There’s nothing wrong with eating lunch at the kitchen table. But when summer comes, there’s something magical about setting out for an adventure with a backpack full of food and a blanket.
Whether you break out a red checkered blanket and wicker basket, or have a more impromptu PB&J affair, here’s a list of some of the very best spots in and around Portland to eat up outside.
George Rogers Park. George Rogers Park is in downtown Lake Oswego, but tucked away enough that you’d never know it. Sure, it has a playground with all the usual equipment, but the real gem is the park’s access to the Willamette. Cross a small field, descend a few flights of stone stairs, and you’ll find yourself in the quietest section of the Willamette you could hope for. Let your kids run and build along the beach, climb on the massive rocks, or play in the icy water. Enjoy your picnic while catching views of the beautiful houses across the banks, ducks swimming by, and the occasional fisherman casting for a bite or artist sketching the beautiful scene. Another perk: Bathrooms! 611 S. State St., Lake Oswego
Walton Beach. If you feel like a beach experience without the 90 minute drive to the coast, Sauvie Island’s Walton Beach is a great option. There is plenty of sandy coastline, and lovely views of the Columbia River. You can even pick up your picnic supplies at one of the many farms that dot your drive out there — like Bella Organic, Topaz Farm, or The Pumpkin Patch. Insider tip: Do not stop at Collins Beach by mistake. You may get more of a view than you’re looking for at this clothing optional beach. Off NW Reeder Rd., Sauvie Island
Tanner Springs. Located in the Pearl, and thus, in close proximity to picnic supply gems like Lovejoy Bakers, this restful park is a great place to stop and eat. The park itself attempts to recapture some of the area’s native past, and is modeled as a miniature wetland. You’ll find water, reeds, tall grass and native plants, along with awesome views of the Fremont Bridge. A sweet oasis to enjoy something sweet. NW 10th and Marshall St., Portland
The Lawn at the Oregon Zoo. It’s no surprise that walking around the zoo can work up an appetite. We’ve been known to take a snack cup or seven with us when we head out. The wide open expanse of the lawn makes it a great spot to stop for a snack, or for a larger meal. Added bonuses: This is the only spot in town where you might catch a glimpse of an elephant while you eat. The raised ledges along the lawn make a great spot to sit if you’re eating, or to climb if your kids are done and waiting for everyone else to finish up. And you have ready access to bathrooms. SW Canyon Rd., Portland
Skidmore Bluffs. This North Portland gorgeousness is no secret to picnickers, especially at sunset. And there’s good reason. From the Bluffs, you can catch views of the Willamette, the West Hills, the rail yard, and the city skyline. But the real fun is what you might see in the park — unicycles (probably), hula hoops (almost definitely), a wedding on stilts? (it’s been rumored to have happened). A great spot to feel reconnected to Portlandia. Overlook Blvd. and N. Skidmore Terr., Portland
Council Crest. Council Crest is the highest point in Portland, and on a clear day you can catch views not just of Mt. Hood and Mt. St Helens, but also Mt Adams, Mt Jefferson, and Mt Rainier, along with the city skyline. To work up an appetite, or to work off your picnic, you can take a hike along the adjoining Marquam Trail. Or just let your kids run up and down the grassy hills. SW Council Crest Dr., Portland
Rose Garden Amphitheater. The amphitheater by the Rose Garden boasts not only the heavenly scent of roses, but also ample space for a picnic. The wide, grassy steps make it a great choice for spreading out and enjoying a sunny day. It’s also centrally located to Hoyt Arboretum’s many walking trails, if you’re feeling like you want to earn your supper. SW Kingston Dr., Portland
Mt Tabor. There are so many great spots to have a picnic on Mt Tabor. Perhaps the best for families is the covered picnic area by the basketball courts. It gives you easy access to the playground, tables to spread out on, and the option of cover if it’s too sunny or drizzly. Plus, it’s close to a bathroom of the non-portable variety. Runner up: The top of the caldera, for unbeatable views of Portland spreading out below. SE 60th and Salmon St., Portland
Clackamette Park. This awesomely named park marks where the Clackamas and Willamette rivers meet in Oregon City. You’ll find short walking trails, horseshoe pits, swings, beach access and picnic areas in this scenic park. There are also lots of people out enjoying the water, from canoers and boaters to folks diving on in. 1955 Clackamette Dr., Oregon City
Vancouver Lake Park. Go for a swim in the lake (check latest algae bloom advisories), cycle along an easy paved bike trail, climb on playground equipment, and enjoy access to grills and picnic tables. Oh, and don’t forget the views of Mt. Hood, Mt. St Helens, and Mt. Adams. Yup, this has all the requirements for the perfect picnic spot. Because of its perfection, this spot can get a bit crowded on weekends — but sometimes a place is great enough to battle the crowds for. (Or you could always go on a weekday.) 6801 NW Lower River Rd, Vancouver WA
Rood Bridge Park. Sprawling lawns for picnics go on and on, and there are paths through nearby woods and wetlands to check out wildlife and ponds. Littles can splash in a small creek running through the rhododendron garden, and there’s a big play structure, too. On a recent trip, we saw kids learning to bike on the paved paths and a family enjoying ice cream cones from a nearby Dairy Queen. Plus, there’s a good-sized parking lot and bathrooms.