OMSI is a place where both kids and adults can happily spend a whole day. Photo courtesy of the author
Best Portland Museums for Kids
6. OMSI, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
OMSI is very important to the people of Portland. The exhibits are stupendous and the hands-on experiences for kids can keep a family busy for an entire day. In addition to permanent and rotating exhibits, you have to check out the Kendall Planetarium, the USS Blueback Submarine tour, and the Empirical Theater.
7. Pittock Mansion
The Pittock Mansion is something special. I went on field trips there in elementary school and 30 years later, I take my kids there on a regular basis. The inside is dramatic, elegant, and beautiful. The outside grounds are nearly as beautiful as the inside. The view of Portland from outside the mansion is truly stunning. Plus, you know, learn local history!
8. Oregon Historical Society
The Oregon Historical Society has some very fun things for kids to explore. Kids can walk through a covered wagon! There are three floors to explore. The exhibits rotate, so there is always something new and exciting. Little ones won’t want to spend the whole day here, but older kids can spend more time reading and learning.
9. Portland Art Museum
The Portland Art Museum always has something exciting going on. Recently, my 10-year-old daughter and I spent an entire day there at the “Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera” exhibit. She loved perusing through the museum, and she really appreciated how beautiful the building itself is. It also has a great museum store.
10. Oregon Maritime Museum
The Oregon Maritime Museum has a space just for kids called The Children’s Corner, filled with nautical objects that kids can play with. They can blow a ship’s whistle and move and operate a model of a ship. The museum also has guides to explain to kids what it’s like to work on a ship. Volunteers give tours of the steamer including the engine room and the pilot house.
Take a break from walking the lush trails in Forest Park. Photo by Jaime Francis/Travel Portland
Best Portland Hikes and Parks for Families
11. Forest Park
Forest Park is massive, with 80 miles of beautiful walking trails and wildlife and plant life all around. First stop for kids is the Witch’s Castle. It’s an old stone building with a rich history. When coming to this park, it’s important to plan out your chosen trail, your destination, and the best parking lot for the journey, or you’ll just wander all day. Which is also lovely!
12. Mt. Tabor Park
Mt. Tabor Park has several interesting tidbits: 1) it is an extinct volcano, 2) the park holds a soapbox derby every summer, and 3) along with gorgeous trails, the park holds the record for the longest public staircase in the city. Although the climb can be daunting, the view at the top is breathtaking. Mt. Tabor also has a great playground and an amphitheater. After working up an appetite exploring here, stop by Tabor Bread on Belmont St. to refuel on bread and pastries made with Oregon-grown and house-milled grains.
13. Japanese Gardens
The Portland Japanese Garden has more than just gorgeous gardens. Leave time to enjoy the Japanese Arts Learning center, tea demonstrations, an authentic tea house, and more. There is also a gift shop and a café.
Inspect the rings of tree trunks that are hundreds of years old at the World Forestry Center. Photo courtesy of the center
14. Washington Park
Washington Park contains some amazing attractions such as an archery range, an arboretum, and an international rose test garden. This park is also home to the Oregon Zoo and the World Forestry Discovery Center. This is another huge Portland space, so the park offers a free shuttle service.
15. Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden
The Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden houses a variety of unusual trees, shrubs, a lake, and rare rhododendrons. Although it’s beautiful all year round thanks to countless volunteers, the best time to see it in all its glory is between May and September.
16. Gateway Discovery Park
Gateway Discovery Park is (also) huge and regularly offers fun community activities. Depending on the time of year, you can watch Movies in the Park, attend cultural festivals, and hear concerts. Our favorite parts of this park are the sand pit and the skateboard ramp area. There are two playgrounds and in the summertime, there’s a great splash pad.
Westmoreland Park Nature Playground encourages creative play. Photo courtesy of the City of Portland
17. Westmoreland Park Nature Playground
The Westmoreland Park Nature Playground is a nature-based play area with large logs, rocks, and water that can be hand-pumped by the kids. The space also boasts a fly-casting pond.
