Families planning a trip to the PNW will love this list of the best things to do in Portland with kids! From outdoor green spaces to nearby hiking trails, outdoorsy families will find plenty to keep entertained in this dynamic city. But beyond the stunning scenery, there’s plenty more for families to do, especially if you’re a foodie! Visit food truck pods across the city, browse local markets, and don’t forget about dessert! Of course, Portland isn’t just about nature, since there are plenty of things to do indoors too. Between museums, book stores, and more, all ages will find something they love here. If you have extra time, you can even drive slightly outside the city to famous attractions like Multnomah Falls. Looking for tips on visiting all these great places with kids? Our list of the Best Things To Do In Portland With Kids has you covered!
Best Outdoor Things to Do in Portland with Kids
Looking for the best outdoor things to do in Portland with kids? From parks to other fun attractions, the city is filled with stunning nature and outdoor green spaces. Keep reading to learn more!
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Wander Around Washington Park
Visiting Washington Park is definitely one of the best things to do in Portland with kids. In fact, it houses quite a few of the best kid-friendly activities in Portland, including the Portland Japanese Gardens and the International Rose Test Garden. Thanks to a free park shuttle, you’ll be able to get around from place to place without much stress, either!
Portland Japanese Gardens
Enjoy a zen afternoon at the Portland Japanese Gardens. Designed with Eastern traditions in mind, this tranquil space features lots of green acres, a teahouse, and gorgeous views of the city and surrounding mountains. It’s perfect for spending an afternoon with kids, since there’s plenty of space to roam and burn some energy. Paved paths will take you through lush gardens decorated with stones, colorful plants, and beautiful, cascading streams. Though some mild walking uphill is involved, it won’t be too strenuous for young kids. One of the best photo spots here is the gorgeous waterfall, surrounded by tiny ponds filled with koi fish. Benches are situated throughout the gardens, so you’ll find places to appreciate the ambiance or just rest if you get tired. Performances are scheduled throughout the day on the main plaza, so be sure to catch some traditional Japanese music on your way in or out!
Animal enthusiasts will jump for joy at the Oregon Zoo! After a series of updates over the years, this new and improved zoo is even better than before. It’s especially ideal for younger kids since it’s pretty modest and doesn’t require much walking. Still, you’ll find so many habitats to keep your little ones happy, from elephants to polar bears! Spot giraffes in the Africa savanna, monkeys in the Africa Rainforest, and flamingos in the Africa Aviary. Watch tigers and red pandas roam on the Discovery Plaza, or head to Cougar Crossing to spot some cats in action. Cross the suspension bridge into Black Bear Ridge and keep your eyes peeled! Little kids will especially love the chance to pet goats at the Family Farm! Occasional animal activities, such as bird shows or even lion feedings, are also available. Be sure to check the schedule for when you visit!
International Rose Test Garden
Families looking for the best free things to do in Portland with kids will love the International Rose Test Garden. Located adjacent to the Portland Japanese Gardens, this beautiful attraction is definitely worth the visit. Here, you’ll find over 10,000 colorful roses arranged pristinely into separate sections, each more gorgeous than the last! Walk around with your kids to appreciate the view and let them wander down the paths to their favorite flowers. Not only is this an amazing spot for family photos, but it’s truly a sight to behold. Depending on which season you visit, you’ll be able to walk through a variety of in-season roses – and they all smell so good! Benches throughout the garden make it easy to take a break or even enjoy a quick bite to eat. There’s a kiosk outside selling simple snacks in case you’re hungry!
Explore the City’s Countless Other Parks
Portland is renowned for its green spaces, so why not spend a quiet afternoon at a park during your visit? Of course, there’s the famous and sprawling Washington Park, which, as we mentioned, boasts attractions like the Oregon Zoo. But there are also some other fantastic parks in Portland, like Council Crest Park in Southwest Portland. Showcasing incredible 180-degree views of the city, it’s a popular spot among locals for picnics, playing frisbee, or hiking. If you’re sightseeing in downtown Portland, take a break by walking along the Willamette River in Tom McCall Waterfront Park. In Southeast Portland, kids will love spotting ducks at Laurelhurst Park. Grab some snacks from nearby H Mart and spend an hour in serene nature! Families who want an incredible view of Portland at sunset should also visit Mount Tabor Park in southeast Portland. Enjoy sweeping views, plus there’s even a playground for kids!
