Loop-de-loops at Oaks Amusement Park
Oregon is a roller coaster-deficient state, but Oaks Amusement Park (7805 SE Oaks Park Way, 503-233-5777, oakspark.com) is making a play to be the low-budget Six Flags to Enchanted Forest’s great value Disneyland. After mostly existing as a year-round carnival midway, the Sellwood attraction has upped its thrills quotient in recent years. First came the Pepto Bismol-colored behemoth Adrenaline Peak, which tosses guests through a 97-degree loop, several corkscrew turns and an insane vertical drop. Now, there’s AtmosFEAR, a pendulum-style stomach-churner that alternates between a full 360-degree loop and a slightly less nauseating 180-degree swing. If either option makes you queasy just to think about, a trip to Oaks Park is still a summer tradition as American as a deep-fried funnel cake. MATTHEW SINGER.
Live music at the Lot at Zidell Yards
Summer is back, but this pandemic won’t truly be over until live music returns in full force—and that’s still a few months away. Most theaters and clubs won’t start popping off again until fall, and even then, it’s going to take time to get over the psychological hurdle of standing in a crowd, inhaling another person’s back sweat again. Consider the new, socially distanced setup at Zidell Yards (3030 S Moody Ave., thelotatzidellyards.com) a transition point back into the concert experience. Located on the South Waterfront underneath the Ross Island Bridge, the venue—which has previously hosted Feast, Project Pabst and the traveling cirque du horses spectacle Cavalia, among other major events—sequesters guests inside fenced-in pods that look like miniature backyards, complete with turf and adirondack chairs. It’s already rolling, hosting local bands, drag shows and movie screenings, but there’s big stuff still to come, including R&B powerhouse Liv Warfield, the Portland Cello Project’s “Extreme Cello Summer Dance Party Extravaganza” and, on Fourth of July weekend, the annual Waterfront Blues Festival. MS.
Canopy walking at Leach Botanical Garden
Leach Botanical Garden (6704 SE 122nd Ave., 503-823-9503, leachgarden.org) has long been one of Portland’s hidden gems. Just off of a busy stretch of Foster Road in deep Southeast, the 16-acre space feels like a secret garden. Tall Douglas firs and Oregon myrtles shade a tranquil stretch of Johnson Creek, and camellias line the hillside behind the picturesque, white brick manor. This spring, the garden became even more magical and slightly bigger. After years of construction, Leach Botanical completed an expansion and opened an “aerial tree walk”: a circular metal bridge that loops through the tree canopy. Next to the tree walk, there’s also a new pollinator garden, complete with lilies and jack-in-the-pulpits that look more like modernist sculptures than flowers. SHANNON GORMLEY.
Comedy in the Park
Comedy and the outdoors typically don’t mix—ask anyone who’s tried to watch a standup set at a music festival (or seen a comic try to go for a jog. Amiright, folks?!). But the pandemic forced many clubs’ hands: Last summer, Helium Comedy Club (1510 SE 9th Ave., 888-643-8669, portland.heliumcomedy.com) started throwing shows in its parking lot, and it went well enough for the venue to bring the concept back as a weekly showcase this year. Now, Kickstand (16 NW Broadway, 503-719-5685, kickstandcomedy.org/laurelhurst) is going one better and hosting comics in one of Portland’s most picturesque parks. Every other Friday, the proprietors of the Old Town improv theater and nonprofit set up a makeshift stage in Laurelhurst Park—featuring designs from the city’s favorite woodcut artist, Mike Bennett—and welcome comics both local and national. Expect extended riffs on trees, other people’s dogs and pollen. MS.
