Best Things To Do In Portland With Kids – Portland Guide

Portland, Oregon’s largest city is all about parks, biking, breweries, and museums. There are tons of fun things to do with kids in Portland. We were traveling from nearby Seattle and there are significant differences between the two cities.

We found Portland to be cleaner with many eco-friendly initiatives going on. I almost felt like I was in Amsterdam, everyone cycles! We didn’t know much about what to do in Portland, Oregon before we visited, but we loved how family-oriented the entire tourist attractions were.

Portland’s location also makes it a great base for exploring the natural attractions on the outskirts of the city. Oregon is so beautiful and famous for its landscape of waterfalls, forests, mountains, and a spectacular coastline, and there are many things to do in Oregon with children.

Kids Friendly Activities In Portland:

Kids Friendly Activities In Portland

Portland, Oregon was once home to one of the best zoos and science museums in the country, but there is now so much more to do with kids.

Part of the planning for Portland’s city parks has been making sure they are kid-friendly and fun. That is why Portland has so many unique parks for kids like Director Park, a park with a fountain for the kids to play in.

Just like the city parks many of Portland’s community centers have been updated and remodeled. We have included the Mt. Scott Community Center because it has been updated and has an awesome indoor pool now.

No matter what activity your kids like to do Portland is sure to not only offers that activity, but likely to have multiple places that offer that activity to choose from.

Things to do in Portland with Kids:

Portland is a great city for families and we had a fun time checking out all the sights. From the fun and interactive Children’s Museum to the enthralling Witches Castle, here’s our guide to the best things to do in Portland with kids!

1.     Browse Powell’s Books:

Browse Powell’s Books

With aisle upon aisle of captivating books, the iconic Powell’s City of Books is one of our favorite things to do in Portland with kids. Regarded as the world’s largest independent bookstore, Powell’s covers an entire block of the city.

Book lovers will love Powell’s Books, the world’s largest independent bookstore. You can certainly purchase a large number of books online through Amazon. But there is something magical about wandering through the shelves here. There are five Powell locations across Portland. Travelers will want to visit the original place, however Powell’s City of Books in the Pearl District.

Spend hours here with over 1 million new and used books on display. I especially like the book reviews and employee recommendations that are published throughout the store. The family can buy some books to take home (Support this small business by ordering a book today!

The dedicated kid’s section is full to the brim with every kid’s book imaginable and ranges from the classics to the inspirational to the current character favorites. Our kids spent hours reading at the kid’s tables and choosing some new books to take home.

2.     Cartlandia:

cartlandia portland oregon

Portland is famous for its large number of food trucks found throughout the city and a trip to Portland would not be complete without a visit to one and kids will love the vast selection of delicious options on offer at the food truck pods dotted across the city.

A bike-centric family super food cart with over 30 international food carts, a family-friendly rooftop beer garden and The Blue Room bar and restaurant, a full-service bar with draft beers, and a full menu.

You can bring groceries from the food trucks to the beer garden or bar (when buying drinks at the bar). Indoor toilets, covered seats, and seating on the outdoor terrace, ATM, sufficient parking spaces on lots for cars and bikes are also available.

3.     Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area:

No visit to Portland with kids would be complete without seeing Columbia River Gorge. The Columbia River Gorge encompasses a variety of natural landscapes, including the desert, a sea-level passage, alpine meadows, and the highest concentration of waterfalls in North America.

The mighty Columbia River and its beautiful waterfalls and viewpoints make for an awesome excursion from Portland.

4.     Explore a Submarine:

With a planetarium, a submarine, and a science playground, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry is a great outing for inquisitive kids in Portland. The exhibits are hands-on and interactive and there are opportunities to take part in experiments, play with sand and crawl through the roots of a giant tree.

The USS Blueback is docked in the Willamette River and young transport fans will love the opportunity to explore what once was a working submarine.

Who says science museums are boring? With a giant-screen theater, a navy submarine, and a planetarium, OMSI will surely change your children’s perspective on science.

5.     Find a Toy Horse:

Keep an eye out for miniature plastic horses tied up to metal rings along neighborhood sidewalks.

While you won’t find real horses tied to Portland horse rings, you can find little toy horses if you know how to look for them.

