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10 Super Fun Things to Do in Portland with Kids

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Portland, Oregon prizes itself on being weird. In fact, the city’s official slogan is, “Keep Portland weird.” Public pianos implore passersby to play them. Dogs wear sunglasses. Doughnuts come topped with bubble gum. What a wonderfully weird place for families to explore! Intrigued? Take a look at these 10 super fun things to do in Portland with kids!

Keeping it weird in Portland with kids

Keeping it weird in Portland with kids (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

1. Eat unique doughnuts.

Kick off your Portland explorations with some sweet fried doughnut goodness. The Voodoo Doughnut bakery’s weirdest creation is the Voodoo Doll Doughnut — a raised yeast doughnut filled with raspberry jelly, topped with chocolate frosting and a pretzel stake. Kids especially love the Voodoo Bubble Doughnut, which comes topped with vanilla frosting, bubble gum dust, and a piece of bubble gum. There are also doughnuts covered with bacon, sugar cereals and more.

Competitor Blue Star Doughnuts makes more refined selections. These gourmet goodies are made from a classic French brioche recipe. Choose from such flavors as Meyer Lemon & Key Lime Curd, Chocolate Almond Ganache, and the adult-only Cointreau Crème Brûlée (with pipette of actual orange liqueur).

Not sure whether you are more of Voodoo Doughnut or Blue Star Doughnuts family? Both Voodoo Doughnut and Blue Star Donuts run shops in the Pearl District, so if your tummies can handle it, try both to compare!

Voodoo Doughnuts

Voodoo Doughnuts (Photo credit: Voodoo Doughnuts)

2. Browse Powell’s Books.

Book lovers rejoice at Powell’s Books, the world’s largest independent bookstore. Sure you can buy books galore online via Amazon. But there’s something magical about wandering through the stacks here. There are five Powell’s locations throughout Portland. Travelers will want to visit the original location, though, Powell’s City of Books in the Pearl District. With over 1 million new and used books on display, you could spend hours here. I especially love the staff book reviews and recommendations posted throughout the store. Bring a big suitcase so the whole family can buy some books to bring home. (Support this small business by ordering a book from them today!)

Powell's City of Books

Powell’s City of Books (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

3. Play at Washington Park.

With 145 acres to explore, you’re sure to find activities to please the whole family at Washington Park. This green space was designed by the Olmstead brothers, the landscape architects who designed New York’s Central Park.

Washington Park Playground

Washington Park Playground (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

If you need a break from the cityscape, take a hike through the Hoyt Arboretum’s miles of nature trails. Kids will love the Washington Park Playground, which boasts Portland’s largest play structure. The Oregon Zoo, Portland Japanese Garden, and Portland Children’s Museum also call Washington Park home.

Washington Park Japanese Gardens

Washington Park Japanese Gardens (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

My favorite area of Washington Park was the International Rose Test Garden. Bursting with more than 400 varieties of roses, this beautiful and aromatic garden is a delight for the senses.

International Rose Test Garden

International Rose Test Garden (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Portland hosts over 250 free summer events in its parks, and my family was lucky to stumble upon a concert in the Washington Park Amphitheater. This outdoor space features tiers of grassy space on which to spread a blanket and take in the tunes. The vibe was welcoming and playful, with little kids bopping alongside aging hippies and tattooed millennials. Check the City of Portland’s Parks and Recreation website for a calendar of upcoming events before your visit.

Free summer concert at the Washington Park Amphitheater

Free concert at Washington Park (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

4. Shop the Portland Saturday Market.

I specifically planned my family’s Oregon vacation so that we would be in Portland on a Saturday morning so we could enjoy the city’s renowned open-air marketplace. Portland Saturday Market has been taking place for over 40 years in the Old Town/Chinatown neighborhood. It’s open from mid-March through Christmas Eve.

Tea cup bird feeders for sale at Portland Saturday Market

Tea cup bird feeders for sale at Portland Saturday Market (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Expect booths aplenty offering up fresh flowers and produce. You’ll also find a variety of handicrafts, like bird feeders made from antique tea cups. Street performers entertain the crowds with live music, magic shows and more. Of course, there are food trucks selling up tasty eats, too. In summer, children keep cool in splash fountains. If you like to people-watch, then this is THE place to be.

A man and his dog sport sunglasses at Portland Saturday Market

A man and his dog sport sunglasses at Portland Saturday Market (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

5. Get a history lesson at Pittock Mansion.

For a quick history lesson while visiting Portland with kids, spend an hour or two at Pittock Mansion. My kids were excited to see a “real, live mansion!” Built in the early 1900s on one of the highest hills in Portland, the views of the city are super from here. The mansion once belonged to Henry Lewis Pittock, a Portland pioneer who is known for revitalizing the area’s Oregonian newspaper. The mansion features 22 rooms, complete with period furniture. The kids may not have the patience for the posted brief historical explanations. They will, however, enjoy getting a glimpse back at the way people lived over a century ago.

