Visiting the cherry blossoms by bike on Sunday.
(Photos: Madi Carlson)
On Sunday, my boys and I had the same idea as a lot of other Portlanders: visit the cherry blossoms in the Japanese American Historical Plaza. Then while biking home I realized Waterfront Park is incredibly family-friendly to reach by bike from the deepish southeast these days.
Here’s why you should load up the bikes, grab the kiddos, and check it out…
The 100 Akebono cherry trees were donated by the Japanese Grain Importers Association in 1990 and make for a perfectly pink wonderland when they’re at (or near) peak bloom. Before you go, read about the Japanese American Historical Plaza on the Oregon Nikkei Endowment website. When you get there, take time to read the poetry and study the boulders in the middle of the plaza.
After our visit — which was quite educational — we got home by biking the entirety of Better Naito. My kids (11 and nine) were fine with the bi-directional bike lane separated from car traffic with simple flex-posts. For those who want an even quieter ride (or want to avoid waiting for any red lights), you can opt for the path along the river in the park. The trail can be crowded and require you weave around stationary and moving people, but it’s terrific for slow-moving bicycling.
Better Naito is fun for kids (and adults)!
Once we were beyond the park and Better Naito we took easy-to-follow paths to the Tilikum Crossing bridge. Tilikum Crossing is a bit of a climb (enough for making it worth Everesting as a matter of fact), but it’s incredibly beautiful and 100% carfree. A bonus I learned on Sunday is that something so long with no intersections and no possibility of getting lost meant my speedy kid felt confident enough to zip across the bridge and find a spot to wait while I ploddingly grunted my way up-and-over with my slower kid.
Tilikum Crossing connects to more easy-to-follow paths that cross the train tracks at Southeast 12th Avenue and connect to the SE Clinton Street greenway.
Tilikum Crossing is terrific for confident kids of different speeds.
The funny thing is, I had meant to take a different, just as (or maybe more) family-friendly route home to check out the newly-reopened Eastbank Esplanade. This route would have involved taking the Waterfront Park path north to the Steel Bridge path — which is flat and has no cars and only occasional trains on the lower level — to connect to the Eastbank Esplanade path. We would have biked the whole 1.5-mile Esplanade to about the same spot at the east side of Tilikum Crossing and the rest of the family-friendly route we took.
➤ More destinations
Realizing how easy it is to get to the Waterfront, I’d like to do more things in the area that don’t involve too much biking on downtown streets (which aren’t very family-friendly yet). Currently my plans are to bike to Lan Su Chinese Garden, Jamison Square fountain, the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education, and Union Station. What else is fun to bike to in that area?
➤ Flowering trees near you
The Japanese American Historical Plaza cherry trees might be Portland’s best cherry trees, but there are 25,000 trees in flower across Portland and they’re all marked on Urban Forestry’s Flowering Tree Map so you can probably find cherry blossoms in a convenient location.
Have you biked to Tom McCall Waterfront Park? Where else do you like biking to around there that I might think is on a kid-friendly street?
Remember, we’re always looking for people to profile. Get in touch if it sounds like fun to you. I’d especially like to feature families of color so please get in touch or ask friends of color who bike with their kids if they’re interested in sharing their stories. And as always, feel free ask questions in the comments below or email me your story ideas and insights at madidotcom [at] gmail [dot] com.
Browse past Family Biking posts here.
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