The secret to a successful mall outing with kids is simple, really: play areas! These Portland malls keep mini shoppers in mind and offer up safe, enclosed play areas with puzzles, soft climbing structures, and plenty of room to run around. You can even take advantage of decked-out family lounges, snacks for kids, or nearby grown-up fuel (hello Starbucks!) as you watch your youngsters play. Your family shopping spree just got a whole lot easier!

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photo: Washington Square by Marianne Walters

Washington Square
West-side families flock to Washington Square for a giant selection of shops, services, restaurants, and the fantastically popular play space (designed for kids under 42 inches tall). Located right next to JCPenney (park there for an easy entry and exit), this large, circular space has plenty of seating around the edges for parents to keep a close eye on their young ones. Shoes are removed and the soft play structures are completely safe for even the newest walkers.

Nearby shops include Crazy 8, Build-a-Bear Workshop, Lego, GameStop, Stride Rite, and Gymboree. (Psst… Jamba Juice, Starbucks, and Cinnabon are right around the corner if you need a pick-me-up while watching them play.) The play area is closed each day for cleaning from 1-2 p.m., so you can rest easy knowing that the space is clean and ready for play.

9585 SW Washington Square Rd.
503-639-8860
Online: shopwashingtonsquare.com

Lloyd

photo: Lloyd Center Play Area via Yelp

Lloyd Center
Northeast families can get all their shopping done at Lloyd Center, where a variety of large department stores complement the smaller shops and services in this bustling shopping center. The play area is tucked away from the general flow of foot traffic (on the lower level between Ross and the ice skating rink), which keeps it from getting too crowded. In the immediate area you’ll find restrooms with baby changing tables, an elevator for easy stroller access to the other floors, and (in case of a sudden need for fuel) a vending machine with chocolate milk.

The Lloyd Center play area is best suited for the smaller tykes (less than 48 inches tall), but that’s ok because there is plenty for the big kids to do as well. Go upstairs to Barnes & Noble for some book browsing, then walk across the foot bridge over the ice rink to watch the impressive ice skaters (or better yet, treat the fam to a quick ice skating session). Then head to the food court on the 3rd level for lunch at a local favorite, Bridge City Cafe. There is even child-sized seating for the youngest members of the family.

2201 Lloyd Center
503-282-2511
Online: lloydcenter.com

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photo: Westfield Vancouver

Westfield Vancouver
Just over the Columbia River you’ll find a shopper’s paradise at Westfield Vancouver–and a great space for mini shoppers, too. Look for Cinetopia and you’ll see the PlaySpace, where parents and caregivers can kick back and children can run and climb (just stash those shoes in the cubbies first). Then skip over to Old Navy, The Children’s Place, or Gymboree to stock up on essentials. Snacks can be found at Wetzel’s Pretzels, or head right upstairs for lunch options.

In addition to the PlaySpace, families get the royal treatment in the family lounge, where you’ll find rest-worthy seating for grown-ups and little ones, baby changing stations, private nursing areas, and kid-friendly TV programs. Put the shopping bags down and take a load off! Two family lounges can be found on Level 1 in the Dining Court and Level 2 near JCPenney.

8700 NE Vancouver Mall Dr.
Vancouver
360-892-6255
Online: westfield.com/vancouver

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photo: Clackamas Town Center

Clackamas Town Center
If you’re looking for a rainy-day outing that will keep the family dry, hop on the MAX Green Line and take it all the way to Clackamas, where you can get off right at the Clackamas Town Center. Locate Sears (or park there if you’ve driven) and you’ll find an outdoor-themed, ever-popular play space for children up to 48 inches tall. Parents love this play area because of the convenient restrooms and nursing room–and the whimsical logs, trees, and tents are always a hit with the kiddies.

If playtime got you prepped for shopping time, head to nearby babyGap and GapKids, The Children’s Place, Disney Store, and Gymboree. Check out Young Art for art classes and birthday parties!

12000 SE 82nd Ave.
Happy Valley
503-653-6913
Online: clackamastowncenter.com

Which indoor play space is your family’s favorite? Let us know in the comments below!

– Marianne Walters