Best Portland Parks for Kids
One of my favorite things to do with my kids over the summer is to discover new parks. Not only does it keep me, the kids, and our dogs entertained during the long summer, but it also gives me the chance to scout new parks for my outdoor photo sessions!
These are some of my favorite parks for the summer because they offer shade as well as easy parking. I love Washington Park’s very popular playground and Rose Garden, but who wants to “shark” around for 30 minutes to find an open spot? Not me, thanks! A lot of these locations have dog parks too.
Some of these spots are well-known but some might be in neighborhoods you haven’t ventured into yet, so hopefully I can introduce you to your new favorite park!
In no particular order…
1. Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden (SE Portland)
Nature is the only playground here with all the winding paths, waterfalls, bridges, duck ponds, and flowers to smell. There is a sweet little grassy spot on the north end of the park, perfect for having a picnic. Unfortunately we can’t have photo shoots there without special permission and fees, these sessions are from a while ago.
2. Sellwood Riverfront Park, Playground, and Pool (SE Portland)
The photos here are from the Riverfront park, which has a beach where kids and dogs alike can just go bonkers in the water and on the sand. Not a good spot for kids that don’t like dogs. East up the hill from the riverfront is Sellwood Park which has a great playground, adjacent to my favorite pool in Portland. The water at the pool always seems to be warm enough for me, and is great for babies with a super shallow end and little water features to play with.
3. Laurelhurst Park (SE Portland)
In the hub of the east side of Portland, Laurelhurst is a great place to visit when you don’t have a ton of time, but you want to get in a little nature and a little play. It has a duck pond, nature trails, dog park, and wheelchair accessible playground. The playground is separated from the rest of the park by a road on the south side of the park, near the tennis courts, so you might miss it unless you were looking for it.
4. Peninsula Park (NE Portland)
Peninsula Park is best-known for its rose garden, which is definitely worth visiting during the summer, but there is also a huge playground in the shade. There’s also a splash pad which is better than most of the ones I’ve experienced in Portland. I don’t think we were necessarily supposed to do this, so don’t blame me if you get busted, but I’ve also let the kids play in the fountain at the center of the rose garden and they had so much fun.
5. Mt. Tabor Park (NE Portland)
Great to get your fitness on! Lots of hills so it’s not the easiest with a stroller, but it’s fun to hike around the shaded trails among some big redwoods for a while and then head to the playground. The playground is very shady for those hot days. There is also a large off-leash dog park on the south end of the park that’s great because there is so much space to move around if your dog doesn’t always get along with others.
6. Jenkins Estate (Beaverton)
Such a pretty place to hike around, especially in late spring when the rhododendrons have bloomed, but the forest hike is lovely too. It also has a small Japanese Garden with koi, a learning garden, and a wheelchair accessible playground that is sectioned off at the south end of the park. One of the only parks I’m mentioning that’s not in Portland proper, but it’s worth the few extra miles.
7. Lower Macleay Park (NW Portland)
One of my favorite entrances to Forest Park, Lower Macleay has all the woodland magic with old growth and ferns, the stream that’s fun to play in, and it leads to the “Witches Castle”. The Witches Castle is often covered in graffiti which is a big bummer for me, but the kids just seem to have fun discovering this place along the path and exploring it.
These are the parks I don’t have personal photos from, but you can see images on their linked Google listings:
8. Ida B. Wells Pool (SW Portland)
Such a great pool that is often packed but for good reason – there are waterslides for kids both big and small, a whirlpool, lazy river, and a large shallow area for toddlers. No playground here though. It’s part of Wells High School, but just follow the building along the track to get to the pool entrance.
9. Gabriel Park (SW Portland)
My kids call this Rocketship Park; it has a new modern playground with a large “rocketship” tunnel slide, trampoline, and water play area to name a few things my kids especially like. The playground can definitely look like ants on an anthill on nice weekends, so weekdays may be best. Gabriel Park has beautiful trails through the forest too – you just have to hike around or through the ball fields to get to the trails. There are also 2 large dog parks for both summer and winter play.
10. Happy Valley Park (Happy Valley)
2 great playgrounds with some unique interactivity, and I recently noticed there’s also a splash pad we haven’t yet been to. What really makes this place special is the boardwalk through the forest that is wheelchair accessible, near the further playground from the park entrance. The kids love to clop around on the boardwalk and see nature without getting muddy. It also has 3 dog park pens, including one for just the little guys. The playgrounds here are in full sun, so maybe not the best option for a hot and sunny day.
11. Creston Park (SE Portland)
Even though I’ve been in SE Portland for many years, I just discovered this one a couple years ago. Great playground, especially for children that are also monkeys, and then my kids’ favorite feature is the big hill to slide down. Once again, there’s a dog play area – can you tell I tend to go to the dog-friendly parks to wear out both the kids and pups?
12. Westmoreland Park (Sellwood)
I’m pretty sure my kids’ favorite feature is not the large beautiful sand play area, but the pump to make water flow into the sand. It’s a “natural playground”, so there are also lots of tree trunks and rock structures to climb on. There’s also a stream with ducks and a man-made pond for driving your RC boats around.
tags: Portland Family Photography, Portland Family Photographer