Portland is renowned for its quirky culture, with a thriving gay/creative scene and outdoor beauty. The citizens of Portland have a serious thing for making the world a better place. Humanitarian heavyweights anchor a rich and diverse nonprofit scene, but you’ll also find strands of community spirit in the stuff of daily life with calls to action for nonbinary gender justice and tiny homes for the city’s homeless women. As shown in Portland-based Hulu show Shrill, being “hip/fat-positive/creative” is fully embraced here.
In America, efforts to carve out a hippie utopia were at their peak in the 1960s and 1970s. You could argue the whole American experiment is a breakaway commune, God’s chosen people building a custom-made wilderness utopia. “America began as a fever dream by those who abandoned everything because of their beliefs, dreams and fantasies,” said Kurt Anderson in Fantasyland. That spirit lives on in Portland, which today seems to have matured into a secular slice of progressive paradise where those who don’t belong can find refuge in a quasi-pastoral fantasy.
Portland is seen as a haven for creatives and nonconformists, the place that the popular comedy Portlandia famously deemed ”the city where young people go to retire.” For some, Old Portland died on January 21, 2011 — the day Portlandia debuted. It tapped into the cultural Obama-era zeitgeist, highlighting contrived lifestyles, emerging technology, DIY mentality, and the organic movement. It poked fun at privileged, white, artsy liberals (“put a bird on it!”) in much the same way Absolutely Fabulous did in 1992 with a pair of selfish, self-indulgent, middle-aged women named Edina and Patsy. Lisa Kudrow’s mock reality show The Comeback was another masterclass in self-parody. Like all of the great shows built on self-mockery, Portlandia made us laugh at it and with it, but with those laughs, it also made us care.
Anti-California sentiment runs high here in Portland. A lot of the time it gets a pass because it's usually leveraged by white liberals against other white liberals. But there is good reason for the resentment. The Portland metro area has been growing by 30 to 40,000 people annually since 2015 and a lot of that is Bay Area refugees. Portland is a dramatic example of a nationwide problem: white “urban pioneers” displacing black communities. That said, some Portlanders are packing up and heading to Detroit in pursuit of what Portland was known for in the 1990s: greater affordability and a more authentic cultural scene.
Nature surrounds you in Portland. The Columbia River Gorge, which separates Oregon and the state of Washington, is the crown jewel of the region, filled with tree-topped bluffs and thundering waterfalls including the popular Multnomah Falls. Mount Hood, home to the historic Timberline Lodge which became The Overlook in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, is a 1hr 30 drive through the Douglas fir-filled forest. In another direction, the Oregon Coast is home to the sweeping vistas and misty ferns of Ecola State Park with spectacular views of the iconic Haystack Rock. On North Oregon’s shores, towns like Astoria are the stuff of movie legend. When filming began on The Goonies in 1984, Astoria’s fishing economy was in crisis - and houses were indeed being sold back to the bank. The biggest industry today is tourism but Astoria, while embracing change, is careful not to be hipsterfied. It still has grit. It's a town that welcomes visitors but understands its sole purpose isn't to attract them. "We like to say, ‘Astoria for Astorians,’" said Brett Estes, the city of Astoria's community development director. "Do things that are right for the community, and people will come visit."