Keep an eye on the ground as you walk around through Portland’s historic neighborhoods. You will see Portland’s horse rings on the curbs. The people who live here and like to seldom stop Portland tie little horses to rings to surprise and delight others who pass by.

6.     Floating World Comics:

Floating World Comics

Located in downtown Portland, Floating World Comics is considered one of the best comic book stores in all of America by those who know it.

But the loyalty of comic fans is so great that they continue to flood here for animated reading. The shop also publishes its own books and regularly organizes art exhibitions in the shop.

You’ll always find tons of readers, artists, book lovers, and geeks flipping through the shelves and tables full of comics for the kids: old and new, self-published and classics, rare, and sold for a pound.

You can even bring your own comic and try to sell it there. It may be the only comic book store in downtown Portland, but it’s considered one of the best in the country for good reason.

7.     Get a History Lesson At Pittock Mansion:

Spend an hour or two at the Pittock Mansion for a quick history lesson while visiting Portland with kids. My kids loved seeing a “real living mansion”! The mansion was built on one of Portland’s tallest hills in the early 20th century and offers excellent views of the city from here.

The mansion was owned by Henry Lewis Pittock, a Portland pioneer known for revitalizing the Oregon newspaper. The mansion features 22 Rooms with antique furniture.

Children may not have the patience for brief historical explanations. They will, however, enjoy taking a look at the way people lived more than a century ago.

8.     Get Hands-On With Puppets In Portland:

Get Hands-On With Puppets In Portland

The Portland Puppet Museum displays over 2,000 puppets from around the world. Kids can put on their own puppet show and learn from the puppet master, Steven Overton, who owns the museum.

Even better, kids can play with the puppets! If you’re looking for fun things to do in Portland with kids, then it should definitely be on your list to have your own puppet show with these unique creations.

9.     Go Rock Climbing:

Rock climbing has been shown to help build confidence, improve focus, and increase coordination and strength in children. And, there is no doubt that it is exceptionally fun!

My family and I visited the gym completely new to rock climbing. It’s clean and pretty big (but it’s also the first one I’ve ever been to). Our 9-year old daughter really enjoyed the auto-belay spots (there were 5 when we went in Feb) which we all found helpful as beginners.

They offer wifi, snacks, coffee, and beer/wine for parents. They have a rock climbing wall room with movable foam builders which the kids seem to love. Also offered in the main room is a huge play structure for a wide age range of kids, very clean as well (unlike some of the same type of establishments).

10. Hike to a real witch’s castle:

Start from the Upper Macleay car park and follow a beautiful half-mile forest path to the stone ruins of Witches’ Castle in Forest Park. The ruins have a dark past – according to local legend, the owner of the land murdered one of his workers who fell in love and ran away from his daughter.

It’s a relatively easy hiking trail that mainly goes downhill to the Witches Castle, which means an ascent on the way back- not that challenging; our two-year-old managed to go back and forth most of the way. We visited on Halloween and the trail was especially beautiful with the fall colors are in full effect.

The Witch’s Castle is accessible from both the Upper Macleay and Lower Macleay parking lots. If you would like more of a challenge, it is also possible to continue the hike up to the historic Pittock Mansion in the West Hills of Portland, a 5.7mile round trip from the Lower Macleay Park trailhead.

11. Make Your Own Pancakes At Slappy Cakes:

For a happy and unforgettable meal, thrill the kids with breakfast at Slappy Cakes. In this innovative restaurant, diners play chefs by pressing pancake batter onto hot plates right at the table. For the most creative pancake designs, be sure to order two different color mixes.

Options include buttermilk, chocolate, peanut butter, vegan/gluten-free, and seasonal (like pumpkin seasoning). Arrangements like chocolate chips and banana slices add to the fun … for an additional charge.

You can also order other breakfast items such as pork belly benedict or avocado toast. Plan to come on a weekday to avoid long waits (and even then, you may have to wait for a table!

12. OMSI – Portland Museums with Kids:

OMSI – Portland Museums with Kids

Kids will love OMSI’s five unique halls, including a convenient science playground and an earth hall with Science on a Sphere.

There are more than 200 interactive exhibits and laboratories for children at the OMSI. Children can learn about renewable energy, global climate, health and wellness, chemistry, engineering, and technology.

