Fun with Flair! Our Guide to the Rose Festival

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The Portland Rose Festival began in 1907 in an effort to Portland on the map, and it sure has! Now celebrating over 100 years, the festival’s Grand Floral Parade is the second largest all-floral parade in the US (after Pasadena). But the parade is just one of many events—including concerts, races and fireworks—that families can enjoy. Don’t miss out on the fun. Read on and follow our guide for the best family events the Rose Festival has to offer.

photo: Roman B via flickr

Opening Night Fireworks
What: Nothing says celebration like fireworks! Pack up your little firecracker fanatics, a blanket and snacks and head down to the waterfront at dusk to stake out the perfect viewing area.

When: Fri., May 26 at 8 p.m.
Where: Tom McCall Waterfront Park, or any viewing location near downtown.
Admission: Free
Pro tip: Stay on the east side of the river to avoid the crowds downtown. Good viewing areas can be found near OMSI and along the Eastbank Esplanade.

photo: Nikki McLeod via flickr

What: This fair has everything your litttle adrenaline junkies crave: rides that fling, swing, whirl and twirl your for ever! After you have checked out all of the carnival rides, games, and the exotic animal section, head to the Kids Zone Tent, which features bean bag chairs, books and free arts and crafts.

When: May 26 – June 11 from 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Where: Tom McCall Waterfront Park
Admission: $8 for ages 7 and over.
Pro tip: If you plan to attend more than once, purchase a souvenir pin for $10 at Fred Meyer for free admission to the CityFair.

photo: Edward Mitchell via flickr

Starlight Parade
What: Night-owls will love the unique energy of a nighttime parade, where every float and parade participant is illuminated in lights. Pint-sized parade attendees will especially love the marching bands, roller skaters and firefighters passing by representing different organizations from near and far.

When: Sat., June 3 at 8:30 p.m.
Where: A 2.25 mile route downtown, starting at NW Burnside and 9th Ave., ending at Lincoln High School.
Admission: Free
Pro tip: Set up camp at a location that’s near a hotel (for quick restroom trips), and bring cash for the traveling street vendors selling cold water and illuminated toys.

photo: Tillamook Cheese via flickr

Junior Parade
What: The Junior Parade is the nation’s oldest and largest children’s parade, and anyone can participate! Non-profit organizations, community groups and families are encouraged to dress in costume and decorate bikes, strollers and wagons to join in on the fun, or just watch from the sidelines.

When: Wed., June 7 at 1 p.m.
Where: NE Sandy and 52nd
Admission: Free
Pro tip: Be sure to plan ahead for some afternoon time out of school/daycare/work, and, if possible, register in advance if you plan to participate in the parade. Let family and friends know to watch for you on the Fox12 broadcast and live stream!

photo: TravelIUSA via flickr

Dragon Boat Races
What: Colorful, Taiwan-style dragon boats are raced by over 70 different local and international groups in co-ed, women, and high school teams, hosted by the Portland-Kaohsiung Sister City Association.

When: Sat., June 10 and Sun., June 11 from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Pro tip: If you can’t make the official races, but want to see the boats out on the water, check out the official practice schedule for other launch times in the weeks leading up to race weekend.
Where: Tom McCall Waterfront Park, or any viewing location near downtown.
Admission: Free

photo: Jeff Muceus via flickr

Grand Floral Parade
What: The main event! This mega, floral-themed parade features all-floral floats, fancy horses with colorful riders, clowns, vintage cars, police and firefighters, marching bands and dancers.

When: Sat., June 10 at 10 a.m.
Where: A 4.2 mile route from the Memorial Coliseum through downtown Portland.
Admission: Free (for non-reserved seats)
Pro tip: to avoid pre-parade impatience, send one adult with a large blanket to a predetermined location ahead of time to save the spot for the entire group, and bring sidewalk chalk for the kiddos to draw on the street while they wait for the parade to start.

Photo: Tillamook Cheese via flickr

Milk Carton Boat Races
What: Cap the end of the festival off watching the milk carton boat races, which are handmade, human powered boats made from recycled milk containers.

When: Sund., June 25 at 11 a.m.
Where: Westmoreland Park Casting Pond, SE McLoughlin Blvd. & Bybee Blvd.
Admission: Free
Pro tip: Bring some bread to feed the ducks at the nearby Westmoreland Park duck pond, and wear play clothes to hit the playground.

What’s your favorite Rose Festival event to attend with your family? Tell us in the comments section below!

— April Hasson

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