Fantastic(al) Beasts and Where to Find them in Portland

Adult and child fans of mythical beasts and friendly forest creatures need look no further than the greater Portland metro for a myriad of fantastical creatures. From life-sized trolls to hidden murals and more, break out your car bingo cards to start hunting these northwest legends. Better yet, all these creations can be viewed for free — or you can stop and grab a snack or ticket, too.

Oro, the Playful Giant of Hillsboro

Credit: Kate Hagan Gallup

Our family couldn’t be more excited for a playdate in Hillsboro soon, to meet Oro the forest giant in Hidden Creek Park West’s new playground. Take a walk through the towering trees adjacent to the community center to find this gentle giant sprawled across a shiny new play area with loads of room to climb and swing. This creature’s unique feature is that children can climb on it, not just around. The Hidden Creek forest giant is located in the area formerly known as the 53rd Avenue Community Playground. There are many paths, but be aware of poison oak if you stray off the main areas.

Portland’s Troll Bridge

Credit: Kate Hagan

You’ll be able to stamp your card for trolls if you head not too far from the Hillsboro giant to search out these miniature versions. If your little is a massive fan of Poppy and Branch they’ll either be in love — or horrified — it’s a bit hard to tell. If you haven’t guessed already this bridge is themed after Troll dolls and attached to an old railroad trestle bridge in the same matter gum is attached to Seattle’s favorite Pike Place Market wall. There’s room to pull over or you can view from the car. Find the bridge at 16498 NW McNamee Rd, Portland, Oregon.

Ole Bolle the Troll

Courtesy of Nordic Northwest

Ole Bolle the Troll is one of the famous sculptures created by world-famed artist Thomas Dambo and the first in the series titled, “The Way of the Bird King” which includes 5 more sculptures in the Seattle area. While you can’t climb directly on this giant beast, you can wander around the sculpture and into the cabin to greet this curious creature. The idea of the Dambo-themed troll quest is that troll hunters follow clues to find these larger-than-life characters, but at this point, most publications have spilled the beans and a quick search will tell you to check the Nordic Northwest Campus in Tualatin Valley. Bonus: if you go into the center itself, you can enjoy some Scandinavian treats and find a few bonus mythic figures too.

Dragon Beasts of Chinatown

Credit: Kate Hagan Gallup

The Lan Su Chinese Garden downtown is guarded by ancient dragons at the doorway. This stop is great to explore if your beast hunters need a break from the car. Serpentine beasts are often associated with water, making our rainy Portland winters a fit for these ancient creatures. The dragons can be seen from the street for free, or grab a ticket and enjoy the whole garden. We also found bonus dragons in a quick walk around Chinatown, and some bigfoots on nearby newspaper boxes as well.

Lighthouse Mermaid of Madison

Credit Flickr – by gisarah

At 21st and Madison there’s a house hidden behind the largest giant sunflowers I’ve ever seen. Travel past these mythical-sized “beanstalks” and you’ll find a gorgeous cob-built sculpture beneath the apple branches. Amidst this nature lives a happy mermaid and her mosaic lighthouse. The overall immersive effect is delightful. There is no requested donation to view that we could find, but we recommend common courtesy when viewing. The sidewalk is public but the local residence is private. 

Parental Advisory: While there is nothing inherently adult about this little mermaid, she prefers to live a life without her “upper seashells” for those more sensitive to adult anatomy.

Assortments of Mythical Creatures and Snacks

Wonderwood Springs

Courtesy of Wonderwood Springs

These final two mentions are shared for a large and diverse cast of mythical creatures. Wonderwood and Wonderwood Springs share the ongoing creations of local favorite artist Mike Bennett in the St. John’s area. Stop in for a coffee or tour the art installation to view this ongoing cast of creatures. Wonderwood admission is free for kids under 5 and a suggested donation for adults. (Find more kid-friendly coffee shops here.)


Courtesy of McMenamins Kennedy School

If we’re discussing magical creatures, McMenamins has too many to mention — both locations and art. Browse one of these locations long enough and you’re almost certain to find a unicorn, mermaid, or more. McMenamins larger locations are free to walk around, although we always suggest you make a purchase to support your local businesses if possible. You can also try this handy guide to McMenamins artwork too.

Kate Hagan Gallup
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