Despite often inclement and unseasonably chilly weather this year, Oregon's Oaks Amusement Park has officially begun its 118th season in Portland. While snow was actually predicted for opening day, it didn't materialize, and the sun, while intermittent, appeared.
The park, and its skating rink, were both open from noon to 5 p.m. March 25 through April 2, during Portland schools' Spring Break. From now until Memorial Weekend, the park will only be open on weekends. As Oregon's oldest continually operating amusement park, the park was originally a trolley park, a simple and pleasant destination for streetcar riders to visit when they had time off on the weekend. Today, the park offers a variety of rides both thrilling and family oriented. Among its two most popular major rides are the Adrenaline Peak roller coaster and the AtmosFEAR 360 pendulum ride, which opened in 2021 and is the park's newest ride.
Replacing the park's Screamin' Eagle attraction, AtmosFear 360 offers two different experiences, one in 360°, taking riders 100-feet in the air via a swinging pendulum, or a more classic pendulum experience swinging guests 180°.
This year, although there are no new rides coming to the park, there have been a number of changes at the location, according to Oaks Park Association marketing and events director Emily MacKay.
According to McKay, one shiny new attraction is located in the skating rink. “We have a brand-new redemption arcade,” she explains. “In addition to playing games, you now win prizes.” Games themselves have also been revamped. They include Spongebob Pirates of Bikini Bottom, Space Warp 66, Nerf Arcade, and basketball and crane games as well as Mario Kart Arcade. The park requires a player card to be purchased for the cashless games, but admission to a skate session is not required to enter the arcade. Many games are play ‘til you win, making prize redemption likely. Players can buy their game card online to save $10, with 10 midway games for $40, rather than $50 if purchased on site.
Food offerings are another big change at the park. McKay says she's excited by the many new food choices which she terms “kind of a renaissance.” Working with a nationwide amusement park consultant, the park revamped their menu and dining system, creating new options that still fit in with the classic vibe of the park.
“We are rebranding some of our food service spaces, including the new Trolley Park Pizza… our main food area is now called George's Grill, named after our former CEO, George Kolibaba,” MacKay says. The grill serves items including pulled pork sandwiches and high-end cheeseburgers along with a park favorite, curly fries. Which McKay terms “deliciously addictive.” Combo meals include the fries. There's also a grilled salmon sandwich and hand-breaded chicken tenders on the menu. Trolley Park Pizza offers both personal and full-size cheese or pepperoni artisan pizza, including gluten free options.
“We [also] have a new area called Sugar Rush where folks will find all kinds of sweet eats, like [soft serve] ice cream and cotton candy,” McKay reports. The treat area will soon introduce Funnel Cakes which will be made fresh, while guests watch.
On Memorial Weekend, Oaks Park will host the Multnomah County Fair, an annual event that is celebrating its own milestone of 117 years. The fair moved to Oaks Park in 1997. Larry Smith, president of Friends of Multnomah County Fair says that “the beautiful Oaks Park grounds and dance pavilion have served as the perfect location for this event.” Admission to the fair is free, rides and midway game pricing are handled by Oaks Park itself.
Midway games are traditional and family oriented, blending in seamlessly with the Multnomah County Fair as well as providing fun throughout the park's operating season. They include classics like Roller Bowler and the Wrath of Willamette Willy, a ball toss game based on a legend surrounding a monster in the Willamette River. Costs range between .25 and $5 per game.
“We're looking forward to once again hosting the Multnomah County Fair on Memorial Day weekend; our Fourth of July Spectacular; and the return of the Oaks Oktoberfest, September 22-24,” MacKay says. The latter event had been in hiatus since the pandemic. Oktoberfest will bring three days of authentic German food and beer, two stages of dancing and polka music, kids' activities, and even cooking shows featuring German dishes, to the park. Weiner dog races and craft booths will round out the activities. Unlimited amusement ride bracelets will allow free admission to the festival. The 2023 festival runs September 22-24.
Unlimited ride wristbands cost between $43.94 and $48.95 depending on the day, for park guests over 4 feet fall, and range between $22.95 and $25.95 for those under 4 feet in height, with the higher pricing on weekends between Memorial and Labor Day. There are now 24 rides at the park, including kiddie attractions. Also at the park are Chipper's Mini Golf, the roller rink, and an Escape Room, which each require separate payment.
But some of the best rides in life remain free, even after 118 years -- like the park's 1912 Herschell-Spillman carousel. “No matter why you're coming to visit us, we're continuing to offer free rides on the Oaks Park Train, and on our hand-carved menagerie carousel,” McKay says.