It’s been a crazy year. COVID has kept us inside. We briefly ventured out and then wind and fire moved us back inside. But, now autumn is upon us and it’s about to get gorgeous in the Portland area. For kids, fall means piles and piles of colorful leaves to gather, collect, throw, jump in, and admire. And evenings spent warming up with a cup of hot chocolate or cider. We’ve rounded up some of the best places in Portland to get back outside, enjoy the show, and play. Don’t forget your camera for the best shots. Read on for more!

photo by katrina emery

Portland Japanese Gardens

Tucked away in Washington Park, this picture-ready garden re-opened its ticket entry and visitor center. The grounds are as perfectly coiffed as ever and burst into color every year. Japanese maples and other fall show-offs were planted to expertly frame certain areas, like a pond, waterfall, or statue. Leave the stroller at home, as many areas use steps. Strap the little ones into a carrier and let older kids pick the path– it’s not too big to get lost in, but big enough that they’ll have fun exploring. Please note, there is a now a timed entry. You’ll want to visit the site and read about their COVID guidelines before heading out.

611 SW Kingston Ave.
Portland, OR

Hoyt Arboretum

Portland’s biggest arboretum is a clear choice to watch the fiesta of fall colors explode across the trees. Over 12 miles of hiking trails span 190 acres, and 6,000 trees like the color-changing birches, maples, oaks and magnolias. A stop at the visitor center will help direct you to which trail offers the most colors, whether you want red hawthorn berries or fiery yellow maples. They offer miles of stroller-friendly paths, a scavenger hunt for the kids, and plenty of great views. As always, check the site for COVID safety measure.

4000 SW Fairview Blvd.
Portland, OR

photo: noel via flickr

Cathedral Park

The views from this park anytime of year are nothing short of stunning. Add a blaze of red and yellow and roll in some fog over the river and you’ve got yourself a fairyland to play in for hours. Bring a picnic blanket and a thermos of hot cider and let the kids go wild! A frisbee, a pile of leaves to jump in, or even some games of tag are perfect against such a beautiful backdrop.

N Edison St & Pittsburg Ave

Pittock Mansion and Forest Park

Originally built in 1909, the Pittock mansion is perched on top of a Forest Park hill, just waiting to burst into fall color. Tour the inside of the mansion before wandering the ground for prime picnic spots and a stunning view of Mt. Hood. For a more active day under the trees, hike down through Forest Park to the Stone House, or combine a driving tour with a visit to the Audubon Society.

3229 NW Pittock Dr
Portland, OR


photo: ryan harvey via flickr

Lone Fir Cemetery

The oldest cemetery in Portland, Lone Fir holds some of Portland’s past names– Lovejoy, Macleay, Hawthorne, and more. But it’s the 700 and plus trees that really set it ablaze in the fall. The leaves falling over old tombstones make a spooky scene at night, but in the daytime the quiet paths and solitude create a beautiful spot to enjoy fall glory. And in the NW corner, you’ll even find that lone douglas fir that offered up its name in 1866.

SE 26th Ave. and SE Washington St.
Portland, OR

Sauvie Island

Fun is a main attraction every fall on this farming island! Besides pumpkins, apple cider, and corn mazes, you’ll also be able to soak in some beautiful fall color from all the oaks blanketing the land. For a perfect picnic spot, head to Howell Territorial Park and spread your feast under the oaks. In the apple orchard behind the house you’ll find trees that were planted from cuttings carried by wagon over the Oregon Trail.

13901 NW Howell Park Rd
Portland, OR

—Katrina Emery


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