16 Best Things to Do in Milwaukie, OR

16 Best Things to Do in Milwaukie, OR
Lara J / shutterstock.com

Milwaukie, Oregon, is a hidden gem nestled between the bustling city of Portland and the serene Willamette River.

Often overlooked, this enchanting city offers its own unique charm and an array of activities.

Join me as we explore some of the best things to do in this charming city.

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the following individuals for their invaluable contributions to this article: Susan Hernandez, Fernando Simmons, Maryann Carter, Ellen Lynch, Alan Jones, Delphine Haro and Elaina Pugh.

Catch the Sunrise at Kellogg Creek Park

Scenic view of Kellogg Creek Park
Austin Brooks / Shutterstock.com

There's something incredibly soothing about my morning walks in Kellogg Creek Park.

The cool breeze that carries the smell of the Willamette River, the melodious chirping of the birds, and the rustling of leaves under my feet set the tone for the rest of my day.

Kellogg Creek Park is like an oasis in the middle of the city, with lush trees lining the walking paths, inviting benches scattered around, and picnic tables perfect for family outings.

The view of the river is magnificent and soothing at any time of the day, but I particularly love catching the sunrise over the water - it's an awe-inspiring sight that never gets old.

What makes the park even more special are the frequent sightings of wildlife.

On several occasions, I’ve come across squirrels, rabbits, and even a deer or two while out for my morning walk.

It's not every day that you get to experience such close encounters with nature right in your neighborhood.

Catch a Production at the Chapel Theater

There's nothing quite like the thrill of live performances, the hushed anticipation of the audience, the palpable energy of the actors.

I had this unforgettable experience at the Chapel Theater in the Milwaukee area of Portland!

The first thing that struck me about the theater was its size.

With a capacity of around 50 to 60 people, it's intimate and cozy, a hidden gem tucked away in the hustle and bustle of the city.

The proximity of the stage gives you the feeling of being a part of the performance itself, and the sound and lighting are simply top-notch.

What I love most about this place is its commitment to local art.

I remember the thrill when my son premiered his first film "Raccoon Gambit" here.

The hosts were all about supporting and promoting local artists, and they did a wonderful job on that special day.

It is indeed a perfect platform for showcasing the creativity and talent of our community.

And let's not forget about the interesting and unique bathrooms, with a cool, progressive design that is yet private.

Despite its somewhat small exterior, once you step inside, the Chapel Theater reveals its true grandeur.

It has become a regular spot in our neighborhood, pulling in diverse and exciting performances.

Walk Your Fido at Milwaukie Bay Park

The first time I took my puppies to Milwaukie Bay Park, I couldn't help but be taken aback by the tranquil atmosphere.

It's the perfect space for pups to roam free, with an inviting stretch of water that they absolutely adore.

The serene environment was evident, as it was me, and my puppies, and the gentle lapping waves created a serene symphony of natural sounds.

Not only is Milwaukie Bay Park a haven for pet owners like me, but it's also a hotspot for boating enthusiasts.

The Willamette River seamlessly weaves itself into the park's landscape, making it an ideal spot to get a boat in and out of the water.

And if you're not into boating, you can just kick back on the little pebbly beach and enjoy the mesmerizing sunset.

But Milwaukie Bay Park isn't just about the daytime activities.

It transforms into a magical scene during the Christmas season, making it the best vantage point to watch the Christmas Ships.

The community spirit is palpable as the park buzzes with the warm glow of barrels carrying fires.

It's a sight that makes you feel like you've stepped into a festive postcard, with the beautiful river serving as a mesmerizing backdrop.

Go Fishing at Elk Rock Island

View of Elk Rock Island
Tony Prato / Shutterstock.com

Every so often, in the midst of a bustling life, I find myself drawn to the untouched tranquility of nature.

And if there's one spot that always seems to offer the perfect blend of peace, beauty, and adventure, it's Elk Rock Island.

The island, a 12 to 13-acre natural volcanic area nestled in the heart of Oregon, is a hidden gem waiting to be explored.

Walking down the trails that wind through the lush forests, the very air seems to exude an aura of calm.

Towering Oregon White Oaks stand sentinel, adding a touch of old-world charm to the landscape.

But the island isn't just a haven for peace-seekers.

It also offers a generous playground for adventure enthusiasts.

From fishing to hiking, there's something for everyone.

View of Elk Rock Island
red_pexel / Shutterstock.com

Although, I must mention that hiking trails are more suited for beginners or those looking for a leisurely walk.

For me and my partner, Elk Rock Island holds a unique charm.

We often retreat here with our RC cars, turning the natural landscape into our very own racecourse.

There's something about that combination of high-octane fun amidst the quiet beauty of nature that never gets old.

But, as beautiful as it is, Elk Rock Island is not without its quirks.