A family could easily spend a whole day at OMSI if they included a visit to the on-site Planetarium, retired submarine on the river, and the movie theater. For those looking for things to do in Portland with toddlers, this can be a great choice due to the hands-on nature of the exhibits.

13. Oregon Zoo:

Hosting over 230 species, the Oregon Zoo is sure to delight the whole family. Like many zoos transitioning to the modern era, it is currently undergoing many changes. These include the expansion of their animal habitats (new Asian elephant enclosure and an educational facility).

As a bonus, the zoo features an array of educational workshops, presentations, and shows for kids and adults alike. The Oregon Zoo has exhibits and programs that will enthrall adults, teens, and children of all ages.

14. Portland Aerial Tram:

Portland Aerial Tram

The four-minute ride between South Waterfront and Marquam Hill offers picturesque views of the city and kids will enjoy the novelty of taking a ride on an aerial tram. The backdrop of the iconic Mount Hood steals the show and, on a clear day, it is possible to see Mount St Helens.

I have always found that my kids enjoy the day more if we stay on the move (this goes double for my friends that have all boys), it is also quite reasonably priced when you compare it to many other children’s attractions.

15. Portland Children’s Museum:

If you’re looking for something to do for kids in Portland (especially if you’re visiting Portland with a young child), the Portland Children’s Museum is a great option. This museum is very aptly described as “the museum that doesn’t behave like a museum”.

I loved that this attraction encourages kids to move through the many exhibits such as the Zany Maze, Pet Hospital, Clay Studio, and Treehouse Adventure.

For me, this place was a perfect and age-appropriate fit when we visited Portland with 1 year old and a 4-year-old. It also happens to be located right beside the Portland Zoo which makes for a great day.

16. Pose In Front Of a Giant Banana:

Pose In Front Of a Giant Banana

Portland has a vibrant and colorful collection of street art and kids will have fun spotting what’s on display across the city.

One of my favorite murals in Portland is also the oldest in town. The giant banana, also known as Art Fills the Void, is one of the funniest Portland things to do on this list. You will love to take pictures n front of this Giant Banana.

17. Drink Hot Cocoa On a Double-Decker Bus:

Portland is crazy about coffee, and I’m crazy about Tov, a totally weird Portland cafe that runs on a double-decker bus and serves the usual barista drinks (I recently got a delicious chai latte with a perfectly balanced blend of spices) in one unusual place.

So if you’re looking for the best thing to do with your kids, order a drink and sip it in this twinkle-lit, magical bus.

18. Shop The Portland Saturday Market:

Shop The Portland Saturday Market

I specifically planned my family’s Oregon vacation so that we would be in Portland on a Saturday morning so we could enjoy the city’s renowned open-air marketplace. Portland Saturday Market has been taking place for over 40 years in the Old Town/Chinatown neighborhood. It’s open from mid-March through Christmas Eve.

Expect booths aplenty offering up fresh flowers and produce. You’ll also find a variety of handicrafts, like bird feeders made from antique teacups. Street performers entertain the crowds with live music, magic shows, and more. Of course, there are food trucks selling up tasty eats, too. In summer, children keep cool in splash fountains. If you like to people-watch, then this is the place to be.

19. The Portland Farmers Market:

The pride and joy of this food-obsessed city, Portland’s Next Level Farmers Market (every Saturday, rain or shine) fills the Portland State University campus with 200 rotating vendors selling the best local produce, grass-fed eggs and meat Sell ​​grass-fed animals, fresh baked goods, artisanal cheeses and cold cuts, handmade chocolates, and other edible rewards.

If you believe in buying locally, sustainably, and supporting small business owners, farmers, and artisanal producers, there is nothing closer to the source than this.

Fall brings beautiful pumpkins and crunchy traditional Old World Oregon apples. Those long cold winter nights call for slowly cooked Sudan Farm lamb and roasted root vegetables. In spring, reach for delicate, tender asparagus bunches and thick rose rhubarb stalks from Winters Farms.

And when summer rolls in, you can let off steam: bundles of baby lettuce, ripe tomatoes, Hood River cherries, dripping orange Charentais melons, and the incomparable Baird Family Orchard’s incomparably sweet and juicy bly peaches.

