Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden (SE Portland)
Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, located in the Eastmoreland neighborhood of SE Portland, is one of the many ways Portlanders can find paradise in the heart of the city. Nestled in the southeast, a stone’s throw from Reed College, this 9.5-acre haven for multiple varieties of waterfowl attracts families with kids of all ages.
Bring your camera to capture your children’s wide eyes when the geese step right up, hoping you’ll ignore the garden’s request that you not feed them.
There are signs to help you identify the fowl swimming on Crystal Springs Lake. According to one of the brochures available at the front gate, ninety-four species make the garden their home. On our most recent visit, we spotted American Coots, a heron and Buffleheads that submerged completely below the surface of the water as they dove for food.
With stepping stones, bridges and winding footpaths, the gardens are enjoyable for even the most active kiddo, like my daughter, who delights in all the places to walk, run and cartwheel. (Watch for goose poop in the meadow!) The gardens are stroller friendly and wheelchair accessible restrooms are available.
In spring, the rhodies and azaleas dazzle, attracting artists, who set their easels up along the paths, and wedding parties eager to marry in one of Portland’s loveliest outdoor venues.
On Mother’s Day weekend, when the gardens are at their showiest, the public is invited to enter the American Rhododendron Society Rhododendron Show. Or, prep for next year by indulging yourself at the plant sale, where books and plant care advice are offered.
You can bring your own drinks, snacks or a picnic lunch to share on one of the garden’s many benches. If you’re not in the mood to cook, visit the nearby Woodstock neighborhood to try a kid-friendly restaurant like Laughing Planet Cafe or to grab a house-made hotdog at Otto’s Sausage Kitchen (featured on The Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives).
If the little ones haven’t run out of steam, take a stroll or bike ride beneath the old-growth maples and elms in elegant Eastmoreland, immediately east of the gardens, and follow Reed College Place one mile to Duniway Elementary where you can take advantage of the play structure. There are also playgrounds at nearby Berkley and Woodstock parks.
Admission to Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden is free from Labor Day to February. The rest of the year, entrance is $3 for adults and children over twelve when you visit Thursday through Monday. Visitors on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and children under twelve are always free.
The garden is located on SE 28th Avenue, one block north of Woodstock Blvd., between Reed College and the Eastmoreland Golf Course.
Wendy Warren lives in Portland with her adventure-loving family. She writes romance novels for Harlequin and Entangled Indulgence and is one half of the popular blog Too Hot Mamas.
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