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Complete Guide to Visiting Washington Park Portland – 🐘 Oregon Zoo, Museum, Gardens at Washington Park & More!

The crown jewel of Portland, Washington Park is just outside downtown Portland with more than 458 acres to explore. More than 3 million people visit Washington Park, Portland every year for its authentic Japanese garden, museum, zoo, arboretum, and other amenities.

Are you planning to visit Portland, or are you moving to Portland, OR permanently? Here’s what you want to know about spending the day at the best park in Portland.

Washington Park Overview

Washington Park is the most visited Portland park and one of the oldest parks in Portland Oregon. The park spans over 458 acres of wooded hillside with 241 acres of city park land plus the Hoyt Arboretum (153 acres) and Oregon Zoo (64 acres).

The original 41 acres of land was purchased by the City of Portland in 1871 for more than $32,000. At the time, it was a controversial decision given the high price. With a large cougar population and thick brush, it was initially a little-used park and safety hazard. Charles M. Meyer, the park keeper hired in the 1880s, changed that. Despite no training in landscaping, the former seaman used his memories of his homeland in Germany and parks of Europe to transform the park.

Within less than two decades, it had flower gardens, a zoo, vast lawns, and trails. Cable cars were used in the park from 1890 through the 1930s. The acclaimed landscape architect John Charles Olmstead recommended changes to the park in 1903. After they were adopted, it received its current name of Washington Park in 1909.

Today, the park is home to some of the top attractions in Portland including the Oregon Zoo, founded in 1888. It was formerly home to the Portland Children’s Museum which permanently closed in 2021.

Where Is Washington Park? | Location & Hours

Washington Park is two miles west of downtown Portland off Highway 26. It’s close to Forest Park, one of America’s largest urban forests, Macleay Park, Portland State University, and top attractions like Pittock Mansion.

Washington Park Portland Map

Getting to Washington Park

The park is located off exit 72 for Zoo/Forestry Center from Highway 26. Parking is available daily from 5 am to 10 pm for $2 per hour or $8 for all-day parking. You can pay for parking at pay stations or with the Portland Parking Kitty app.

If you’re planning to drive, be aware that Washington Park parking is very limited. There are seven areas for parking at Washington Park including near the playground, the zoo, and the arboretum visitor center. You can see real-time parking availability here.

Nearly 40% of visitors arrive by other means including biking, walking, rideshare services, or TriMet transit. Bus and light rail service are the best ways to get to Washington Park.

The Washington Park Portland park is accessible by the MAX light rail system on the Blue and Red lines to the Washington Park MAX light rail station. Click here for the TriMet trip planner tool to plan your route.

By bus, you can take the TriMet Line 63-Washington Park/SW 6th route to the International Rose Test Garden/Portland Japanese Garden stop.

While in the park, you can use the Washington Park free shuttle to get around. The shuttle arrives every 15 minutes and connects to the TriMet bus line 63 and the MAX light rail station.

Oregon Zoo Portland

Formerly known as the Portland Zoo and then the Washington Park Zoo, The Oregon Zoo is the park’s most well-known attraction. It’s also the oldest zoo west of the Mississippi with a history going back to 1888. With more than 1.6 million visitors every year, the zoo is the most popular and largest paid attraction in Oregon.

This kid-friendly zoo in Portland, Oregon has more than 1,800 animals and 230+ species. The zoo rose to fame in 1962 with the birth of Packy, the first elephant born in the Western Hemisphere in over 40 years. In 2010, he was America’s tallest Asian elephant. The Washington Park Zoo is still known for its elephant habitat with 28 more elephant calves born at the zoo since Packy.

 

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The PDX zoo has several exhibits:

  • African Savanna with Masai giraffe, reticulated giraffe, and cheetahs
  • Dscovery plaza with red pandas
  • Elephant Lands with Asian elephants and the first Borneo elephant in the U.S.
  • Great Northwest with eight areas including bald eagles, river otters, California condors, and black bears
  • Primate Forest with orangutans and chimpanzees
  • Polar Passage with polar bears
  • Penguinarium with Humboldt penguins

Portland Zoo Hours & Location

Portland Zoo Prices

Portland Zoo admission prices are $24 for adults (12 and up) and $19 for kids (2 to 11). Online ticket reservations are required for all guests. You can reserve tickets here.

