Whether your children are just learning to crawl or have long since mastered their iPhones, Portland’s abundant kid-friendly activities keep the good times rolling. Here’s a rundown of play-perfect suggestions for kids of all ages.
Young ’uns (ages 0-5)
What toddler doesn’t love a train? All the more reason to climb aboard Portland’s user-friendly MAX light rail (which announces its departures with a retro bell clang) to catch a ride to the Washington Park station, where you’ll disembark in the Robertson Tunnel — at 260 feet below ground, the deepest transit station in North America. Up top, walk a few steps to the Portland Children’s Museum, where little ones can wonder at the illuminated Twilight Trail, tumble down a soft slide in the Baby’s Garden, and explore the “Zaney Maze,” an outdoor space packed with art installations, interactive exhibits and secret passages.
On hot days head for splash-worthy Jamison Square in the Pearl District. Like a geyser, the fountain’s waterfalls stop, drain and cascade again. To chill out even more, order some homemade scoops at nearby Cool Moon Ice Cream.
Big Kids (6-10)
If Bill Nye “the Science Guy” were to design the world’s most fun-packed laboratory, odds are he’d look to OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) for inspiration. Inside, brainpower boosts — and belly laughs — come courtesy of hundreds of interactive displays. Ride in a motion simulator, sit back for an IMAX film, then board a full-size submarine — the USS Blueback — docked outside in the Willamette River.
Budding biologists flock to the World Forestry Center and the adjacent Oregon Zoo, where 64 park-like acres boast natural enclosures that evoke everything from African savannahs to tropical rainforests. Kids can hop aboard the newly renovated and solar powered Zoo Train, a steam locomotive that dates back to the 1950s.
The Portland Art Museum offers family-focused tours every Sunday (psst: kids under 17 get in free). Cap the day at McMenamins Kennedy School, where class consists of watching movies on a big screen and snacking on slices of pizza. Plus, mom and dad can sip on a wide selection of local handcrafted ales.
So Not-a-Kid-Anymore (11 and up)
Got a trend-savvy tween or two? Portland Saturday Market is the go-to spot for creative crafts, handmade art and jewelry, and other one-of-a-kind finds. Book lovers could devote an entire week to exploring the block-size Powell’s City of Books, which augments its 1 million new and used books with offbeat local souvenirs and gifts.
Adventurous families can take to the air via Konect Aviation helicopter tours, or zoom up the Willamette River on a Willamette Jetboat tour. Families can also rent their own private electric boat with Portland Electric Boat Company (no experience necessary!). A visit to Kerr Bikes sends you on a beautiful cruise along riverfront bike paths with a four-seat “surrey” bike rental.
And old-fashioned thrills abound at Oaks Amusement Park, which boasts retro roller coasters, a Ferris wheel and even a roller-skating rink. Parents can foster some competitive spirit, too: Challenge the kiddos to a putting match at downtown’s Glowing Greens, where ultraviolet black lights amp up a 3-D, pirate-themed indoor miniature golf course, or round out the day with a battle of wits at Mississippi Pizza, which hosts a kid-friendly spelling bee the first Saturday of the month from September through May. Who said parents can’t spell fun?