Strange but free places to hang out near campus

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Mill Ends Park is touted as the world's smallest park at just 2 feet across. Miles Sanguinetti/PSU Vanguard

Whether you’re looking for a quiet spot to kick back with a book or somewhere off the beaten path to check out over the course of a night on the town, there are plenty of places near campus that fit the bill. With its wealth of fountains, parks and quirky cultural landmarks, southwest Portland is definitely the place to be.

Bart Simpson: Southwest Salmon and Southwest 18th Avenue

One little-known spot that falls under the category of landmarks with a bit of history to them is a portrait of Bart Simpson etched into concrete by none other than Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons. The concrete etching is on the corner of 18th and Salmon Street, just outside of Lincoln High School, Groening’s alma mater.

The illustration is right off of the blue and red MAX lines, so while it isn’t likely to provide hours of entertainment, it’s definitely a neat little sight to see if you’re in the area.

Keller Fountain Park: Southwest Clay Street and Southwest 4th Avenue

Just a couple blocks north of campus is Keller Fountain Park, which takes up an entire block right by the intersection of 4th and Clay Street. The Ira Keller fountain itself is really only anything to write home about over the summer, when it’s a great way to cool down and relax during a hot day.

What really makes the park weird and interesting is the architecture and landscaping of the block. Built in 1970 and designed by Angela Danadjieva, the park has towering concrete bluffs, and a host of trees and bushes that evoke the Columbia River Gorge and give the space a relaxed, natural feeling even in the middle of the city.

So long as the weather permits, Keller Fountain Park is a great place to sit down and do some reading, take a break for lunch or hang out with your friends.

Riverplace Marina Breakwater: Near Southwest Montgomery on the Willamette River

Further eastward is another gem. Nearly anyone familiar with the waterfront has spotted Riverplace Marina; with its rows of yachts and other boats, it’s pretty hard to miss. What’s less visible to the casual observer is a short pier that loops around the rest of the docks and—unlike most of the marina—is completely open to the public.

While the bench that used to sit at the pier’s end has been removed, it’s still arguably the best spot in Portland to see the river from. There’s definitely something neat about getting right down on the water and watching the geese and boats go by, be it in the middle of the day or late at night.

Mill Ends Park: Pacific Highway and Southwest Taylor Street

A few blocks north at the intersection of Pacific Highway and Taylor Street is still another of Portland’s curiosities. Touted by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s smallest park, Mill Ends Park is just two feet across and plopped square in the middle of a median across the highway.

Owing to its small size, Mill Ends has little vegetation besides some flowers and a single tiny fir tree, and isn’t exactly the kind of park where you can sit down at a bench and relax. It’s a cool sight to see, though, and a perfect intersection of Portland’s token weirdness and fondness for the outdoors.

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