Orange is the New Track

My son, like many 2-year-olds, loves trains. He loves to look at them, play with them, and, above all, he loves to ride them. On a sunny but chilly Friday, we headed to Milwaukie to try out the new Orange Line. We packed as much as we could into five hours (naps wait for no mom), but you could easily spend a whole day exploring what’s along the line. Here’s what we did.

SE Park Stop We parked the car at the end of the line in Milwaukie. There’s a garage there with free parking, along with lots of room to park your bike. Immediately outside the garage, we found our first piece of public art dotting the line — one of 25 projects in all. We meandered a bit along the Trolley Trail, a 6-mile paved and gravel path between Milwaukie and Gladstone, to see what other art we could find. The highlight, about a quarter mile in, was a carved bear and a beaver bookending a bench, perfect for taking a short rest. We headed back, and I purchased the TriMet day pass for $5. Children under 7 ride free.

SW Waterfront We rode the train to SW Waterfront, about a 20-minute ride, to get our bearings for the adventure. The highlight was the journey across the Tilikum Crossing bridge. You can’t get over it by car — you need to be on public transportation or go by foot or bike — so it felt like a special treat. All that train-riding built up an appetite, so we stopped at a branch of Elephants Delicatessen to warm up with a hot drink and a small snack.

OMSI/SE Water St. Having taken the MAX over the bridge, we decided to walk the of a mile back over. I’m a runner who lives in SE Portland, so I’ve gone over the Tilikum Crossing many times since it opened in 2015. But I’ve never gone over it at the pace of a 2-year-old. It was magical. The bridge is a work of art, with its long white arms reaching toward the sky, joining together, and then falling back down. We had clear views of Ross Island from the south side of the bridge, and boats dotted the Willamette. Cross on the north side to get better views of the Hawthorne Bridge and downtown Portland. Tilikum Crossing ends a stone’s throw from the Oregon Heritage Rail Center, the perfect stop for a train-crazy kid. The museum is free (with donations welcome), and houses several gorgeous old steam engines. Bonus: On Saturdays you can ride the Oregon Pacific Railroad down to Oaks Bottom and back for $5. OMSI is also within easy walking distance of this stop. (Ride the train to save your $5 parking fee.)

Clinton /SE 12th We hopped back on the train one more stop to the intersection of Clinton and SE 12th. Walk a bit farther from here to get to all the shops and restaurants that dot Division and Clinton Streets. (Fifty Licks is a mere half mile away!) Or, if you’re with someone with tiny tired legs, stay close by. Within a block of this stop, you’ll find the small but well-stocked comic book shop Books with Pictures. The staff allowed us to browse with no pressure, and had on-the-nose recommendations if you’re in the market to buy. If you can handle a wait, head around the corner to Pine State Biscuits or, if you’re looking for a friendly haven with faster service, cross the street to Ford Food and Drink. We opted for the latter, and fueled back up with a snack and a play session with a big pile of resident plastic dinosaurs. Then we headed back to the Orange line.

SE Bybee We skipped a few stops and headed next to SE Bybee, which abuts Westmoreland Park. This park is a nature-based treasure. Think big boulders to summit, stacked tree trunks to climb, and a large sand pit to build in. More adventurous walkers can venture further out to Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden (0.75 miles). The hilly climb up
Bybee is well worth it. In addition to almost 100 varieties of the namesake rhododendron, you’ll also find different species of ducks, meandering paths, and a slow-moving stream in which to race duck feathers and fallen leaves.

Milwaukie/Main Back aboard, this time to downtown Milwaukie. We walked a few blocks over to Milwaukie Riverfront Park, a small but beautiful grassy area with clear, up-close views of the Willamette River. Downtown Milwaukie is packed with kid-friendly fun, more than we could squeeze into one day. We made a quick stop at the Milwaukie Cinema and Wunderland nickel arcade, and admired from afar the food and games at Pietro’s Pizza, but my little guy was getting tired.

We talked about our favorite parts of the trip during the short trip back to our car. For me: Walking over Tilikum Crossing. For my son: “The adventure!”

Ali Wilkinson
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Ali Wilkinson

Online Editor at PDX Parent
Ali Wilkinson is the Online Editor for PDX Parent, and is one of the founders of PDX Kids Calendar. She loves exploring Portland with her three small children, especially when the explorations lead outdoors, to music or to ice cream. You can read more from Ali at
Ali Wilkinson
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