The Portland area is a top destination for family fun! Whether you’re a local or a visitor, find out what puts us on the map with our ultimate Portland kids bucket list. From fountains and food carts to snowboards and strawberries, consider this your menu for adventures–and let us know when you’ve tried them all! Read on to find out more.
photo: Cameron Yee via Flickr
1. Monkey Around at the Zoo
Visit the new tiger sisters, Eloise and Bernadette, admire rare Northwest butterflies in the insect zoo, and stretch out in the shade with the giraffes. The Oregon Zoo is full of animals just waiting to be discovered. Pack a lunch and check the calendar for a host of kids programming– you can stay all day!
Read More: Oregon Zoo
2. Stop to Smell the Roses
After a long winter, spring’s arrival in the City of Roses is truly spectacular. Beginning in late March, stroll under cherry blossoms at Tom McCall Waterfront Park, visit nearby Woodburn for the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival, and smell all of the roses at the International Rose Test Garden. Which one smells the best?
Read More: Best Parks for Spring Blooms
3. Relax at a Hot Springs
Ready to unwind? Portland is within driving distance of several natural hot springs, with a range of options for overnight stays. Breitenbush and Bagby are popular family destinations year-round. Get cozy in the warm pools and watch the stars come out!
Read More: Family Friendly Nearby Hot Springs
photo: throgers via flickr
4. Sample the Food Carts
Introduce your budding foodie to an iconic Portland tradition. Food carts are an affordable, easy way to sample new foods. Mix and match to create your own three-course meal! From Korean BBQ to grilled cheese done seven different ways, there’s something for everyone in your family.
Read More: Food Carts All Portland Kids Must Try
5. Explore Forest Park
With nearly 100 miles of trails, the country’s largest urban forest reserve is the perfect place to burn off some energy with kids! Meet owls and birds of prey at the Audubon Society, take in the view from Pittock Mansion, or hike the 1-mile Wildwood-Newton loop.
Read More: Your Family Guide to Forest Park
6. Rock out with Kindie Musicians
This is a city built on creativity, and we’ve got some fantastic kids’ musicians. No, really. Get silly with Olive and Dingo, embrace peace with the Rock n’ Roll Fairy, and do si do with Red Yarn. Find these artists and more throughout the week, almost every week, at a range of kid-friendly locations all over Portland.
Read More: Why We Love Red Yarn
7. Pedal Your Heart Out
When it comes to bikes, we’re a two-wheel transportation destination. Lots of beginner trails throughout the city make it easy to get your children pedaling. Cruise along the Springwater, coast the Waterfront, and in the summer, take to the streets with Sunday Parkways, when the city closes certain streets to traffic for a day of wheeled fun.
Read More: 5 Excellent Beginner Bike Trails
photo: npgreenway via flickr
8. Shout Timber!
Root for one of the top Major League Soccer teams in the nation at a Portland Timbers game, or check out the Thorns FC, Portland’s championship-winning National Women’s Soccer League team. Take the MAX to Providence Park and grab a slice of pizza after.
Read More: Timbers
From the Hood River fruit loop to Sauvie Island’s scenic farmlands, Portland’s at the center of a wealth of delicious fruit and vegetables. From spring to fall, grab your buckets and bags and fill them with strawberries, cherries, apples, pears, pumpkins and more.
8. Make a Splash
Cool off this summer in one of the Portland area’s many free public fountains and splash pads! Grab your swimsuit and towel and head to Jamison Square, Peninsula Park, Happy Valley Park and more. Why not try them all?
Read More: A Guide to Portland Water Fun
9. Plant a Tree
Portland’s got more non-profits per capita than any other city in the country. Spend an afternoon giving back together with a volunteer program. You can help plant a tree with Friends of Trees, or clean up a book at the Children’s Book Bank.
Read More: Volunteer Gigs to do with your Kids
photo: anselm via flickr
10. Stargaze at the Planetarium
Tilt back in the planetarium, tour a submarine, or try out a motion simulator. At OMSI, there’s wonder and science for every age group, including a host of summer camps and classes. The first Sunday of every month is always $2 Day!
Read More: OMSI
11. Watch a Movie Outdoors
When the days get long, maximize Portland’s great summer weather with an outdoor film. There are lots of venues at every price point, from the free Movies in the Park series put on by Portland Parks and Recreation, to Movies at Dusk at Pix Patisserie, running May-September every year.
Read More: Outdoor Summer Movies
12. Have a Sleepover at the Aquarium
Can’t get enough of the Oregon Coast aquarium? Book a family sleepover! With Sleep in the Deep, families can roll out their sleeping bags for the night in one of the Passages of the Deep exhibit’s 360 degree tunnels. Catch some Zs, then get up early to check out tide pools, otters, sea lions, and the Giant Pacific Octopus! Bring your kids 6 and up, and have the aquarium to yourselves!
