Portland, Oregon, is an amazing place with plenty of fun activities you can partake in with your kids. There are lovely green parks, museums, zoos, and many other amenities that make Portland an essential stop on a west coast road trip.
Let’s take a look at planning tips for your trip to Portland and the best family-friendly activities the city has to offer.
- Best Time To Visit Portland
- Where To Stay In Portland With Kids
- Getting To Portland And Getting Around
- 12 Best Destinations To Visit With Kids In Portland
- 1. Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
- 2. Floating World Comics
- 3. Grand Central Baking Company
- 4. Oregon Zoo
- 5. Oaks Amusement Park
- 6. Portland Aerial Tram
- 7. Portland Saturday Market
- 8. Portland Japanese Garden
- 9. Voodoo Doughnut
- 10. Washington Park
- 11. World Forestry Center
- 12. Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
- More On Visiting Portland And The Pacific Northwest
Best Time To Visit Portland
Summer is the best time we recommend touring Portland, Oregon, from June to August is when the weather is great for outdoor recreational activities.
There are usually several things to do if you’re traveling with kids in Portland. Often there is a surge in tourist numbers at this time of year, so it’s highly recommended you book your accommodation and any special tours and attractions early.
Some notable events during summer include the summer market, outdoor performance venues, and annual bike festivals.
You can find a good round up of summer events in Portland here.
Where To Stay In Portland With Kids
The place you stay in will immensely impact your trip to Portland, whether you’re a first-time visitor there for a month or on a short weekend trip with your kids. Below are the various Portland areas we recommend you stay:
1. Downtown Portland
Downtown Portland is suitable if you’re just in town for a weekend getaway. This charming, family-friendly side of town has food cart pods and plenty of recreational space where your kids can run about and have fun. You will pay a bit of a premium though for being in the center of town.
2. The Pearl District
This particular side of Portland is more upscale, with a few high-end restaurants, hotels, and stores. The Pearl District has a lively and charming ambiance, which can be an enjoyable experience for everyone.
3. Northeast Portland
The Alberta Arts District is another excellent location to stay if you intend to explore downtown and the region of the west area river. Northeast Portland has a fantastic neighborhood with plenty of hotels and vacation rentals.
4. East of the River
We highly recommend East of the river if you love to eat and want to taste something different. This location also has plenty of food trucks, long-standing classics, and experimental pop-ups. The East of the river is also only 20 minutes away from the heart of Portland, which makes it quite convenient when you want to visit downtown but enjoy a more suburban feel.
You can explore accommodation options in Portland across online providers and vacation rental platforms here:
Getting To Portland And Getting Around
Getting around Portland is easy as there are plenty of public transportation options to choose from: streetcars, light rails, and buses.
However, if you want to go on a road trip to wine country, the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area, or explore the Oregon coast or Mount Hood after arriving in Portland, having your own car may be the better option.
Portland Airport (PDX) to Downtown Portland
Below are four means of transport you can use immediately after landing at the airport.
1. TriMet/MAX light rail
The easiest way of getting to Portland from the airport, 9 miles northeast of downtown, entails using the TriMet MAX/Light Rail Red Line service. It typically takes around 38 minutes and services leave every 15 minutes.
2. Taxi Cabs or Ride Share
Taxi cabs are also another convenient way you can get to downtown Portland. The entire ride takes approximately 20-40 minutes. Cabs are usually found outside near the baggage claim section of the airport’s terminals’ central area.
Ride Share services also have a designated pick-up area immediately outside the terminal, Uber, Lyft and Wingz services can be booked.
You can also use the shuttle when leaving the airport. They are usually found at the terminal’s bottom entrance outside the baggage claim section opposite the second strip.
Learn more about PDX airport shuttles here.
4. Rental Cars
All major car rental companies operate from PDX. We recommend discovercars.com for searching car hire options for Portland (note if you only need a vehicle to travel onward from Portland, try searching Portland Downtown instead):
Getting Around Major Attractions In Portland
Public transportation is the best way of getting to town; however, we highly recommend walking once in town if you want to spend quality time at the city’s parks with your kids.
Portland has one of the best transport systems that connect the entire town with extensive routes that cover wide parts that lead to major tourist attractions.
On the other hand, you can rent a car if you intend to stay for a while and want a more convenient way to travel with kids. Some places you can visit on your road trip from Portland include Mt Hood Circuit, closer to Portland, Oregon’s seven wonders, or the Oregon coast.
12 Best Destinations To Visit With Kids In Portland
On to the fun stuff! What is there to see and do in Portland with kids? We’ve narrowed it down to the top 12 activities for kids in Portland, Oregon.
1. Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
This Oregon museum – OMSI – is without a doubt one of the best family-friendly destinations in Portland and among the top science centers in the US. A visit to OMSI will spark your kid’s interest as there are educational programs, presentations, and exhibits.
The museum has the Kendall Planetarium, which showcases the universe in detail. There’s also a kid’s science lab and a themed film at the empirical theater.
The admission fee for adults is $16 and $11 for children, while the planetarium and IMAX cost a little extra. Bringing your car, you’ll also want to pre-pay your parking when booking tickets.
This is the ideal trip to plan for a rainy day (Portland does indeed get a few of them, even in summer!)
2. Floating World Comics
Got any comic book fans? Floating World Comics, located in the downtown area of Portland, is an exemplary comic store paradise. We’re sure your kids will enjoy reading a wide range of superhero, action, adventure, fantasy, humor, and action comics.
A Wednesday trip to the comic store is worth looking forward to, as there’s a new batch of comic genres for your kids. Although Floating World Comics isn’t the only bookstore in Portland, it’s arguably the best kid-friendly one in the country.
