By Marie Sherlock
The idea of a meal shared al fresco in a lovely natural setting has been around for a very long time—perhaps since Adam and Eve and that apple. So while picnics don’t really represent an up and coming trend, they do rank very high as a budget-friendly way to see the city while eating a good meal.
And lucky for you Portland has dozens of divine places to picnic. Here’s proof: Each year the Trust for Public Land rates the 100 largest U.S. cities on their public parks and each year Portland ranks in the top ten.
So if you’re visiting Portland or looking to get out and enjoy the city, go on a leisurely picnic in one of our amazing public parks.
If you go:
The below suggestions represent only a small fraction of the parks in the City of Portland’s system. And an even smaller percentage of parks in the metro area. Check the Portland Parks and Recreation website. All parks are free to visit and most have free parking nearby.
These parks offer many tables and benches. If you absolutely must have a picnic table for your picnic, go to the parks reservation page and view the availability for the park you’re interested in. If it’s not reserved for that day, you’re pretty safe in assuming that it’s available. But first come, first served if you haven’t reserved. If you’re part of a large group and need picnic tables, your best bet is to reserve way in advance in the summer.
For most of us, picnicking implies a casual, no-fuss approach. So stop your favorite local bakery or deli and grab a baguette or two, some cheese and fruit and head out. Voila! You have a picnic!
One of my favorite picnics is swinging by East Side Deli to grab a few subs and taking them to Cathedral Park.
Bring your Designated Picnic Blanket (i.e. that old one that you reserve for outdoor activities) and/or inexpensive collapsible chairs. Consider some picnicky activities like swinging, playing catch, or just spreading out on your blanket and gazing up through the sun dappled trees, enjoying the now.
7 Great Portland Picnic Parks
SE Cesar Chavez Blvd. & Stark St.
Laurelhurst Park is uber popular for good reason. It’s close in—easy to get to from either side of the river—and has just about every amenity imaginable (think basketball court, horseshoe pits, off leash dog area and more – it even has a pond!). And the trees are amazing! On busy weekends you may have to search for a parking spot but once you’ve conquered that task, you can find a grassy patch under one of those towering trees, spread out your picnic goodies – and enjoy the good life.
SE 60th & Salmon St.
If you want to cross “picnic on a volcano” off your Bucket List, this is your chance. Mt. Tabor Park is actually a dormant cinder cone in southeast Portland. Because it is a “mountain” (albeit of only 636 feet elevation) it offers a variety of diverse picnicking alternatives, from sloping spots overlooking the reservoir to level and lovely options at the summit.
N Lombard St. & Bruce Ave.
This idyllic picnic setting is located in the St. Johns neighborhood in North Portland. It’s a bit of a drive from the center of town but just might be a little less crowded for that reason. And it absolutely delivers on the top picnicking criteria with plentiful majestic trees, rolling lawns, numerous amenities and easy access.
This park also has one of the best disc golfing courses in Portland so bring your gear and play before or after your picnic.
N Edison & Pittsburg Ave.
Also located in North Portland is Cathedral Park. Just the name makes you want to visit, doesn’t it? This 23-acre park is situated under the St. Johns Bridge; that backdrop lends to its cathedral-like ambience, with the bridge overhead mimicking the arches of a gothic church. No reserved picnic areas are available here so, if you’re lucky and early, you may even snag a table.
SW Park Place
This iconic location has amenities no other Portland park has including one of Portland’s free rose gardens, a bronze statue of Sacajawea and, for those with little ones, the immensely fun children’s playground. The one downside is that you’ll have to pay to park. 🙁 While you’re there, see the whole park and all of its amenities on the free shuttle.
NE 33rd Ave. & US Grant Pl.
Along with killer trees and easy parking, Grant Park boasts the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden. Cleary, the popular children’s book author of the Henry Huggins and Ramona Quimby series and more, grew up in the Grant Park area. If you feel like a walk after your picnic meal—and you’re a Cleary fan—download the “Walking with Ramona” tour map and check out the settings for many of the events in Cleary’s fictional books as well as the houses she grew up in.
That park that’s just a 10-minute walk from where you are right now
According to the Trust for Public Land, 85 percent of Portlanders are a mere 10-minute walk (1/2 mile) from a park/green space. Find the nearest one and you’re just minutes from a picnic experience!
So what are you waiting for? Get outside!
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