Best Things to Do with Kids in Portland, OR: 12 Family-Friendly Portland Activities

by Jen
Best Things to Do with Kids in Portland, OR
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Are you looking for family-friendly things to do in Portland, Oregon? Here is a selection of the most fun and exciting activities to do with kids in Portland. These sights and attractions will be adored by the entire family!

Portland, Oregon, the “City of Roses,” is more than just its iconic doughnuts and hipster vibes. Located between the majestic peaks of Mount Hood and the rugged Oregon coastline, this urban oasis is a dream destination for families. As you explore its streets, you’ll quickly discover why it’s a top pick for those seeking family-friendly attractions in Oregon.

Every corner of Portland seems to whisper tales of adventure, beckoning families to explore. Whether you’re a local looking for a weekend escape or a traveler mapping out the best things to do in Portland with kids, this city won’t disappoint. From lush gardens that transport you to distant lands to interactive museums that ignite young imaginations, there’s a myriad of experiences waiting.

But what truly sets Portland apart? It’s the city’s unique blend of nature and culture. One moment you’re hiking through dense forests, the next you’re diving into a world of art and creativity. And for those foodie families, Portland’s culinary scene is a delightful journey of flavors, ensuring even the pickiest of eaters are catered for.

So, if you’ve been wondering what to do in Portland with kids, you’re in for a treat. Grab your little adventurers, and let’s uncover the magic of the Pacific Northwest’s most family-friendly city. Here’s everything you need to know about the best things to do with kids in Portland, OR.

The top places to visit with kids in Portland, OR right now
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Best Things to Do with Kids in Portland, Oregon: 12 Exciting Portland Activities and Attractions

Are you ready to discover all the best places to visit in Portland? As previously noted, there’s a vast array of breathtaking destinations in Portland for all ages to explore. Keep reading to find out where to go in Portland with children.

Are you looking to explore the city’s best museums and cultural sites? Or would you prefer to discover captivating and serene landscapes? Whatever you’re planning, there are incredible places to go in Portland with kids that can accommodate your needs. Here are all the best things to do with kids in Portland that you should know about.

1. OMSI Portland Kids Museum

Ah, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), where the wonders of science come alive! Nestled on the scenic banks of the Willamette River, OMSI is a haven for inquisitive minds. If you’ve been searching for the best things to do in Portland with kids, this museum is a must-visit.

Spanning five expansive halls, OMSI offers a plethora of interactive exhibits. From the mysteries of outer space in the planetarium to the intricate workings of the human body, there’s a world of discovery at every turn. Got a little engineer in the making? The technology hall, with its hands-on experiments and displays, will be their playground. And for the tiny tots, the dedicated play area ensures they’re engaged and entertained.

But the adventure doesn’t end indoors. The USS Blueback Submarine, anchored just outside the museum, offers a unique underwater experience. Imagine the thrill of exploring a real submarine and learning about its rich history!

And if all that exploration works up an appetite, the on-site café serves up delicious treats to refuel. All in all, OMSI stands out as a top family-friendly attraction in Portland, Oregon, ensuring a day of fun and learning.

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) is one of the best things to do wit kids in Portland, OR.
Discover the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), where science comes alive by the scenic Willamette River.

2. The Enchanting Japanese Gardens

Tucked away in the heart of Washington Park, the Japanese Gardens offer a serene escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. If you’re wondering where to go in Portland with kids for a tranquil experience, this is your spot. Spanning over 12 acres, the gardens are a masterpiece of design, blending traditional Japanese landscaping with the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

As you meander through the winding pathways, you’ll encounter stunning koi ponds, stone lanterns, and meticulously pruned bonsai trees. Each step feels like a journey through a storybook, with five distinct garden styles to explore. The Flat Garden, with its raked sand landscapes, is a favorite among kids, sparking their imagination with tales of distant lands.

And it’s not just about the visuals. The gardens offer a sensory experience. Listen to the gentle rustle of the leaves, the chirping of the birds, and the soothing sounds of water features. It’s a place of reflection, where families can connect with nature and each other.