18. Pirate Park
Would your kids like to play on a pirate ship? Pirate Park features a big pirate ship along with a sand pit, climbing structures, and two swing sets.
19. Peninsula Park
Out of all the playgrounds in Portland, this one is my kids’ favorite. The playground features huge metal tunnels for kids to crawl through and makes a great space for hide and seek. Peninsula Park has two separate playground spaces, a splash pad, and a historic rose garden.
20. Dawson Park
Dawson Park is unique because it contains a playground that’s part of a mission called “Harper’s Playground.” These playgrounds ensure accessibility to all kids and are emotionally, socially, and physically inviting.
Playforest brings creativity and imagination to life (indoors!). Photo courtesy of the play space
Best Indoor Playgrounds in Portland
21. Playdate PDX
Playdate PDX is a great space for kids of all ages. There are three stories in this play structure! The lower area is designed for younger kids. The other spaces include two interactive dance floors and a ball cannon area. If it’s raining and your kids have energy to burn, this is a great indoor stop.
22. Monkey King Playhouse
Monkey King Playhouse is another favorite in our family. There’s a designated space for babies and toddlers that is separated from the bigger structure. The space for bigger kids is a blast, too, with punching bags, a rope climbing wall, and huge slides that are so much fun (even for adults!). Also, one of my favorite parts of coming here is the delicious Chinese food at the café.
24. Wiggle Room
The Wiggle Room is geared toward little ones, ages 0-7. The space is small at 16×20’ but it’s packed full of fun. It is padded and has a separate space for kiddos 0-2 years. While little ones play, parents can relax in the full-service drink area which features beer, wine, kombucha, and more.
25. Nest Playground
Nest offers an indoor playground, rock climbing walls, and even a game room. The space has a café with a nice menu, if you need a rain break and lunch in one.
Playforest was developed by two early childhood educators who promote experiential learning. There is an indoor play area, sensory play, and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) materials. This playground is also geared toward little ones up to age 4.
Best Movies and Live Theater for Kids in Portland
27. Movie Madness
Movie Madness is known for having one of the “largest in-depth movie collections in the world.” Even if you’re not up for renting a movie, you’ve got to stop by and check out the famous props from movies and the movie theater. Even better, the movies shown at the theater are free! It’s a very Portland place you just can’t miss.
28. Academy Theater
My kids affectionately refer to the Academy Theater as “the cheap movie theater”. The tickets are very inexpensive ($6 matinees!). It’s been around since 1948 but was refurbished in 2006. The theater offers all the typical movie goodies like popcorn and candy, but also has pizza, sushi, and even beer for adults. It’s another great Portland way to while away a rainy afternoon.
29. Keller Auditorium
The Keller Auditorium is a stunning building in and of itself. The performances throughout the year vary, with ballets, musicals, Broadway performances, and family events. It’s worth checking out to see what’s playing whenever you’re in town.
30. Newmark Theater
The Newmark Theater is described as an intimate venue because no seat is further than 95 feet from the stage. The theater is a favorite among local families, as there are often really great shows for kids here.
31. Studio One Theaters
This is not your typical movie theater. Studio One offers different “penthouse” theaters with comfortable furniture where families can watch a movie together. The menu is pretty impressive, too, offering brunch, lunch, dinner, and a wine list.
Every local kid waits for the season-opening of Oaks Amusement Park. Photo by Meghan Rose
Best Portland Amusement Parks and Arcades for Kids
32. Oaks Amusement Park
Open from March until winter weather sets in, Oaks Amusement Park is a great place to ride the rides, play at the arcade, roller skate, play mini golf with striking views over the river, and generally have a fantastic, old-fashioned time. Don’t forget to leave time after a day of stimulation at the park for a stroll through the nearby Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge, which is Portland’s first urban wildlife refuge and boasts a huge variety of birds.
