Travel Portland

photo by Grace Rivera

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The Most Chill Portland Parks

Your guide to getting grounded.

Portlanders are seriously the best at takin’ it easy. We are about self-care, relaxing, and rejuvenating. On the daily we greet one another with smiling faces, but the weeks and months pile high with gray skies and the inevitable Pacific Northwestern passive-aggressiveness/microaggressions. For a woman of color, self-care has to be a priority in this city. We’re blessed here in Portland to be surrounded by rivers and forests, so when life’s frustrations get the best of me, I retreat into nature to heal myself. When I can’t go camping or on a hike, I make my way to Portland’s parks to recover my sanity. Bring your journal, a tapestry to lie on, and snacks to visit these fields, gardens, and forests. Heal yourself.

Peninsula Park, 700 N Rosa Parks Way

In the heart of north Portland, Peninsula Park is popular among kids and adults alike. The gorgeous rose garden is home to thousands of roses, filling the entire park with a relaxing aroma. It’s Portland’s oldest rose garden—over 100 years old—and after sunset it transforms into a beautifully haunted wonderland, illuminated by warm orange lamplight. I’ve spent many a contemplative late night walking circles around the park. A fountain at the center of the rose garden is full of wading children in the summer but falls quiet at night and in winter. Particularly in silence, it’s the perfect place to journal, meditate, or take someone on a romantic date (once you’re feeling solid in self). The coves between rows of rose bushes and trees make it easy to find seclusion, even in the crowded summertime. Pro tip: spend a warm summer night or a cold morning at the fountain. And if your self-care time must be shared with your childcare time, the playground is spectacular.

Mt. Tabor Park, SE 60th Ave & Salmon St

Resting atop a dormant volcano, Mt. Tabor Park has hiking trails that spiral up the cinder cone, popular with runners and leisure walkers. The park is full of looming Doug firs that are so old and full of memory, you can feel their stories. Mt. Tabor is vast, and in its grassy fields I’ve seen parties, jam sessions, babies napping, acro-yoga practice, and people crying and singing alone. (That last one is me.) It’s easy to find a patch of grass here to claim as your own, and the best of those patches are at the top, shaded by trees, or on the west side of the park. From there you can see the towers of downtown Portland and the West Hills, and who knew looking at the city from afar could be so relaxing?

photo by Grace Rivera

Cathedral Park, N Edison St & Pittsburg Ave

If the name isn’t convincing enough, let me assure you that Cathedral Park is sacred. It rests at the base of the St. Johns Bridge and is one of the most beautiful places in Portland. The St. Johns Bridge has magnificently tall arches like a cathedral, towering high above the Willamette River. A sandy “mini-beach” on the river’s shore at the bottom of the park could be a hangout spot on a hot summer day. It’s not the cleanest river, but I’ve swum in it and (contrary to what my aunt always told me would happen) I did not grow a third eye. This is also one of my favorite people-watching spots. The regulars are a blend of hippies, young wannabe punks, and elderly folks playing board games. There’s nothing quite like lying in Cathedral Park in the summer and taking a dip in the Willamette to cool off.

photo by Grace Rivera

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