With soft turf underfoot, tall trees offering plenty of shade, a boulder-circling spray fountain and enough different play options to keep any kiddo moving and grinning for days, Dawson Park is a welcome upgrade to Portland’s playground arsenal. And, best news of all: Dawson Park is absolutely, positively bark-chip free.


photo: Liz Overson

Let’s Play
Located right off of the Fremont Bridge and next to Legacy Emmanuel and Randall Children’s Hospitals, this recently modified playground is literally brand spanking new again. We loved seeing the kids explore giant climbing structures attached to the slide (some were calling it a spider web, while others pretended it was a haunted house they had to escape).

Several swing options mean kiddos of different sizes, ages and abilities can all get a turn. The see-saw has four seats and in the middle is a standing board, like a small surfboard, where someone can stand and help move the see saw up and down. There’s a large circular bench for the grown ups, in the shade no less, and a perfect stopping point for snack time.

The center of the park is an open field. On a recent visit it was home to a tackle football game and also a cartwheel contest. The gazebo has been a pillar of the park for years and has been updated for any stage productions your kiddos may need to perform. On Wednesday nights in July it was home to the Summer Free for All Concerts. Other events take place here year ’round as well. Plus, Dawson Park rocks a covered picnic/event shelter … future birthday parties, anyone?

photo: Courtesy of Portland Parks & Rec

Got Spray?
Last but far from least, is the gentle spray fountain. Encircling the area are several boulders of various sizes, each inscribed with an inspirational quote. Get a little mood elevator, while you watch the littles cool off in the mist. Bathrooms are nearby in the shelter, and some port-o-potties are also to be found around the park as well.


photo: Liz Overson

Show Us the Way
Located between N. Vancouver and N. Williams and between N. Morris and N. Stanton we recommend parking off of the busier N Vancouver and N Williams or in one of Emmanual’s garages if need be. There are entry ways into the park from all four corners which makes access a breeze.

Dawson Park is very close to New Seasons if you need to get some groceries (and when don’t we?). It’s also super close to some of our Red Tri happy hour and shopping faves like Poa Cafe, Hopworks and Treehouse Boutique to top off your experience.

Dawson Park
N Stanton St. and N Williams Ave.
Online at: portlandoregon.gov/parks

What’s your favorite playground and why? Tell us in the Comments section below.  

Liz Overson