Your Guide to Visiting Portland with Kids

Welcome to Portland!

One of our favorite things about this city is what a wonderful place it is for families. In addition to the rain (yes, we know it rains here…), you will also find opportunities to explore, learn, relax, and – of course – eat. All with kids in tow. Here are our absolute not-to-be-missed stops. For some ideas a bit off the beaten trail, check out this post.

Explore

A little rain never stopped a Portlander! Head to Forest Park for a day hike within city limits. Forest Park is one of the nation’s largest urban forests, at over 5000 acres. The Wildwood Trail alone offers over 30 miles of hiking that you wouldn’t believe is right in the middle of Portland. Try the 5-mile out-and-back hike from Lower Macleay Park to Pittock Mansion. (The views are incredible.) Because it’s out and back, you can turn around anytime if you’ve got younger kids.

Have you noticed all those orange bikes parked around the city yet? Portland is one of the bike-friendliest cities in the country, and now you can rent a bike with ease, through the Biketown program. Try an easy and central 3 mile-ish loop by biking from the Steel Bridge to the Hawthorne Bridge along the Waterfront, by Tom McCall Park. Make it a little longer by going from Steel to the new Tilikum Crossing Bridge.

Playgrounds? Yeah, we’ve got those. Hundreds of them in fact. While we have many favorites, it’s hard to beat the area’s nature playgrounds for both Portlandia-ness, and for fun. Instead of the traditional metal bars and swings, you’ll find logs for climbing, sand for digging in, branches to build with, and other natural elements to play with and in.

Learn

If you only have time to visit one or two museums while you’re here, OMSI and The Children’s Museum are two of the best. At OMSI, Portland’s science museum, you’ll find rooms full of hands-on exhibits to learn about Oregon and the world, as well as a “Science Playground” for younger kids. The Children’s Museum has lots of different rooms to play in—from building to playing with cars to molding clay—as well as rotating exhibits. For more of the area’s museums, click here.

Located right by the Children’s Museum, the Oregon Zoo boasts an impressive number of native and exotic animals. You’ll find a newly expanded elephant area, lions, rhinos, hippos, penguins, bats, apes and lots more to explore. Over the summer, there’s also a zoo train that runs through the zoo and Washington Park.

Of course, no list of Portland must-sees would be complete without Powell’s, the independent mega-bookstore located in the heart of downtown Portland. Powell’s has rooms and rooms (and rooms and rooms) of books—enough that the rooms are color-coded. They also host a weekly Saturday morning storytime for kids.

Relax

No need to go, go, go. Take a break with a matinee at Living Room Theater. You’ll get a broad assortment of titles, really comfortable seats, and food and booze brought right to your seats. And if you want to sneak away for a date, check out the Academy Theater, which offers on-site babysitting for certain showings.

We may not have the sandy-white beaches of Hawaii, but we do have beaches! And with Portland’s location between the Columbia and Willamette Rivers, we’ve got quite a few, too. The best-known beaches are on Sauvie Island in far NW Portland. If you’re bringing kids, stick to Walton or Reeder Beaches. Collins Beach is clothing optional. Other favorites include Sellwood Riverfront Park and George Rogers Park in Lake Oswego.

Doing yoga as a family is a great way to get those travel kinks out while interacting together as a family. There are lots of kid-friendly yoga classes in town. You can check out this roundup, or visit our calendar to see what’s happening today.

Eat

You’ll probably notice many people carrying around pink boxes—probably as soon as you get off the airplane. Those pink boxes contain the delicious and slightly odd concoctions (fruit loop donut, anyone?) from Voodoo Donuts. While Voodoo donuts are great, there are lots of other options for the sweet treat around, many without the snaking lines. Try Blue Star Donuts, brioche-based deliciousness (though you will need to wait). Or find a more traditional donut from Coco Donuts. Or hey, try them all! Only one way to figure out which is best, right?

Head to Pine Street Market for the convenience of a mall food court, but the culinary uniqueness of Portland. You’ll find food court basics – like hot dogs and pizza – but with Portland twists. Like – peanut butter, banana and bacon sausages. You can also please your palates with French-Vietnamese fusion, Israeli street food, tapas, ramen, and more. Finish up your meal with soft serve from Salt & Straw’s Wiz Bang Bar.

Hopworks Urban Brewery is the go-to spot for families in Portland for good reason. They’ve got a kids menu, a play area, a welcoming attitude, and—of course—beer. Come for happy hour from 3 to 6 for some screaming deals. Order the pretzels. And check out some of our other favorite kid-friendly restaurants here. 

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 www.runknitlove.com.
Ali Wilkinson
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