Enjoy a Thrill at Oaks Amusement Park
Adventurous kids will love a trip to Oaks Amusement Park. Located a few miles south of downtown Portland, this modestly sized park is one of the oldest in the country. It’s also one of the best things to do in Portland with kids! Little ones will especially love all the different attractions. Young kids can check out rides like the Frog Hopper, Oaks Park Train, or the Toon Cars. Meanwhile, older kids who want a thrill can’t miss Adrenaline Peak, which features a 72” vertical drop! Meanwhile, you can also challenge one another to various midway games, from ring toss to balloon bust, roller bowler, and the shooting gallery! Families who love mini-golf are also in luck, since you can play a few rounds at Oaks Amusement Park. Plus, little ones who love to skate can visit the Roller Rink. They have rentals, lessons, and even host themed nights!
Best Indoor Things to Do in Portland with Kids
Portland isn’t all about nature! Visit a museum, browse a bookshop, and more. If you’re looking for the best indoor things to do in Portland with kids, stay tuned for our suggestions!
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Get Lost in Literature at Powell’s Books
Book worms of all ages won’t want to miss the famous Powell’s Books! As the “largest independent bookstore in the world,” this downtown destination can keep the whole family entertained. With nine rooms spread across three floors and thousands of titles, it’s also easy to get lost here. Grab a map from one of the help desks to make it easier! You’ll be able to immediately find the sections that interest your children, whether it’s YA fiction or comic books. Most of the children’s and young adult books are in the Rose Room on the first floor, ranging from kid-friendly graphic novels to parenting books for adults. The Gold Room, also on the ground floor, has manga, true crime thrillers, and lots more too! Level 2 houses the Red/Purple Rooms and the bathrooms. Meanwhile, Level 3 features the Pearl Room. It has an epic collection of rare books!
See Something New at a Museum
If you’re looking for the best indoor things to do in Portland with kids, visit a museum! Between science, art, and more, the city has lots of options for all ages. Here are our favorites!
Portland Art Museum
Teens and older kids will love the Portland Art Museum. Conveniently located in downtown Portland, it has a sizable permanent collection, in addition to some kid-friendly rotating exhibits. Browse through ancient Native American artifacts, famous American art, and some European counterparts. There are four floors in total, including an entire one dedicated to modern and contemporary art. Kids will especially love all the flashing lights thanks to artists such as Dan Flavin, who has one of his famous illuminated sculptures on display. Depending on when you visit, you can even see unique rotating exhibitions, like the upcoming show on Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. It’s a must for any art lover, and one of the best things to do in Portland with kids. Not only will it be a nice break from all the nature-oriented activities in the city, but it’ll definitely make a worthy Instagram photo!
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OSMI)
Science and tech enthusiasts will be in paradise at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. Located just across the bridge from downtown in Southeast Portland, this family-friendly museum features a variety of hands-on exhibits to keep kids entertained for hours. Perfect for little kids under the age of 6, the Science Playground and Discovery Lab let kids build from playdough and use their imagination. Little ones between four and eight can make music at the Curium. There’s also a Chemistry Lab for budding scientists, plus an Earth Lab to learn more about the planets. Or, maybe your little one wants a close look at insects in the Life Lab? Families can even walk aboard a real submarine on the USS Blueback! The Empirical Theater plays a variety of educational films throughout the day, from sci-fi screenings to documentaries. Activities vary by age, so it’ll be easy to find something!
