Lake Oswego is located in Multnomah County, just south of the city of Portland. The prestigious suburban community attracts upper middle class families and out-of-state transplants seeking outstanding schools, excellent community parks, and the pleasures of a suburban existence.
One reason that families choose Lake Oswego: the schools. The elementary schools, junior highs, and high schools consistently earn the Oregon Department of Education’s highest rating of exceptional. There probably isn’t another neighborhood in the metro area that can boast such uniform excellence across every single school in the district. These schools are well funded and parent participation is abundant, appreciated, and expected.
The 22 parks, community activities, senior center, and active youth sports teams create a small town community feel that makes this lovely neighborhood stand out from other similar suburban communities. The Lake Oswego Public Library is located on 4th St in downtown. It was begun in 1954 and the current building has been in use since 1983. The library offers programs for adults, teens, and children. Luscher Farm, off Stafford Road, has community gardens, a community supported agriculture program, athletic fields, and two dog parks. This multi-use facility is a pleasure to visit for a youth soccer game or to let your rambunctious dog work off some energy in the off-leash, fenced facilities. The farm gives children a chance to see a working farm in action and adults can purchase farm fresh vegetables throughout the year by being part of the CSA.
The city of Lake Oswego is centered around a 415-acre artificial lake. The city’s small, upscale downtown sits just north of the lake. This walkable area includes restaurants, wine bars, shops, spas and services. Residents and visitors alike enjoy munching on pastries from Portland-based bakery St. Honoré who opened a location here in 2007. Mostly paved Millennium Plaza Park screens movies and hosts concerts during summer. It’s also the location of the charming and incredibly popular Lake Oswego Farmer’s Market. This market offers some of the best produce, gifts, and food found locally on Saturdays from May to October. One vendor makes donuts from scratch and the wait for the huge breakfast burritos can be up to 30 minutes on busy days.
Several good downtown restaurants keep residents well fed. Tucci’s is a short walk from Millennium Park; it’s a delectable gourmet pit stop for modern Italian dishes. Manzana Rotisserie Grill and Five Spice have views of the pretty lake from their dining rooms.
The Willamette Shore Trolley, a vintage railroad with authentic trolley cars, operates along the Willamette River between Lake Oswego and Portland. The trolley runs five times per day on weekend days from May to October. There are also special runs during Christmas to watch boats and see Christmas light displays.
Lake Oswego includes 19 neighborhood associations scattered through its environs. The $600,000 average home price is expensive compared to the Portland metro, but not the most expensive. The Street of Dreams, a yearly exposition of large luxury homes, has chosen to build in Lake Oswego many times in its 30+ year history.
First Addition is the Lake Oswego neighborhood just off Highway 43 and around downtown Lake Oswego. Cottage Living magazine once named this area one of the best “cottage” communities in the United States. Craftsman bungalows and English cottages on large lots were the original structures. However, a number of developers and individual homeowners have been purchasing cottages, tearing them down, and then building much larger homes on the expansive lots. These infill homes provide the walking access that much of Lake Oswego lacks and more living space versus the small cottages. First Addition and the residential areas further south along Highway 43 also contain a number of condos and some apartments.
First Addition’s homes are a stone’s throw away from Tryon Creek State Park. The park has miles of peaceful walking trails, picnic tables, and a visitor center. The unpaved hiking trails are primarily for the casual hiker and attract families as well as dogs and single joggers.
Homes along the shores of Oswego Lake easily fetch over $1 million. Usage of the private lake is restricted to homeowners who live around it and a select few granted easements by the Lake Oswego Corporation. The homes around the lake range from small cottages and bungalows to large mansions.
The homes in the hills of Lake Oswego were built largely from the 1960s to 1980s. There are some small developments being squeezed into older neighborhoods though. The older homes often have generous square footage and lots. The newer infill homes have ample square footage and very little yard space. These quiet neighborhoods in the hills have mature trees and very little traffic. However, walking to shops, restaurants, and services isn’t an option for most. Having a car is essential for reaching the most basic of services in a reasonable amount of time. Fixer uppers run over $400k and remodeled homes often fetch over $600k.
Mountain Park is located west of First Addition and to the west of Boones Ferry Road. It’s probably the most reasonably priced neighborhood in Lake Oswego. A number of single family homes and apartment complexes comprise the residential landscape here. It’s also home to Portland Community College’s Sylvania campus and a short downhill drive to New Seasons’ Mountain Park grocery store.
Kruse Way’s commercial area and corporate office parks include several multi-story office buildings with restaurants and services on the bottom floors or in nearby shopping centers. Large insurance companies, professional service firms, and multinational corporations choose to locate here (and outside Multnomah County) to reduce their tax burden and escape the parking difficulties of downtown Portland. Elephant’s Deli stocks gourmet treats that entice Kruse Way professionals out from their offices and residents into the largely corporate area.
Boones Ferry Road, a main thoroughfare through the west part of Lake Oswego, is undergoing its own renaissance. On the south end, tony shopping destination Bridgeport Village opened its doors in 2005. Crate and Barrel (the first location in Oregon), Borders, about 12 restaurants, and a large movie theater entice residents from throughout the metro area to eat, shop, and play. Upscale children’s clothes and boutiques are interspersed amongst larger chains like Coach, Banana Republic, Coldwater Creek, and Talbots. Coldwater Creek Spa is a preferred destination for spa enthusiasts. A fun playground and a water fountain are in the middle of this upscale, outdoor shopping destination.
Farther north along Boones Ferry, residents shop at mostly older, blue collar businesses and eat at neighborhood gems like Riccardo’s Ristorante and Amerigo’s New Foods Grill. Riccardo’s has been preparing traditional Italian fare and homemade pastas in this location since 1980. If the weather is nice, be sure to sit on the back patio. Hidden inside the shopping center at Kruse and Boones Ferry, Amerigo’s whips up large portions of American fare like meatloaf and fresh fish. The brunch never seems to be busy and the biscuits are to-die-for good. La Provence Bakery & Bistro creates delicious pastries and serves ample portions during their “always busy” breakfast shift. Be prepared to wait on a Saturday or Sunday. (If you make it to enough restaurants around the Portland metro, you’ll notice that La Provence’s mouthwatering treats are offered at a number of other establishments.)
Transit options from Lake Oswego to the surrounding area are incredibly limited. There is bus service available along Highway 43 to downtown Portland and a popular Park and Ride transit center just off Boones Ferry Road (across from Bridgeport Village). Most neighborhoods outside First Addition are not walkable or bikeable. Having a car is required to accomplish basic things like buying groceries or heading to work. Driving to Portland via Highway 43, Interstate 5, and Highway 205 can be slow during rush hour. Highway 217 is the road you’d use to get to Beaverton or Hillsboro.