Discounted admission is available for Washington and Oregon individuals receiving income assistance as well as reciprocal members.

Oregon Zoo members receive free daytime admission excluding for special and ticketed events plus discounts on carousel and train rides, gift shop purchases, and admission to ZooLights and most special events. Membership starts at $59 for one named adult, $39 for a named child, and $79 for guests. You can add up to 2 adults, 6 children, and 2 guests to your membership.

Gardens at Washington Park

The Washington Park gardens are a top draw for botany enthusiasts and nature lovers. The Washington Park rose garden and the Portland Japanese garden are nationally recognized for their beauty and diversity.

International Rose Test Garden

The Portland International Rose Test Garden is America’s oldest continually operated public rose garden. The famous rose test garden boasts an amazing 722 varieties of roses and over 10,000 rose buses. The multi-tiered Washington Park rose gardens cover nearly 4.5 acres with sculptures, a fun floral gift shop, and excellent views of the skyline and Mount Hood.

The purpose of the garden is a testing garden for new varieties of roses. Every year, around 10-20 varieties are replaced with the best new roses available commercially. When the garden was just starting during WWI, hybridists around the world sent roses to the garden in Portland for testing.

Be sure to visit between May and October to see the blooms!

Portland Japanese Garden

The Washington Park Japanese garden is one of America’s most authentic and beautiful Japanese gardens. It was designed in 1963 and sprawls across 12 acres of Washington Park with eight different garden styles. There are quiet streams and pathways, an authentic Japanese tea house, a sand and stone garden, a strolling pond garden with the Sapporo Pagoda and Heavenly Falls, and much more to see.

The Portland Japanese Garden is open Wednesday to Monday from 10 am to 4:30 pm. Member hours are 8 am to 10 am. Japanese Garden admission is $19.95 for adults, $16.95 for seniors 65+, $15.95 for students, $13.95 for kids (6-17), and free for members.

Make sure you check our complete guide to the Portland Japanese Garden!

Hoyt Arboretum

Hoyt Arboretum was founded in 1928 to protect endangered species. The Washington Park arboretum is a living classroom with 192 acres and 2,300 plant species plus 12 miles of trails to hike. The collection of more than 6,000 trees covers 170 tree families with 67 rare or endangered species. Hoyt Arboretum is home to North America’s first dawn redwood to set pinecones in more than 35 million years.

The Wildwood Trail at Hoyt Arboretum spans 30 miles – the complete length of Forest Park – and starts just past the Washington Park MAX station while the 4T Trail is a 4.5-mile urban loop that includes the Portland Streetcar, train, hiking trails, and the Portland Aerial Tram.

Hoyt Arboretum offers youth nature programs, adult programs, guided tours, and fun activities and events. Be sure to download the Washington Park trail map. Trails and features like the viewpoint of Mount St. Helens, the Bamboo Forest, and the famous dawn redwood are clearly marked.

 

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World Forestry Center Discovery Museum

The 20,000-square-foot Discovery Museum at the World Forestry Center is housed in a striking wooden building that gives visitors a birds’ eye view of a seemingly untouched Pacific Northwest forest. The museum is dedicated to educating visitors about humanity’s connection to forests, sustainable forestry, and climate change. Exhibits cover forest animals, forestry technology, forests of the world, wildfires, and more.

World Forestry Center Location & Hours

Washington Park Archery Range

Managed by Portland Parks & Recreation, the archery range @ Washington Park is an outdoor range that’s completely free to use. You’ll need to bring your own equipment but note that crossbows are prohibited. You’ll find free parking at an adjacent gravel lot accessible via SW Kingston Drive.

Washington Park archery is open from 7 am to 10 pm.

Washington Park Playground

The Rose Garden Children’s Playground is a fun stop for younger kids during your visit to Washington Park. This accessible playground near the Portland International Rose Test Garden features a sand pit, swings, slides, and other play features with restrooms and a picnic area.

As you can see, you’ll need more than a day to truly explore Washington Park! With miles of Washington Park trails, an arboretum, a zoo, and some of the most beautiful Portland gardens, there’s something new to see every time you visit.

If you have fallen in love with the gorgeous parks in Portland and everything else the city has to offer and you’re ready to make it your home, give us a call at PDX Movers. Our Portland movers will give you a free moving estimate with no obligation!

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