Portland, Oregon, is known for many things, from craft breweries and independent eateries to its generally quirky aesthetic, embraced by locals with the slogan “Keep Portland Weird”. But that’s far from all. Portland is also one of the geekiest places on Earth. Welcome to Geeky Portland. While a love for comics, games, and old TV shows have permeated the entire city, there are a few especially geeky highlights.
1. Powell’s City of Books
Nestled between downtown and the Pearl District is a massive Incan temple filled with books. Powell’s City of Books is the crown jewel of the country’s largest independent bookstore. Taking up an entire city block and with nearly 70,000 square feet of retail space, Powell’s organizes their books in large, square rooms by genre, but it’s still surprisingly simple, and enjoyable, to get lost. The aisles are filled with happy visitors and awestruck pilgrims, as many visit Portland just to see Powell’s. It has the best selection of books this side of the internet.
2. Ground Kontrol
Retro gaming and pinball have special places in the hearts of many geeks. Now we can finally combine our favorite old video games with beer in this self-styled “Barcade”.
Inside Ground Kontrol’s Mega Man-blue exterior, the dimness is punctured by the flashing lights of dozens of classic arcade games. The surface of each has been augmented to include drink holders. The ground floor is video games, and along the balcony is an impressive series of pinball machines. The bar in the back corner has recently expanded to serve food, as well.
3. Floating World
Just a block down Couch Street from Ground Kontrol is Floating World Comics, a comic book shop done Portland style. While there are many places to buy funnybooks (see number 4), Floating World captures the Rose City’s obsession with art of all kinds. In addition to a focus on gallery showings, vinyl records, and homespun independent comics, nearly a quarter of the shop’s space is dedicated to an artist’s studio. Many days, it’s possible to watch a new work of art be produced while you shop.
4. Things from Another World
The flipside of the comics coin is Things from Another World. This Oregon-native chain has a location in Portland, as well as the surrounding towns of Milwaukee and Beaverton. This shops is big, bright, and shiny, more focused on the mainstream publishers like Marvel, DC, and the Portland-based Dark Horse comics. Along with collectables and back-issues, there is always knowledgeable staff on hand to recommend new titles.
And to Wrap up Geeky Portland…5. The TARDIS Room
The perfect nightcap to any geeky day in Portland is the Doctor Who-themed TARDIS Room. Once a simple British-style fish and chip shop, the owners have now embraced the fandom and turned their chippie into a popular nightspot. They offer events like karaoke and open mic nights, as well as Doctor Who trivia each week. Be sure to check out their special Whovian drink menu. The TARDIS Room’s highlight is behind the building itself, where a food truck stays stationed to provide British chips as classic episodes of the TV series are projected onto the building itself.
In a city so connected to geeky culture, there are always new destinations to be discovered. Any trip there is sure to expand the ranks of your own personal Top Five.
Written by Brian C. Baer
After living abroad in Prague and Manchester, UK, Brian C. Baer has returned home to the Pacific Northwest. He works as a freelance writer and blogs about travel and geeky things at briancbaer.wordpress.com.