Tour Oregon’s new Japanese American Museum
Back in May, the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center marked a dark day in the state’s history with a major milestone. On May 6—the 79th anniversary of the day after Portland forcibly moved its Japanese population to internment camps—the Old Town organization reopened in a larger, airier location as the Japanese American Museum of Oregon (411 NW Flanders St., 503-224-1458, oregonnikkei.org). The serene space is as much of a reminder of injustice as it is a celebration of resilience. The museum tracks the legalized racism that first-generation Japanese Portlanders faced, as well as the vibrant community they built in Old Town. Whenever possible, the museum takes great care to let the subjects of the exhibits to literally speak for themselves. That includes a recording of Minoru Yasui describing his nine-month stay in solitary confinement after protesting the curfew imposed on Japanese Americans during World War II, along with the actual jail cell. SG.
Belly flops at the Oregon Zoo’s Polar Passage
Though she’s spent less than two years of her life in Portland, Nora the polar bear is one of the most famous animals at the Oregon Zoo (4001 SW Canyon Road, 503-226-1561, oregonzoo.org). That’s largely due to the heartwarming content the zoo has cranked out about Nora’s difficult childhood and goofy personality. Abandoned by her mother at an early age, Nora was hand-reared by zookeepers and developed a bone disease as an infant. Videos of Nora learning to walk when she was a tiny ball of fur, then belly-flopping into pools of water as she got older, have racked up millions of views on YouTube. Now, after spending a few years in Utah while the Oregon Zoo updated her enclosure, Nora is back, and you can finally see her adorable antics in person once again. Located at the heart of the zoo, the upgraded Polar Passage is four times larger than the old exhibit. Nora now has two pools for swimming and splashing, and grassy hills, rocks and logs for exploring. Zoogoers can watch the 500-pound, bow-legged bear tramp around her enclosure from three different viewing areas, including one that provides underwater views. SG.
Ballpark beers at Ron Tonkin Field
Who needs Major League Baseball when you have the Hops? The Arizona Diamondbacks affiliates are the defending Northwest League champions, having won their third pennant in five years just before the pandemic canceled the 2020 season. So really, they’re about as close to the pros as you can get in the minors. And if we’re being honest, a baseball game is a baseball game, whether it’s in some shiny new stadium or humble Ron Tonkin Field (4460 NE Century Blvd., Hillsboro, 503-640-0887, milb.com/hillsboro). If you’ve never been to a Hops game, you’ll have extra chances this year: The team was recently promoted to Single A-Advanced status, expanding its total number of games from 76 to 132. That’s nearly double the hot dogs, double the beers and double the high-fives with Barley, the mascot that suspiciously resembles a nug of weed. MS.
Hike to new heights at Cape Kiwanda
Cape Kiwanda (Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area, Pacific City, 800-551-6949, stateparks.oregon.gov) is one of the most scenic stretches of the Oregon Coast. Until recently, it was also one of the most deadly. The pale sandstone cliffs are a striking contrast to the coastline’s lush surroundings, but the soft terrain is also highly prone to erosion. Due to numerous accidents along the cape’s fragile outreaches, the area has long been closed to the public. Now, thanks to newly installed fences, Oregonians are finally able to safely explore the otherworldly area. A narrow walkway guides hikers along the cape’s stable center, through a path of windswept Sitka spruce and past views of the iconic Haystack Rock. A popular spot even when most of it was closed, it’s no surprise that beachgoers are already flocking to the month-old trail. But it’s worth it if you can find a way to beat the crowd. Just over 2 miles round trip, it’s minimal effort for maximum beauty. SG.
Hitch a ride on a ski lift at Mt. Hood Meadows
Mt. Hood Meadows (14040 Highway 35, Mount Hood, 503-337-2222, skihood.com) has come up with a simple but inspired idea: Ski lifts can be used in the summertime, too. The snowpark has long been a popular summer hiking spot, offering access to beargrass meadows, mountain views and the popular Umbrella Falls. But this year, Meadows’ upgrades make the area a warm-weather destination unto itself. The park has added 8 miles of new hiking trails that connect to some of the most popular hikes on the southwest face of the mountain. It’s also open for snowless ski lift rides that provide access to high-altitude treks and spectacular alpine views along the way. SG.