There are loads of reasons to visit Portland. From the laid-back vibe to its vibrant arts, live music, and ‘foodie’ style scenes, Portland is a fantastic option for a fun family getaway.
Whether you are interested in biking on Portland’s 350 miles of bike lanes, hiking over 70 miles of trails, exploring a dormant volcano, or even checking out the world’s smallest park, there is certainly no shortage of amazing activities.
With a seemingly endless list of fun amenities, Washington Park often makes the first stop for families visiting Portland. Located just west of downtown in the Arlington Heights district, the 410- acre park features beautiful hiking trails, a soccer field, tennis courts, the iconic Oregon Zoo (which we will mention later on), and one of the top playgrounds in the city.
The Hoyt Arboretum, located inside the park is considered Portland’s “Museum of Living Trees”. With over 2300 species of trees and over 12 miles of hiking trails, it is truly a beautiful natural experience. Speaking of beautiful nature, Washington Park also hosts a world class Japanese Garden that the former ambassador to Japan once proclaimed “the most beautiful and authentic Japanese garden in the world outside of Japan.”
Just want to relax and take it easy? The park also includes a picnic shelter, an amphitheater, and plenty of natural space to lounge.
Pro tip: Visit the Umami Cafe located in the Japanese Garden for some authentic Japanese tea and gorgeous scenery.
While we are still in the legendary Washington Park, we figured that we would pay tribute to one of its most popular attractions. Afterall, everybody loves the zoo!
Founded in 1888, the Oregon Zoo is the oldest zoo in the western part of the country. Situated at the southern edge of Washington Park, the 64-acre facility hosts over 2,500 animals, and 215 species or subspecies of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates. Exhibits like the African Savannah, Elephant Lands, Condors of the Columbia and Polar Bears allow visitors to learn about different parts of the world through animals. The zoo has also cultivated thousands of exotic plants to create naturalistic exhibits, pathways and vistas within the zoo.
The facility also offers a special summer concert series, a winter holiday light show with 1.5 million lights, and other holiday and seasonal events. Kids can also enjoy the beautifully handcrafted carousel, or board the Washington Park and Zoo Railway for a fun tour around the park.
Pro tip: While at the zoo, you can order drinks and food online for express pick-up at AfriCafe from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI)
Located on the banks of the Willamette River on Portland’s central east side, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry attracts kids (and kids at heart) with fun and educational exhibits. Learn all you need to know about Egyptian Pharaohs at ‘The Discovery of King Tut’, create solutions to real-world problems at ‘Designing Our World’ and head to ‘Innovation Station’ to build a machine that flies.
For even more fun, your family can see a real navy submarine. Try exploring the stars at the planetarium and take in a flick on a giant screen at the museum’s Omnimax Empirical movie theater.
Working up an appetite? Visit the Empirical Cafe for casual eats or sit riverside at the fantastic locally-sourced Theory Restaurant for delicious coal-fired pizzas.
Pro tip: Empirical Theater also offers movie nights with Hollywood Blockbuster movies. Catch old-time classics or newly released flicks at this well-known Portland attraction!
Portland Aerial Tram
For a view of a lifetime, the Portland Aerial Tram carries passengers between the South Waterfront and the Marquam Hill neighborhoods. Rising over 500 feet above the city, riders enjoy spectacular views of this major Oregon city.
The summit at Marquam Hill promises fun hiking trails and a coffee shop serving up light meals, snacks and beverages. Two enclosed cabins offer seating for 79 people and the tram departs every few minutes. The two sides offer plenty of activities for the whole family, like the 4T Trail, a self-guided tour by train, trail, tram and trolley.
Pro tip: There is a free bike valet to the public at the tram, so rent some bikes for the day with the kids and ride on over worry-free!
In Northwest Portland, along the hillside bordering the Willamette River, Forest Park offers over 5,000 acres of natural beauty including hundreds of species of plants, hidden creeks, critters, and of course, beautiful Pacific North West scenery.
With 30 miles of trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and wildlife watching, you will definitely get some good family time in. The Forest Park Conservancy also hosts guided discovery hikes and an all-trails challenge for visitors. Try visiting in August for the annual Forest Park Marathon!
Pro tip: Hike up the Aspen Trail from the Lower Macleay parking lot to see the infamous witches castle!
Portland Saturday Market
When it comes to fun, outdoor attractions for families, the Portland Saturday Market always makes the list. Open every weekend from March through Christmas Eve, this arts-and-crafts fair in Portland’s historic Old Town neighborhood attracts more than 750,000 visitors each year.
The market is filled with handmade items, crafted by the sellers, some of which will work up the pieces right there in their respective tents! Shop local! A visit to the Portland Saturday Market is sure to uncover some extremely interesting and unique items for souvineering. Visitors can enjoy live music and dine on tasty street food. The market also offers free Kids Activities ranging from puppet shows, science fairs, juggling school, creative arts activities and much more.
Watch your kids eyes widen as they watch puppets, acrobats and costumed performers up on stage. Younger kids love plays based on classic stories they’re already familiar with. Older kids are absorbed by plays about world affairs. Costumed acrobatic dancers delight all ages as do the large marionettes and talented ventriloquists.
Your kids will gain a new appreciation for the theater and will beg to come back. The theaters also offer varying shows and classes the kids won’t want to miss!
Oaks Amusement Park
Who doesn’t love amusement parks? Located by the Willamette River, Oaks Amusement Park was founded in 1905 and is one of the oldest running amusement parks in the US today. The park has almost two dozen rides currently operating as well as games, a skating rink, mini-golf and more. You’re sure to have a blast with the whole family!
Pro tip: Grab some grub at Rick’s Roller Rink Cafe.
Enjoy a Day with the Fam!
So if you’re planning a fun family getaway with the kids, consider Portland OR. Between the parks, wildlife, museums, food and everything else, Portland offers non-stop entertainment for you and the kids. We’ll see you out there!