Although visiting an art museum probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of kid-friendly activities in Portland, we assure you that the Portland Art Museum is a great place to expose your children to the world of art. The size of the PAM is manageable for a kid-length visit, the permanent exhibits are interesting (yes, even to kids) and they have a steady stream of temporary exhibits that is quite impressive (check out the upcoming Claudia Fitch exhibit in mid-2012!). Put on your thinking caps and plan a trip to the Portland Art Museum.
When to Go
The Portland Art Museum actually has specific times during the week that are dedicated to families and babies – this way, you can explore the museum without feeling the pressure of other museum visitors staring at you for having a fussy infant or question-asking preschooler. Family Tours are every Sunday at 12:30 PM – the museum’s docent will take your family on an hour-long kid-friendly tour through the museum (no advanced registration required). Also, on the third Tuesday of every month, at 10:00 AM, the PAM hosts Baby Hour, where families with children under the age of one can go on a leisurely 45-minute docent-led tour of the museum, followed by a little coffee hour for visiting with other parents afterwards (online registration required).
If you aren’t attending one of these specific times, give the museum a call before heading over to make sure it is a day that is light on school tours.
The PAM is located in downtown Portland, in the Park Blocks. The street parking around the museum can be pretty horrible and there is no dedicated parking garage, however, there are a few parking lots nearby that won’t cost you an arm and a leg. If possible, we suggest jumping on the MAX Light Rail to get to the museum – there is a stop just a few blocks away!
What to Bring
It’s likely that they will make you check your bags at the front desk, so try your best to scale down the diaper bag to only necessities and use a smaller one or pack what you need in the stroller. Speaking of strollers, they are allowed inside the museum – we’d recommend a small, lightweight stroller that’s easy to maneuver, over your huge jogging stroller with a fixed front wheel. Or, if your kiddo will still go in a pack, that’s a good way to go to enjoy the museum. Leave you camera at home… No photography inside the exhibits.
What to See
One reason the Portland Art Museum is so kid and family friendly is that it’s the perfect size to explore with little ones or when you’re trying to beat a ticking nap-time clock. You can see the entire museum in about an hour. A fun, interactive exhibit that is Object Stories – people, including children, bring in an object that is meaningful to them and then tell the story of the object, which is photographed and recorded to become a part of the exhibit at the museum. It’s not only interesting to see what objects people brought in – and many are common, everyday items that your children will recognize – but also to hear, in their own words, why they brought that object. And, the discussions it will prompt with your children are just as fascinating!
An upcoming exhibit that should not be missed and that is sure to intrigue children is The Body Beautiful, a collection of sculptures from Greece and Rome, which will be on loan to the Portland Art Museum from the British Museum in London. (Opens late 2012)
Where to Eat
There is obviously no eating and drinking allowed in the museum, so make sure to fill those tummies before you head inside – there is a grassy spot with benches across the street from the museum that is perfect for eating a quick snack before going into the museum or for eating a picnic lunch after your visit. There is a small coffeeshop tucked in the back of the museum, Museum Grounds, which serves pastries from local bakeries and of course, coffee. Or, head into downtown Portland to one of these kid-friendly places to eat.
Tickets can easily be purchased online in advance and we highly recommend it to avoid having to wait in line when you get there. Children ages 17 and under are free, as are museum members. Adult tickets are $15 each. If you’re willing to go between 5:00 and 8:00 PM on a Friday night, admission is free for everyone on the fourth Friday of each month.
Good to Know
Keep an eye on the museum’s Facebook page, where they often post interesting facts and details about their exhibits, as well as information on upcoming family-friendly events.
Portland Art Museum
1219 Southwest Park Avenue
Hours: Closed Mondays, Tuesday – Wednesday from 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM, Thursday – Friday from 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM, Saturday from 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM, Sunday from 12:00 – 5:00 PM
— Katie Kavulla