20. Tiffin Asha:

tiffin asha portland

This place is for having authentic food. This quaint little restaurant has one of the best Indian fusion menus! The dinosaurs are to die for and so is the dessert! If you want typical Indian food, this isn’t your place, go here if you want to enjoy new flavors, if you want to enjoy creativity; this is the place to come!!

The chicken “hot chick” dosa is just about perfect.  Chicken breast is usually pretty dry, but theirs is perfectly tender and flavorful.  The spices are not in-your-face but subtle with a sweet aftertaste.

Anyone can throw in a lot of spices into a dish (I certainly do, it’s easy).  They put in just the right amount to keep your tastebuds intrigued and wanting more.

21. Visit Portland’s Wishing Tree:

Kids will love the Wishing Tree in North East Portland. Visitors write their wish on a tag and hang it on the tree. Then, take some time to read the wishes of others and hope that they come true. The tree is beautiful both to look at with its endless tags and to read the heartwarming wishes of others.

If you want to make a wish bring your own tags and sharpie along as supplies can run out at the tree. The tree is located at 2954 NE 7th Avenue. Please be respectful of the local residents who graciously allow the Wishing Tree tradition to continue.

22. World Forestry Center:

World Forestry Center

Are you looking for more educational attractions for kids this weekend? Then, spend some time exploring the World Forestry Center with your kids. Through practical presentations and exhibitions, this museum teaches children about the science, conservation, and importance of trees in human life.

Moreover, it houses fantastic attractions, such as the virtual jeep and train rides. The World Forestry Center offers interactive displays, presentations, and programs suited for children ages 3 to 12.

23. Historic Columbia River Highway:

The mighty Columbia River and its beautiful waterfalls and viewpoints make for an awesome excursion from Portland.

Historic Columbia River Highway

The magnificent Multnomah Falls, although just 30 minutes outside of Portland, is a world away from the city. Framed perfectly by the Benson Bridge, its icy waters tumble over 600 feet to the ground.

Save some time to make the short hike up to view the falls from the bridge or, if you are feeling adventurous, continue to the very top for a bird’s eye view.

The Bonneville Fish Hatchery is a great stop where kids will love feeding the fish and watching the giant sturgeon.

There are lots of other waterfalls as well as scenic viewpoints along the highway. Kids are big waterfall fans and enjoyed visiting the Latourell Falls, Horsetail Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls alongside Multnomah Falls. They also enjoyed the views from Vista Point and still we still giggle about how we almost got blown over by the strong winds!

24. The Japanese Gardens – Outdoor Activities Portland:

The Japanese Gardens is a popular Portland attraction in Washington Park. Based on a hill, with views of Mt Hood, it’s a tranquil escape from the busy city. A peaceful temple, a mini waterfall, and beautiful vegetation are some of the highlights.

It’s a little pricey for a ticket but luckily little ones go free. It is also worth noting, strollers are prohibited in certain areas so it’s best to use a carrier if you have a baby.

25. Portland Street Art with Kids:

Portland Street Art with Kids

One of the most fun things to do in Portland Oregon with kids and a great way to get them interested in art is by checking out all the wall murals and street art. Portland’s street art is an essential piece of the culture and a fun and easy way to teach children about the quirky city.

Wall murals can be found all over the city, but two great areas to see a lot of murals all at once are the Alberta Street Arts District and Downtown Portland. If you are limited on time, these two areas will allow you to get the most out of your visit.

You can observe tons of colorful vibrant murals in a one-mile section of Alberta Street. And while you are there, grab breakfast at Pine State Biscuits. You won’t regret it!

Best Stuff To Do In Portland Parks:

1. Enjoy Rides And Games At Oaks Amusement Park:

Enjoy Rides And Games At Oaks Amusement Park

The children asked to visit Oaks Amusement Park for its rides, ice rink, and mini-golf course. Located just a few miles from downtown Portland, Oaks opened in 1905. This makes it one of the oldest continuously operating amusement parks in the United States.

Hidden away in Southeast Portland, the park is tucked in-between the Willamette River and the Sellwood neighborhood. Its location provides for a secluded, country feel.

