Portland is the second largest city in the Pacific Northwest. Because of this, you know that there are a lot of things to do there that the whole family would enjoy. Portland also has the advantage of being in a great geographic area so there is also a long list of great attractions and activities that can be found within a short drive. Many people, locals and travelers alike, love this city because it has a unique vibe and feel to it that isn’t found in other places in the northwest. Whatever your interests are, there’s something for everyone in Portland.
18 Portland, Oregon Family Travel Tips
FIND A FOOD TRUCK!
Every family on any vacation will at some point get hungry. Portland is known for many things and one of those is that it has one of the largest food truck and food cart populations of any city in America. What this means to you is you have some incredible choices when it comes time to eat. Food trucks appear independently around the city and there are also food truck pods that feature anywhere from five or six to 30 or more food choices in one location. You can very easily find an old favorite or something you’ve never had before when visiting the many food trucks of Portland.
DRIVE TO MT. HOOD
Mt. Hood is one of th emost scenic parts of the Portland area and it can be seen from many places there. If you have the time, take your family on a drive towards Mt. Hood and explore what is a truly gorgeous location. Venture up to the ski area anytime of the year and you’ll find something to do. There are also all kinds of hiking trails, picnic spots, and scenic vistas available to explore too.
GET OUT ON THE WATER
Portland isn’t on the coast but it still has a long history of being a water based community. There are a lot of options available to you to get out on the water of either the Columbia or Willamette rivers. You can go on fishing trips, set foot on museum ships, go on dinner cruises, or even take a tour on a jet boat or sternwheeler river boat.
VISIT A PARK
The city of Portland is blessed with a whole lot of parks to visit. Some of them hold big name attractions, some are small and quiet places to get away from it all, and some are scenic and offer great outdoor recreation experiences. Some of the popular parks in Portland include Sellwood Riverfront Park, Powell City Park, Brooklyn City Park, Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, Kenilworth Park, Washington Park, Woodstock Park, Mt. Tabor Park, Rocky Butte Park, Powell Butte Nature Park, Columbia Children’s Arboretum, Lotus Isle City Park, Smith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area, Pier Park, Kelley Point Park, Linnton Park, Forest Park, Macleay Park, Englewood Park, Overlook Park, Council Crest Park, Laurelhurst Park, and Tom McCall Waterfront Park.
DON’T FORGET THE ZOO!
The Oregon Zoo, located in Washington Park, is one of the top zoos in the entire United States. If you have kids who love animals, it’s easy to go there and spend the better part of a day. You’ll find all kinds of animal species to look at, including polar bears, giraffes, elephants, eagles, porcupines, bears, monkeys, penguins, tarantulas, naked mole rats, and more. There are also plenty of picnic spots and places to get something to eat. You can even see animal exhibitions, feedings, summer concerts, and more. It’s easy to see why this is one of the top attractions in Portland.
CHECK OUT THE PORTLAND CHILDREN’S MUSEUM
The Portland Children’s Museum is a very welcoming place and an attraction that especially appeals to the younger kids. With exhibits like Building Bridgetown, Clay Studio, Maker Studio, Outdoor Adventure, Grasshopper Grocery & Butterfly Bistro, Groundwork, Pet Hospital, Twilight Trail, Treehouse Adventure, and Water Works; there will be plenty to occupy all the youngsters you bring with you. Your children will come away having had the time of their lives and not really even understand that they were learning.
SPLASH AROUND AT JAMISON SQUARE
Jamison Square is located in Downtown Portland and features some nice picnic spots, public art, and some impressive fountains. The fountains there are interactive too and during the warmer times of the year, your kids will love to get the opportunity to splash around in the water. With nearby shopping and eating opportunities, a visit to Jamison Square can be made into a larger family event.
DON’T FORGET THE PORTLAND FARMER’S MARKET
The Portland Farmer’s Market is another of the top family attractions in the city. You can go there and get all kinds of fresh produce, but you can get so much more. The Portland Farmer’s Market also features food ready to eat, live entertainment, and interesting crafts. The market takes place at several spots around the city and there is sure to be one conveniently located near where you’re staying.
