Northwest Portland Hostel

Centrally Located – in the Heart of Portland

Best Summer Day in Portland: Rose Garden

Friday, July 15, 2016

Best Summer Day in Portland Series

We have put a lot of time into thinking about what constitutes the perfect summer day in Portland. There are so many options for curating the best day you can have here in the Rose City that we decided to make a series about it. There are several “perfect days” that involve staying close to home, ranging across the river on cross-town excursions, biking, walking, public transport. In trying to incorporate the many faces of what makes Portland great we see sprinklings of rivers and parks, hikes and gardens to breweries and coffee roasters, food carts and shopping.

One of the things that makes Portland so special are all of the natural resources that sit right at your fingertips. When we say that we are talking about our great number of parks, fountains, trails, gardens. As many city travelers know being surrounded by green jewels found amongst towering architecture can turn a hectic day into a sweet haven that refreshes like no night of sleep (however great the bunk or the dorm mates) can. Inner peace found while sitting on the ground, spending quiet moments, are priceless.

Since there are so many great places and we want to know the most about all of them we will go through our blog day in stages. Step one on our perfect day agenda: walk to and learn all about the International Rose Test Garden, one of the sites that gives Portland its nickname, Rose City. But first we start this day like every good morning Pinky, with coffee.


Heading to the Rose Garden! We recommend packing a breakfast snack or lunch to enjoy up at the Garden. Stopping at World Cup Coffee across the street to grab some tea or latte to jump start the day is a must. Once hot (or cool) beverages are secured make your way on Glisan towards 23rd Ave. You can stop on the way to pick up any forgotten food items at the Trader Joe’s grocery store right along your route, or grab a sandwich or treat at Elephant’s Delicatessen, a real local favorite.

Once you get to 23rd head towards Burnside. 23rd is truly one of our favorite streets. Hours can slip by as you taste and touch your way down the avenue. On the way to the Garden you get a taste of 23rd, but not enough to really quench. More on 23rd to come.

Burnside street comes and with it the landmark Zupan’s Market a local specialty grocery store. Walk past the Zupan’s and you will find yourself at the entrance to Washington Park. Entry to the park is marked by the Loyal B. Stern’s Memorial drinking fountain. This marble structure was erected in 1941 and stands in honor of a Portland Judge who was rather influential at the time. Stick to the path on the right of the memorial and follow “Strern’s Path” up through the lower park. You will walk up through light forested area on a paved path until coming to a crest where after skipping up the steps you will see a fountain, and a sign directing you to any number of places in Washington Park. Follow the Rose Garden sign until you come to International Rose Test Garden. Just follow your nose!

Established in 1917 the International Rose Test Garden is Portland’s largest Rose Garden. From 1909 to 1917 the largest Rose Garden in Portland was Peninsula Park in N Portland. When the International Rose Test Garden came to be it bumped beautiful Peninsula Park out of the running and in 1919 it began awarding rose strains with the “Gold Medal” rose award which makes the rose garden right here in Portland the oldest testing garden of its kind in North America.

There are many sub-gardens to pay attention to. One of the most interesting is on the terrace, this is the Gold Medal Garden. This garden is composed of award winning roses. Giving our yearly medals since 1919 there are a lot of roses in that particular garden to consider.

The International Test Garden helps to test different strains of flower based on 14 different criteria. According to the AARS (All-American Rose Selections), a non-profit dedicated to the growing and introduction of well regarded roses, these include disease resistance, bloom, smell, color, and vigor. Test plants are studied over a period of 2 years and go by a number during that time. All the other plants are named and you can view a comprehensive list of their titles under the gazebo. There are over 500 different strains so be careful before committing yourself to memorizing them all!

The Royal Rosarian Garden plays host to many varieties that are not available outside of viewing at the garden. These are planted for each high ranking official who holds title in the Rosarians. This group has functioned in Portland of almost a century and act as the “official greeters and goodwill Ambassadors” to our fair city since 1912. This group is most active during the Rose Festival which comes to Portland in early summer/late spring annually.

Another visible feature of our annual Rose Festival is the Rose Festival Queen. The queen elect has their name engraved in a bronze star which is then laid among its predecessors to make up the “Queen’s Walk” which holds each queen’s name-in-star since 1907.

One of the cutest parts of the Rose Garden is the Miniature Rose Garden! Standing at the front entrance of the Garden, in raised beds it is only one of 6 of its kind recognized by the AARS.

The Shakespeare Garden started out with botanical varieties that were made mention of in his various plays. Due to the abundant shade over this garden through the years it has been replaced with some more shade friendly varieties and a few roses which bare the names of some of the bard’s most well known characters.

In the garden there are thousands of plants to smell and gaze your way through.
Exploring the various sub-gardens mentioned above is incredible sometimes verging on overwhelming in this 4.5 acre stretch. However, one of our favorite things to do there is relax, and take in the views.

On a good day you can peek a crystal clear vision of Mt. Hood looming to the east. The Amphitheater is a great place to play frisbee, or lay out and soak up the sun. It is also one of our favorite picnic stops. It’s really beautiful!

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Anything we missed? Something you love? Send us your thoughts!
Once we have accumulated enough feedback we’ll compile a list of “Guest Favorites” so you can see what travelers like yourself have loved about Portland.

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