One piece of advice: come prepared for the weather.

Being in Oregon, it can get quite cold, especially outside of the summer months.

But, when the sun does come out to play, the way it gleams on the water is a sight to behold.

Soak Up the Sun at Spring Park Natural Area

Ah, the serenity of nature!

This is what I experienced at the Spring Park Natural Area.

Hidden away in the heart of the city, it feels like a world apart from the hustle and bustle of Portland.

Stepping into Spring Park Natural Area is like entering a different realm.

The air is filled with the sweet scent of blooming blossoms, interspersed with the musty smell of fallen leaves.

The sounds of chirping birds fill my ears as I embrace the peacefulness that this park provides.

It is a wildlife haven, teeming with birds and other creatures, peacefully co-existing away from the urban sprawl.

The park comes with its own set of challenges, though.

There are thistles and things that can catch onto your clothes, so it's best to come prepared with closed-toed shoes.

But that's a small price to pay for the beauty that awaits you.

There's nothing like being near the water, and the beach area of this park allows for that.

You can also access the water from the docks.

Each trip to the park is like a mini adventure, offering a breathtaking spot that's usually not very busy.

It's an oasis of tranquility amidst the chaos of city life.

A modern playground and picnic area add to the appeal, making it an ideal spot for families and nature lovers.

Pictures truly don't do justice to the charm of Spring Park Natural Area.

Instead, it's a place to be experienced and enjoyed, a place that's much better than you can tell from any photo.

Read Your Favorite Book at Rivervilla Park

Who knew you could find such tranquility in the heart of the city?

Nestled along the river, Rivervilla Park promises a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

I've been frequenting this park for years now.

It's my little sanctuary and the perfect way to unwind after a long day.

A well-placed bench under the shade of large trees is my go-to spot.

I adore bringing a book or my sketchpad to spend the afternoon.

The soft rustling of leaves, the cool breeze, and the calming sound of the river flowing by are the perfect backdrop for my pastime.

Then there's the fishing dock - it's not a huge one, but it has its own charm.

I'm not much of a fisher, but the dock is a serene place to sit and contemplate, maybe even see a heron or two.

Mid-summer, when the river is lower, a sandy beach emerges on the north side of the bridge.

I've seen families build sandcastles and kids splashing about in the water, their joyous laughter filling the air.

A short walk along the river trail offers refreshing views of the water and the occasional kayaker or paddleboarder.

Rivervilla Park is a small park, true, but its size doesn't compromise the quality of the experience it offers.

Take a Retro Trip to Roake's

Front view of Roake’s
Old White Truck from USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Let me take you on a journey to a local gem, Roake's, a retro snack shack that'll make your taste buds dance. .

You step into this place, it's like rewinding time.

The classic diner decor invokes a nostalgic vibe for an era before the chaos of digital kiosks and endless drive-thru lines.

Trust me, the aesthetics alone earn them an A+.

But let's talk about the real star of the show here - the food.

Their burgers are juicy, fresh, and just downright delicious.

I've tried their Regular Burger, it was honestly the highlight of my meal.

Next time, I am planning to give their Jalapeno Cheese Dog a shot, I've heard good things about it.

Oh, their fries are something to talk about, too.

You might find them a bit greasy and soggy, but that doesn't take away from their taste.

I've had my share of fries and Roake's definitely are up there.

And don't get me started on their BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger that comes loaded with crispy bacon.

What's interesting is their unique call-out system.

They give you a playing card for your order, a pleasant change from the usual number or name system.

And the customer service? Top notch.

They even surprised me once by giving me some extra fries that were leftover.

And just when you thought it couldn't get any better - the prices are quite reasonable.

I got a deluxe burger, regular fries, and a side of their signature spread for just $10.

A tip? Try dipping the fries in their spread; it's actually tartar sauce, and it's surprisingly good.

Roake's might not seem like much from the outside, but it's definitely a local favorite.

It's the kind of place that makes me grateful for every burger stand I stumble upon.

So, if you're in the neighborhood, do try it out.

Trust me, you won't regret it.

Ride the Waves at North Clackamas Aquatic Park

One of my absolute favorite ways to beat the heat in our town is by spending the day at the North Clackamas Aquatic Park.

Nothing spells summer quite like the rush of the water slides, the thrill of the wave pool, and the challenge of the rock wall.

It's a place that's been a hit with my family for years and has become something of a tradition for us.

There's nothing quite like splashing around in the Big Surf, their wave pool, on a hot summer day.

It's a rush of excitement and laughter unlike any other.

The waves may not be as big as the ocean's but they bring a subtle and graceful movement that provides just the right amount of thrill for the little ones.

Although many of us wish the Big Surf time could be a tad bit longer, the 90 minutes of wave pool fun is a blast every time.

The water slides at North Clackamas Aquatic Park are another crowd-pleaser.

