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Let's hear it: Best Playgrounds in PDX?

We are playground junkies, roaming 'round the streets of Portland, hopping off the bike or bus to go an play at a playground we'd never noticed before.  What playgrounds - parks and schoolyards - do you love?  Where are they - N, NE, SE?  NW or SW? An urbanMama emailed recently and would love to get the conversation going.

Hi- I'm Kathleen and I live in SE Portland in the Woodstock neighborhood.  I recently read saw a story somewhere about an amazing new playground that was built at a school in Lake Oswego.  Anyone remember what school that was?  I have a 5 yr old son who is obsessed with swinging on bars/rings and I am trying to get some new ideas for fun, challenging playgrounds around Portland.  We have been to almost all the playgrounds in SE Portland Parks and some schools in SE, but we are looking for something new and interesting.  We need something new and difficult to work on in a new place .  Any ideas?


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It could Hallinan Elementary.....it just opened but I have not been there myself.

I had read about it in the Lake Oswego Review. Here is the link to the story:

There is also a photo of a portion of it at this link:

I also frequently drive by Durham Elementary in Tigard and it looks like they are building a brand new park in their fields behind the school.

Come up to Vancouver to the Fire Engine Park. It is located just over the bridge at the Mill Plain Exit. Go up I-5 exit on Mill Plain turn right and then left at the 1st Light. You will be able to see the park from there. It has lots of different rings, bars etc for a monkey bar junkie.
It is located at the recently revamped Marshall Community Center. Good Parking, bathrooms...lots of fun.
Here's a link with photo...it is bigger than the photo shows.

We like MT Tabor park and Irvington elementary school. Of course, there is always Washington park, but it gets very crowded.

If you find yourself in Eugene, be sure to visit RiverPlay Discovery Village at Skinner's Butte Park.


I second the Fire Truck Park in Vancouver. Technically I think it's Marshall Park, but I'm glad someone else shares the nickname! From there, head into downtown and check out Esther Short Park. Great play structure for all ages, with a couple of slides very low to the ground and that rubberized turf for the crawlers. (Not so great in the heat of summer, though.) There's also a warm weather fountain and nice walking path.

We're also fans of Pier Park for taking a walk or watching bikes and skateboards. We noticed over the weekend that it appears they're building a new play structure, which will make this park wonderful. The play area there up to this point has been questionable.

Finally, one of my faves for the toddler set is Wilshire Park. Great toddler play area with just a little for the older kids.

Oh, and Normandale Park in Hollywood. I'm not sure exact location. Two great play areas, one seeming to be better for the little ones.

I could keep going and going on this one. I love parks!

Although the play area is not all that unique (but it is new), Holly Farm Park (http://www.portlandonline.com/parks/finder/index.cfm?action=ViewPark&PropertyID=1239&c=38308)in SW Portland has a skateboard pool, plus lots of concrete for scooting and skating. There is also a big grassy area and picnic tables. It is across the street from the Capitol Hill Library, so it is a nice outing to combine the park and library. Best to go in the morning since once school is out the middle schoolers take over the skating area. We live within walking distance and in nice weather it seemed like we lived there.

We love Normandale Park (plus its in our 'hood so its convenient). On NE Halsey at NE 56th - the play area is behind the ball fields.
Two great play structures. Swings, seesaws and merry-go-round too. Great shade from big trees and the playground is right near the dog run area so my son loves to watch the dogs after playing.

We also like Wallace Park on NW 25th & Raleigh in front of Chapman School. Great big play structure (plus a smaller one too) that has a ramp leading up from the sidewalk - perfect for the toddler that's not as skilled with stairs!

I second Eugene's River Play Discovery Play Village as being the mother of all playgrounds, it is a playground on steroids! But for those of us in Portland, I love the Abernathy School Playground (near 12th and Division). Two separate play structures right next to each other mean it's great for toddlers and bigger kids too.

Yep, we love the Holly Farm Park as well. Very close to the library, bus stop and a little set of shops for a lunchtime snack.

I have a six year old that is also a monkey bar kid - she can spend hours on them. We put some in the backyard this summer and for Christmas her big gift is monkey bars in the basement. That is how much she loves them.

I really like Laurelhurst Park. They have a nice monkey bar set up - in fact that is where she learned. I also like that there is a great structure for my little one close by. The only downside is that the swings are far away from the monkey bars.

A lot of PPS schools are getting new playgrounds. Part of it is that old ones need to be replaced so the district is finding grants. The other thing is that middle schools that are converting to K-8 did not have playgrounds but are required by law to have them for the lower grades. So there are a lot of great new playgrounds out there.

