If you happened to be out of the country or hiding under a rock this past year … well, you still probably heard about the release of Pokémon Go!, the phone app that brings the popular Pokémon card game to life.
A month or so ago, the game’s producer, Niantic, unveiled a huge new update, unleashing 80 new Pokémon throughout the streets and parks of Portland, making this a great time to pick up the game and get exploring with your kids.
If you’re like my husband, you may have no idea what all the Pokémon fuss is about. If you’re like me, approximately 75 percent of your conversations have to do with which Pokémon would win in a battle. While from the outside, it may sound like a foreign language, the game is actually quite straightforward.
At its most basic, the game is a scavenger hunt for over 200 Pokémon, ranging from adorable to slightly menacing. The Pokémon appear somewhat randomly in real-life locations, and are “captured” when you “throw” a Poké Ball (i.e., swipe your finger) at them.
After some deep Poké-exploration, we have discovered some great spots for Pokémon spawning. (It’s not as creepy as it sounds.) Whether you’re just picking up the game, or are looking for a few rare ones, start here.
Where to Poké-Go
Take the MAX from the west side or the streetcar from the east side and head to the stretch of Portland’s waterfront between the Hawthorne and Steel bridges, which is teeming with Pokémon. On the east side, you’ll quickly be able to pick up lots of water-type Pokémon, including Magikarps, Psyducks and Slowpokes. On the west side, you’re likely to find at least one of the rare types of Pokémon. We’ve found a Dratini nearly every time we’ve gone, and we caught our one and only Gyarados there. Recently, this area also became a hot spot for one of the new types of Pokémon, Cyndaquil. The waterfront is also packed with PokéStops, where you can easily fill your bag with enough Poké Balls to catch all you find. (And if you’re lucky, a special item to evolve another new Pokémon.) Time it with Saturday Market and make a morning out of it, or make this your excuse to check out the Oregon Maritime Museum.
Mount Tabor is a confirmed hotspot for Pokémon breeding, with the type of Pokémon changing every month or so. The first time we went, we filled our bag with Omanytes. The second time, we captured over a dozen Poliwags in an hour. Most recently, it was full of Bellsprouts. We usually get at least one rare Pokémon while we are there, too. (Last time, it was a Phanpy.) Added bonus, you and your kids will get in a great, hilly walk with — get this — no complaining.
Laurelhurst Park also houses a Pokémon nest or two. We’ve gotten tons of Electabuzzes and Scythers there. With the new release, rumors have it that you may be able to pick up a pack of Houndours, though, like at Mount Tabor, the nests change frequently. This is a great park for Pokémon hunting because you can get a nice walk in around the duck pond before heading over to the playground and putting your phone away for some good old screen-free fun.
Park at Broughton Beach (bring $5 for parking) for a fun-filled Pokémon spotting outing. There’s a nest at the Broughton Beach parking area — we’ve gotten many a Charmander there. And Pokémon litter the jogging path, mostly of the water variety. After you’ve caught your fill, pack up your phone and break out the jogging stroller or your bikes for a flat ride with great views of planes taking off and landing across the street.
Should You Make the Poké-Leap?
We are generally pretty strict about screen time in our house, but we are big fans of Pokémon. The game is nonviolent, right down to the gym fights. But the best part is that it encourages exploration and exercise.
If your kids tend toward being homebodies, as mine sometimes do, Pokémon Go is a great way to get them out of the house. Feel free to use the game as an excuse to explore a new playground. After a few minutes, you can put the phone away and let them just play.
The game also encourages walking. One of the aspects of the new release is that certain Pokémon can only be caught by “hatching” eggs. To hatch, you need to walk anywhere from 2 to 10 kilometers. And we’ve definitely logged a lot of them in hopes of snagging a Cleffa or Pichu. You can also walk to get candies, which can then be used to change a Pokémon into its evolved form.
That said, being a screen game, there is an addictive quality to it. We have had to cut off Pokémon playing a few times when things got too intense. We’ve struck a good balance at an hour or two of playtime a week. In time, you’ll figure out what works best for your family.