Don’t let the rainy season get you down – there is still plenty of fun things to do for Portland kids! Here are a few of our favorite outings, hang out spots, and activities that entertain and amuse the whole family… or at least get us out of the house for a few hours! And, pssst…don’t forge to check our picks for fun and functional rain boots for wet weather fun.
Avalon Theater, Milwaukie Cinemas, and Gresham Cinema
Video games and cheap movies: fun times for rainy days. At each of these Wunderland locations you’ll find more than 100 games – all operated with nickels – and a kids admission price of $2.25 ($3 for starred attractions). The newest location, Gresham Cinema, has 115 stadium seats, a 24-foot screen with surround sound, and a prize counter with over 200 prizes to win.
Bargain hunting tip: In addition to other special offers, there is a Buy One Get One Free coupon posted on the Wunderland Games website every Monday.
We love Café Sip-n-Play in Vancouver/Camas; it is a perfect place to spend some lazy weekend morning hours with the kids, especially in the long winter months. Designed for children ages 1-5, the spacious play area takes up most of the cafe. You can bring the youngins and let them explore while you kick back and stay a while. There’s plenty of comfy seating, a great menu with a variety of healthy choices, free wifi, and a flat screen TV for the big games. All the while, you can keep an eye on the kids, (but with plenty of play-space and free events like storytelling and puppet shows, chances are they’re doing pretty good on their own). Café Sip-n-Play is fun for the whole family and will quickly become an old standby.
Bargain hunting tip: purchase a punch card for play area admission and save on your repeat visits.
The Oregon Zoo is a great place to visit in the winter, even when it’s raining. The animals are still there and lots of people are not, so you can get some up-close-and-personal viewing of the critters.
We suggest taking the Great Northwest route through the Zoo this time of year – perhaps you’ll feel a special kinship with our native friends who also deal with the rainy weather. This route also provides more shelter and offers a different experience than the elephant / giraffe route. Go in through the entrance and take a left past the ticket taker into the Black Bear Ridge. Here is where you can see the black bear and bobcats. There’s a covered observation area here; there’s another one up ahead too, in the Eagle Canyon, where you can see the proud eagle and the salmon in the springs. This section has a covered bridge and observation area, so you can take a break from any rain. Near the top of the canyon, children can play in a life-size eagle’s nest, experiencing life as a bald eagle. This whole section of the zoo is pretty heavily shaded with trees – it is supposed to be very naturalistic to the environment where eagles like to hang out in “real life,” so there are tons of tall trees that offer natural rain coverage.
Then you can get into our favorite winter scenery – the beavers! The Cascade Streams building is extremely nice with neat animals (turtles, ducks, river otters) to watch. Your kidlets will adore watching the beavers swimming around and around their den, which has an exposed window so you can see what they do underwater.
Keep going on this loop past the cougars and you come out near the barn – go in there for more covered interaction (cows, pigs, goats, etc.)
This is a very pleasant outing and helps children engage with animals they’d see if they were out in the wild areas of our local region. Many parents combine a zoo outing with a ride on the MAX. This is a great way to make an adventure out of the day – plus, if you take the MAX to the zoo, you get $1.50 off your zoo tickets.
Bargain hunting tip: The second Tuesday of the month is $4 admission day at the Oregon Zoo. As an alternative, ride the MAX train to the Zoo, visit the goats in the zoo entrance area, spend a few minutes in the gift shop… you don’t even need to buy an admission ticket to get some of the Zoo experience!
Ride the Tram to OHSU / Doernbecher
Get on the Tram and ride up, up, up! Before you come back down again, check out some of the great sights at OHSU and stay and play for a bit on “the Hill” to turn your ride on the tram into a fun, inspiring day outing, rain or shine. Once you get to the top, stay and enjoy the sculpture garden at OHSU and hang out in one of Portland’s hidden playground treasures.
Bargain hunting tip: The tram ride is free for children 6 and under and $4 for adults. Tri-met, Portland Streetcar, and C-Tran passes are honored.
Make a Splash at an Indoor Pool
The Portland area is rich in swimming pools and splash features. In the winter, it’s so, so, so nice to dip your cold physique into a warm pool. Float, splash, swim, jump, dive, slide – you name it – there’s fun to be had. Plus that old wives tale (there’s no tired like swimming tired) holds true indoors as well – hit the pool for a few hours and your little one might treat you with a nice nap!
Bargain hunting tip: Portland Parks operates two fabulous, kid-friendly indoor pools – at Mt. Scott Community Center (SE Portland) and at the Southwest Community Center (SW Portland, at Gabriel Park). These come with all those water features that spray everywhere, water slides, wading areas and tons of bubbles. If your child is more tadpole than fish, you can take advantage of the fact that at both pools, children 2 and under get in free. They both also offer Friday and weekend Family Swim Times.
Tualatin Hills in Beaverton also operates several indoor pools. The lap pool at Conestoga Recreation and Aquatic Center is well heated, has a rope swing, and offers family swim time every day of the week!
Portland Art Museum Family Sundays
Visitors of all ages can explore their creative sides, engage their imaginations, and discover fantastic art together through themed activities highlighting the Portland Art Museum’s permanent collections and special exhibitions. Visiting the Portland Art Museum is always a treat – just walking around, climbing the stairs, and participating in the family activities is enough to wear one out. Sunday afternoon is the best time to take your tots and kidlets to the museum.
Family Tour 12:30 pm.; Enjoy a docent-led tour.
Drop-in Family Art-Making 1:00pm–3pm.; Drop in for 10 minutes or an hour of art-making activities.
Story Time 2:30pm–3:00pm.; Explore the world of art through books.
Story time takes place in the Discovery Center on the third floor. This is a great place to hang out – there are tons of art books and very cool games and puzzles. This room alone is a cozy respite from the outdoors.
Bargain hunting tip: This is a great bargain for families! Each adult pays $10 admission, but all children are free. Maximize your admission by making sure you get there for the docent-led tour. The docents do an amazing job of bringing the children into the art, telling stories about the pieces and encouraging them to think creatively. Of course, a membership can lower your total outlay if you attend frequently.
photo courtesy of Nina Matthews Photography via Flikr