Read More: aquarium.org
13. Camp Out in a Yurt
There’s nothing more quintessentially Oregon than a cozy campout in the conifers in your very own yurt. These circular tents stretched over wooden frames are furnished and heated– how’s that for glamping? Book early as yurts and cabins fill up fast!
photo: jason via flickr
14. See Every Waterfall
Sure, you’ve heard of Multnomah Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls is a no-brainer. But have you taken your kids to see all TEN waterfalls on the loop at Silver Falls State Park? From easy 1-mile loops to more challenging trails, the Portland area boasts an impressive number of hikes that reward with incomparable vistas of cascades. Make your own must-see list and try them all!
Read More: Waterfalls Near Portland
15. Play Indoors
It’s a rainy city, and sometimes you need a break from all the (wet) outdoor fun. Hang up your Muddy Buddy and head indoors to one of many cozy play areas designed to help your kids get their wiggles out during the winter months. From free and affordable options to full-service standouts, we’ve got you covered. Go while the kids are small!
Read more: Best Indoor Play Spaces:
16. Shred the Pow-Pow
One of the best things about Portland is its proximity to everything. It’s a short drive to beach, desert, forest– and mountains. When winter hits, introduce your kids to the joy of snow sports at Mt Hood’s SkiBowl or Meadows, Teacup Lake, and Summit Ski Area.
photo: stijn via flickr
17. The Play’s the Thing!
Take your kids to a show during the Oregon Children’s Theatre’s five-play season, or sign your little thespian up for acting classes and camps. With world-premiere performances, these plays are not just for kids– adults enjoy them too. Take advantage of one of Portland’s best resources for dramatic impact.
Read More: Oregon Children’s Theatre
18. Beat the Heat in Seaside
For a classic Oregon beachtown experience, head to Seaside. Ride the carousel, enjoy salt water taffy, fly a kite, and take a walk on the promenade. At just a 1.5 hour’s drive away, it’s close enough for a day trip, but why not extend your stay? Play all day on sandy beaches, then head to town for a meal before crashing in one of several charming inns and vacation rentals.
Read More: Make a Quick Escape to Seaside, Oregon
19. Hit the Trails
Ready to head off the beaten path? Check our list of kid-friendly hikes for routes you may have missed, then pack the trail mix and get going.
Read More: Kid-Friendly Hikes
20. Go Whale Watching
Late December brings Oregon’s official Whale Watching Week, with plenty of opportunities along the coast for guidance, information, and public talks. Help volunteers tally up gray whale sightings at Ecola State Park or Neahkahnie Mountain. Or just take a hike and enjoy the views!
Read More: Whale Watching Week on the Oregon Coast
photo: Edwin & Kelly Tofslie via flickr
21. Roller Skate at Oaks Park
One of the oldest amusement parks in the country, Oaks Parks has it all, from roller coasters and giant slides, to games, concessions, and an old-fashioned roller rink. Spring brings weekend family fun, while in summer kids under 6 get the park to themselves on Tues. and Wed.
Read More: Oaks Park Still Rocks
22. Hang Out on the Monkeybars
Stuck in a playground rut? Challenge yourselves to explore! Portland is home to some of the coolest playgrounds around! Check out Pier Park, Westmoreland Park Nature Playscape, or Harper’s Playground. Want an adventure a little further afield? Try Memorial Park in Wilsonville for a newly-renovated playground, including a 24-foot slide!
Read More: Best Destination Playgrounds
23. Picnic with the Vaux’s Swifts
Pack up a picnic dinner and head to Chapman Elementary School. As dusk falls in late August to early September, thousands of Vaux’s Swifts dart and swoop into the building’s defunct chimney– one of the largest known roosting sites. Get there early to get a spot in the crowd, then enjoy the show!
Read More: Swift Watch
Every summer in Happy Valley, this bluegrass music festival welcomes fans of all ages to enjoy a full three days of music, sustainability, and fun. Camp out in the family camping zone (first come, first served) and wake up to a lineup of kids’ activities, great food, and oh yeah, music. Bonus? Kids under 12 get in FREE.
Read More: Pickathon
25. Go Natural
Nature-based play areas mimic the best of mother nature’s playground (think trees, mud, sticks, and rocks) and they’re a blast. At Westmoreland Nature Park, little Portlanders can build forts with branches, slide down smooth-sanded tree trunks, and climb rocks. Blue Lake Park in Fairview boasts dinosaur bones and wooden swings, while Nadaka Nature Park in Gresham has a full 12 acres of fun, including trails, gardens, and nature-based play. Up next is a nature playground at Oxbow Regional Park, set to open any day now, with sand and water play.