Family fun for all ages

In Portland, it's easy to entertain toddlers, teens and everyone in between.

ZooTrain_Stuart MullenbergThe Zoo Train at the Oregon Zoo is the most fun way to travel between exhibits with kids.
Stuart Mullenberg

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?

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