Twisting and turning your way down these slides, you can't help but feel like a child again, as though you've tapped into a simple, pure form of joy.

The rock wall, too, is a unique addition that adds an extra dose of adventure to the aquatic fun.

Have a Night Out at Wunderland Milwaukie Cinemas

Whenever I need a fun and wallet-friendly way to entertain my kids or show off my local town to my friends, I head over to Wunderland Milwaukie Cinemas.

Their website is always updated with the latest showings and arcade game additions.

What I absolutely love about Wunderland Milwaukie Cinemas is that it's not just a discount cinema - once you've paid the admission fee, you can keep the fun times rolling with their variety of arcade games that only cost a nickel to play!

Now, don't expect a grand gaming arcade - the variety and number of games are good, but it may feel a bit compact compared to some larger arcades.

However, the size has never been a problem for me or my little ones.

We always find a game to enjoy and have a blast competing against each other.

The glow-in-the-dark mini-golf is another fun feature they offer.

While the course design may not leave you awestruck, the glow-in-the-dark setting adds a unique twist to the game, making it a fun experience nonetheless.

And if you're planning a date night, trust me, this mini-golf game can be a quirky and enjoyable choice.

While the theater itself is not the main feature of my visits, it's great to have the option to catch a movie on those days when you just need to unwind and relax.

Catch a Concert at Ardenwald Park

Signage of Ardenwald Park
Another Believer, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Life is a never-ending adventure when you live nearby the little slice of heaven that is Ardenwald Park.

My loyal canine companion and I are regulars at the park, where we find oasis during our nightly walks.

It's always well-kept, making it the perfect venue for our daily strolls.

Ardenwald Park isn't just a park, it's the heart of our community.

Despite its small size, it's perfectly designed and offers so much to do.

Walking through the tree-lined paths and green expanse, I can't help but appreciate its aesthetics.

It's also the perfect spot to unwind and catch up with neighbors.

But the park truly comes alive in August.

That's when the neighborhood association puts on their annual concerts.

Those Thursday nights are some of the best.

The stage, a modest covered area with picnic tables, transforms into a mini-amphitheater floating on a wave of music and joy.

And let's not forget the playground area that keeps the little ones entertained while the adults soak in the beautiful melodies.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Discover Local History at the Milwaukie Museum

Front view of Milwaukie Museum
Ingamilkmaid, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Just last Saturday, I found myself immersed in the intriguing history of the area at the Milwaukie Museum.

This charming little haven of knowledge is my go-to place for an enriching weekend.

The dedicated staff, always ready with a wealth of information to share, gave me a personal tour and even showcased a newly acquired treasure - a survey map of Milwaukie from 1850, an incredibly cool artifact.

At no cost at all, unless you feel the urge to drop a donation in the tip box, Milwaukie Museum offers an intimate look into our city's past.

From fascinating paper clippings to side-by-side comparisons of past and present photographs of the city, the museum brings Milwaukie's history to life.

The ever-evolving exhibits are in a constant state of transition, keeping the museum fresh and exciting with each visit.

The 'Made in Milwaukie' section on the first floor was a standout for me, celebrating the achievements and history of local businesses.

The upper floor, while less structured, houses a treasure trove of intriguing historical mementos.

Feast Your Eyes to the Blooming Beauty of Sara Hite Rose Garden

When the day's work gets intense, and the noise of the city becomes unbearable, I make my way to my secret haven, Sara Hite Rose Garden.

It's a place where every season has its own unique poetry, even in the cold, wet winters.

I find a peculiar kind of joy in observing the pruned rose bushes during this time, their stark silhouettes adorned with varying sizes of hips – that is, if you're lucky enough to spot any.

There's something truly invigorating about seeking out the lone, resolute flower that dares to bloom amidst the harsh weather.

My discovery of this garden was quite accidental, and it instantly struck a chord with me.

The picturesque landscape filled with blooming roses and lush grass compelled me to visit more often.

It's the ideal spot for a tranquil picnic, with ample space that allows you to spread out comfortably without feeling cramped.

Adding to the charm of this place are the locals who take an active part in its upkeep.

I vividly remember one Friday morning when I noticed my neighbor, Jannette Day, hit the ground early to groom roses.

It was incredible to witness her dedication, alongside her sister, as they diligently clipped spent rose blooms and pulled weeds.

It's heartwarming to see how much the community cares for the Sara Hite Rose Garden, making it an even more special place to unwind and connect with nature.

Whether it's a casual stroll, a picnic, or even an elaborate event, the garden always manages to enchant its visitors with its spectacular charm.

Tee Off at the Waverley Country Club

Exterior of Waverley Country Club
Visitor7, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Who knew that the perfect blend of history, sports, and hospitality could be found just around the corner?