33. Avalon Wunderland
Much more than just an arcade, the Avalon also offers: game rooms, a movie theater, laser tag, and even escape rooms! The movie admission has a low price of around $5 per ticket. This building has stood the test of time in Portland and has a rich history. Wunderland has several locations throughout Oregon, but this location is the original, and the best!
34. Quarter World
Quarter World welcomes all ages to play on Saturdays and Sundays from 1-7pm. There are 55 arcade games and 40 pinball games that are alternated often. This place is rare because the machines actually take quarters! It does get loud here, and little or sensitive kids can get overwhelmed.
Make pancakes right at your table at Slappycakes. Photo by Bill Marentette
Best Restaurants in Portland for Kids and Families
Hopworks has delicious food and a fun designated play area for kiddos, filled with toys and a chalkboard. It’s also an award-winning brewery with fantastic local beers. The restaurant is huge, with both an indoor and outdoor dining area. The restaurant also offers axe-throwing for adults!
36. Slappy Cakes
Slappycakes has griddles in the middle of the dining tables and encourages kiddos to make their own pancakes. Delicious additions to the pancakes like chocolate chips, hazelnut spread, whipped cream, and strawberries are available. There is also a full menu of premade pancakes and other typical breakfasts. In fact, my husband swears that Slappycakes makes the best chicken fried steaks ever.
37. Laurelwood Pub
Laurelwood is the first truly kid-friendly pub I experienced, and I love it. As the chefs in the back of the restaurant assembled our delicious burgers, my 2-year-old whipped up her own recipes of plastic food in the play kitchen. Dine, and imbibe, in peace while kids play for hours.
38. PDX Sliders
PDX Sliders is geared toward families, featuring large tables and small sliders! There is also a great kids’ menu that offers grilled cheese, chicken tenders, and a plain cheeseburger. The PDX Sliders menu items give a thoughtful nod to Portland by naming its sliders after Portland street names.
39. Mississippi Pizza
Mississippi Pizza provides a family-friendly environment by hosting local all-ages events like music and trivia nights. The restaurant books local child entertainers who do music, puppets, or magic. Some of their regular entertainers are the Red Yarn kids show and Tallulah’s Daddy. No wonder Portland is now touted as having the best pizza in America!
40. McMenamins Kennedy School
Here’s a school you’ll never want to leave. It’s the best of the McMenamins pubs for families, and that’s saying a lot since they’re all pretty kid-friendly. This historic school was turned into a hotel and pub with a movie theater, a soaking pool (that everyone can use for a small fee; or free for neighbors), and a fabulous restaurant and brewery. The Cypress Room is my favorite with kids, just remember that the restaurant is for adults only after 10pm.
Ya Hala (“we welcome you”) serves mouthwatering Lebanese food. Photo courtesy of the restaurant
41. Ya Hala
Both the Managing Editor and Photo Editor at Mommy Poppins have family in Portland, and both insisted this restaurant is their first dinner in town, every single visit. Ya Hala just might have the best Lebanese food on the West Coast, and even if you’re not familiar with the cuisine, your kids will stuff themselves silly on the fresh, hot, puffed pita bread and ethereally silky hummus. The value is fantastic, and you must save room for baklava and Turkish coffee.
42. Bob’s Red Mill Restaurant and Bakery
Bob’s Red Mill is just south of town in Milwaukie, and it’s worth the drive. Come out for breakfast, where you can taste a wide array of pastries, bread, and other goodies made with Bob’s famous flours. Shop while waiting for your food, and then take your meal outside when it’s sunny, or upstairs where you can really spread out.
Make a trip to Old Town for fun and unique doughnuts from Voodoo Doughnuts. Photo courtesy of the shop
Favorite Sweet Treats for Kids in Portland
43. Rimsky Korsakoffeehouse
Rimsky is based in a beautiful Victorian house, this quirky coffee shop features delicious desserts and drinks for all ages. The vibe is twinkling lights, crowded tables and couches, and usually someone playing a vintage-looking piano. On our first visit, my daughter screamed (loud) when she walked into the bathroom. I came running, and she wouldn’t tell me why, giggling, and pointing. I opened the door to find a full-size mannequin smiling at us while sitting in a full-size canoe! The art and props throughout this place are eerie and awesome—you’re not imagining things, some of the tables go up and down! Oh, and the desserts are delicious, too.
