During our was our first visit to Portland I searched online to find the best viewpoints in the Rose City. Not knowing the lay of the land aside from what we’ve seen on 2D Google Maps, John and I like to get above our destination to get a feel for its geography. I found Five of Portland’s Best Outdoor Viewpoints on a blog and we decided to hit two of them in one afternoon, starting with the Portland Japanese Gardens.
Staying downtown at the Westin Portland we walked a block south of the hotel to find the red and blue Tri-Met Max streetcar lines. In hindsight, we should have used the Tri-Met Trip Planner and taken a bus instead, but this rookie move led to a scenic detour once we reached Washington City Park. We purchased transit day passes for $5 a piece from outdoor fare kiosks and hopped on red line street car which ended up carving into the west hills and going underground. We got out at Washington City Park, overshooting our destination, but it was interesting to see another transit system in action, and to ride the elevator 600 feet up from track level to daylight.
While we had passed our stop for the Japanese Gardens, and prepared for a 40 minute walk through the hills, we spotted the #83 bus which was heading our way through the park. We stepped up, were told it was a free ride, and we got dropped off right at the entrance to the Japanese Gardens about 8 minutes later.
Portland Japanese Garden
The Portland Japanese Garden admission coast was $9.50 per adult and this 5.5 acre oasis, reminiscent of Queen Elizabeth Park’s locale in Vancouver, features the Strolling Pond Garden, a 100 year-old five-tiered pagoda, a Natural Garden, Sand and Stone Garden, Flat Garden, and Tea Garden.
Portland Japanese Garden Photowalk
We enjoyed the tranquil stroll over stones and koi-filled ponds, by trickling water and up moss-lined paths, and we did eventually find the overgrown lookout area. We did spot our hotel, which was nice, since we know it’s right beside the giant tower that’s under construction.
The walk through the garden was lovely, and there were many unique features like the raked patterns in the sand and stone, and warm benches on which to sit in the sunshine the peeked through the trees and listen to waterfalls that seemed to come from every direction.
We did a full walk around each path and were ready to head out after that. While the garden provided beautiful photo opportunities, we both felt like we didn’t quite get our money’s worth. Perhaps it’s because we’re so used to feeling much more connected with nature on free hikes and walks in our own parks back home. Perhaps we should have done the complimentary guided tour. Regardless, it was lovely to visit and have this little adventure (even the part where we got lost on transit in the beginning). We found a new-to-us place, had a peaceful walk, appreciated the history and culture, and enjoyed seeing more of Portland.
After exiting we walked through the free International Rose Test Garden as we descended the hill and made our way back to our hotel on foot. This is the oldest public garden of its kind in the United States and it has over 200 rose cultivars that are tested each year.
Roses of all shapes and sizes, with layers upon layers of unfolding petals, released fragrant aromas into the late summer air as they dotted the landscape with yellows, pinks, and oranges. Nearby in the Shakespeare Garden, a wedding party posed for photos.
We kept walking, past a reservoir, past a Sacajawea statue, up another hill, and found ourselves on SW Park just on the other side of Providence Park where we caught the Whitecaps and Timbers FC match the day before. We knew our way home from here and continued on foot, soaking up some sunshine and exploring another neighbourhood before reaching familiar streets and shops back downtown.