The funky, hip city of Portland, Oregon, also known as the “City of Roses” for all its outdoor space, is home to more than 10,000 acres of public parks and natural dedicated spaces. The city boasts one of the largest municipal parks in the United States, as well as the world’s tiniest urban park. Talk about garden variety! No city does the great outdoors quite like Portland.
With summer in full swing and the beginning of autumn in sight, there’s no better time to visit this Pacific Northwest city. The parks are free or charge nominal admission fees, you can hit up every viewpoint without venturing far from downtown, and the foliage is lush and awe-inspiring. What more could you want?
So pack up your hiking boots! It’s time to go to Portland.
To start off your tour of the Oregon capital’s great outdoors, visit the International Rose Test Garden—the space responsible for Portland’s rosy nickname. This garden is 4.5 tiered acres, featuring more than 7,000 rose plants in 550 varieties, and is located in popular Washington Park. If you want to catch the roses in full, rainbow-hued bloom, make sure you visit between April and October.
For Shakespeare fans, the rose garden offers a Shakespearean garden complete with references to flowers featured in his plays, including rosemary, pansies, columbines, and more. Once you’ve tip-toed through the roses and other flora, surrounding Washington Park has more to experience, such as the Oregon Zoo with more than 2,000 animals, a forestry museum, a Japanese garden, playgrounds, public art, and trails zigzagging through preserved wild forest.
If you don’t want to miss the forest for the trees, there’s no better place to go than Forest Park, one of America’s largest urban forest reserves. Located west of downtown Portland in the Tualatin Mountains, Forest Park stretches about eight miles and overlooks Willamette River. Established in the late 19th century, the park offers a myriad of recreational trails through its 5,100 acres, making it an ideal destination for a morning or afternoon hike. More than 112 bird species and 62 mammal species live in the forest, along with tons of trout and salmon. Don’t forget your fishing pole!
A fairly new park, just opening in 2009, Director Park is seriously unique. Less about the great outdoors and more about architectural awesomeness, this space is a re-imagined urban oasis filled with modern, architectural structures. You’ll still find trees, flowers, and gorgeous open skies—so outdoor enthusiasts, don’t cross this one off your list! But you’ll also find gorgeous fountains, a distinctive glass canopy, various works of art, and even a cafe. Architecture lovers, nerd out to your heart’s content.
What is this, a park for ants? Basically. Coming in at just 24 inches big, Mill Ends Park is considered the tiniest city park in the whole world. The quirky space exists thanks to a local journalist who, in the 1940s, grew tired of ugly potholes along the Southwest Naito Parkway at Taylor Street. She planted flowers to brighten up the ugly, and to generate interest in her teeny, tiny space, she created stories about the tiny park’s teeny, tiny resident, a leprechaun named Patrick O’Toole. The park was dedicated on St. Patrick’s Day in 1948. Decades later, it continues to undergo renewal and protection, and remains a Portland favorite. Erin go Braugh!
What outdoor spaces in Portland are your favorite? Have you visited the world’s tiniest park? Does Leprechaun Patrick O’Toole really live there? Inquiring minds want to know! Give us the rundown on your favorite Portland outdoor spaces in the comments!