44. Voodoo Donut
Voodoo Donut is an iconic spot, ever since Anthony Bourdain made the maple bacon donut famous. The original location is in Old Town in Downtown Portland, but there are several other locations, including one at the airport. The variety of flavors is impressive and the following and lines are massive. Try the maple bacon, the Voodoo doll, and the Old Dirty Bastard. Kids also love the Grape Ape and the Voodoo Bubble.
45. Creo Chocolate
In the heart of the Lloyd District lies an unassuming little chocolate shop that will quickly become your family’s favorite. While you’ll love the award-winning treats, which are doled out in generous samples as soon as you enter the shop, that’s not even the main draw. Book a tour at Creo, and you’ll not only learn everything about where chocolate comes from and how it’s made, but you’ll even get to make your own custom chocolate bar to take home. (Chocolate bar making tours are for kids 8 and up.)
46. Salt & Straw
Salt & Straw is more than just an ice cream shop, it’s an obsession, and it all started in Portland. The brand is known for its unique flavors and its local, handmade recipes. Popular flavors include Honey Lavender, Pear and Blue Cheese, and Sea Salt with Caramel Ribbons. The flavors change out monthly and some months feature crazy flavors that somehow work, like November’s Salted Caramel Thanksgiving Turkey!
Cloud City shares a little sweetness with all who visit with its unique ice cream flavors. Photo courtesy of the shop
47. Cloud City
Cloud City, like Salt and Straw, also has unique flavors. Local favorites include Sasquatch Tracks, Earl Grey Blueberry, Gold Digger, and Circus Friends. The shop itself is adorable with indoor and outdoor seating and twinkling lights lining the walls. Located on Woodstock, leave time for some thrifting at Red Fox Vintage across the street.
Best Places to Go Shopping with Kids in Portland
48. Hawthorne District
The Hawthorne district has exploded in popularity in the last several decades. It started with funky little shops and cafes and has now expanded into high-end stores and restaurants. All while keeping its charm and authenticity. The smaller location of Powell’s Books is actually easier to browse than the downtown location. The Hawthorne food scene is known for its thoughtfulness regarding vegan, gluten-free, and vegetarian options. Kids can spend forever at stores like Kids at Heart Toys and Presents of Mind. Teenagers love the funky clothing stores: Buffalo Exchange, Sloan, and Naked City. When it’s time to grab a bite, Apizza Scholls is usually a favorite (and it also has arcade games!).
49. Nob Hill/NW 23rd
Whether you call it Nob Hill, NW 23rd, or the Alphabet District, the story remains the same: this neighborhood is solid in both cuteness and shopping. There are plenty of shops geared toward children, including MudPuddles Toys and Books, The Yo! Store, and Premo’s Toys. When you need a coffee break, Anna Banana’s is the quirkiest, oldest coffee shop in NW Portland.
Pioneer Courthouse Square is a central gathering spot in the heart of downtown Portland. Photo courtesy of Pioneer Courthouse Square
50. Pioneer Place
Spanning four city blocks in the heart of the city, Pioneer Place has just about anything and everything you could need, including my kids’ favorite toy store, Go! Calendars and Games. Our favorite treat place at this mall is Bridge City Café. It’s a local bakery that has the best cookies ever! Stop by, if you need anything, on your way from Powells to Saturday Market. It’s also a very pretty place to pass the time and stay dry if you happen to be downtown in a rainstorm.
This list only skims the top of the fun things for kids to do in Portland. Just bring your sense of adventure, your appetite, and an umbrella and that’s all one needs to embrace Portland!