We heart Washington Park. Formerly known as City Park, it’s a measuring stick for all that’s going on in our fair hamlet. Live music, inspiring gardens, righteous views, amazing museums and, of course, an epic playground combine for months of summer merriment. Here are our top eight ways to play at this enormous park just steps from downtown Portland, from late June to Labor Day weekend.

Knock on Wood at the World Forestry Center
Summer, especially pre-July fourth, can be a bit of a weather quandary. If it’s rainy, chilly or full-on gloomy out, head inside to the World Forestry Museum and Discovery Center. There are literally heaps of things to do with the saplings and the new Art of Dr. Seuss exhibit is sure to delight one and all. This spot can also be a fab refuge on the baking-hot summer days when you need an indoor option that’s rarely crowded, yet full of places and ways to burn energy.

Head Outdoors at the Portland Children’s Museum
The new Outdoor Adventure exhibit at Portland Children’s Museum is super cool. Build a fort, climb rocks and trees, play in water, sail boats, and picnic or snack al fresco. Score! Then head inside for all the go-to faves like Banfield Pet Hospital, Building Bridgetown and DIY face-painting.

Be a Party Animal at the Oregon Zoo
Take in a concert at the Oregon Zoo. Pat Benatar, Huey Lewis and the News, and Amos Lee are all on hand this summer. Evenings at the zoo have a magic all their own and going at least once a summer is sure to keep the blues away. Get there early with your picnic blanket and dinner to stake out your primo space. As for daytime fun, there’s the new condor exhibit, sweet baby lions and the future elephant habitat to check out.

Play Hard at the Playground
Officially titled the Rose Garden Children’s Park, this delightfully intricate and involved play space has ways to entertain kids for what feels like days. Sand box, ramps, swings and slides abound. The nearby Elephant Amphitheater has a couple of covered picnic tables, perfect for a shady lunch. *According to their website, the play structure is closed for maintenance and the adjacent picnic shelter cannot be reserved June 9-July 4, 2014.

Enjoy Al Fresco Dinner and a Show
Washington Park rolls its own live music fest every summer. August 8-15 are the dates and the park’s amphitheater is the place. See greats like local jazz songstress Nancy King, the Portland Festival Symphony and even watch the Wizard of Oz.  Pack a blanket, dinner and enjoy the shows for free.

Be Naturally Inspired
The Japanese Garden is always a winner. Unbelievably pretty and inspiring, it’s also a fab destination for an outdoor adventure. On July 7 it’s the Festival of Stars with live entertainment, kids activities and cultural energy galore.

Go on a Statue Hunt
Find Sacajawea (near the Rose Garden and playground off of Vista and 23rd), the gargoyles of Chiming Fountain (near Sacajawea’s statue), a bronze statue entitled, The Coming of the White Man (about 200 yards north of Sacajawea, hidden in the trees) and a monument memorializing Lewis and Clark (at the park’s entrance).

Run Amok in the Rose Garden
The International Rose Test Garden’s beautiful roses and views are to die for and the taller plants make for hide and seek ease. This is a terrific spot for a picnic, a stop over as you hike some of the Wildwood Trail or wait for the tennis courts to fee up.

What’s your favorite thing about Washington Park?  Let us know in the Comments below.

– Liz Overson

Thanks for the photos oregon.gov, allligatorjuice.com, tenminutetourist.com, Portland Children’s Museum and TravelPortland.


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