Content originally written for the Let’s Go: USA & Canada Guide by our researcher-writer, Graham Bishai.
Lan Su Chinese Gardens
239 NW Everett St.; (503) 228-8131; www.lansugarden.org; open daily Mar 15-Oct 31 10am-7pm; open daily Nov 1-Mar 14 10am-4pm
Nestled in a city block sits this authentic Chinese garden, complete with ponds, fountains, and traditional structures. Kick off your shoes if you like, walk along the paths, and wonder at the architecture and decor in each building along the way. Find the Chinese fortune sticks and see what’s on your horizon. You could have a lot of wealth coming your way and not even know about it! Sip a cup of tea in the tea garden, watch the koi swim past, and breathe deeply.
Admission $10, students $7; tours daily 11am, 12pm and 1pm; limited wheelchair accessibility; teahouse inside
International Rose Test Garden
400 SW Kingston Ave.; (503) 823-3636; open daily 7:30am-9pm
This city isn’t called the City of Roses for nothing. At a rose test garden, new strains of rose plants are constantly sent there to be tested to see if they’re any good or worth being cultivated. You are free to roam the rows and rows of roses, framed by tall pines and the tips of Portland’s skyscrapers peeking up over them. Take photos, wake up and smell them, and, you know, all the things you do with roses. Except picking them. The only thorn here is that they may not always be in bloom. April to October is when you will be in luck, mid-summer being the time that’s the rosiest. Located in Washington Park and across the street from the Japanese Gardens, which are a much more formal affair, it’s a nice quiet place for a stroll. Be prepared for some folks who need to get a room, though. Really, the rose garden? How original.
Free; free tours Memorial-Labor Day 1pm daily; limited wheelchair accessibility
Portland Japanese Garden
611 SW Kingston Ave.; (503) 223-1321; www.japanesegarden.org; open Mar 12-Sept 30 M 12pm-7pm, Tu-Su 10am-7pm; open Oct 1-Mar 11 M 12pm-4pm, Tu-Su 10am-4pm
Unwind and clear your mind in front of this impressive tapestry of green plants, dots of flowers, flowing water, and Japanese culture. It’s not like Portland is a crazy stressful city to begin with, but this place will calm you in ways you didn’t know were possible. For that reason it might even feel a little weird, given the garden’s subtle energy that’s unfamiliar to our now-hectic everyday life. Calling itself one of the best Japanese Gardens on this side of the Pacific, the garden’s well-kept paths wind you through the garden—all you have to do is take the first steps. Nature abounds, as do the photo ops. Don’t miss the waterfall and the koi pond!
Admission $17, students $13.50; May-Aug daily tours 2pm and 4pm, Sept-April at 12pm; limited wheelchair accessibility, $4 discount for customers with disabilities; onsite café
Graham left behind the stressed-out chaos of Cambridge for the laid back life on the West Coast. A refreshing change of pace, he assumed, until the line for coffee on his first morning took 2 mins longer than he’s used to, and the Northeast nasty jumped out. Starting in Vancouver, Graham meandered south, toning his calves being a pedestrian on San Francisco’s hills and by navigating the monstrosity that is Los Angeles using just his feet and public transit (only resorting to Uber twice!) Graham’s love for the West Coast life only increased as he sat by the Puget Sound in Seattle, sipped kombucha in the crunchy cafes of Portland, climbed into a waterfall in Yosemite and stayed in an abandoned opera house in Death Valley. By the time he hit upper 80s sun of San Diego, buff calves and sun tanned, the words “West Coast, Best Coast,” almost slipped out of his mouth. Identity crisis looming, he figured it was time to go home.