My youngest son is six years old, diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, with sensory processing disorder. He loves riding in the car, more than most things, and we often go to a park every single day, rain or shine. I have been to a ton of places, and realized one day that I should put all of this info together in case it can help other parents. This list is also for places to take older profoundly autistic adults as well since the locations are often quiet and spacious if needed. There are also parks included here which you should probably not visit at all.
Spring Garden Park – Portland
Playground with many options, an outside bathroom (Portland Loo) and interesting place to walk/run. This park is usually super busy which can be a problem. The last time we went it was so crowded but we just took a chance. By the time we climbed around on rocks and went down the slide one time, a few crowds left and it was much quieter for a bit. Then we went inside the twig nest and were able to get a swing. The best part about this playground is being able to use the Portland Loo because I love that is out in the fresh air and Gavin is not afraid to go into it for some reason. (He is sometimes afraid to go into weird looking, windowless tiny buildings that bathrooms are usually in.)
Rivercrest Park – Oregon City
Playground with many options. Really different playground compared to most. Climbing rock to get up to a high surface to slide. Big covered slides. Many swings. A swing you can stand on. Beautiful area with trees. A splash pad that may be open in the summer? The day we went there was no one there at that moment but Gavin was not in the mood to climb on anything so we didn’t get to experience it all!
Riverside Park – Clackamas
Not a place to go often. Went here and looked at the river for a while turns out nothing her except the boat ramp we were standing on and a baseball field. Kinda sketchy especially if all those people/kids were not out there playing baseball. Would not come back.
Foothills Park – Lake Oswego
Park with a lot of space to walk next to the river. Nice walk and can go down to different docks in this six-acre park. Very pretty area. Feels unsafe at times due to steep hills. We didn’t stay long and Gavin had a hard time leaving the dock we went on. He wanted to stay but he runs around so quickly and sometimes unpredictability that I wanted to get out of there. If your child runs a lot and does not have a sense of danger, this would not be a good place.
Berrydale Park – SE Portland
Playground and a lot of space to walk. This six-acre park is near Creative Science Elementary. There’s not much to it but we go often because it’s close to our house and sometimes no one is there which can be easiest and most fun for Gavin. He doesn’t like to see other kids swinging sometimes and gets upset, but it helps if there is more than one swing. This park only has one so it can be challenging for him if someone is already on it. This park has one big slide which is really high, which we have learned to use together. Once when a certain pair of my leggings were slippery we both flew off of this slide unexpectedly! Gavin also learned what a merry go round was all about at this park. Many parks don’t have a merry go round these days. Most of all, this park is special to us because we used this park mainly in the fall and winter to keep him used to transitions of walking far away from the car and walking back. He also got used to walking on branches, sticks, pinecones and uneven surfaces here which has been a big deal during making sure we stay sane during COVID times. Doing all of this allowed us to stop completely using a stroller during 2020.
Johnson Creek City Park – Portland
Playground and park with a creek. This is a big go-to park for us. It is a combination of a playground with a nature option. The creek often has ducks, or a screaming man down in the bushes, but more often ducks. It is a great place to throw a few rocks in the water and walk down the path back to the playground as many times as you want. There are picnic tables too by the creek. It really is a charming little area of stolen land that I think is a hidden gem in SE Portland.
Peninsula Park – N Portland
Park and playground. We haven’t used the playground much but it is pretty big and has an interesting castle kind of look to it. The part Gavin likes is the rose garden end of the park, there’s a lot of space to roam in.
Gresham Japanese Garden – Gresham
Powell Park – Portland
Portland Memory Garden – SE Portland
Salish Ponds –
Pioneer Park – Happy Valley
Altamont Park – Happy Valley
Playground with a young kid side, older kid side, and awesome views.
Powell City Park – SE Portland
Marshall Park – SW Portland
Magic stone bridge? Check. Playground that is awesome? Check. Option to go on a kid-friendly nature hike? Check. Limited parking on the edge of a drop down? Check.
Gabriel Park – SW Portland