigfoot (he's 10 feet tall, so you need a ladder), leave a message in the neon graffiti room or perform an autopsy on a life-size space alien. Daring sorts belly up to the ice cream counter for sundaes, hot dogs and other treats sprinkled with real bug larvae. Tempting as it is to think "Sparky," the on-display ventriloquist-murdering dummy, is the mastermind behind this house of terror, it was actually started by filmmaker Mike Wellins and two friends.

A museum where vacuum cleaners are out of the closet. Stark's Vacuum Cleaner Museum -- where you won't find crumbs, cobwebs or a single dust bunny -- will sweep you off your feet. More than 100 vintage vacuums from the late 1800s up to the 1960s are on display in a 10-foot-by-40-foot wing of Stark's Vacuums in downtown Portland. Other than during the summer of 2012, when the Vacuum Cleaner Collectors Club convened at this Smithsonian of Sucking Machines, the little museum averages about a dozen visitors a month who come to ogle rare pre-electricity hand-pumped vacs, a cardboard model from the penny-pinching 1930s, an Electrolux on runners and a Duntley Pneumatic that attaches to the ceiling. Needless to say, the museum's carpet is spotless.

A city park that can fit only one person at a time. Mill Ends Park, the world's smallest, is a 2-foot circle and, according to legend, houses the only leprechaun colony west of Ireland. It was dedicated on St. Patrick's Day 1948 after the light pole for which it was intended never appeared. Instead, newspaper columnist Dick Fagan planted flowers, and Patrick O'Toole, the colony's so-called head leprechaun, approved, at various times, such park installations as a swimming pool for butterflies. It even had a diving board and a miniature Ferris wheel.

Costumed adults who ride bikes with banana seats down a 710-foot hill. Not only does Portland have the highest number of bike commuters it the U.S., it has a club of self-described anarchist Zoobombers. Every Sunday night for 10 years, they've picked out a bike from a jumbled pile of customized kiddie bikes near Powell's Books, loaded it onto Portland's light rail system and rode up to the Portland Zoo, where they unloaded, walked up another hill and then zoomed along a designated route through Washington Park. The weirder the costume, the funkier the bike, the better.

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