You’ve felt it coming for a week or two now. The nights feel crisp and the leaves are just beginning to show the first signs of turning. Before you know it, Portland will be caught in an explosion of color and have piles of bright, crunchy, foliage for your kids to run through and jump in. Fall is here. Grab some hot cocoa and your camera and get ready for some fantastic, autumnal fun. Read on to find out our top picks for the perfect places to enjoy your fall adventures.

photo: Collin Votrobeck via flickr

Portland Japanese Garden
Bring the camera, because this might be the single best spot for fall photo ops. With a strolling pond, tea garden, bonsai terrace, and sand and stone garden, the Japanese Garden is picturesque any time of the year. Add vibrant bursts of color to the many unique gardens, and you have a wonderland for young imaginations to explore and a picture-perfect paradise for the photographer in your family. Make sure to catch the the laceleaf maple in the Flat Garden (ADA accessible, though much of the garden is not). Add some extra fun to your family outing with a stop by nearby Washington Park for some fun playground playtime for the younger or more energetic set. Public tours are available at noon daily through October. Children 5 & under get in free; $10.45.75 youth, $14.95 adult.

611 SW Kingston Ave.
Portland, Oregon 97205
(503) 223-1321

Hoyt Arboretum
With over 190 ridge-top acres and 12 mile of hiking trails, you and your little nature lovers can spend weeks exploring Hoyt Arboretum. Here, the native big leaf maples offer their brilliant colors and trees from from around the world make this unique location a must on your family’s list of of  to-dos. Visitors can expect to see an array of colors from pale yellow to deep crimson and purples. Sourwood trees on the Wildwood Trail bring sweet color of scarlet, maroon and plum. Birches, maples, oaks and magnolias all change color over the season. Check out the ADA and stroller-accessible trail. The Arboretum is right next to the Oregon Zoo and Portland Children’s Museum in Washington Park for more active play.


4000 SW Fairview Blvd.
Portland, OR

Sauvie Island
The changing leaves are fun to look at and play in, but fall brings so much more for families to enjoy. Sauvie Island is home to stately oaks as well as the world’s largest known black walnut tree (on private land), and beautiful area farms also call this location home. Families flock to the Island to enjoy corn mazes, fresh apple cider and pumpkin patches as well as the changing color of the leaves. From some southern points of the island, you should be able to see Forest Park’s lovely colors, too.


photo: Mike Hiran via flickr

Cathedral Park
Cathedral Park quickly transports visitors to what feels like a magical land straight out of a fairy tail. The striking juxtaposition of lawn, the bridge and some nearby trees that turn yellow, red and orange makes young imaginations wonder where the castle is hidden. There are plenty of leaves for playing in and creative play can go on for hours and hours so don’t forget snacks. Moonstruck Chocolate Factory is close and has a cafe but no seating, so if you need to sit and warm up, try Anna Banana’s for hot chocolate.

N Edison St & Pittsburg Ave

Laurelhurst Park
This city park makes you feel like you are wandering through the forest. When the trees’s leaves begin to chance colors, they create a colorful canopy for children to play under. Even on the greyest of days, the light filters through yellow leaves, brightening what would be otherwise dreary. Stroll on paved paths and count ducks in the little pond. Throw a frisbee or take your toddler to play on the play area equipment. This park is a neighborhood favorite, so your little outdoor enthusiasts are sure to make fast friends too!

SE Cesar E Chavez Blvd & Stark St.

photo: Noël via flickr

Silver Falls
Get the hiking boots out because this is an adventure you won’t want to pass up? Set out to hike the trails near the north or south falls, and take in breathtaking fall color along with dazzling waterfalls. The Trail of Ten Falls is true to its name, though it’s a long haul at 7.2 miles. Hike the one-mile South Falls trail, which is a bit steep, or try a longer four-mile paved stroller-friendly trail from the South Falls Day Use Area. (Note: Many of these trails are best suited for older kids, as walking under a waterfall is amazing, but makes for slick footing.)

Make a weekend of it by staying in the Silverton area and exploring the Oregon Garden the next day.



Before you go: Check the Oregon Foliage website for weekly updates from their “leaf spotters” around the state.


Where do you take your kiddos on fall adventures? Let us know in the comments!

—Annette Benedetti