A historic house turned museum, families can travel back in time to a simpler Portland at the Pittock Mansion. Dating back to the early 20th-century, it’s located in the West Hills, a short drive from downtown. Guided tours aren’t currently available, but you’ll be able to see the property with a self-guided tour. First, you can walk through the French Renaissance-style mansion. You’ll be able to see how people lived in the past through vintage furniture, antiques, and other historic items! Though this may not be of interest to younger kids, history buffs will surely appreciate it. Then, you can head outside to explore the beautiful grounds. Depending on which season you visit, they’ll be beautifully manicured, dotted with lots of nice flowers. Behind the mansion, there’s also a forest area ideal for adventurous hikers. Get some of the best views in the city from this hilltop perch!
Best Things to Do in Portland for Foodie Families
Portland is a foodie utopia! Whether you want to check out the local food truck scene or have a sweet tooth, be sure to check out these best things to do in Portland with kids!
Savor a Sweet Treat
Kids who have a sweet tooth will love all the delicious desserts in Portland! Donut lovers should run to Voodoo Doughnuts, an Instagram-worthy spot known for selling some of the best sweets in the city! Little ones will love the unique flavors such as bubblegum, bacon maple bar, or mango tango. For a less touristy experience, you can also visit Blue Star Donuts, which also features unique flavors such as Mexican hot chocolate or passion fruit cake. Coco Donuts specializes in homemade donuts, from apple fritter to mochi oreo. Not in the mood for donuts? Head to Salt and Straw instead to try some legendary ice cream! Or, enjoy the best of both worlds at Angel’s Ice Cream and Doughnuts, an old-school, counter-serve shop with homemade options. Kids will love watching the ice cream made right in front of them at Mix n Match Creamery!
Browse the Portland Farmers Market
In the mood to shop for fresh fruit, produce, and other local goodies? Head to the Portland Farmers Market! Depending on which season or day you plan on visiting, you’ll find locations set up around town. One of the most popular is the Farmers Market at Portland State University, which is open year-round on Saturdays from 8:30 am to 2 pm. Get the best deals from over 100 vendors! Shemanski Park also boasts a great farmers market every Wednesday from May to November. It’s also conveniently located in downtown Portland, just like PSU, so it’ll be easy to fit into your trip. Families browsing the trendy Alberta District can also stop at the King Farmers Market every Sunday from 10 am to 2 pm from May to November. With so many options, no wonder this is one of the best things to do in Portland with kids!
Visit a Kid-Friendly Brewery
Visiting a brewery may not seem like the most kid-friendly activity, but Portland has plenty for families! Kids will love the salvaged bike parts at Hopworks Urban Brewery in Southeast Portland, featuring sections for them to play. Parents can enjoy the beer flights while they snack on pizza or pretzels with a yummy cheese sauce! Ground Breaker Brewing and Gastro Pub also lets families try sandwiches, pizza, and desserts, plus great beer. Or, head to Zoiglhaus Brewing Company for German-style beer in a bustling ambiance. In Northwest Portland, parents can try samplers from Deschutes Brewery, which makes their beers on-site. Car lovers will appreciate how it’s located in a converted auto-body shop, and the food is good too. (Think rib-eye and kid-friendly options such as grilled cheese.) In Hood River just outside of Portland, visit Double Mountain Brewery & Taproom. This casual brewpub features tasty drinks, brick-oven pizza, and live music!
Grab Some Grub at a Food Truck
Food trucks are a dime a dozen in Portland, which means it won’t be hard to discover one you love during your trip! Unlike some major cities, most of the food trucks around the city are arranged into compact pods, so you’ll find plenty of options all in the same place. This is especially perfect for families who are craving different things – everyone can get what they want! In Southeast Portland near SE 10th Avenue, a popular option is the Hawthorne Asylum, which boasts communal tables and cuisine ranging between Thai, Mexican, and more! Try the delicious sushi burritos at Rollin’ Fresh if think you can handle it! A few blocks away, there’s Cartopia, another “food truck pod.” Kids will love the wood-fired pies from Pyro Pizza, among other spots. Further out near SE 82nd Avenue, you’ll find Cartlandia. Enjoy anything from burgers to Indian, Italian, or Mexican cuisine!
