When traveling with kids, the sight of someone in uniform — be it a police officer, firefighter or boat captain — can be more exciting than anything you planned. Why leave such a highlight to chance? At these Portland attractions, your little ones can walk in the shoes of their heroes for a day.
For kids who love firefighters
Historic Belmont Firehouse
Your children’s wish for a fire pole at home may never come true, but they can slide down the real deal at the Historic Belmont Firehouse. Check out the century-old station’s steam-powered fire wagon, then listen to actual 911 calls on an antique rotary phone. Before you leave, don’t forget to sit in the cab of the real fire truck. Open every Wednesday and the second Saturday of the month; tours can be scheduled on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
For kids who love astronauts & pilots
Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum
One hour southwest of downtown Portland, McMinnville’s Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum is home to the Spruce Goose — the largest flying boat ever built. The museum’s fleet of aircraft also includes space rover replicas and an arctic rescue helicopter nicknamed the “flying banana.” Your own tiny aviator can climb into the cockpits of Howard Hughes’ legendary plane, a B-17 and a helicopter. Experience what it would be like to see a rocket launch in the museum’s simulator (complete with shaking walls). Keep an eye out for the museum’s emerald-vested volunteers, who can answer curious flight aficionados’ questions. Check out their badges for clues to their interests and military ranks.
For kids who love police officers
Portland Police Museum
Typically, a jail cell is the last place you’d want to find your kids. In this case, however, there’s nothing to fear. Curious children can visit a real (but now defunct) jail in the Portland Police Museum downtown. Housed in Portland Police Bureau headquarters, the free museum includes uniforms from different eras, bad guys’ fingerprints and a vintage motorcycle, complete with sidecar. Scope out vintage badges on display, then surprise your kids with one of their own. (Replicas are for sale in the gift shop — just prepare for endless games of cops and robbers when you get home!)
For kids who love sailors
Aspiring seamen — and women! — ages 3 and older can explore this decommissioned Navy submarine docked behind OMSI. (Tickets for submarine tours are available inside OMSI and on their website.) During the 45-minute tour, offered multiple times daily, kids can experience what it was like to serve on the Blueback. That includes kicking back on a tiny bunk, spying the Willamette River through a periscope, pushing buttons in the control room and even touching a torpedo. Although naval crews lived on the vessel for months at a time, your tour lasts just 45 minutes (phew). Kids 12 and over who want to go even deeper can attend a three-hour “tech tour” led by a submarine veteran on the second and fourth Sundays of the month.