Portland, Oregon isn’t called the City of Roses for nothing. This outdoorsy, environmentally-friendly city sports blooms year round, in addition to leafy trees, green grass, and plenty of room to play and run for kids and their parents. Finding family-friendly parks in Portland’s Urban Areas isn’t the hard part…deciding which one to patronize is more challenging. Below, find a round-up of our family favorite Portland parks, with everything from twisty slides to mountain bike rides.
Smell the Roses at Washington Park
Photo by Michael Matti CC BY
The mother ship when it comes to green spaces in Portland, sprawling Washington Park is home to the Oregon Zoo (just the right size for families, by the way), Portland Children’s Museum (featuring a new outdoor space just for kids 2-8), and the World Forestry Center, all of which should be on any self-respecting Portland itinerary with kids. Between attractions, head to the play space located between the International Rose Test Garden and the Japanese garden, where the largest Portland playground awaits. Taking a picnic along? Eat it in the International Rose Test Garden, amid its 10,000 rose bushes, overlooking spectacular views of the city. Best of all, Washington Park is easily accessible via MAX, Portland’s public transportation.
Get Lost in Forest Park
Want to get away from it all, without leaving the city? Once in the heart of Forest Park, families will swear they’re in the middle of a far-flung wilderness. Located northwest of downtown, this eight-mile stretch of forest covers 5,156 acres. More than 150 bird and mammal species make Forest Park home, and the 70 miles of trails range from easy strolls to challenging climbs. Residents use the trails on horseback and on bike, so keep eyes open when hiking. Dogs are allowed as well. Looking for an even more secluded spot? Follow Forest Park’s Nature Trail down into a narrow canyon, where it connects with Chestnut Trail along Rocking Chair Creek. Want to access Forest Park from Washington Park? Take the popular Wildwood Trail.
Make a Splash at Tom McCall
Photo by LeeRoy
Tom McCall Waterfront Park is where parents teach kids the art of people watching. Located downtown along the Willamette, Waterfront Park is a popular local jogging, in-line skating, and walking spot. Kids will love watching the river bridges open and close to car traffic and seeing tug boats docking. Mid-way along the park’s waterfront path, the Salmon Street Springs fountain beckons on Portland’s few hot days (wading and splashing is permitted), and at any point, families can detour up a block and be in the heart of downtown Portland. Use Waterfront Park as a scenic route between downtown attractions, or as an after dinner walk. The park is only 1.4 miles, making it a good pick for families with kids of any age. Strollers can easily navigate the wide sidewalks. At the far end, continue to Burnside Bridge to check out Portland’s famed Saturday Market if you’re visiting over the weekend.
Picnic on a Volcano? Yes please.
At Mt. Tabor, parents can tell kids they’re playing on a volcano. Extinct Mt. Tabor is on the National Register of Historic Places and includes three reservoirs, bike trails, walking trails, play spaces, picnic areas, and amazing views of downtown Portland. Park in the Mt. Tabor neighborhood, and make a day of it, bringing a picnic or ingredients to BBQ.
No matter where you play, find a place to stay in Portland that overlooks the city’s lush green spaces and river. Options abound downtown.
Local Tip: Raining? Head to Playdate PDX, a sprawling indoor structure that even serves coffee for the parents.
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