And the cherry on top? The breathtaking views of Mount Hood on a clear day. So, if you’re seeking fun places in Portland to visit with children that offer both beauty and tranquility, the Japanese Gardens is a must-visit.

Nestled in Washington Park, the Japanese Gardens provide a serene escape from the city's bustle.
Nestled in Washington Park, the Japanese Gardens provide a serene escape from the city’s bustle.

3. Forest Park

Imagine a sprawling urban forest, a place where the city’s hustle fades into the background, replaced by the symphony of nature. Welcome to Forest Park, one of the largest urban forests in the U.S. and a top pick for those seeking family-friendly activities in Portland, Oregon.

With over 80 miles of trails, this park is a hiker’s dream. Whether you’re an experienced trekker or just looking for a stroll, there’s a path for you. The Witch’s Castle, a stone structure shrouded in local legends, is a favorite among kids. As you explore, weave tales of its mysterious past, turning your hike into an adventure.

Moreover, the park is a haven for birdwatchers, with over 112 bird species calling it home. Set up a picnic, lay back, and let the kids spot the different birds. It’s a delightful way to introduce them to the wonders of nature.

And if you’re visiting on a rainy day, don’t fret! The canopy of towering trees offers shelter, turning the park into a misty wonderland. So, when pondering what to do in Portland with kids, let Forest Park be your natural escape.

Welcome to Forest Park, a prime choice for family-friendly activities in Portland, one of the largest urban forests in the U.S.
Welcome to Forest Park, a prime choice for family-friendly activities in Portland, one of the largest urban forests in the U.S.

4. Portland Aerial Tram

Elevate your Portland experience, quite literally, with the Portland Aerial Tram. If you’ve been searching for unique Portland kids’ attractions, this sky-high ride promises unparalleled views and a dash of thrill. Hovering over the city, the tram offers a bird’s-eye perspective, making it a hit among families.

Starting from the South Waterfront, the journey to Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) is a short 4-minute ride, but oh, what a ride it is! As you ascend, watch the cityscape unfold beneath you. Spot the winding Willamette River, the sprawling parks, and on a clear day, the majestic Mount Hood in the distance. It’s a visual treat, a panorama of Portland’s best.

For the little ones, the ascent feels like a mini adventure, their faces pressed against the glass, eyes wide with wonder. And once you reach the top, the observation deck at OHSU offers another vantage point to soak in the views.

The best part? The tram operates year-round, making it a perfect activity in Portland for kids regardless of the season. Whether it’s the golden hues of fall or the city blanketed in snow, the tram ride is a mesmerizing experience.

Soar above Portland on the Portland Aerial Tram—a thrilling, unique kids' attraction with incredible views, perfect for families.
Soar above Portland on the Portland Aerial Tram—a thrilling, unique kids’ attraction with incredible views, perfect for families.

5. The Freakybuttrue Peculiarium

Dive into the quirky side of Portland at the Freakybuttrue Peculiarium. If you’re on the hunt for fun things in Portland to do with kids that are a tad offbeat, this place is a treasure trove of oddities. It’s not just a museum – it’s an experience that celebrates the peculiar and bizarre.

Step inside, and you’re greeted by a world of wonders. From Bigfoot sightings to alien encounters, the exhibits are a blend of art, humor, and a touch of macabre. Interactive displays ensure the kids are not just observers but participants in the peculiar tales. Fancy a selfie with a zombie or a peek into the future with a fortune-telling machine? It’s all here.

The highlight for many is the challenge to eat a real bug. Yes, you read that right! It’s a rite of passage for the brave, earning them a certificate of bravery. And if bugs aren’t on your menu, the in-house ice cream parlor offers more conventional treats.

In a city known for keeping things weird, the Peculiarium stands out as one of the top Portland things to do for families looking for an unconventional adventure.

Discover Portland's quirky side at the Freakybuttrue Peculiarium—an offbeat treasure trove perfect for kids seeking unique fun.
Discover Portland’s quirky side at the Freakybuttrue Peculiarium—an offbeat treasure trove perfect for kids seeking unique fun.