Best Things To Do Outside Of Portland With Kids
Sometimes, the best things to do in Portland with kids are located just outside of the city. If you want to take an adventure into nature, check out our suggestions!
Go Hiking at Mount Hood
Families searching for the best hikes near Portland for kids should visit Mount Hood National Forest. Located 90 minutes outside of Portland, it’s a great day trip for anyone who wants to escape the city. Here, you’ll find hikes for all ages, whether you’re looking for easy or advanced treks. For an easy walk, try the 1.9-mile Trillium Lake Loop Trail, providing pretty views of a nearby lake. For a flat trail along the Salmon River, try the 2.7-mile Salmon River Trail through the lush forest. Families seeking a more moderate trail will love the 3.4-mile Tamanawas Falls Trail, which features a beautiful waterfall. The Mirror Lake Loop Trail, around 4.2-miles, is a little longer and also has amazing views. If you don’t want to get out of the car, you can even see the highlights on the Mount Hood Scenic Loop around the forest.
Appreciate the Views at Multnomah Falls
Multnomah Falls is a must when visiting Portland with kids! A short drive outside of the city, it’s the most popular (and biggest!) waterfall in Oregon’s Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area. Depending on your children’s ages, most people are fine with walking up a short, uphill path to the first viewpoint. Otherwise known as the Lower Viewing Deck, it’s perfect for snapping a family photo. However, to get even closer, families can trek to the Middle Viewpoint, aka the Pedestrian Bridge. This is a great option if you want an up-close view of the falls – you may even feel some water splash on you! Teens or advanced hikers who are feeling adventurous can take a longer, more moderate hike to the Upper Falls Viewpoint for a birds-eye view. Other facilities, such as a gift/snack shop, restrooms, and even lodging, are also available next to the parking lot.
Pro Tip: The Multnomah Falls parking lot usually fills up fast, so we suggest arriving early if you want to beat the crowds. Though this may be the biggest and most famous waterfall in the area, you’ll find fewer tourists at smaller waterfalls. Try nearby Horseshoe Falls! Either way, this is one of the best things to do near Portland for families!
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Take a Day Trip to the Oregon Coast
Ecola State Park
If you have some extra time on your Portland family vacation, take a day trip to the Oregon Coast. It’s home to busy harbors, beautiful beaches, and lots of state and National Parks. US Route 101, the Oregon Coastal Highway along the Pacific Ocean, is the main way to access these destinations. Families visiting during the summer should see Cannon Beach in northern Oregon, a sleepy seaside town with miles of pristine shoreline. Here, you’ll find Haystack Rock, featuring vibrant tidepools, diverse wildlife, and the chance to spot puffins! Families can also visit nearby Ecola State Park and its two main attractions, Ecola Beach and Indian Beach. Enjoy panoramic views of the coastline, numerous hiking trails, and chances to see elk grazing or eagles flying up ahead! Oregon’s Southern Coast also has lots to do. Try summer kayaking or winter fishing on the Chetco River!
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Where to Stay in Portland with Kids
Need somewhere to stay in Portland with kids? Enjoy great views of the river and the city from the Kimpton Riverplace Hotel, featuring perks like waterfront dining and complimentary loaner bikes. Sentinel has all the amenities of an upscale hotel, from a fitness center to a cocktail bar and on-site Starbucks. The Nines, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Portland, is another fantastic option. Families looking to stay at a trendy hotel in Chinatown should book a stay at The Hoxton.
We hope you liked this list of the Best Things To Do In Portland With Kids! Whether you’re visiting for a short time or taking an extended vacation, we know you’ll love visiting this famous Oregon destination. Enjoy Portland with your kids!
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*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the attractions, accommodations, or things to do on this list may be closed. Please ensure availability before making your decision.
*This post may contain affiliate links that may earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links in no way inform the hotels, sights, products, or other recommendations included in our articles. All opinions and recommendations expressed here are compiled from submissions submitted by the generous members of our Families Who Love To Travel community.
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