The big kids are gone! The big kids are gone! Yes, that day has arrived, when the big kids (maybe even yours!) have stepped away from the swings and slides and relinquished the rollerblade trails. That Magic School Bus has whisked them away, leaving the empty parks there for you to explore. Since the fall is one of the most amazing times of the year in Portland, take advantage of the Post Labor Day/Pre Halloween lull to take your kiddos to those parks that have been swarming with summer campers and play groups during the summers. Portland is known for being “green” in more ways than one. Grab a granola bar and head out for a Park Tour of some of the coolest spaces around.

Ibach Park, Tualatin (10455 SW Ibach Street)
What You’ll Love: From a huge dinosaur skeleton to a swath of swings, rockers, music makers and more, this park offers an awesome variety for your little ones. You can even get your own arm workout in the “bridge crossing” area where you crank a pulley to move your kids on a trolley over the “river” below.

What You Should Know: Bring a change of clothes because your kids are going to want to get down and dirty in the water/sand area. A metal pole starts the water running which leads to endless entertainment as they create streams, dams and, of course, mud!

Murase Park, Wilsonville (8300 SW Memorial Drive)
What You’ll Love: In the summer, this park draws the crowds with its amazing water features and fountains, but come fall, the action is all down at the lower park. An awesome slide built into the hillside is the coolest, but the big kids tend to dominate it by surfing down on cardboard. Now, it’s all yours, as is the sand and water feature directly behind it. A mini rock wall and a net-like jungle gym offer a medley of climbing experiences.

What You Should Know: Good Samaritans usually leave a variety of shovels and pails behind in the sand area, but it never hurts to bring your own!

Tanner Creek Park, West Linn (3456 Parker Road)
What You’ll Love: Hands down one of the coolest play structures around, it features covered slides, swirly slides, catwalks, ramps and forts. Kids will climb for hours and burn a ton of energy on the intricate apparatus that just begs for make-believe games! A water feature and a sick skate park, with fun ramps for the kiddos to run up and down, round out this multi-purpose park.

What You Should Know: The park is located smack dab in the middle of a neighborhood, so you feel as though you are driving deep into suburbia as you navigat there. But you will be pleasantly surprised to discover this is anything but your average neighborhood park!

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Gabriel Park, Portland (SW 45th Avenue & Vermont Street)
What You’ll Love:  During the summer, this park is a magnet for summer camps given its proximity to the Southwest Community Center and its many ball fields The playground offers a nice variety of standard swings and climbing apparatuses, but you’ll find your kids are drawn to the gentle slopes that are perfect for running up and rolling down. Get those little legs pumping as you run relays, kick a ball or play “Follow the Leader” throughout the many (now deserted) ball fields and courts.

What You Should Know: Bring your trike or scooter and helmet because the paved paths are great fun to zoom around – especially when they’re not clogged with skateboarders and rollerbladers!

Johnson Creek Park, Portland (SE 21st Avenue and Clatsop Street)
What You’ll Love: This park is awesome on a warm sunny fall day because one of its highlights is a babbling brook that trickles nearby, perfect for wading and cooling off tootsies. It’s known for its “natural areas,” and kids can entertain themselves for hours, tossing rocks, finding sticks, enjoying nature.

What You Should Know: The play structure isn’t expansive, but provides a nice diversion when the kids tire of the creek.

Grant Park, Portland (NE 33rd Avenue & US Grant Place)
What You’ll Love: What makes this park especially cool is the sculpture garden featuring characters from local author Beverly Cleary’s beloved children’s books. Your kids can get up and close personal with Ramona Quimby, Henry Huggins and Henry’s dog Ribsy. Find a map of the neighborhood showing the location of events in the books and then take a stroll down the “real” Klickitat Street.

What You Should Know: The park is more fun if your kids are acquainted with these spunky characters, so do some reading or watch the movie first!

Did we miss a favorite little kid park? Let us know in the comments below! 

–Cathie Ericson

Photos provided by Cathie Ericson