3. Grand Central Baking Company
Among the fun things to do in Portland with your kids is to visit this remarkable bakery. The Grand Central Baking Company was founded in 1972 and is renowned for having one of the best rustic artisan loaves in America.
If you’re looking for a place where they serve heart-baked bread and a variety of sandwiches from the classics to the seasonal, then we highly recommend a visit to the Grand Central with your kids, a great place to plan a lunch or snack stop!
4. Oregon Zoo
One of our activities while in Portland is visiting the Oregon Zoo, home to more than 2000 animals living in various habitats. This tourist destination is renowned for hosting millions of visitors each year.
The zoo also has plenty of activities that range from educational workshops, presentations, and numerous summer shows that are suitable for children.
Open Friday to Monday (closed Tuesday-Thursday). Note that you must buy your tickets in advance; the admission fee for ages 2 to 11 is $19, while all over 12’s are $24.
5. Oaks Amusement Park
Oaks Amusement Park is another scenic, adventure-packed destination in Portland. Among the greatest things to do for kids in Portland is touring Oaks in the summer. There are drive Go-Carts, a Ferris Wheel, and a roller coaster with a 360-degree loop your kids will enjoy.
Alternatively, you can take your child on a train ride that goes through the park or go on a spinning hot air balloon with a bird’s eye view of the park.
For rainy days, there’s also an indoor skating rink open year-round, or try the Escape Rooms for a challenge the whole family can enjoy.
Admission to Oaks Amusement Park is free (open from Spring to Fall); however, you’ll have to pay for the rides and other activities your kids participate in.
6. Portland Aerial Tram
For kids that love all things that go, the Portland Aerial Tram is a great way to see the city.
Running between Portland’s South Waterfront district and the main Marquam Hill neighborhood, the tram is elevated 500 feet and goes through 3,300 feet of natural land with panoramic views of the Portland forest landscape.
There is an Espresso coffee shop where you and your kids can enjoy cold drinks, snacks, and delicious food after a day of exploration.
A Portland Aerial Tram round-trip is free of charge for children under six years and $7 for those aged seven and above.
7. Portland Saturday Market
Holding the stellar reputation as the country’s largest open-air arts and crafts market, a weekend stop at PSM is a must! The Portland Saturday Market runs from March to Christmas every year – rain or shine – as you’d expect, on a Saturday from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. You’ll find it at the Tom McFall Waterfront Park.
A completely free activity – but we’d recommend you take your purse as you’re bound to find some Portland souvenirs!
8. Portland Japanese Garden
There are no surprises in a city as lush as Portland that many of the great places to visit are parks and gardens! One of our favorites is the Portland Japanese Garden. The park was founded after World War II as a place of great beauty and serenity in the city as a form of healing and connection with Japan.
Open Wednesday to Monday 10:00 AM, last admission 3:30 PM; entry is $19.95 for adults, youths (6-17) $13.95, 5 and under free. NB they close in mid-winter.
9. Voodoo Doughnut
Now, what would a trip to Portland be without a stop at the iconic home of Voodoo Doughnut?
There are two outlets, the original found on SW/3rd in Old Town and another in Northeast Davis Street. Famous for their crazy creations and toppings such as banana cream, buttermilk, berries, chocolate, sugar, and sprinkles, come with an empty stomach!!
10. Washington Park
Washington Park is one of the oldest and most popular city parks in the United States, with lots of activities on offer. No wonder this kid-friendly park is filled with thousands of tourists each year (and a fitting stop, perhaps after your fill of doughnuts!!)
The park has several fun things you and your kids can indulge in, such as hiking, biking, or visiting the Oregon Zoo (mentioned above). Washington Park also has an interactive water park (open from April to October) which is always a fun stop for the kids when the weather is playing nice!
(NB the cute little Portland Children’s Museum within the grounds looks to have completely closed its doors over COVID, it didn’t return over the summer 2022)
The park’s admission fee is free; however, if you come by car, there’s parking starting from $3 an hour.
11. World Forestry Center
World Forestry Center is another remarkable kid-friendly destination we highly recommend touring. This 20,000-square-foot museum’s main focus is forest conservation.
There are plenty of activities kids can engage in, such as educational presentations, viewing interactive exhibits, or enjoying a ride on the Canopy Lift that gives an aerial view of the forest.
Open Wednesday to Sunday, 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM, admission is free for kids under 3, $5 for kids and adults. Parking is limited so taking the Max Light Rail is highly encouraged.
12. Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
This one is just outside the city, but an absolute must if you’re visiting Portland.
The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is packed with recreational kids’ activities in Portland. There are accessible trails, camping grounds, cascading waterfalls, and scenic forests ideal for sightseeing.
This canyon also has natural pools where your kids can water play, although under close supervision. However, if you don’t want to get your feet dirty, visiting the museum of Columbia River Gorge is always a great experience for both you and your kids.
The admission fee is $5 for a private vehicle, including all its passengers.
If you don’t want the hassle of hiring a car for a singular day trip, then there are plenty of tour operators and private hire options to take you from Portland to this incredible Oregon scenic area:
More On Visiting Portland And The Pacific Northwest
Portland is an oft-missed stop when road tripping in the Pacific Northwest, with many taking the coastal route from the Olympic Peninsula and then heading straight down the Oregon Coast on Highway 101, but we certainly think it merits a couple of days on your itinerary.
- There are plenty of day trips and fabulous scenic drives in Oregon you can take using Portland as your base.
- Silver Falls State Park is one of our favorites; walking behind South Falls is one of the most iconic walks in the state or the fit and eager can take on the Trail of Ten Falls.
- Check driving conditions before you drive in Oregon, TripCheck.com will alert you to any adverse weather conditions or road closures before you set out.
- Continuing to the south? We have a complete road trip itinerary Portland to San Francisco for the best of Highway 101 and the northern California sections of Highway 1!
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