Pittock Mansion in Portland, OR

Pittock Mansion (Photo credit: appalachianview, Depositphotos.com)

6. Hike Columbia River Gorge and Multnomah Falls.

No visit to Portland with kids would be complete without seeing the Columbia River Gorge and Multnomah Falls. The Columbia River Gorge includes a wide variety of natural landscapes including desert, a sea-level passage, alpine meadows, and the largest concentration of waterfalls in North America. If you don’t have a rental car, sign up for a guided bus tour to reach this stretch of nature’s beauty.

View of the Columbia River Gorge

View of the Columbia River Gorge (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

At 617-feet-tall, Multnomah Falls is the arguably the most impressive waterfall in Oregon. Hike to the top of the falls for a rainbow view. It’s a moderate 2.2-mile hike with plenty of switchbacks and views of the vast Columbia River Gorge. My 11-year-old whined a bit about her legs feeling a bit wobbly after our hike, but she was proud to have made the journey. Meanwhile, her 8-year-old brother and daddy made it about half-way before turning back.

Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls (Photo credit: welcomia, Depositphotos.com)

Be sure to grab a bottle of water for every hiker in the family from the gift shop at the base before setting off. Even in summer, you’ll want to bring along a sweater since temperatures at the top of the falls can be much lower than at the base. Hiking makes kids (and parents!) hungry so be sure to pack a picnic, or do as we did and eat lunch at the Multnomah Falls Lodge.

Rainbow at the top of Multnomah Falls

Rainbow prize at the top of Multnomah Falls (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

7. Sample foods at Portland food carts.

When in Portland with kids, you simply must eat at the many food carts dotting the city. It can be hard to make every member of the family happy with a restaurant choice, but visiting a grouping of food carts provides lots of choices to please all palates.

Portland food truck

Portland food truck (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

You can find food carts cooking up everything from barbecue, Cambodian cuisine, and tacos — to vegan dishes, crepes, and gluten-free baked goods at Mississippi Marketplace. This outdoor foodcourt of sorts is home to several food carts plus a piano inscribed with the words, “Please play me.” What a marvelous way to top off lunch!

Public piano at Mississippi Marketplace

Public piano at Mississippi Marketplace (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

8. Make your own pancakes at Slappy Cakes.

For a memorable and joyous meal, thrill the kids with breakfast at Slappy Cakes. At this innovative restaurant, diners play chef by squeezing pancake batter onto hot griddles right at the table. To make the most creative pancake designs, be sure to order two different colored batters. Choices include buttermilk, chocolate, peanut butter, vegan/gluten-free and seasonal (like pumpkin spice). Fixings like chocolate chips and banana slices add to the fun…for an additional charge. You can order other breakfast items, too, like Pork Belly Benedict or Avocado Toast. Plan to come on a weekday to avoid a long wait. (And even then, you may need to wait for a table!)

Make your own pancakes at Slappy Cakes in Portland with kids

Slappy Cakes (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

9. Enjoy rides and games at Oaks Amusement Park.

My kids begged to visit Oaks Amusement Park for its rides, rollerskating rink, and miniature golf course. Located just a few miles from downtown Portland, Oaks opened 1905, making it one of the oldest continually operating amusement parks in the U.S.

Oaks Amusement Park

Oaks Amusement Park (Photo credit: frostedcmos@yahoo.com, Depositphotos.com)

10. Explore the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

Everywhere we went, Portlanders asked us if we’d been toe the OMSI yet. Apparently, they’re very proud of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. One of the largest science museums in the country, kids love learning through play here.

OMSI in Portland with kids

OMSI (Photo credit: frostedcmos@yahoo.com, Depositphotos.com)

Where to Stay in Portland with Kids

Kimpton RiverPlace is an ideal place for families to stay in Portland. The suites, Willamette River views, and extra touches make this hotel special. The decor is modern and chic, with a color palate drawn from nature. Families will especially enjoy bedding down in a Bunkalow Suite, which features a king size bed for parents and a bunk beds for the kids. Each evening there’s a hosted wine reception, and every morning there’s complimentary coffee and tea in the lobby. Kimpton even loans out bicycles to guests to peddle along the river.

Kimpton RiverPlace Hotel

Kimpton RiverPlace Hotel (Photo: Kimpton)

You can dine at the onsite King Tide Fish & Grill for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Twenty-four-hour room service is available, too. For variety, a handful of restaurants and shops are within walking distance along the waterfront.

Learn more about this hotel on TripAdvisor and Hotels.com.

