Navigating the play date social calendar is just one of the many tricks in your savvy parenting toolkit. But raising kids in Portland means tons of fresh ideas for fun time with friends. Read on for these perfect after-school play dates where kids (and adults!) can have a great time.
Photo Credit: Anna Doogan
Make a Mess
For a play date that young artists can really get their hands into, head to one of Portland’s drop-in art studios. At cozy Mimosa Studios on Alberta, kids can choose their own piece of unfinished pottery to paint from over 200 options. After painting, leave your piece at the studio where it will be fired, glazed and ready for pickup in 2-5 days.
If your little creatives prefer to think outside the box, the Open Studio at Smartypants might be the perfect spot. Designed for young artists age 1-10, Smartypants has a changing variety of art materials and sensory stations. Kids are encouraged to explore, express themselves, make a mess and create a masterpiece. (Adults can play, too!) For a special family play date, check out one of Smartypants’ monthly Saturday parent-child workshops. The studio is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with the exception of Tuesday, when they are closed.
Become a Pinball Wizard
Brush up on your old pinball skills at Pinball Outreach Project! This little spot on Fremont offers a place for families to connect while kids learn to play the iconic arcade game. During P.O.P.’s All Play hours, you can join in the fun for just fifty cents a game. During free play hours, kids thirteen and under can enjoy the games at no cost. Pinball Outreach Project also offers private pinball parties, weekly pinball leagues and summer camps. Want to know the current game lineup? Jump on P.O.P.’s mailing list to stay up to date. Hours vary weekly, so check the P.O.P. website to plan your pinball outing!
Photo Credit: Stevie B. via Yelp
Have Fun at an Open Play
If the kids need to burn off some energy after a day at school, meet up with some pals for Open Play at The Playground Gym! At the new North Lombard location, Open Play happens on Monday evenings from 5:30 to 7 p.m., and all day on Wednesdays from 10:30 to 7 p.m. Your tumblers can run, jump, build obstacle courses and explore the brightly-colored equipment. Parents can join in on the fun or get some work done at the long counter overlooking the play space. Open Play at Lombard is $8/child ($12 for 2, and $3/additional child) and is open to kids 1-12. Worked up an appetite? Head around the corner to dine at Cha! Cha! Cha! or Flying Pie Pizzeria, and dinner is taken care of.
The Playground Gym- North
5215 N. Lombard Ave., Stes. 3 & 4
The Playground Gym- Northeast
505 NE Grand Ave.
Photo Credit: Anna Doogan
Go Green in a Park
With gorgeous green space and plenty of room for playing, Portland’s many parks are a highlight of the city. Grab some friends, pack a picnic and head out to have some afternoon fun. Arbor Lodge Park in North Portland has the city’s first universally-accessible playground, as well as a sand area, sensory play elements, a xylophone and lots of space for exploring. The Nature Play area at Westmoreland Park lets kids use their imaginations as they scramble up logs, climb rocks and explore a playground made of natural elements. Or, check out Wilshire Park’s 14 acres with sports fields, a picnic pavilion, a playground and a special area for toddler play. Peninsula Park is a true North Portland favorite with the city’s second-oldest playground, a huge open field for play, a fountain and Portland’s first public rose garden. At the adjacent community center, kids 8 and up can join a drop-in basketball game from 4-5 p.m., or check out the game room for free foosball and ping pong.
Arbor Lodge Park
N Delaware Ave. & N. Bryant St.
7530 SE 22nd Ave.
NE 33rd Ave. & Skidmore St.
Peninsula Park and Community Center
700 N. Rosa Parks Way
Cozy Up With a Book
For a quieter play date that’s more low-key, take your readers to one of the Multnomah County Library locations. Browse for some new books, or join in one of the scheduled groups or activities. Try out one of the monthly book groups for younger kids. Young Readers is for Grades 1-3 and meets monthly at the Northwest library, and readers in Grades 3-5 can participate with their parents in Family Book Group at Belmont Library.
If you have LEGO fans in the house, check out one of the library’s LEGO clubs and have fun playing with the colorful bricks. Times and locations vary, so check the Multnomah County Library event page for the current locations and times.
2300 NW Thurman St.
Mon. & Tues., Noon- 8 p.m.
Wed. – Sat., 10a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sun., noon to 5
1038 SE Cesar E. Chavez Blvd.
Mon., Fri. & Sat., 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Tues., 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Wed. & Thurs., Noon – 8 p.m.
Sun., 10 a.m. – 5 pm.
Photo Credit: Gunnar B. via Yelp
Head Back to School
A play date at school? The answer is yes when you’re talking about McMenamin’s Kennedy School! The former elementary school turned unique Portland gathering spot is a popular fixture in Northeast. Head straight to the colorful ceramic soaking pool for some hangout time in the water (minors welcome with guardians until 6 .p.m.) Then, catch a movie and happy hour in the theater full of comfy couches for families ($4 adults; $2 age 11 and under) or have dinner al fresco at The Courtyard Restaurant, with tons of seasonal Northwest options. Try the Principal’s Special pizza or the veggie wrap with hemp sliders and hummus. Kids will love the fresh apple cider, and grownups can sample one of McMenamin’s signature ales on tap.
5736 NE 33rd Ave.
Raising the next generation of Rose City Rollers? Get your crew on the rink at Oaks Park. Lace up your skates and take a few spins around one of the country’s largest skating rinks. Open Skate times vary, so check the Skating Rink calendar before testing out your wheels.
For even more skating fun, try the rink at Mt. Scott Park and Community Center. On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from 3-5 p.m. beginning September 28, enjoy drop-in open skate for just $4/person plus $1/skate rental. If your little rollers just can’t get enough skating, families can also rent the roller rink for private birthday parties. ($66/hour with a 2 hour minimum for up to 30 skaters.)
Make a Splash
Summer may be over, but your water enthusiasts can still keep swimming and splashing! The Family Play Swim at Matt Dishman Community Center and Pool makes the perfect meetup spot for a fall play date with friends. Beginning October 3rd, families can join Family Play Swim Monday-Thursday from noon- 4:20 p.m., and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. (Friday hours shorten to 5 p.m. on Nov.11.) Drop-in family swim costs $5/adult, $4/seniors, $3/kids 13 and under and free for swimmers two and under.
77 NE Knott St.
Pizza and a Show
Dance and wiggle at one of Mississippi Pizza’s afternoon family music events! At this longstanding pub on Mississippi, a regular rotation of musical guests will have everyone up and dancing. Meet up with friends, order some pizzas and enjoy the festive music all afternoon. Depending on the day, you may be entertained by Portland favorites Red Yarn, Mr. Ben or Tallullah’s Daddy. Check the Mississippi Pizza schedule for the current weekly lineup.
3552 N. Mississippi Ave.
Sun., Mon., Wed. & Thurs., 11a.m. – midnight
Tues., Fri. & Sat., 11 a.m. – 1 a.m.
What’s your favorite spot for a play date in Portland? Let us know in the comments below!