Oregon Road Trip: Lost our Zeal at the Portland Japanese Garden


Our time on the Oregon coast had come to an end. It was too soon in my opinion, but we were scheduled to spend the night in Portland. Off we went to start our city exploration…no matter how exhausted we were.

We left after a late breakfast. An hour and a half later we were in Portland. Traffic was getting backed up as we tried to get downtown to our hotel. We decided to start our sightseeing early. Mike pulled of the road and we headed into Washington Park.

Our first stop was supposed to be the zoo. Parking was so crazy we had to postpone our visit until later in the day.

Dek was not amused by this change of events.

Instead we went to the Portland Japanese Garden. I’m sure Dek’s little brain was thinking “really mom, another garden, haven’t you had enough?”

Actually, I think I had.

The garden was beautiful. It was very well done. It just didn’t leave me jumping for joy or with any fantastic new ideas running around in my head. I don’t want to diminish what they have done; it truly is fantastic. I think I’ve just seen some of the best Japanese gardens in the world at this point. It’s kind of hard to compete with that.

Our travels through Kyoto in May 2011 brought us to the Golden Pavilion and the Silver Pavilion. To this day Mike thinks the Silver Pavilion is the epitome of all Japanese landscape design. It’s kind of hard to argue with him on that one.

So while the feathery Japanese maples danced in dappled sunlight as we stepped over moss-laden rocks and babbling streams in Portland, we just realized we’d had enough. Maybe it was time to take a little break from all of our garden meanderings. Or at least not visit them when we were coming off of almost 2 hours in the car on a very hot day with 2 kids under age 3.

Have you ever burnt out on a specific type of travel or attraction? 

Just so you don’t get the wrong impression about the Portland Japanese Garden, and let my garden exhaustion influence your visit, here is a little photo essay highlighting just how beautiful it was. If you are ever in the area, please make sure it is on your list. It is definitely worth the stop.

Know Before You Go

  • Portland Japanese Garden, 611 SW Kingston Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97205. Tel: 503.223.1321
  • Admissions: $9.50 adult/ $6.75 youth (6-17)/ Children 5 and under are free
  • Hours:
    • Winter Season (October 1-March 31) Noon- 4pm on Mondays, 10am-4pm Tuesday through Sunday
    • Summer Season (April 1- September 30) Noon -7pm on Mondays, 10am-7pm Tuesday through Sunday
  • Tours? Guided public tours are offered at no additional charge. They last 45 minutes to one hour.
  • Strollers? Pathways can get tricky and there are stairs in parts. Best to leave the stroller at home and stick the baby in a carrier and let little legs walk. The garden isn’t too big for a toddler to tackle.
  • Food? Food and drinks are not permitted in the garden.


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Showing 22 comments
  • Lisa

    I guess they say that variety is the spice of life for a reason! 🙂 I’m pretty sure that my kids would tire of gardens fairly quickly too – no matter how beautiful they were. I love that photo of Dek studying the statue!

    • Happy Little Feet

      What beautiful photos. This looks like such an amazing adventure for the children.

  • Nancie

    This is a beautiful garden. However, I understand, after you have seen the best it is hard to be as impressed with a VERY GOOD imitation 🙂 I remember when I was in Bruma I started to get burnt out on temples. As beautiful as they are, a person can only handle so many. That’s when I headed to Inle Lake for a week!

  • Michele @ Malaysian Meanders

    Back in the mid-90s, I visited SE Asia for 3 weeks, not realizing that a few decades later, we’d end up moving here. I saw a bazillion Buddhas in that 3 weeks, and by the end, I really didn’t care if ever saw one again. That feeling seems to have stayed with me. Penang has the world’s 3rd largest indoor reclining Buddha, but I never went to go see it until chaperoning my son’s school field trip.

  • Jessica

    I’m starting to feel this way about Science Museums and Zoos. I feel like it needs to be pretty special to be worth it. Maybe when you’ve seen the best, you just don’t want to compromise 🙂

  • jollyjillys

    Hi im a new follower from the blog hop. What a beautiful garden I would love to visit it. If you have time to come visit me that would be great.

  • Jackie Smith

    We find ourselves that way sometimes in Europe after the 50th stunning cathedral or church. I like the way you prefaced your comments explaining that the attraction was fabulous – you had just reached the limit on that particular site. Beautiful photos. Sounds like Portland traffic was mimicking Seattle’s traffic.

  • Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista

    I agree with others, it is a beautiful garden but yes I have tired of seeing the same type of sites. At that time, it is best to do something completely and totally different! Your pictures show how beautiful the Portland gardens are.

    • © Keryn Means/ walkingon travels

      I got burnt out on museums a few years back and have been avoiding most of them ever since. Maybe it’s time to start heading in that direction again. Gardens were just so easy. Dek could still run around outside, but I could see something pretty. Europe should give us a nice break this fall. I’ll find something new to obsess over I’m sure 😉

  • Andi at The Particular Traveler

    The garden certainly is beautiful, but I agree that too much of anything, even if it’s a very GOOD thing, can get tiresome! Love how you keep it real 🙂

  • Mom of A and a

    It looks amazing but you’re right; after a few hours with two small kids, my mind would also have gone into saturation mode!!

  • bettyl

    I understand your feelings very well. Living in NZ–which is only the size of Nebraska with few roads at all–we are all ready to move from the district of Taranaki to anywhere else! The scenery is truly gorgeous, but there are only so many times you can take pictures of the same roadside scenery.

  • Molly

    Oh I totally get this. I learnt a long time ago that with little ones less is more in this area. There are only so many things you can ‘go see’ before it is too much for them and I was always very careful to only plan a limited number otherwise it all just started to feel too much like stress and not enough like holidays. It is all about finding the balance.


    • © Keryn Means/ walkingon travels

      Oddly enough it wasn’t my toddler who was tired of the garden, it was me and my husband. As long as my kid is outside he is happy. Even better, Japanese gardens always have rocks and water- his two favorite things 🙂

  • Tamar Strauss-Benjamin

    I love those gardens, and actually just braved them with my 21 month old nephew! He loved all the rocks and water (-:

    • © Keryn Means/ walkingon travels

      Right there with you Tamar. Ever since my son was 20 months old and discovered rocks in Japan he has been obsessed with them. We just need to make sure he doesn’t move all of the rocks in the rock garden and hit the koi!

  • Sensibletraveler

    It’s usually cities that I burn out on if I stay too long. All the noise, people, and traffic gets too exhausting.

  • Kelli Ann

    Hey! My name is Kelli and I feel just like you. I suffer from wanderlust and I am ALWAYS looking for a new adventure. So much that I actually started a blog link-up every Wednesday where I would love to see what fun things you do in your travels. Come by and check it out sometime! 🙂

  • Bree @ Twinkle in the Eye

    Even the most beautiful garden can be blah when fatigue sets in. Images are beautiful.

  • Jessica

    Lovely photos!

    • © Keryn Means/ walkingon travels

      Thanks for stopping by Jessica. I’m not on GFC, but I will definitely check out your hop.

  • Lisa Wood

    Maybe when your boys are older you can go back and see if you enjoy it more! They are still so young, and you are amazing to be travelling to gardens with them.
    Sure looks pretty in the photos.