6. Powell’s City of Books

In the heart of Portland lies a book lover’s paradise, Powell’s City of Books. For anyone pondering where to go in Portland with kids and who wants to ignite their love for reading, this iconic bookstore should be at the top of your list. Spanning an entire city block, it’s a literary labyrinth waiting to be explored.

With over a million books spread across nine color-coded rooms, there’s a story for every curious mind. From fairy tales to science adventures, the children’s section is a vibrant space, buzzing with young readers lost in their imaginations. Cozy reading nooks invite families to sit down, flip open a book, and travel to distant lands without leaving the city.

Make sure to explore The Rare Book Room. It’s a treasure trove of antique and signed editions, offering a glimpse into the past. And if you’re on the hunt for souvenirs, the gift section boasts an array of Portland-themed goodies.

The staff, with their vast knowledge and passion for books, are always ready to offer recommendations. So, when seeking fun places in Portland to visit with children, let Powell’s City of Books be your gateway to countless adventures.

Powell’s City of Books is one of the best things to do with kids in Portland, OR.
Explore Powell’s City of Books, a paradise for book lovers in Portland.

7. Washington Park: An Outdoor Oasis

Nestled in the heart of the city, Washington Park is Portland’s green sanctuary. With over 410 acres of lush landscapes, it’s a paradise for nature lovers and families alike.

Begin your adventure at the International Rose Test Garden, home to over 10,000 rose bushes. As you stroll through the fragrant rows, the vibrant blooms captivate the senses, especially during the peak blooming months of June and July. It’s no wonder Portland is dubbed the “City of Roses.”

For those seeking family-friendly attractions in Portland, Oregon, the park offers more than just roses. The Portland Japanese Garden provides a tranquil escape, with its serene ponds and traditional tea houses. Little explorers will find joy in the playgrounds and picnic areas, perfect spots to relax and play.

Hiking enthusiasts will appreciate the miles of trails, winding through dense forests and offering panoramic views of the city and Mount Hood. And if you’re visiting with toddlers, the Washington Park and Zoo Railway promises a delightful ride through the park’s scenic spots.

In a city celebrated for its natural beauty, Washington Park emerges as a top destination, blending nature, culture, and recreation in one vibrant setting. As such, it’s unquestionably one of the best places to go for families in Portland, OR.

Washington Park, nestled in the city's heart, is Portland's lush sanctuary—a 410-acre paradise for nature lovers and families.
Washington Park, nestled in the city’s heart, is Portland’s lush sanctuary—a 410-acre paradise for nature lovers and families.

8. Columbia River Gorge: Nature’s Majestic Canvas

Just a short drive from Portland’s urban landscape, the Columbia River Gorge unveils a world of natural wonders. This 80-mile canyon, carved by the Columbia River, is a testament to nature’s artistry. Towering cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and verdant forests come together to create a panorama that leaves visitors in awe.

Start your adventure at the iconic Multnomah Falls. Plunging over 600 feet, it’s a sight to behold and one of the most photographed spots in Oregon. A paved trail leads to the Benson Bridge, offering a closer view of the falls and a perfect photo opportunity. But that’s just the beginning. The gorge boasts over 90 waterfalls on the Oregon side alone, each with its unique charm.

For families seeking activities in Portland for kids that blend fun and learning, the gorge’s numerous hiking trails are a treasure trove. From easy walks to challenging treks, there’s a path for every age and skill level. Along the way, interpretive signs provide insights into the region’s geology, flora, and fauna.

And if you visit during the spring, the wildflower blooms add a splash of color to the landscape, making it even more enchanting. In essence, the Columbia River Gorge is not just a fun place in Portland to visit with children; it’s an immersive experience in the heart of nature.

Near Portland, the Columbia River Gorge showcases an 80-mile canyon of nature's artistry—towering cliffs, waterfalls, and lush forests that awe visitors.
Near Portland, the Columbia River Gorge showcases an 80-mile canyon of nature’s artistry—towering cliffs, waterfalls, and lush forests that awe visitors.

