Planning a trip to Portland with kids? If you happen to find yourself in Oregon’s largest city, you’ll have no shortage of things to do, from checking out the beautiful nature spots (including the gorgeous hiking trails and Portland Rose Test Garden) to the museums and zoo. Exploring downtown Portland is an exciting thing to do in itself. Here are our favorite things to do in Portland with kids.
Outdoor Activities in Portland for Kids
If you love the outdoors, you’ll have to bake some time into your family vacation to go hiking, nature-watching, and fishing. In Portland, you don’t have to go far to get out and enjoy a good nature hike. With over 10,000 acres of urban parks and natural areas, you’ll never fall short of somewhere to let the kids run off some stream. Forest Park (5156 acres!) is located in the West Hills of Portland and offers over 70 miles of recreational trails. It also happens to be one of the country’s largest urban forest reserves.
Another fun part of Forest Park is the hike back to “The Witches Castle” at Macleay Park. There is a lot of great history for the kids and it’s fun to watch their minds wander when they reach the “Castle” (which is actually the remains of a home built by Portland settler, Danford Balch in 1847). That portion of the park can be accessed from NW 29th and Upshur St. It’s a small parking area, so be prepared to park elsewhere on a busy day and walk in—it’s well worth it!
The Columbia River Gorge/Multnomah Falls are incredible natural attractions to see. If you’ve never had the opportunity to take a drive up the Columbia River Gorge, it is highly recommended. With the motto “In the Gorge, We have it all,” they aren’t exaggerating. The Gorge is literally a stay-cation in itself. You can hike, kayak, windsurf, boat, snowboard, shop, visit museums, wine taste, camp, raft, bird watch, and the list goes on, and on.
The Columbia River is rich in history and is also the second largest river in North America. Carved by the elements, it is seriously breathtaking to look down on the beauty that is the Gorge from one of the many vista viewpoints (Crown Point and Vista House, Multnomah Falls, Cape Lookout and others). Be sure to do a little research before you head out to make the most of your trip. Though it can’t all be done in a day, it’s a trip well worth repeating.
The Portland International Rose Test Garden features over 10,000 roses, and on clear days gorgeous views of Mt. Hood. Portland Parks offers tours on Tuesdays at 11:30 am and on Saturdays and Sundays at 1:00 p.m. The Portland Japanese Garden is located in the West Hills as well with scenic waterscapes and is called one of the most authentic Japanese Gardens outside of Asia. It also provides an unsurpassed view of Mt. Hood.
Hoyt Arboretum is also located in Washington Park, just above the Zoo. There are 12 miles of hiking trails, and it is a great place to observe the more than 6000 specimens of trees from around the World. It is also a lovely place to be one with nature, within the city.
You can also take advantage of the many bike rides that you can do with kids in the city, and have fun visiting more parks at the same time. The Springwater Corridor is 2 miles long and kids have the opportunity to see ducks, geese, goats, horses and bridges. Willamette Park is another favorite, at 1.7 miles long, as well as boats on the River as well as a playground at the Park.
Located ten miles north of Portland, Sauvie Island is a great place for adventure, where visitors outnumber residents 1000 to 1! There is only one bridge providing access to and from the Island. During the warmer months, visit one of the many farms for locally grown produce. In the fall it becomes abuzz with those in search of the perfect pumpkin while playing in the many corn mazes and enjoying harvest festivals. There is even an RV campground for those that are interested in camping on the Island and experiencing all of the fun that Sauvie has to offer. Visit the areas beaches, viewpoints, parks and wildlife areas all within a short drive from the downtown area.
Kids Attractions in Portland
The Oregon Zoo is a must-see. Now celebrating 125 years, the Oregon Zoo is quite literally one of the cutest Zoos around. It’s very easy to navigate and the animals are almost always close enough to see. It is located on 64 acres in the Washington Park area, and boasts an annual visitor average of over 1.5 million. In typical Northwest fashion, they are dedicated to sustainable practices and conservation. Adult admission is $11.50 per person and children 3-11 are $8.50. Children 2 and under are free. If you follow the signs and take the shuttle, parking is free.
The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) is something of a gem in Portland. It’s great entertainment for families of all ages, and offers Summer camps and classes. They also have a fun hands-on science lab. Portland also has several other great museums for the family to visit. Be sure to check out The Portland Children’s Museum, The World Forestry Museum, Pittock Mansion, Oregon Maritime Museum, and Fort Vancouver.
When the weather doesn’t permit for all of that outdoor fun, there are lots of other things to consider. Check out Avalon Theater and Wunderland—Portland has a ton of fun indoor activities for families. Playdate PDX is a great place for the kids to go wild and have a blast. They also offer a full cafe menu and serve coffee by Portland’s own, Stumptown Roasters.
You can’t leave before checking out Downtown Portland. Of course there is always the good old fashioned fun that visiting downtown has to offer! Whether it be dining at one of the many fun restaurants, visiting VooDoo donuts or the fabulous food carts, you can never run out of things to see and do downtown. During the summer months, cool off in the Jameson Square or Teachers fountain. Don’t forget to take the kids over to Salt and Straw afterwards for a one-of-a-kind ice cream treat!
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