Bunkalow Suite at Kimpton RiverPlace

Bunkalow Suite at Kimpton RiverPlace (Photo credit: Kimpton)

Why Families Love Portland

From the minute I stepped off the plane in Portland, I was smitten. Like finding the right spouse or wedding dress, you just know when you’ve found your soulmate destination. And for me, that place is Portland. The people in Portland exude a mellow, happy vitality that I adore. I hope your family loves Portland as much as mine does!

If you’re considering a trip to Oregon, then you’ll want to read my tips for visiting Cannon Beach with kids and doing a farm stay at Leaping Lamb farm! The blend of beach, farm, and city during our Oregon adventures made for a wonderful family vacation.

Things to Do in Portland, Oregon with Kids

Save these Tips for Visiting Portland with Kids

Dreaming of a Portland family vacation? Be sure to keep this list of fun kid-friendly activities in Crescent City for future reference. Just pin the image above to Pinterest. Go ahead and follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

Do you have any questions or suggestions for visiting Portland with kids? Let us know in the comments below!

A Note from The Travel Mama: I paid a discounted media rate at the Kimpton RiverPlace and my family received complimentary entry to Pittock Mansion and the Japanese Gardens for the purpose of this story. I paid full-price for everything else mentioned in this story. All opinions are mine, as always.

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments
  1. Travel is my passion and love travelling. I have taken trips with family, friends and solo. I like your blog and all your post. Waiting to see more from you.

  2. Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle says

    I absolutely love this! I’ve always thought that weird is cool. If we ever manage to get to Portland (which we want to do) THESE are all the first places we’ll hit.

  3. Catherine Sargent says

    Portland looks like a nice place to visit. I have never been, but I would love to go. I will have to make a stop at Voodoo Doughnut.

  4. Love this post. I am going to pin it as we hope to go there someday with the kids. A great slogan… a few years ago on a vacation our kids googled “weird museums in ____ then put in the town. This has continued on several vacations and so much fun to see what they find for us to do.

  5. My family has never been to Portland, it looks like it would be a lot of fun for kids and us adults. And those donuts look so yummy!

  6. This is such as great list of things to do. I would love to try the doughnuts send the pancakes. They look awesome!

  7. Lisa Joy Thompson says

    I’ve traveled all over the US and to a bunch of other countries, but I’ve never been to Portland. If the donuts weren’t enough to convince me to head that way the Slappy cakes and the public pianos would definitely do the trick! Looks like I have another destination to add to our list of places to visit.

  8. Portland looks like an incredible place to visit. We may have to go one day.

  9. Haha! It seems like Portland would be awesome for a family getaway. There is so much we’d want to see!

  10. I have heard that Portland is a great place to visit. We actually have friends there, so I may have to head that way sometime. I would love to visit Powell’s Books.

  11. Toni | BoulderLocavore.com says

    I would love to go to Portland right now! 😀 These sounds like a fun place to visit! Thank you for sharing! Adding this to our bucket list!

  12. Traveling with my family is one of my favorite things to do. Going to weird places is a plus! I’d love to make a few of these stops in Portland. My girls would go gaga over the donuts and I’d have a grand time at the Saturday market!

  13. Our Family World says

    I’m sure Portland is one of the most gorgeous places I’ve never been. I’m glad that your kids had fun there.

  14. Amanda Love says

    I love being weird with my kids, it’s awesome and fun and you’re going to feel like a kid again. I think it’s great that you’re doing this with your kids. All these activities are exciting.

  15. Melissa @ The Staten Island family says

    Ever since I started watching portlandia we have become obsessed with visiting and this post confirms everything I imagine a trip to Portland would entail! Looks fabulously weird and amazing!

  16. Ann Bacciaglia says

    These all look like fun things to do in Portland. I would love to go to the Portland Saturday Market and search for treasures.

  17. I really wouldn’t mind going to Portland. I’d love to see that garden and of course, sample those donuts! Plus it’s an area we haven’t been to yet, so we’re overdue to visit.

  18. Ora Lee Gurr says

    I thought it would be nice to live in Clearwater Beach, FL after visiting there. It was fun to read about all the fun things to do in Portland, OR, especially the events designed for kids.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Ora – I have never been to Clearwater Beach, FL. Will need to consider that one for a future family vacation!

  19. Lisa Favre says

    Portland is definitely a place I would like to visit! Those donuts look phenomenal… something that my family would definitely enjoy!

  20. Janell Poulette says

    I had no idea about all of these amazing places! I would love to visit here sometime, especially to try those donuts.

  21. My husband was in Portland last month & was sending pictures of Powell’s to the kids. Three stories of books! They were so impressed.

  22. Louise Bishop says

    This looks like it would be a SUPER fun place to visit. Those donuts have me craving one!

  23. Kita Bryant says

    What a fun place! I’ve never been to Portland and need to add it to my list after this!

  24. Tracy @ Ascending Butterfly says

    I have never visited Portland Oregon before, but this post is making me want to visit! I would skip the hike for the weird donuts! LOL 🙂

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