9. Oregon Zoo

Set within the verdant expanse of Washington Park, the Oregon Zoo is a gateway to the animal kingdom. Home to over 2,000 animals from around the globe, it’s a place where families can embark on a wildlife journey without leaving Portland. From the towering elephants of Africa to the playful sea otters of the Pacific Northwest, the zoo offers a diverse range of habitats and species.

One of the highlights is the Elephant Lands exhibit, a sprawling habitat designed with the well-being of these majestic creatures in mind. Watch in delight as the elephants splash in the pool, showcasing their playful side. And if you’re visiting with young kids, the zoo’s train ride is a hit, weaving through the various exhibits and offering a unique perspective.

If you’re deciding what to do in Portland with kids, the zoo’s seasonal events add an extra layer of fun. From summer concerts to winter lights festivals, there’s always something happening, ensuring repeat visits offer new experiences.

Beyond the exhibits, the zoo’s conservation efforts are commendable. It’s not just about viewing animals; it’s about understanding their importance in the ecosystem and the need to protect them. Overall, the Oregon Zoo is an educational adventure that resonates with all ages and is one of the best days out for families in Portland, OR.

In Washington Park, the Oregon Zoo is a wildlife gateway. Families can explore 2,000+ animals from around the world.
In Washington Park, the Oregon Zoo is a wildlife gateway. Families can explore 2,000+ animals from around the world.

10. Oaks Amusement Park

Step back in time and relive the joys of yesteryears at Oaks Amusement Park, one of the oldest continuously operated amusement parks in the country. Nestled along the banks of the Willamette River, this park is a blend of vintage charm and modern attractions, making it a top pick for fun things to do in Portland with kids.

The historic carousel, with its hand-carved wooden horses, is a testament to the park’s rich legacy. Additionally, modern thrill rides, from loop-de-loop roller coasters to spinning teacups, ensure adrenaline junkies get their fix. And for the little ones? A dedicated kiddie area with pint-sized attractions promises big smiles.

Perhaps the biggest hit among families is the park’s roller-skating rink, offering a chance to glide and groove to catchy tunes. And if you’re visiting during summer, the mini-golf course is a must-try, challenging players with its quirky obstacles.

With its scenic setting, Oaks Amusement Park also offers picnic areas, perfect for a family lunch with views of the river. With its scenic setting, Oaks Amusement Park offers more than rides; it’s a place where families create cherished memories, solidifying its reputation as one of the best things to do in Portland for families.

Relive yesteryears at Oaks Amusement Park, a blend of vintage charm and modern fun along the Willamette River.
Relive yesteryears at Oaks Amusement Park, a blend of vintage charm and modern fun along the Willamette River.

11. Portland Children’s Museum

Located close to the Oregon Zoo in Washington Park, the Portland Children’s Museum is a realm where imagination reigns supreme. Tailored for kids aged 0-10, this museum is all about hands-on exploration and creative play, making it a top choice for family-friendly activities in Portland, Oregon.

From the moment you step in, the vibrant exhibits beckon. The Water Works section, with its streams and water wheels, is a splashy favorite among toddlers. Older kids might gravitate towards the Clay Studio, molding and shaping their artistic creations. And the Building Bridgetown exhibit? It’s a mini construction site, letting kids don the hard hat and build their dream structures.

Further, the Outdoor Adventure area is a nature-based playground, encouraging kids to climb, dig, and explore the natural world. It’s a testament to the museum’s philosophy of learning through play, fostering curiosity and creativity.

Whether it’s a rainy-day escape or a regular weekend outing, the Portland Children’s Museum offers endless hours of fun. It’s a place where kids lead the way, discovering, experimenting, and most importantly, having a blast. Truly, it’s one of the best things to do in Portland with kids.

The Portland Children's Museum offers hands-on creative play for kids 0-10. | Source: https://media.cntraveler.com/
The Portland Children’s Museum offers hands-on creative play for kids 0-10. | Source: https://media.cntraveler.com/

12. Jamison Square

In the heart of Portland’s Pearl District, Jamison Square is a splash of fun for families. If you’re looking for fun places in Portland to go with kids on a sunny day, this urban park is a delightful choice.

