Portland Playgrounds Review

What to do with a sunny Sunday? How about drive all over town testing out playgrounds? We don’t spend a lot of time on playgrounds any more, as we typically fill our free time with nature adventures like hiking, birding or camping. But this is homework, people! Anna’s third grade class is participating in the Architects in Schools program, which pairs working architects with teachers to augment curriculum and teach the kids about design and architecture. It sounds awesome, and Anna’s class is designing a playground. They’re first task is to bring in pictures of their favorite playgrounds or favorite features of different playgrounds.

So I packed a picnic and off we went!

Note: we also took a lot of fun pics at Dawson Park the day before when we took a family bike ride. Check out the previous post.

First stop: Harpers Playground at Arbor Lodge Park

2525 N Dekum Street, Portland, OR, 97217

Mama’s note: no bathrooms, to my mild dismay.



The kids were immediately drawn to the climbing structure, and even after exploring the other features, were really only interested in that.  “Harper’s Playground” is a non-profit trying to build playgrounds for kids of all abilities. I think it’s awesome that it’s all access for multiple abilities, and this is a pretty playground, but for my highly-active 7 & 9-year-olds, it only held their interest for about a half-hour. But hey, sometimes a half-hour is all you need! I was glad they were ready to be done, because I really had to find a bathroom.

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Playground #2: 

Dickinson Park

SW 55th Ave & Alfred Ct

Mama’s note: still no bathroom, to my great dismay.



Anna was particularly fond of this spinner spiral.

This park was a big hit with my kids, and it was gorgeous. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone who isn’t super in to climbing, but it was perfect for Anna & Eric. image image image

There is apparently a whole unofficial trail network that leads to a creek. That would have been our natural place to go explore, but we were on a mission to scout out playgrounds, so we didn’t spend time exploring the woods.


Playground #3
Westmoreland Park Nature Play
SE 22nd Avenue & Bybee

Mama’s note: bathrooms, thank goodness.


This is such an awesome park! By far my favorite, because it combines our love of nature with interesting climbing opportunities and so much inspiration for imaginative play. This was by far the hardest park to get the kids to leave. I wouldn’t have even tried, but it was nearing 5 pm, and I was hungry and getting chilly. I’m really proud to have this park in our city, and so pleased that the collective “we” paid for it with Metro’s voter-approved natural areas bond measure. Good job, us!

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Kids were building forts with all these big sticks. Sure, someone got smacked with a stick now and then, and I’m pretty sure there were splinters, but how fun to get to manipulate your surroundings? I wish this blog was equipped with smell-a-vision, because I would love to share the fresh cedar & evergreen smell that permeated this park! image image image image image image image image image image image image

This is definitely my favorite park, and I hope Anna chooses some of these features to share with her class!

Extra bonus, the old duck ponds have been completely restored into wetlands, and a beautiful boardwalk takes you right through the middle of it. We parked on the opposite side of the wetlands from the nature play area, so we had a lovely walk to and from through the wetland.

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Ultimately, I think the best playgrounds are whatever you can access, right? Wouldn’t it be nice if every neighborhood had an awesome playground, so kids could spend time outside in imaginative play? Maybe some day. In the meantime, tell me Portland parents – what are YOUR favorite playgrounds?



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