Toddler adventures: Portland Japanese Garden

Raising a toddler is typically anything but meditative. But as Peeper and I wandered the Portland Japanese Garden, the serene space nudged me toward a more Zen mindset.

When Peeper wanted to tromp across a bridge over and over and over, I savored the extra time to admire the peaceful pond. When she plopped herself down to sift gravel through her fingers, I stared at the view of Mt. Hood.

She enjoyed the garden in her way, and I enjoyed it in mine.

“A Japanese Garden is not only a place for the cultivation of trees and flowering shrubs, but one that provides secluded leisure, rest, repose, meditation, and sentimental pleasure… The Garden speaks to all the senses, not just to the mind alone.” —Takuma Tono, designer of the Portland Japanese Garden
“A Japanese Garden is not only a place for the cultivation of trees and flowering shrubs, but one that provides secluded leisure, rest, repose, meditation, and sentimental pleasure…
The Garden speaks to all the senses, not just to the mind alone.” —Takuma Tono, designer of the Portland Japanese Garden

In 2015, members of a bunch of Portland-area attractions can see the others in the alliance throughout the year. (Here’s a month-by-month breakdown of where you can go when.) We are members of the Oregon Zoo, so I wanted to check out January’s attraction—hence our adventure to the Portland Japanese Garden.

Portland Japanese GardenThe Garden—which is actually made up of five different gardens designed in distinct styles—is, unsurprisingly, gorgeous. Beyond it’s beauty, it inspires a tranquility not found too often within the city. (Its ban on eating, portrait photography and cell phone use  helps.)

I wish I’d known a few things before taking Peeper, though, so parents: Take note. You can introduce your tots to the Portland Japanese Garden, but for a positive experience, follow these tips.

Take the shuttle. If you have small kids, wait at the bottom of the hill for the shuttle bus, which will take you to the entrance at the top. It comes by every 10 minutes or so—look for it right next to the parking. I didn’t notice it and ended up pushing the stroller up a fairly steep walk—and up a bunch of steps—leaving me cranky and winded by the time we arrived at the entrance.

Which brings me to:

Leave your stroller. If you can do without, plan on carrying your little one or having her walk. With the aforementioned stairs and cobbled pathways, the gardens aren’t stroller-friendly.

If you do end up taking yours, ask the folks at the front desk if you can leave it with them for a minute so you can go to the Natural Garden, a series of hills, ponds and streams reachable only by stairs. This was my favorite section of the park, so you don’t want to miss it.

Snack beforehand. It’s rare to see kids without a squeezie or a bowl of Goldfish crackers, but the garden administrators ask that no one eat within the park. It doesn’t take long to wander the whole garden—Peeper and I needed about an hour—so kids should be fine to wait until the car ride home. Plan ahead and offer a snack on the way there, too, if your munchkin is particularly ravenous.

Do you think you’ll go this month, or have you already been? What did you think of the Portland Japanese Garden? Will you go to the other attractions in later months?

0 thoughts on “Toddler adventures: Portland Japanese Garden

  • January 14, 2015 at 10:39 am
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    This is very cool. I haven’t been to the Japanese garden in ages! We also have a zoo membership, so maybe we’ll get a chance to check it out in January. I am looking forward to April, though, because I have never been to the Chinese Gardens!

    Reply
    • January 14, 2015 at 1:08 pm
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      I love that the alliance is creating an easy way for us to do things we’ve never done before. I want to hit up every month’s attraction!

      Reply
  • January 14, 2015 at 4:26 pm
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    I haven’t been there in YEARS. So glad you wrote about this. I could almost live vicariously . . . . as a toddler.

    Reply
  • January 14, 2015 at 4:37 pm
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    I think my favorite time to visit the Japanese Gardens is either spring or autumn, but I haven’t been in a long time. As a member of the Zoo, I didn’t know about this Alliance- thank you for bringing it to my attention!

    Reply
  • January 15, 2015 at 6:49 am
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    i love the garden. went on a gorgeous day in october this year and it was so lovely. i do think it can get WAY too packed and the time we went it was packed with sobbing kids. they needed to follow your tips!

    Reply

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