Contributor: Amber D’Ambrosio is Processing Archivist & Records Manager at Willamette University, a small, urban liberal arts college in Salem, Oregon, where she manages the collections and wrangles ArchivesSpace and Archivematica. In her spare time she writes, reads about early modern London, hikes, travels, and obsessively visits the Oregon Coast.
The Portland Japanese Garden combines a variety of traditional Japanese garden styles into a beautiful haven on top of a hill overlooking downtown Portland. The hill is known for Washington Park, which has many other family-friendly attractions that make the Japanese Garden’s distance from the conference location well worth the trip. After a recent expansion, the gardens now include a Japanese cultural center with constantly rotating exhibitions of Japanese material culture, a gift shop, and a cafe.
The garden itself is lush, extensive, and includes a wide variety of flowering plants, waterfalls, and Zen gardens known for their simpler aesthetic of carefully raked sand or gravel. There are traditional Japanese buildings, including a traditional tea room, and a hall with veranda that provides a great view over downtown Portland. On a clear day you can see Mount Hood in the distance. Guided tours are available at specified times for those who would like additional insight into the gardens and their history. This is one of my favorite places in Portland, and it’s worth a visit any season of the year.
The Portland Japanese Garden is open until 7 pm every day during the summer months. Admission is $14.95 for an adult with discounted rates for other age ranges available.
The garden and surrounding Washington Park are accessible via the Blue and Red MAX light rail lines to Beaverton and Hillsboro. Get off at Washington Park stop (inside the tunnel). There is a free Washington Park shuttle that will take you from the MAX station to the garden, or you can enjoy a 1.5 mile walk through the arboretum in Washington Park (the trail is well marked with signs for the Japanese and Rose Gardens, but it winds through wooded areas with uneven terrain).
There is parking available at the garden but also available at the Oregon Zoo and elsewhere in Washington Park if you’d like to walk to the garden. Additional travel information is available at the link provided.
Other attractions of interest in Washington Park include the Oregon Zoo, the Portland Children’s Museum, the World Forestry Center, the Hoyt Arboretum, miles of walking/hiking trails, and the International Rose Test Garden (celebrating its 100th anniversary).
For those who would love to experience a garden a little closer to the conference action, Lan Su Chinese Garden comprises a full city block walled off from the noise of downtown Portland in the historic Old Town Chinatown district. It’s within walking distance (less than 1 mile) of the downtown conference hotel and the convention center. It’s also accessible via bus or the Blue or Red MAX light rail lines (with a short walk).
The garden is partitioned into various areas with stonework that allows views into the alcoves through elaborately carved windows. You can take advantage of a free guided tour at certain hours of the day or wander with the aid of printed guides. Shallow, reflective water, lush plant life, and traditional Chinese structures are the main features of the garden. Within the buildings are examples of traditional Chinese material culture and a Chinese Teahouse with light dining options (vegetarian and possibly vegan options are available). The Lan Su Chinese Garden is the perfect place to escape from the hustle and concrete of downtown Portland and enjoy a moment of tranquility among beautiful surroundings. They have regular cultural events, so it’s worth checking their schedule to see what you might find during your visit.
Admission to the garden is $10 for an adult with discounts available to other age ranges. A family pass is available for $28. The garden is open until 7 pm every day during the summer months.