The centerpiece of the park is its unique fountain, where water cascades over stone steps into a shallow pool. On warm days, it becomes a favorite spot for kids to splash around, laugh, and play. The gentle flow of water ensures even the youngest visitors can enjoy it safely, making it a popular family-friendly attraction in Portland, OR.

Surrounding the fountain, the park offers ample green space for picnics, games, or simply lounging under the shade of trees. Sculptures dot the landscape, adding an artistic touch to the urban setting. And if your little ones are in the mood for some playground fun, the park’s play area, equipped with slides and climbing structures, promises hours of entertainment.

Located amidst cafes and boutiques, Jamison Square is a community hub where families come together, relax, and enjoy the simple pleasures of outdoor fun. It’s a testament to Portland’s commitment to creating vibrant, kid-friendly spaces in the heart of the city.

In Portland's Pearl District, Jamison Square offers sunny family fun. | Source: https://www.portland.gov/
In Portland’s Pearl District, Jamison Square offers sunny family fun. | Source: https://www.portland.gov/

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the Best Things to Do with Kids in Portland, OR:

Are you looking for more information on what to do in Portland with kids? Here are some common questions (and answers) I get asked a lot about the coolest places in Portland to go as a family.

What is there for kids to do in Portland?

Portland is filled with exciting activities for kids. From interactive museums like OMSI to natural wonders like the Columbia River Gorge, there’s no shortage of fun. Families can explore the lush landscapes of Washington Park, take a sky-high ride on the Portland Aerial Tram, or splash around at Jamison Square. With a mix of indoor and outdoor attractions, there’s something for every age and interest.

Is Portland a good place to visit with kids?

Absolutely! Portland is renowned for its family-friendly attractions. The city offers a diverse range of activities, ensuring kids are not only entertained but also educated. Whether it’s getting up close with animals at the Oregon Zoo, diving into science at OMSI, or simply enjoying the natural beauty at places like Forest Park, Portland promises a memorable family vacation.

California Condor perched majestically at the Oregon Zoo, showcasing its impressive wingspan and unique features.
California Condor perched majestically at the Oregon Zoo, showcasing its impressive wingspan and unique features.

What is the most fun area of Portland?

The Pearl District stands out as one of the most vibrant areas in Portland. It’s a blend of urban chic and family-friendly fun. With parks like Jamison Square, art galleries, boutiques, and a plethora of dining options, it’s a hub of activity. For families, it offers a mix of recreational spaces and cultural attractions, making it a top spot for fun things in Portland to go with kids.

Where can families dine in Portland, OR?

Portland boasts a diverse culinary scene, with many restaurants offering family-friendly menus. From food trucks serving global cuisines to waterfront eateries with views of the Willamette River, there’s something for every palate. Areas like Alberta Street and Hawthorne Boulevard are popular for their eclectic mix of dining options, ensuring families have a delightful culinary experience.

Are there any seasonal events for kids in Portland, Oregon?

Yes, Portland hosts a variety of family-friendly events throughout the year. The Rose Festival in June is a highlight, featuring parades, carnivals, and dragon boat races. During the fall, families can head to local farms for pumpkin patches and hayrides. The winter season sees the city adorned in festive lights, with events like the ZooLights at the Oregon Zoo. No matter the season, Portland ensures there’s always something fun on the horizon for families.

Concluding the Best Things to Do with Kids in Portland, Oregon

Portland, with its eclectic mix of urban charm and natural beauty, truly stands out as one of the best family-friendly destinations in the United States. From the bustling streets of the Pearl District to the serene landscapes of the Columbia River Gorge, it offers a diverse range of experiences that cater to kids and adults alike. As we’ve journeyed through the city’s top attractions, it’s evident that Portland is more than just a travel destination – it’s a place of discovery, adventure, and cherished memories. Whether you’re a local looking for a weekend outing or a traveler seeking the best spots for your family vacation, Portland promises a blend of fun, education, and relaxation. So, pack those bags, gather the family, and set out to explore the myriad of family-friendly attractions in Portland, Oregon. Here’s to adventures, laughter, and moments that will be reminisced for years to come!

The top things to do with kids in Portland, OR for all types of travelers
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