Surrounding the amusement park are large grassy picnic areas overlooking the river and Portland’s Southwest river shore. While the outdoor rides close during the winter months, the famous roller rink is open year-round. Oaks Amusement Park is also home to the Multnomah County Fair held in early summer.

2. Forest Park:

As one of the largest urban parks in the United States, Forest Park offers more than 30 miles of hiking trails filled with incredible forest landscapes.

A walk through Forest Park will make you feel like you are walking in the Amazon, making it the perfect urban getaway if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Portland.

Access to the park is free and you can find a variety of hiking trails without having to walk the same trails twice. One of them is the wild forest path that leads to an old stone house also known as a witch’s castle and safe, a fun place to explore with kids.

Since you could spend hours in Portland’s Urban Forest Park make sure to bring enough water and snacks with you. In general, although hilly, the trails are almost perfectly maintained.

For your orientation, you will find maps at most trailheads and at intersections of trails. It’s up to you where you want to head to, but there are lots of options with easy, family-friendly trails, as well as more challenging trails for those who are looking to get a good workout in.

3. Play At Washington Park:

With 145 acres to explore, you’re sure to find activities to please the whole family at Washington Park. This green space was designed by the Olmstead brothers, the landscape architects who designed New York’s, Central Park.

If you need a break from the cityscape, hike the miles of nature trails of the Hoyt Arboretum. Kids will love the Washington Park Playground, which has the largest play structure in Portland. The Oregon Zoo, Portland Japanese Garden, and Portland Children’s Museum are also known as the Washington Park House.

My favorite area of Washington Park was the International Rose Test Garden. Bursting with more than 400 varieties of roses, this beautiful and aromatic garden is a delight for the senses.

Portland hosts over 250 free summer events in its parks, and my family was lucky to stumble upon a concert in the Washington Park Amphitheater.

This outdoor space features tiers of grassy space on which to spread a blanket and take in the tunes. The vibe was welcoming and playful, with little kids bopping alongside aging hippies and tattooed millennials.

What to Eat In Portland:

1.     Eat a Super Weird Dessert At Rimsky’s:

Eat a Super Weird Dessert At Rimsky’s

 Rimsky Korsokoffee House is an original “Keep Portland Weird” coffee shop.  Hidden away in an unmarked home in southeast Portland, it’s open nightly for dessert and coffee.  They have live classical music and surprises around every corner.

Each night, Rimsky’s is open for service of coffee, tea, and desserts in an old Victorian townhouse.  Every table is decorated for a different classical composer.  They even have live classical music!  Very classy Cloth napkins & mismatched china on top of the funky old-school Portland ambiance.

It’s very charming, but don’t be surprised if you get some gruff service.  They are kind of famous for it, but on my last visit it was great, so maybe it just depends on who’s working?  But as always, the dessert is awesome.  Over the years the menu hasn’t changed much, look for some excellent mochas, ice cream, brownie sundaes, raspberry fool, and chocolate pot de creme.

2. Eat Unique Doughnuts:

Eat Unique Doughnuts

Start your Portland explorations with a sweet fried donut. The strangest creation of the Voodoo Donut Bakery is the Voodoo Doll Donut, a yeast donut filled with raspberry jelly and topped with chocolate icing and a pretzel pole.

Children especially love the Voodoo Bubble Donut, which comes topped with vanilla frosting, chewing gum powder and a piece of chewing gum. There are also donuts with bacon, sugar cereal, and much more.

Competitor Blue Star Doughnuts makes more refined selections. These gourmet goodies are made from a classic French brioche recipe. Choose from such flavors as Meyer Lemon & Key Lime Curd, Chocolate Almond Ganache, and the adult-only Cointreau Crème Brûlée (with a pipette of actual orange liqueur).

Not sure whether you belong to the Voodoo Donut or Blue Star Donuts family? Both Voodoo Donut and Blue Star Donuts have stores in the Pearl District. If your stomachs can handle it, try comparing the two!

3. Pine State Biscuits:

One of my favorite places for brunch in Portland is Pine State Biscuits. Highly recommend stopping by here for your weekend brunch plans! You can get some freshly made biscuits and enjoy a nice Bloody Mary on the side. They have outdoor seating available as well which is always a nice option!

