Portland is a city full of parks. It would be impossible (and impractical) to list them all here, and chances are good that if you’re wandering in any Portland neighborhood you’ll stumble upon several on your own. But there are a few Portland parks that deserve special mention for one reason or another.
Forest Park has an entry of its own, but a list of Portland parks wouldn’t be complete without mentioning it. It’s Portland’s largest park, and the largest urban park in the entire country as well. There are loads of hiking, biking and walking trails in the park’s more than 5,000 acres.
Washington Park feels like many parks rolled into one. It sits atop a hill in the West Hills outside downtown Portland and covers about 140 acres. Among the many sights in Washington Park you’ll find the Japanese Garden, the Oregon Zoo, the International Rose Test Garden (not to be confused with the Rose Garden basketball arena, this one has actual roses in it), a Lewis and Clark Memorial, a Holocaust Memorial and a Vietnam Veterans Memorial. There is an outdoor concert venue, tennis courts, playgrounds, picnic areas and fountains, too. It’s the classic example of an urban park, and there’s plenty to keep you busy – it’s an especially great outing with the kids!
Hours: 05:00-22:00, closed to vehicles at 22:00
Admission: Free to get into park, some sights charge admission
Waterfront Park runs between the Willamette River and downtown Portland along Naito Parkway. Its other two borders are SW Harrison St. and NW Glisan St. Depending on when you visit, you may find parts of Waterfront Park taken up by tents or amusement park rides – the park is often used for festivals and special events which take place year-round. Even when not being used for a festival, however, the park is a popular place with locals, especially in nice weather. It’s a great place for running, biking or walking, playing in the fountain (if it’s warm!) or just admiring the view of the river. There are several historical monuments in the park as well, including the Japanese American Historical Plaza, the Police Memorial and the Battleship Oregon Memorial. The park’s full name, Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park, reflects the initiative of one of Oregon’s most beloved governors – McCall reclaimed the area which is now Waterfront Park from an obsolete highway in the 1970s, making the river part of the city again.
Mill Ends Park
Last but certainly not least, we have Mill Ends Park at SW Naito Parkway and Taylor Street – the smallest park in the world. It was originally dedicated in 1948 after a local journalist planted some flowers in an unused break in the median where a light pole was supposed to go. The journalist, Dick Fagan, used the power of the pen to describe the fanciful events taking place in what he called “Mill Ends Park,” and in so doing endeared residents to the tiny plot of land. It was Fagan who declared the park was the world’s smallest, but no one has stepped up to dispute it so far. The little park remains a point of pride for many Portlanders to this day.
Hours: Always open