Your family probably has a favorite neighborhood park that’s within walking distance of your home, but Portland also has hundreds of unique places to play. Here are several local playgrounds that that may be worth a few extra travel miles and a picnic lunch or dinner!
Harper’s Playground (N Dekum and N Delaware)
Located in the Arbor Lodge Park in North Portland, this playground is designed around the idea of “more play for more people.” The playground features soft rubber surfaces, paved concrete paths, and play structures that are accessible for kids of all ages and abilities (as well as adults). The video on the Harper’s Playground website features an adorable little girl saying that her favorite part of the playground is the swing that can accommodate her or her dad! My five year old daughter and I went on a sunny June day, and while the metal slides were a bit too hot, she and the other kids enjoyed sliding down the AstroTurf covered hillsides. We spotted a couple of climbing walls, one that is within reach for toddlers and one that would challenge older kids (and adults, too). The sandbox has a water spigot where kids can splash around, rinse off, or create the perfect sandcastle. Pewter turtles lounge on many of the rocks, and the tones of xylophones float through the air, played by young percussionists. We played for almost two hours, and I think my daughter, Karys, would have stayed longer if I had let her.
Plan Ahead for Your Visit
In the middle of the day, the playground can be very sunny. You may want to pack a pair of pants to protect your kids’ legs on metal slides. There are several shady spots, including some with tables, but you might want to pack a snack and a drink to lure your kids out of the sun for a few minutes at a time. There are public restrooms just down the path from the playground, and you can park right next to it. There’s also a soccer field where you can fly a kite, throw around a Frisbee, or kick around a ball. If you are using public transit, several bus lines serve the area, and the N Lombard TC Max station is just under a mile away. The park has an open layout with no walls, but it is surrounded by quiet neighborhood roads, and the parking area is blocked off to through traffic.
Westmoreland Nature Park (SE McLoughlin and Bybee)
This park reopened in October 2014 with the goal of helping kids develop an appreciation of the environment. Karys and I went to this park on one of the first warm days this spring, and even though there were many families there, the park is spread out enough that it didn’t feel crowded. We met a group of friends there, and everyone found something fun to do. The littlest ones in the group enjoyed the sprawling sandbox and the water play area, while the bigger kids loved stacking and restacking logs, climbing, and sliding on the other side of the park. The play structures are built with natural materials like wood and rocks. Your little climber can scale a stack of logs or clamber up a pile of boulders. My little adventurer was so proud of herself for getting to the top of the rocks, but she did need a little bit of help getting back down. If your family likes bird-watching, you’ll enjoy watching cranes, ducks, and geese on the casting pond. Despite its central location, this park is a slice of serenity in a bustling city.
Plan Ahead for Your Visit
Street parking is available in the neighborhood near the park, but you may have to park and walk a few blocks on especially busy days. Several buses do drop off near the park. The play area is bordered by towering evergreens, which provide some shade. A low fence gives the suggestion of a boundary, but you’ll want to pay special attention if your little one likes to wander off, as there is quite a bit of water just a short walk away. There are a few picnic tables, though they can be claimed quickly when there are lots of families around. A public restroom is just a short walk from the play area.
Washington Park Playground (Head of SW Park Place in Washington Park)
Karys and I set out with the intention of visiting this park that we’d heard lots of buzz about, but our schedule and traffic conspired to turn our expected visit into a scenic bus tour. (FYI, it’s not exactly where Google puts it, in the center of the Zoo parking lot.) We took the Max to the Washington Park stop, expecting the park to be nearby, but it wasn’t. After some wandering around, we hopped on a shuttle to at least take a peek at the playground.
My fellow contributor Jen and her kids visit this playground regularly, so here’s what she has to say about it:
“This playground has something for everyone and plenty of room to play (even with 30 kids playing—plus parents—it doesn’t feel crowded). There is a great sand play area and—fitting for a playground in a forest–a tree growing right through the middle of the large play structure. Another big bonus? It’s surrounded by the many other great attractions in Washington Park, so you can easily turn your visit into a full day of fun. We paired one recent visit with a walk through the International Rose Test Garden and a little hiking on the Wildwood Trail.”
From our view out the bus window, we could tell this accessible playground was worth another visit (or five), so we have plans to go again next week—maybe we’ll see you there!
Plan Ahead for Your Visit
There’s so much going on at Washington Park that parking can be in short supply, and you have to pay to park. You can take the Max to Washington Park/Zoo stop, and several buses drop off there too. The free shuttle, which runs every fifteen minutes (from 9 am to 6 pm) June through August, makes nine stops, including the playground, Hoyt Arboretum and the Archery Range. You may want to check the schedule to see if there are any special events planned for the day of your visit, as the park could be difficult to navigate during one of the Concerts at the Zoo, for example. According to the Washington Park website, car access to the park is prohibited after 10 pm.