Pine State Biscuits makes a delicious breakfast, or fry up your own pancakes on tabletop griddles at Slappy Cakes (watch out for weekend crowds). Slurp up the broth in your ramen at the kid-approved Boke Bowl (Bambino Bowls available plus animal-themed chopsticks!). And if all else fails you can try one of Portland’s 500 food trucks.

4. Sample Foods At Portland Food Carts:

When in Portland with kids, all you need to do is eat from the many food trucks that dot the city. It can be difficult to keep all family members happy with one dining option, but visiting a grouping of food carts offers many options to please all palates.

You can find food carts cooking up everything from barbecue, Cambodian cuisine, and tacos — to vegan dishes, crepes, and gluten-free baked goods at Mississippi Marketplace. This outdoor food court of sorts is home to several food carts plus a piano inscribed with the words, “Please play me.” What a marvelous way to top off lunch!

5. Virtuous Pie:

Virtuous Pie is a charming, spacious, and bright place on Portland’s trendy Division Street that sells interesting plant-based pizzas and ice creams that don’t have cream but still taste great.

They do an excellent job convincing their non-vegan customers that plant-based products are not only good for you and support a healthy planet, but can also be delicious.

Virtual Pie is a fun hang-out place with giant green monsters, long communal tables, and a long coffee bar made from reclaimed antique Douglas.

The hot, thin-crust pizza crust is topped with exciting toppings such as truffle-almond-ricotta, arrabbiata sauce, or cashew mozzarella. Most of the ingredients are fresh in the house. Their meatballs are made with soy, gluten-free flour, red wine, and nutritional yeast.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is Portland worth visiting?
However, Portland, Oregon is definitely worth visiting. The city is medium in size, clean, beautiful and people are hip and chill. People, there are extremely liberal and cool and they will strike a conversation with you anywhere. There are many interesting things to visit when you’re there. If you are visiting, two or three days are enough to see most of the key attractions. If you don’t have friends there, try Couch surfing. Hosts, there are extremely sociable, fun, and safe.
What should I know before visiting Portland?
Things you should know before visiting Portland are; • You are not allowed to pump your own gas. • There is no sales tax. • There are many cyclists and many roads are designed for them. • The public transportation system (TriMet) is very good. • Most people and drivers are very polite. • There is a lot to see. It has some fascinating, quirky places to go. It is a wonderful place.
Will it be very expensive to live in Portland?
As for housing, yes! Other than that, Portland is so different from most medium or big cities, but has more advantages, in my humble opinion, than most of them. It’s a very good city! Have in mind that what people call Portland, most of the time means Greater PDX like Happy Valley, Hillsboro Gresham, and the relatively far way Forest Grove and even Vancouver-WA, which it’s like a neighborhood with a boring city center. Housing is what really pressing and the depressing issue here is. Prices are out of control in the very city of Portland. There are people and organizations trying to fight against the crazy housing crisis and city/county taxes on housing.
Is Portland a nice place to live with a family with kids?
Portland is a fantastic place to live, and it has a healthy and loving community that fosters growth for families. We’ve got more parks than you see in other metropolitan areas, tons of family-friendly events and places to play, and our education system is inclusive, inviting parents to participate as much as possible to help all our children grow. Rose City is community-oriented and full of opportunities, there are few cities of its size I’d rather raise children in to be completely honest!

 

Final Verdict:

Portland, Oregon has been a growing city for years with many young people relocating here to start a career. These people have gone on to marry and have children and the city has continued to evolve to accommodate the needs of families. With this growth, Portland has truly become a fantastic destination for families.

Portland, Oregon was already home to one of the best zoos and best science museums in the nation, but now it is home to so many more things to do with kids. Part of the planning for Portland’s city parks has been making sure they are kid-friendly and fun. That is why Portland has so many unique parks for kids like Director Park, a park with a fountain for the kids to play in.

Just like the city parks many of Portland’s community centers have been updated and remodeled. We have included the Mt. Scott Community Center because it has been updated and has an awesome indoor pool now.

Portland is the best place if you want to go for a vacation with your kids it has a lot of places where kids enjoy a lot. No matter what activity your kids like to do Portland is sure to not only offers that activity, but likely to have multiple places that offer that activity to choose from. I hope this article makes it easy for you to know the best things to do in Portland with kids.

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