Portland Japanese Garden

What: Portland Japanese Garden
Where: 611 SW Kingston Ave, Portland

When: Winter Mon. Noon to 4 pm and Tues.-Sun. 10 am to 4 pm; Summer Mon. Noon to 7 pm and Tues.-Sun. 10 am to 7 pm (Member hours earlier)
Why: The lush, meticulously-maintained gardens are breathtaking and peaceful
Cost: Children 5 and under FREE, Ages 6-17 $10.45, Students $11.95, Adults $14.95, Seniors $12.95

A Good Gray Portland Japanese Garden

My sister, who’s been an Oregonian for a few decades now, recently told me she’d never been to the Japanese Garden. I hadn’t been either, but she was especially frustrated it’d been on her bucket list forever, taunting her. Well the beautiful fall weather this week was just begging for an outing, so we decided to make. it. happen! I’m happy to report that my son, my sister, and I fiiinally made it to the Japanese Garden.

As my sister said afterwards, it met AND exceeded our expectations. It was absolutely gorgeous. Designed and started in the 1960s by a Japanese professor, this 9-acre garden has been called the most authentic of its kind outside of Japan.

You’ll find the towering evergreens and mossy grounds like any Northwest forest, but there are also plenty of water features, trees, and bushes that must look lovely in each season. There are two large rock gardens that are serene and peaceful. The grounds also include a cafe, gift shop, gallery, and learning centers (and the architecture is delicious).

Children are welcome, but they may need help navigating the quiet spots where you’ll find people seated and contemplating. You can do the whole garden quickly in 30 minutes, but allow more time to soak it all in. There are many stairs throughout, but if needed you can skip a lot of them if you use the shuttle from the parking lot.

The garden is located in Washington Park, right by the International Rose Test Garden. Parking is tricky and can be time-consuming, especially at peak times. Also brace yourself: the entrance fees are steep! Cultural Passes are not currently available to the gardens, but this could change because they’ve been available in the past. Also, families that receive SNAP benefits can get FREE admission.

Treat yourself to a gorgeous bit of a nature, whether it’s the vibrant changing trees or the bursting spring blossoms. I really think you and your family will love it!


Tillamook Forest Center

What: Tillamook Forest Center
Where: 45500 Wilson River Hwy (Route 6), Tillamook

When: Spring, Summer, and Fall (closed December to February)
Why: It’s a beautiful, fun, and educational stop along Highway 6
Cost: FREE

Tillamook Forest Center A Good Gray

On our drives down Highway 6 towards Tillamook and the central coast beaches over the years, we’ve often passed the Tillamook Forest Center. I’d heard it was a fun stop for kids, but we’d never had a good opportunity to stop… until now.

The Tillamook Forest Center is tucked in the middle of the lush, green Tillamook State Forest. The highway cuts through the forest along the Wilson River, and the forest center is just off the road about 30 miles from Highway 26 and 22 miles from Tillamook.

The center is absolutely free, although donations are welcome. The center is new, well-crafted, and staffed with super helpful guides. Inside you’ll find great information on the history of the area, the great Tillamook Burn (I had no idea!), and the unique wildlife of the forest. There are many, many “please touch” activities for kids, tons of interesting visuals, and a gift shop. There’s also an award-winning film that plays regularly called “Legacy of Fire” (we didn’t have time for it, so the nerd in me deffffinitely wants to go back).

Outside you’ll find this impressive 40-foot replica of a lookout tower (our girls practically ran up all those stairs!) as well as an amazing suspension bridge out back crossing over the beautiful Wilson River.

Our stop was short, but I will gladly go back. This is the sort of place you could visit regularly and always find something new to explore, indoors or out. Plus, as you take in the beauty and rich history of this forest, you just might fall in love with Oregon a little bit more.