At my daughter's school, Beach in North Portland, they have awesome monkey bars. They have a monkey bar structure and then the main structure has the ones with the rotating part. Her pre-k teacher had a set in the classroom! When we saw all of this we knew it was the place for her. Yesterday the principal told me that they made a point to have a lot of monkey bars since kids often have issues with upper body strength.

I would check out the local schools when school is not in session. They can really be a great place to play.

It's quite a drive, but for a big half day adventure I recommend Murase Plaza in Wilsonville. My boys beg to go often in the summer, so we pack picnic, grab the dog leash, and make a day of it. It can't be beat for the endless teletubby style hills and incredible play area. There's a huge slide, amazing sandbox, nature trail, picnic tables, bathrooms, and more. http://www.ci.wilsonville.or.us/index.aspx?page=397

we love taking our 4 year old to Bridlemile School/park in SW Portland (off of SW Hamilton). Two huge play structures, swings, gigantic grassy area and some covered, paved areas that are good for trike/bike riding in the rain.

oh, almost forgot the OES playground. It's like Swiss Family Robinson gone to the extreme. Great for active two year olds (with help) on up.

We live near a great playground on NW Mill Pond - cross street is NW Morgan. There are a few tables and a nice place to have lunch - big green space to thrown down a blanket - a pond with ducks and a trail good for trikes - playground has an area for toddlers and for big kids too. We're there to play whenever the sun is out and there's coffee within walking distance too!

We LOVE parks (I have a 2.5 yr old).

The great ones we've discovered so far (I'm mainly thinking of the playgrounds here, though we love the butterfly garden and walk to the Tualatin river to see the ducks at Cook Park and many of the other features at the other parks as well):

NE: Grant Park, Wilshire Park, Irvington Elementary Playground
SE: Laurelhurst Park, Mt. Scott Park, Mt. Tabor, Sellwood Park
SW: Washington Park Playground, Metzger Park, Cook Park, East Waluga Park, Willamette Park, Summerlake Park (multiple play structures), Garden Home Park, Gabriel Park
NW: North Park Blocks Park

It's not always open to the public, but the playground at Jenkin's Estate (it's a Tualatin Hills Parks and Rec park) is great!

Look up Tanner Creek Park in the summer. They have an awesome water fountain that is fun to run through. The play structures are nice too.

What a timely post! I recently found out I'm preggers with #3, and decided I need to do something interesting with the boys...we thought we'd hit every Portland park, and take pics of the boys to email back East, where our family misses us terribly, and is convinced it rains buckets, non-stop,absolutely every single day. I figured...hey, the fam will see the sun does (occasionally) shine in P-town, and the boys aren't suffering from living in a city. SO...my question is, does anyone know if there is some wonderful, all-inclusive list of Portland public parks, and their addresses?


If you go to http://www.portlandonline.com/parks/finder/ and do a search only selecting playgrounds as an amenity/activity a list will come up with all addresses. You can also search by part of town and other things.


Our favorite is the playground at Catlin Gabel School. It's got wonderful castle-like wood structures, the kind they don't seem to make anymore. Clearly designed by someone that understands kids. It also has a huge sandbox, playhouses, tire swings, and a nice picnic area.

It's private property, but no one seems to mind if you go after school hours. The school is located right next to St. Vincent's Hospital, on Barnes Road. Park in the main lot, and walk straight back (North).

Also, I third Tanner Springs in the Pearl. It was designed as a meditative, natural landscape, but kids dig it. Koi fish, and the many tiny streams are very attractive to my kiddos.

I know that this isn't PDX, buuuut....the two best playgrounds me & the little ones have visited are in Sandy & Astoria. The one in Sandy is not appropriate for winter cause it's tucked in a tree covered hollow at the intersection of 26 & 213. The one in Astoria, I really don't know how to say how to get there but it overlooks the bay, has a special more enclosed little kid area, phones that have mysterious speakers at random points throughout the maze of slides/ladders/platforms/boats/etc. both Sandy & Astoria are like rambling versions of the maze at the AC Gilbert Children's Museum in Salem (another amazing gem outside Portland).

I love Willamette Park off of Macadam in SW Portland for toddlers to about age 11. Safe and simple, easy for parents to participate or not, fun also to go on walk if playground gets old or too crowded (usually not at all crowded)

Anybody have any good suggestions of parks with a wide variety of monkey bars- different heights, width of grips, dip bars, etc. ? I am trying to find a good playground to do calisthenic workouts, haven't found an ideal one yet. I live in Newberg

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