Portland is so teeming with wonderful things that we couldn’t possibly fit them all in one magazine article. Read on for more of what makes Portland such a wonderful city for families.
Best Occupational Therapist Who Makes It Seem Like Playtime
I was devastated when my daughter’s pediatrician first told us she needed to go to occupational therapy. I could never have guessed that I’d be nearly as devastated when she was ready to graduate. That’s all because of her fantastic provider, Rachel Salisbury, one of three local occupational therapists who started Groundplay Therapy on Northeast Sandy Boulevard in 2014. Week after week, “Teacher Rachel” led my daughter through exercises that were so much fun that Elly never realized she was building strength and coordination — from indoor obstacles courses to swinging on trapezes, writing her letters in shaving cream to making rice-filled sock puppets. We’re done with OT now, but I still say a silent thank you to Rachel every time I watch Elly confidently use a pair of scissors or swing on the monkey bars. — J.S.
Best New Home Team
Blazers — so fun to watch, but tickets are pricey. Timbers — good luck getting single-game tickets. Hops — more accessible, but quite a trek for Eastside families. Enter The Pickles. That’s right, Portland’s got a new minor league baseball team right in the Lents neighborhood. This summer families can watch up-and-coming collegiate ball players in a fun, casual and very family-friendly atmosphere. Sundays are Kids Nights — the game starts at 5:05 pm and the kiddos get a drink, hot dog and bag of chips for free. There’s a special Kids Zone sponsored by Adventist Health with a playground and various activities including facepainting and cavorting with the mascots. They’ll also light up the sky with plenty of fireworks nights including their season opener on June 10. Pro tip: Take the MAX to the SE Holgate and 92nd stop to get to Walker Stadium. Tickets start at a very reasonable $8. — D.C.
Best Mama Health Supporter
For many moms that overwhelming feeling of fatigue and fogginess is simply regarded as the new normal, but naturopathic doctor Emma Andre knows that moms can reclaim their mojo. A mother of two young children herself, she recently started a program called Vital Mamas. “Young mothers need education and support in prioritizing and nurturing their health, body, mind and soul in order to gracefully juggle all the important roles they fill,” she says. Andre sees local clients at her Raleigh Hills clinic and plans to connect virtually with clients across the country. She provides individualized plans to help mamas get their vitality back and highlights community support as one the key tools mamas should utilize. “We are community-oriented creatures, but our social patterns, social media, jobs, and how often we move around the country have challenged this basic nature,” says Andre, a graduate of Lincoln high school and the National College of Natural Medicine here in Portland. “Local community support is the answer to this. A vital mama needs support from her tribe because motherhood takes a village.” — D.C.
Best Swimming Hole, In-Town Edition
George Rogers Park is in downtown Lake Oswego, but tucked away enough that you’d never know it. Sure, it has a playground with all the usual equipment, but the real gem is the park’s access to the Willamette. Cross a small field, descend a few flights of stone stairs, and you’ll find yourself in the quietest section of the Willamette you could hope for. Let your kids run and build along the beach, climb on the massive rocks, or play in the icy water. You will get great views of the beautiful houses across the banks, ducks swimming by, and the occasional fisherman casting for a bite or artist sketching the beautiful scene. Some other cool features of the park include an old iron furnace from LO’s industrial days (it looks like part of a castle), walking trails and – and this is key – bathrooms! An added bonus: This beach has some really cool volcanic rocks, pretty enough to add to your child’s treasure collection. — Ali Wilkinson.
Best Swimming Hole + Road Trip
When the temperature in Portland hits triple digits for the eighth day in a row, it can seem like every family in town is looking for the same thing: A quiet, easily accessible, not-too-far-away, kid-friendly swimming hole. Last summer, we found it — and it’s too good to keep it all to ourselves. Our secret spot is a little over an hour and a half away, on a spur of the N. Santiam River, just downriver from the over-run “Three Pools” area. Use your GPS to get you to Forest Road 2207 in the Little North Santiam Recreation area, and take it .4 miles to spur 211. Another .2 miles down that dirt road and you’ll see a primitive campsite. Park there, and walk about two-tenths of a mile to a gravelly beach, rocks to sun yourselves on, a deep pool and a still section of the river. It’s just off the beaten trail enough that the crowds head elsewhere. You may, sadly, see some trash along the trail to the river, but it’s a chance to be a good samaritan — bring a trash bag and get your kids to help clean it up. Pro tip: Detour to Mount Angel for a meal on your way home at the Mount Angel Sausage Company and a game of cornhole on their outdoor patio. — J.S.
Best Playground to Go
Portland is justifiably proud of its parks system — we’ve got the country’s largest wooded urban park in Forest Park, neighborhood gems like Woodlawn and Gabriel Parks, accessible play spaces like Harper’s Playground and showstoppers like the view from Mount Tabor. But the story changes in east Portland, where 40 percent of families — many of them minority or low-income — don’t live within walking distance of a park. Long-awaited new green spaces are under construction, including Loowit View and Gateway Discovery Parks, both well east of 82nd Avenue. And then there’s the city’s “mobile playgrounds” program, now in its 16th year, which sets up shop at apartment complexes and church parking lots around eastern Multnomah County. Think zippy vans piloted by trained staff who unpack balls and art supplies and other nifty goodies to get kids playing outside safely in their very own neighborhoods. — J.S.
Best Next-Level Food Cart Pod
Ah, food carts — those emblems of Portland so beloved by national food writers and Portlandia-fueled tourists. For those of us who live here and are raising little people, though, the food cart phenomenon can be somewhat inaccessible. If you’ve got kids, it’s tricky to eat when you can’t sit down, and there aren’t always bathrooms on site for quick diaper changes and emergency potty needs. Enter the next-level food carts, the food halls — kind of like the modern version of the food court at the mall, minus the bad lighting, and steam tables with warmed over Chinese food. These are, instead, a series of “micro” restaurants, with counter services and a shared, enclosed eating area with (hallelujah!) bathrooms. Our favorite of these is The Zipper on 24th and Sandy. There’s pizza for the kids from Slice Pizza Co., Asian-accented fried chicken from Basilisk for more adventurous eaters, and our pick for the best falafel bowl in town from ChickPeaDX. In summer, they throw open the sliding garage doors to an extensive patio, and there’s even a bar, called, appropriately, Paydirt — as in, that’s what you’ve hit when you come and eat here. — J.S.
Best Post-Park Sweet Treat
Hanging out at St. Johns’ Cathedral Park and think you smell chocolate? It’s not your imagination. Moonstruck, famous for its creative and decadent handmade truffles, operates its factory right behind the west-end boat launch, and part of it is open to the public. It’s a small space, but candy fanatics won’t want to miss the bird’s-eye viewing window down into the action. Stop by before 2:30 pm on weekdays to see the chocolatiers at work, hand-piping designs onto the famously elaborate candies just like a scene out of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. (If you miss it, check out moonstruckchocolate.com/our-factory-tour for a thorough walk-through with Master Chocolatier Julian Rose.) For a tasty souvenir, post-season selections are always 50 percent off, and you may even score a free sample or two from the preternaturally friendly staff, who are more than willing to engage even the most off-the-wall questions from sugared-up spectators. — Kat Merck