Portland's downtown districts (the area bordered by Interstate 405 to the west and the Willamette River to the east) are walkable for many reasons. Tops on the list is all the green and open public spaces, parks, plazas, and fountains that make wonderful places to sit down, people watch, and relax with a latte or a snack from a nearby food cart. Parks have been valued by Portlanders since the city was first incorporated and remain so today. Many of Portland's downtown parks were established during the 1800s. Others are more recent additions. All of them enhance your downtown Portland experience.
Filling the block just west of the historic Pioneer Courthouse, this brick-covered plaza is one of Portland's favorite community meeting spaces. Events and rallies take place at the Square all year round. There are places you can sit for a while, taking in Portland's lively urban scene. Structures are integrated into the plaza and include restrooms, a Starbucks coffee shop, and a Portland visitor's information center. SW Broadway and Yamhill St Pioneer Courthouse Square Event Calendar
Tom McCall Waterfront Park (source: iStockphoto)
Stretched about one mile along the western shore of the Willamette River, Tom McCall Waterfront park sits between Steel Bridge and Marquam Bridge. The park is a great place for walking and biking, with trees and the downtown skyline to one side, and river and bridge views to the other. Along the way there are historic memorials and monuments, fountains, resting places, green lawns, boat launches, and the Sternwheeler Portland dock. Several major Portland festivals take place at Waterfront Park during the year, including the Bite of Oregon and the Waterfront Blues Festival. Waterfront Park is named for beloved Oregon governor Tom McCall.
Running along SW Park Avenue between Salmon Street and Jackson Street, these lovely 12 blocks are filled with mature elm, oak, and maple trees. You'll also find green lawns and a rose garden. There are several stately statues and monuments, including a 1922 bronze equestrian statue of Theodore Roosevelt. The Shemanski Fountain, built in 1926, was a gift to the city from a grateful local businessman. Visitors to the Portland Art Museum and the Oregon Historical Society Museum, which both face the park, should plan to include some time strolling the South Park Blocks as part of their visit.
Terry Schrunk Plaza & Chapman Park & Lownsdale SquareOccupying adjacent city blocks, these three parks provide a lovely oasis of green among the downtown skyscrapers. Terry Schrunk Plaza, which offers green lawns and an amphitheater, occupies federal land. Both Chapman Park and Lownsdale Square are longstanding city parks, each offering mature elm and gingko trees, enticing benches, and commemorative statues, monuments, and fountains.
between Salmon St and Jefferson Street along SW 4th Ave
Installed in 1966, Lovejoy Fountain sends water rushing down steps and drops of varied lengths, recalling the waterfalls found around the Portland region. The surrounding park space offers a combination of green trees and hardscaping, also in steps, which makes it a nice place to sit and relax. Or to work out those glutes. SW 3rd Ave and Harrison St
"Portlandia" and The Portland Building
This Portlandia came first, well before the popular TV series. Perched above the entrance to The Portland Building, the grand copper repoussé statue is based on the Portland city seal. It features a muscular woman in classic draped attire, boldly holding a trident. In her crouched position, Portlandia is still over 34 feet high. While not in any official park, the statue is across from the entrance plaza to another downtown highrise - and conveniently, a coffee shop - that also includes some seating. So grab a latte and enjoy not only Portlandia, but the Post-Modern architecture of The Portland Building, designed by famed architect Michael Graves.
1120 SW 5th Ave
Like Lovejoy Fountain, the terraced Ira Keller Fountain brings the rushing waters, basalt columns, and grand waterfalls of the region to mind. Ira Keller Fountain Park occupies an entire city block. Surrounded by trees, the park area steps down to the central fountain, forming a sheltered bowl. It is adjacent to Keller Auditorium, one of Portland's major arts and events venues. SW 3rd Ave and Clay St
Located mostly within the Pearl District, this stretch of park covers 7 city blocks. Unlike many of the other downtown parks, the North Park Blocks offers areas for play and sports as well as for walking and relaxing. There are basketball and bocce courts and a children's playground. A huge bronze sculpture of a Chinese-style baby elephant and the tiny "Dog Bowl" fountain are the North Park Blocks' newer features. NW Park Ave between Ankeny St and Glisan St
Ankeny Plaza and Skidmore FountainA combination of the old and the new, this plaza was updated during the 1980's to meet Portland's modern needs but retains many historic treasures. Tops among these gems is the Skidmore Fountain, first built in 1888 as a memorial to a prominent local businessman. The fountain has become a popular spot for street performers. Ankeny Plaza is alive with activity most weekend's of the year as a venue for the Portland Saturday Market.
SW Naito Pkwy and Ankeny St
Director Park Plaza in Downtown Portland
One of Portland's newer public plazas, Director Park is a granite-paved space attractive for a variety of reasons. Kids and families will enjoy the play fountain on warmer days. It's a great place to enjoy a lunch or a snack from nearby Elephants Deli or the plaza Starbucks. A portion of the plaza is sheltered by a striking glass canopy. There are enclosed entrances/exits to the parking garage, which is located below. 815 SW Park Ave
Mill Ends ParkFamous for being the "World's Smallest Park", this official city park occupies a two-foot wide circle of tended land, protected by curbing, in the middle of a intersection of downtown streets.
at SW Naito Parkway and Taylor St