Portland was my first trip to the Pacific Northwest and I loved it. Portland is a really interesting city – it’s set close to a lot of national parks, such as the Columbia River Gorge and Mount Hood National Forest. The city itself is sort of sprawled out and it’s cut in half by the river. I thought it was a great city to visit with kids.
We spent five days in Portland, and two nights on the coast near Astoria where we visited Cannon Beach to see the famous Haystack Rock (stay tuned for a post about our trip Astoria + Cannon Beach).
Where to Stay in Portland: Mt Tabor Neighborhood
There are lots of great neighborhoods in Portland. We decided to stay in the Mount Tabor neighborhood, which was a great location to access some really great eats in the Southeastern quadrant of the city (stay tuned for my post about vegan eats in Portland).
With kids, we decided to rent a car. Although I’d heard good things about their public transportation system, the city is spread out enough that it made sense to rent a car.
Portland with Kids: Mt Tabor Hike and Park
There are trails in Mount Tabor Park. We stayed nearby, so we walked from the south side to the north side of the park through the trails to the playground. It was a nice perk to the area we were staying, which was a great way to let the kids get some energy out before dinner.
Saturday Market: Enjoy Street Food and Shopping on the River
This was one of the highlights of the trip. There are vendors selling art, crafts, and other homemade goods. There’s also foot stands with lots of good eats.
As a bonus, Saturday Market is within walking distance from the famous Voodoo Doughnuts, so it makes for a great double visit if you’re short on time.
Portland Children’s Museum
I’ve visited several different children’s museums across the country, and I’ve noticed that each one is similar, but has its own unique exhibits. The differences may be subtle to adults, but to kids it’s huge. Whenever we work a children’s museum into our travels, it’s usually the highlight of the trip for him. This was no different.
Some things my son liked about it:
- The Giant Alligator whose teeth you could brush with giant tooth brushes
- The Veterinary play area, where he could pretend to take care of animals
- The construction room, which had little plastic chips the kids could dig with tools
- The giant climbing tree in the back outdoor exploration area.
Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
We had two whiny kids in tow for this day trip, so we stuck to two simple spots in the Columbia River Gorge:
- Multnomah Falls – This is a nice low key hike that gives you a beautiful waterfall view without a lot of hiking. Which is a huge perk for hiking with two kids. En route to the visitor center, we were able to see a salmon nursery area with baby salmon. You can walk to the lower and upper falls. There’s a visitor center with some interesting exhibits. From there, you can walk to see the lower and upper viewing areas of the falls.
- Vista House at Crown Point: Vista House is in the Crown Point State Scenic Corridor. You can actually go into Vista House and explore or just park and admire the view from the overlook.
This is a pretty big zoo with lots of pretty cool exhibits. Some of the highlights for us include:
- the sea otters were super playful and cute. Definitely make time to see them during your visit!
- There’s a pretty cool discovery center with a nature play area and a wildlife garden.
- The Predators of the Serengeti exhibit was really extensive – we lucked out and the kids got a great view of the cheetah!
Portland Japanese Garden
This was another great place to see in Portland. It’s not as kid-focused as the other activities on this list, but if you enjoy gardens and/or Japanese culture, it’s definitely worth it to add this to your itinerary. It’s located in the same area as the Zoo and the Portland Children’s Museum, so you could combine this with one of those.
The Japanese garden has several types of traditional Japanese gardens, including a Sand & Stone Garden, a Strolling Pond Garden and a Natural Garden.
You can get an idea of the different types of gardens featured here as well as the other garden details on the Portland Japanese Garden website.
If your kid loves books as much as my son does, you can easily make this an afternoon event. The book store is massive and has a huge children’s section filled with new and used books. My son liked this so much, he chose this when I let him pick our last day activity.
The bookstore is located Downtown, where there are lots of restaurants and other shops. We were able to find metered street parking both times we visited.
Slappy Cakes: Make Your Own Pancakes
Technically, this is a restaurant, but it’s a great experience too. Slappy Cakes is a make-your-own pancake restaurant. Each table has a pancake griddle in the middle. They send out your batter of choice (bonus: there’s a vegan option!) in a squeeze bottle, so it’s easy for kids to make their own. You can get your toppings and dips of choice.
BONUS: My favorite book to get kids excited about the trip!
I love buying books about that places we’re going to get my son excited about the trip and help him learn more about we’re going before we get there. I loved the Larry books to learn about Portland: