31 fun things to do in Portland (OR) with kids

Last updated on March 26, 2024

We’ve said it many times before, but we LOVE Portland. We feel at home there. It mostly comes down to the city’s creativity, evident through all its innovative food trucks, bold street art, liberal spirit and endless indy businesses. It’s a fun and inspiring place to explore. And it’s just as good for kids as it is for adults. From sweet treats to family-friendly hikes and epic parks, there’s plenty of Portland kids attractions.

So if you’re visiting with little ones, here’s our guide to the best things to do in Portland with kids.

Is Portland good for kids?

Yes! It’s a fairly big city and well kitted out with Portland kids’ attractions, from cool museums to parks amid the forest. The abundance of nature in and around the city makes it particularly good for those who want a dose of city time partnered with outdoor adventures.

And foodies will rejoice at the show-stopping amount of forward-thinking restaurants and food trucks. The casual setting of trucks are ideal for families, plus kids will be excited by all the incredible sweet treats (this is THE place for doughnuts on the West Coast).

It’s also an easy place to navigate by public transport (unusual for America), making it a pretty easy place families to explore.

It’s also a good place to include as part of an Oregon road trip.

Map of things to do in Portland with kids

25 best things to do in Portland with kids

Get some sweet treats with kids in Portland

Portland is a proper foodie destination and there are plenty of kid-friendly options for you to explore, especially when it comes to sweet treats. Here are some of our favourites.

Find your favourite ice cream

Best vegetarian restaurants in Portland - Salt and Straw

Don’t miss Salt and Straw for ice cream, which is so good there are now branches across the west coast. They do fun seasonal menus (we loved the Halloween candy-laden specials) as well as classic flavours to suit everyone.

Eat doughnuts for days!

And of course you can’t go to Portland without eating some doughnuts. Head to Voodoo Doughnuts for novelty doughnuts that kids will love (especially the fruit loops topped ring) and we also love Pip’s Original Doughnuts for plates of mini rings and dipping sauces. Plus we always recommend Blue Star for gourmet doughnuts with inventive flavours. Doughnuts for days!

Make your own pancakes at Slappy Cakes

Slappy Cakes is a fun breakfast option where you can make your own pancakes at the table. Order your choice of pancake mix and toppings and then get as creative as you like. This is a really fun kids thing to do in Portland, but I think Steve and I enjoyed it as much as the little ones! See more places to eat in Portland in our guide to vegetarian-friendly Portland restaurants.

Try some top level s’mores at 1927 S’mores Company

Another amazing sweet treat in Portland is 1927 S’mores Company where they make fancy s’mores before your eyes. It’s another one that I enjoyed as much as the kids. The s’mores are next level with some fabulous flavours including Whisky Salted Caramel and the Pacific Crest with a rum infused marshmallow! Not all the options are boozy so it’s suitable for kids too!

Visit family-friendly museums in Portland

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI)

We loved our visit to OMSI, Portland’s science museum. It’s one of the must-do Portland attractions for kids. The boys were thoroughly entertained by all the interactive exhibits, including the chance to explore chemistry, physics, palaenentology and more. There are giant blocks to build with, lightening to touch(!) and all sorts of experiments to try your hand at. A highlight is the Science Playground, which includes a fun water play area and climbing frame.

There’s also the Kendall Planetarium on site that screens shows for all ages – even our 18-month-old was entertained by the Sesame Street star show. OMSI is a fun thing to do in Portland with toddlers (and of course older kids too).

OMSI has regular special exhibitions about everything from space to the Marvel universe! See the latest line-up here.

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P.S. If you’re looking for info about the Portland Children’s Museum, it sadly closed in 2021 because of losses due to the pandemic.

World Forestry Center

The World Forestry Center in Washington Park champions sustainable forestry and visitors can learn all about it at their museum. It’s housed in an iconic building in the park with two floors of exhibits, exploring the impact of forests on our lives and the ways we interact with them.

Highlights for kids include the chance to have a go on a a Timberjack Harvester and a play on ‘Peggy’ a 42-ton locomotive that’s hauled an estimated billion feet of logs in her lifetime.

Portland Art Museum

The Portland Art Museum is Portland’s most famous art gallery and is housed in an old Masonic temple! Our kids, at 2 and 4, have a limited appetite for galleries, so we never bank on being able to leisurely browse like we did in our child-free years. But we still rate galleries as a fun family activity even for little kids – it’s just about managing expectations!

Our trip to the Portland Art Museum was a success and all of us loved the Frida Kahlo exhibition that was showing at the time. They had a kid’s activity booklet to accompany the exhibition, which Otis enjoyed and would also be suitable for older kids.

The Freakybuttrue Peculiarium

The Freakybuttrue Peculiarium is one of the most unusual things to do in Portland with kids. The gallery/shop is self-described as “an anti-museum dedicated to learning and terror”! The gallery is packed to the brim with all sort of oddities from the owner’s collection, including a model of an alien autopsy and a bathtub packed with fake guts! It’s definitely one of the most peculiar places you’ll ever visit!

Explore the best Portland kids attractions

Oaks Amusement Park

Oaks Amusement Park (’Oaks Park’) is a classic bit of Portland family fun and a quintessential stop on your tour of kid-friendly Portland. There are so many things to do, from rides to classic fairground games, roller skating, mini golf and an escape room! The rides range from toddler-friendly cars and trains to a white-knuckle rollercoaster and huge spinning pendulum! It’s definitely one of the most fun things to do in Portland with kids.

Oregon Zoo

The conservation-forward Oregon Zoo is a popular Portland family day out with over 250 species of animals and birds to explore over 64 acres of grounds. The zoo train is a favourite with kids, and animal highlights include rhinos, giraffes and lions. You can also arrange behind-the-scenes tours and animal encounters with sloths, lemurs and more!

It’s a nice option for things to do with a baby in Portland as well as older kids.

Portland Aerial Tram

The Portland Aerial Tram is a fun ride for kids in Portland. It’s a commuter tramway, built to connect the South Waterfront and Marquam Hill neighbourhood. But it also offers amazing views of Mount Hood (and Mount St Helens on a clear day) and kids will get a kick out of the unusual ride. The ride is only 4-minutes long and the tram is closed on Sundays. It’s best to avoid the rush hour when commuters use the tram.

The Wishing Tree

In north-east Portland, you can find the Wishing Tree, a tree where the branches are filled with wishes. People started leaving wishes back in 2013 and the tree now has cult status, drawing wish makers from across the city. It’s a sweet thing to do with kids in Portland.

Powell’s City of Books

Powell’s City of Books is the world’s biggest independent bookstore, occupying a whole city block! It includes nine colour-coded rooms with over 3,500 different sections. The kids section is brilliant, and Steve and I took turns to hang out with the kids there while the other went to explore the rest of the shop! It’s one of our favourite places in Portland.

We also love Green Bean Books, a children’s bookshop in the Alberta Arts district, which has a great selection of books plus a cool vending machine of handmade finger puppets!

Portland Saturday Market

Best things to do in Portland - Saturday Market

The bustling Saturday Market in downtown Portland in Waterfront Park is a fun way to spend the morning. Sample the different food stalls and browse the local handcrafted goods. There are over 250 stalls and it’s alongside the river so a picturesque place to spend some time.

Explore the great outdoors with kids in Portland

One of the joys of Portland is how close you are to all sorts of epic nature. Mount Hood towers over the city in the distance, and drive in any direction and you’ll be in a land of forest, waterfalls and mountains. Go a little further afield and you’ll hit the beach, Plus there are lots of epic parks (over 200!) within the city limits. These are some of the highlights…

Mount Tabor Park

From Mount Tabor Park, you have a great view across the city and of Mount Hood in the distance. Plus the park is built on Mount Tabor, an extinct volcano! As well as its cinder cone, the park is known for its giant open-air reservoirs and the annual PDX Soapbox Derby! There are also lots of lovely, easy trails for little legs, and a fun playground amid the trees.

Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Columbia River Gorge is a designated National Scenic Area just 40 minutes from downtown Portland. And while some of the best views are accessible only by fairly difficult hikes, there are also plenty of family-friendly hikes to choose from. Some good options include Bridal Veil Falls (one-mile round trip) and Latourell Falls (suitable for strollers if you take the shorter route). Here’s a guide to 8 Columbia River Gorge waterfalls you can see in a day.

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Multnomah Falls

Columbia River Gorge
Photo by Travel Portland

Multnomah Falls is in Columbia Rover Gorge, but I’m giving it its own point as it’s so popular. It’s the tallest waterfall in Oregon and you can see it from the roadside, meaning even the smallest visitors can enjoy it. But do be aware that parking can be a nightmare, especially at weekends. There’s also a hike you can do, but this is fairly hard with lots of switchbacks so one that’s better for slightly older kids (maybe around 8 and up, depending on their abilities).

Forest Park

A jewel in Portland’s crown is Forest Park, America’s largest urban forest! It’s over 5,000 acres and has over 70 miles of trails, passing waterfalls, rivers and bridges. And many are child-friendly. See a full guide to the kid-friendly trails here.

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden

We loved the gorgeous Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, a 9.5 acre garden filled with all sorts of rare and hybrid rhododendrons. It’s a lovely place to wander around with winding paths that take you over streams, through lawned gardens and alongside the neighbouring lake.

The thing we love about places like this is that they’re perfect for letting the kids run off steam while the adults get to enjoy the flowers. Same goes for the next point…

Portland Japanese Garden

Japanese Garden Portland

One of our favourite spots in the city is the spectacular 12-acre Portland Japanese Garden. Set on a hill overlooking the city, the garden’s view of Mount Hood is fantastic. It’s considered one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan.

While a serene space where quiet walking is encouraged might not be the most obvious place to take kids in Portland, we think it’s worth it as places like this are great for kids to learn about different cultures (plus it’s one of the most beautiful spots in the city so would be a shame to miss it!).

There’s a shuttle up the hill from the car park to the entrance, which is worth taking as it’ll save the kids’ energy for the garden itself. We took a stroller, but the gravel paths aren’t the easiest to navigate – ideally I’d leave the stroller in the car!

Washington Park Playground and International Rose Test Garden

Best things to do in Portland: International Rose Test Garden

In Washington Park, just next to the Japanese Garden, is Portland’s International Rose Test Garden, which has over 10,000 different rose bushes. It’s a lovely place for plant lovers with epic views across the city. And there’s plenty of room for kids to run around. That said, the main highlight for kids is the neighbouring huge playground.,

Take a trip to Cannon Beach or Seaside

If you fancy a longer day trip from the city, or perhaps an overnighter, Cannon Beach and Seaside are two popular beach towns just 90 minutes from Portland. Seaside is particularly popular with families and Cannon Beach is stunning with a rugged coastline and plenty of hiking trails.

Our kids were in paradise running around on the wide sands of Cannon Beach, and we also loved the Sand and Surf Inn where they even provide kid-sized robes and have a daily cookie hour!

Games and sports for a Portland family trip

Escape rooms in Portland

Portland has loads of fun escape rooms to choose from, which are a really fun activity for older kids and teens in Portland. Plus adults (us included) love them too. Some options in the city include: Escape Games PDX (including a Portlandia-themed game!), Hour-to-Midnight and Escapism Portland.

Go to a vintage video game arcade

Ground Kontrol Portland

A classic Portland experience for kids-at-heart is visiting one of the vintage video game arcades, packed with old school classics and pinball machines. They tend to have a bar atmosphere so are more aimed at grownups than kids, but most do have ‘all-ages’ sessions. For example, you can go to Quarter World Arcade with kids from 1-7pm on Saturdays and Sundays. And Ground Kontrol allows all ages before 5pm every day.

Bowling in Portland

There are lots of great bowling alleys in Portland, from vintage institutions to upscale modern alleys. Some of the best include Punch Bowl Social (a hip bar with bowling and other games), Grand Central Bowl (fancy bowling with a restaurant too) and Park Lanes Family Entertainment Center (old school bowling plus lots of other kids attractions, including a giant three-storey maze!)

Go on a jet boat!

Portland is on the Willamette River so there’s the opportunity to get out on the water during your stay. A fun thing to do with kids is to take a jet boat ride with one of the boat operators like Willamette Jet Boat Excursions. This isn’t recommended for infants, but is good for pre-schoolers and up.

Watch a basketball or baseball game

For a classic all-American experience, try to catch a basketball or baseball game while you’re in Portland. For basketball games go to the Rose Quarter. And for baseball, see the Portland Pickles. The Rose Quarter is a big stadium that also hosts many other big shows like cirque du soleil and musicals.

Cycling in Portland

Portland is a very bike-friendly city and they have a public bike share system that you can use throughout the city for a monthly or single-trip charge. You’ll see the orange bikes and their stations throughout the city, and you can see a map of the system here. There are lots of other hire companies, plus you can also rent a ‘Surrey’, which is a bit like a rickshaw. It’s a good workout and kids will love it!

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Where to stay in Portland with kids

Where to stay in Portland: Caravan, the Tiny House Hotel

There are lots of fun places to stay in Portland with kids. For convenience for the main attractions, choose downtown, But if you want to immerse yourself in a local neighbourhood, we recommend Alberta Arts, Hawthorne or Division. We’ve made a guide to the best Portland Airbnbs. And we also recommend these hotels.

Caravan, Tiny House Hotel

Caravan, the Tiny House Hotel, is perfect for kids who will love the novelty of staying in a custom-made tiny house on wheels! It’s an idea that was borne of the tiny house movement where people try to downsize and live in tiny houses, which make for an economical and sustainable choice.

The quirky tiny homes are gathered around a camp fire where they have s’mores materials for guests. It’s brilliant fun, plus it’s in Alberta Arts – our favourite Portland neighbourhood (be sure to eat at Proud Mary while you’re there!).

Hotel Zags

We stayed in Hotel Zags on our most recent Portland trip. It’s perfectly located in the Fountain District and has a cool style with lots of art and a big garden patio area. Highlights include the Gear Shed where you can hire all sorts of things from bikes to guitars to video game consoles and skateboards! And they also have fires in the garden and a little shop where you can buy s’mores kits to roast at night. Book your stay now.

Kimpton River Place Hotel

We’ve also heard good things about the Kimpton River Place Hotel, which has lots of kids’ amenities including scooter hire (they used to offer tipis for family rooms, but I don’t think these are available anymore).

How to get around Portland with kids

Things to do in Portland in three days

Portland has an excellent public transport system called TriMet, which includes a max light rail, buses and streetcars. The Trimet travel planner is a handy way to plan your route, and the app allows you to buy digital tickets without the need for cash. A $2.50 ticket allows you to use any form of transportation within two hours, and there are also daily and weekly passes available.

Another good way to get around is by bike as the city makes it easy with 315 miles of bikeways and the USA’s highest percentage of bike commuters. It even has the title ‘Bike City, USA’.

To get from the airport to the centre is an easy 40-minute journey on the max light railway.

We were on road trips when we visited , so we had a car. We mostly walked everywhere, but when we did use the car, for example to get to the Japanese Garden, we found the city an easy place to drive around. But do avoid rush hour. Parking downtown is cheap and easy at the SmartPark garages, starting around $1.50 an hour.

When to go to Portland with kids

Things to do in Portland: Alberta Arts District

Portland is famed for its grey skies and rainclouds. For the best chance of clear skies, head there during the summer months, from June-August, when you’ll hopefully be treated to long, dry, sunny days. That said, we’ve been there in October and May and been greeted by clear skies and sunny days. It can be a case of pot luck with Oregon weather!

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Read more of our creative family guides

We’ve travelled far and wide as a family. And while we’ve had to make a few adjustments since having kids, we still look for style, creativity and beauty in everywhere we go.

We’ve put together lots of family travel guides, including things to do with kids in destinations worldwide, plus tips for travelling with a baby, toddler and beyond. These are perfect if you’re keen to travel as a family but don’t want to sacrifice style. We think happy parents make for happy kids!

UKBirmingham with kids |Bristol with kids | Cornwall with kidsLondon with toddlers Edinburgh with kids | Manchester with kids 

Europe: Barcelona with kids Barcelona with a baby | Majorca (Puerto Pollensa) family holiday | Croatia (Sibenik) family holiday

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