RIDE THE STREETCARS!
A fun way to get around the city of Portland is by jumping on board the TriMet Portland Streetcar. This will give you a fun way to explore the city and also a nice taste for urban transportation. Your kids will love seeing this side of the city too. It’s not only a good transportation idea, it’s a fun activity.
The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, or OMSI, will fascinate both adults and kids alike. When you visit there you’ll find natural history exhibits including dinosaurs, as well as exhibits from the world of mechanical science and industrial accomplishments. This is a very hands on museum and you and your kids can participate in experiments as well as solve brain teasing puzzles and questions. Kids of all ages, as well as adults, can come away from OMSI thoroughly enteretained.
WALK THROUGH THE PORTLAND SATURDAY MARKET
The Portland Saturday Market is a one of a kind shopping venue that has to be seen to believe. Walk through these vendor stalls and see all kinds of crazy, interesting, unique, and one of a kind gifts. There are some actual high quality products for sale there too. You can also get some great food while you visit the Portland Saturday Market.
GO OLD SCHOOL AT OAKS AMUSEMENT PARK
Many parents end up loving a visit to Oaks Amusement Park in Portland even more than their kids. The reason for this is simple, this old school amusement park features the kinds of midway rides you might have gone on when you were a kid. Kids today will still love the experience they have there, whether playing games or going on rides, but for you this just may be the walk down memory lane you need.
GO HIKING AT FOREST PARK
Forest Park is absolutely huge. In fact, it’s one of the largest parks in the country. It stretches for more than eight miles and sits on several hillsides above the Willamette River. There are over 40 miles of trails to explore in this heavily wooded park area too. Any family looking for an opportunity to get outdoors during a visit to Portland would do well in visiting Forest Park.
DON’T MISS OUT ON VOODOO DOUGHNUT
Voodoo Doughnut is another of the many unique features of Portland. This popular destination eatery offers combinations of flavors in doughnut form that many people have never even comtemplated. There’s definitely something here for the entire family. Plus just the experience of going there is something everyone will remember for quite awhile. Remember to get enough to enjoy on the way home.
TRY GLOWING GREENS
If your family likes miniature golf and wants to take it to the next level, try glowing greens when you visit Portland. This very cool attraction is loved by locals and visitors alike. It’s also a fun thing for people of all ages. The lighting is dark and the golf holes glow in the dark. What more could you want? It’s one of the more unusual activities you can do, so if the venue you want to go to has a long line in front of it, head on over to Glowing Greens instead.
RIDE THE PORTLAND AERIAL TRAM
The Portland Aerial Tram, also known as the Oregon Health & Science University Tram (OHSU Tram), a fun attraction that was originally built for simple transportation but has since turned into a fun thing to do in a great city. The tram rises 500 feet and travels over 3,300 feet. The entire ride lasts a little over three minutes but the payoff is the view it gives of the city.
“CLIMB” MOUNT TABOR
So, you’re visiting Portland, but what if you wanted to visit an extinct volcanic vent? Wait… you can! Mount Tabor is a historic landmark now and set aside as Mount Tabor Park. You can actually walk right up to the dormant cincer cone which has been cut in half so the inner layers can be seen. There are trails, sports courts, playground toys, and picnic spots throughout the park. There is also a visitors center there that help;s tell the story of this interesting natural history of the area where the city of Portland now sits. Mount Tabor is yet another of the many unique features and attractions you can enjoy when you visit Portland.
EXPLORE SAUVIE ISLAND
Sauvie Island is a unique part of Portland, and that’s really saying something if you know anything about Portland. This rural island in the Columbia River consists of a wide variety of terrain, including everything from forested slopes to marshland. What you’ll find when you visit there is a number of ways to access the water, some great homes right on the shoreline, parks and trails, and even some farms that are open to the public. the Sauvie Island Wildlife Area is a great place to head to if you want to spend some time in the outdoors while visiting Portland.
Portland is a vibrant and fun city. It has more than enough attractions and activities to provide your family with a great experience. With these tips, and the things you’ll stumble upon yourself, you’re sure to have the time of your life.