The aptly named Pearl District is a real ‘gem’ of an area nestled in NW Portland. This post-industrial neighborhood, once filled with abandoned buildings and a railroad yard, was revitalized in the 1990s, and has since become home to many family-friendly restaurants, shops, cafes, and a thriving art community. The district got its name from gallery director, Thomas Augustine who, before its overhaul, saw past the rugged surface of the environment to see the artists and their potential underneath. He called them “the pearl” within the crusty outer oyster shell. Gather the whole family and find your own appreciation for this area as you enjoy a jaunt through the pristine streets of the Pearl District .
Go: Year round.
Approximate travel time: The Pearl District is comprised of about 100 city blocks in NW Portland, and the area is located just a few minutes north of downtown Portland.
Where to shop: Powell’s Books, a veritable ‘city of books’ which takes up an entire city block between NW 10th and 11th Avenues and Burnside and Couch Streets, offers over a million new and used books. The gigantic children’s section is not to be missed — families can read until their heart’s content at the tables and chairs, and then purchase gently used favorite titles on the cheap. Then ‘hop’ on over to Green Frog Toys to peruse their extensive toy offerings for infants to big kids, and you might just happen upon a special event such as story time or a puppet show. Posh Baby is a fun stop for parents looking for eco-friendly, modern furniture, gear, accessories and clothing for babies and kids.
Possible lunch spots: Dine on fresh, homemade fare sourced from local farmers at Daily Cafe, where a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich for the kiddos will only cost you three bucks. Save room for dessert at either Cupcake Jones where you can indulge in ‘The Pearl’ cupcake: white velvet cake filled with vanilla bean pastry cream, topped with vanilla bean buttercream icing and a white chocolate pearl. Or if your kids scream for ice cream, visit Cool Moon Ice Cream for handmade, all-natural ice cream featuring fun flavors like Bing Cherry Almond chip, laced with fresh Oregon bing cherries, and the refreshing lemon lavender.
How to dress: Seasonally appropriate, with good walking shoes to enjoy a leisurely stroll. Pack an umbrella in the likely event it rains.
Need to know: Kids will love riding the Portland street car (for free!) in the Free Rail Zone between downtown Portland and Irving Street in the Pearl District. Even if you don’t have a destination, just enjoy a fun ride!
Bonus: When the weather gets warm, the fountain in the Pearl’s Jamison Square beckons kids of all ages from across the city to splash and play in the shallow tidal pool which cascades from a series of stones. On hot days, expect to see hundreds of people seeking refuge in the cool water, donning swimsuits and enjoying picnics as if this patch of concrete jungle was really a popular beach destination.
Cost of trip: Moderate for lunch and a treat, but can get pricey if you splurge on toys and books!