The Waverley Country Club is that hidden gem.

I've been attending the USGA Senior Women's Open here, and let me tell you, it's been nothing short of a wonderful experience.

The clubhouse is steeped in the rich history of golfing amateurs, bringing an aura of tradition to the modern facility.

Navigating the expansive grounds could have been a daunting task, but the volunteers and hospitality staff have been a tremendous help.

Not just helpful, they've added to the charm of the place.

It's refreshing to see such dedication and teamwork.

The staff at Waverley Country Club are exceptional.

Their professionalism and kindness are unparalleled.

It's clear that she's committed to providing the best possible experience for everyone.

My family's visit was certainly made memorable by her exceptional service.

Now, let's talk about the golf course.

It's a dream come true for any golf enthusiast.

The compelling design features and immaculate conditioning combined with the breathtaking riverside setting make for an unmatched golfing experience.

It's like stepping back in time to the golden era of golf but with the comfort and convenience of modern facilities.

Brave the Trails at the 3-Creeks Natural Area

If you're craving a taste of the wild right on your doorstep, look no further than 3-Creeks Natural Area.

This sprawling jewel of nature offers a breathtakingly authentic outdoor experience that's perfect for those seeking solitude and serenity.

My weekends often involve meandering through this park, clad in my long pants and comfy shoes.

As I wander along the paths, they take me through wildflower meadows that are a sight to behold in July, under the dappled shade of towering woodlands, and down to the usually dry Mt. Scott Creek.

The trails can get overgrown sometimes, but that’s part of the charm: truly connecting you to nature.

3-Creeks Natural Area isn't one for the faint-hearted, though.

After a good rain, it does get marshy and muddy, with puddles dotting the landscape.

But a bit of wetness never hurt anybody, right?

It only adds to the thrill and sense of adventure.

And here’s a tip straight from the horse’s mouth: if you find yourself driving down a narrow ridge and Google advises a U-turn, heed the warning.

Trust me, you don't want to brave the challenge of a 13-point turn on a narrow ridge with a drop on both sides.

Practice Photography at Elk Rock Garden

Flora at Elk Rock Garden
Finetooth, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Imagine living in a city for twenty-odd years and suddenly discovering a beautiful, peaceful garden that you never knew existed, almost like opening a book and stumbling upon an unknown world.

That's exactly what happened to me with the Elk Rock Garden.

Tucked in a serene corner with the majestic Willamette River flowing in the background, this English-style garden is set on a high bluff, providing a panoramic view that can take anyone's breath away.

And the best part? It's free!

You can simply walk in and lose yourself among the varied assortment of flowers and trees, with winding gravel and stone paths guiding your way.

As you walk along Elk Rock Garden, be prepared to be enchanted by the beautiful wisteria bower located next to the visitor's parking lot.

It's an impressive sight, especially during its peak blooming season.

However, keep in mind that during the transition period between spring and summer, the garden undergoes an 'in-between' phase where the spring flowers have wilted, and the summer ones are yet to bloom.

But even then, the peace and serenity of the place is something you wouldn't want to miss out on.

Grab a Pint at Breakside Brewery - NW Slabtown

The moment you step into Breakside Brewery - NW Slabtown, you feel like you've walked into a vibrant industrial-chic paradise.

Over the weekend, it's like the whole town has decided to meet up here.

Especially on sunny Sunday afternoons, the place is buzzing with chatter.

Don't be surprised if you have to wait a bit to get a table.

Everyone seems to want a spot on the rooftop patio, and if you have your four-legged friend along, you might have to wait a while for the dog-friendly seating.

But trust me, it's worth the wait.

The dogs seem to be having a gala time under the tables, and well-behaved ones fit right in.

Once you get a seat, you realize this is a self-service place.

You can either scan a QR code on the table or head to the bustling bar to place your orders.

The Mac with added sausage and bacon is something I go back for.

The waffle fries with added egg and bacon are a close second.

As for the drinks, well, it's a brewery, so you're spoiled for choice.

Breakside Brewery - NW Slabtown offers a sampler that you can try.

I personally loved the Polychromatic IPA collab with Ruse.

It has that kick that a good IPA should have.

The place is popular for parties and gatherings.

But remember, it's a casual place.

You may find your table a bit sticky, and you'll have to bus it yourself.

However, the staff is friendly, and they do their best to make everyone, even the little ones, feel at home.

They usually hand out coloring sheets and crayons to keep the kids entertained.

Final Thoughts

There's no shortage of things to do in Milwaukie.

Whether you're in the mood for strolling through serene parks like Kellogg Creek Park and the Sara Hite Rose Garden, or if you're more inclined towards cultural excursions to places like the Milwaukie Museum and the Chapel Theater, you'll always find something to occupy your time.

It's hard to resist the charm of Milwaukie, a city that has something for everyone!

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