12 Things to do with kids in and around Portland

by Paul Joseph  |  Published February 27, 2020

The state of Oregon’s largest city, Portland is perched on the Columbia and Willamette rivers, set against the dramatic backdrop of the snow-capped Mount Hood. Its array of public green spaces and eco-friendly bicycle paths make it a popular destination for those seeking a mix of urban vibrancy and easy-going outdoor living, while a liberal smattering of cultural and entertainment venues add to the attraction.

Children Visiting Pendarvis Farm in Happy Valley, a few miles outside of Portland (Photo: David Owen via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

For families visiting Portland, there’s a wealth of things to see and do, many of which revolve around the city’s famous predilection for open-air fun and adventure. From museums and festivals to boat tours and eateries, there’ll be something hear to satisfy the entire family – both young and old. To help you plan your trip, we’ve picked out 12 of the best family-friendly activities and attractions that Portland has to offer.

Let your kids’ imaginations roam free

Oregon’ temperate climate does feature its fair share of rainy days, and for such occasions what better for families than an engaging, fun-packed museum that will let your little ones’ imaginations run wild? Designed to encourage an interactive, hands-on approach to learning, exhibits at Portland Children’s Museum span a variety of topics ranging from gravity and medicine to grocery stores and ceramics. The museum also hosts weekly classes including Paint & Play, Science Tots and Creative Ceramics.

LOCATION 4015 SW Canyon Road HOURS Mon-Sun 9am-5pm

Water-based activity station at the Portland Children’s Museum (Photo: Samuel Mann via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Grab some grub at a food cart pod

When it comes to kids and food, variety is often the key to success. Quite simply, give them enough choice and you’re certain to find something they like the look of. Cartlandia is the perfect foodie venue for children and adults, offering a huge selection of over 30 international cuisines, all served from dedicated food carts. Open 7 days a week, visitors can pick up their food and take it to the patio seating area, the beer garden that’s perched under a large tent, or the full service bar where you’ll find beers on tap. There’s on-site parking too and venue is also pet friendly, so no need to let your furry friend miss out on the fun.

LOCATION 8145 SE 82nd Ave HOURS Tues-Fri 7am-10pm Sat 8am-10pm Sun 8am-9pm Mon 7am-9pm

A food truck at Cartlandia (Photo: Cartlandia)

Play ping pong in a social setting

Recreating the ping pong nostalgia from your rec room or garage with an authentic experience, Pips & Bounce is dedicated to bringing people together through the joy of pong. The venue welcomes people of all ages, skill levels, and walks of life to enjoy its unique atmosphere, where ping pong is complemented with delectable food, upbeat music, and great drinks. Staff are even on hand to pick up all the loose balls, so that guests can focus on having fun. With something for everyone, this entertainment spot offers a perfect place for a family outing, a work offsite, a milestone celebration, or an engaging date night.

LOCATION 833 SE Belmont Street HOURS Mon-Thurs 3pm-11pm Fri-Sat 12pm-1am Sun 12pm-10pm

Pips & Bounce

Patrons enjoy drinks and ping pong at Pips & Bounce (Photo: Pips & Bounce)

Come and gawp at curious creatures

Featuring over 1,000 different animals, Oregon Zoo invites kids and adults alike to get up close and personal with some of the curiosities of the natural world. With specially designed living quarters, visitors can rest assured that the creatures residing here are in an environment where they can flourish. Highlights include the black bears bobcats, bald eagles and river otters of the Cascade Canyon Trail, and the sea otters, polar bears and sea lions f the Pacific Shores. Other attractions include regular live bird shows and a miniature railway that transports passengers around the perimeters of the zoo grounds.

LOCATION 4001 SW Canyon Road HOURS Mon-Sun 9.30am-4pm

Oregon Zoo

A majestic tiger at Oregon Zoo (Photo: brx0 via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Peruse a diverse selection of comics

Situated in downtown Portland, Floating World Comics is widely considered by those in the know as one of the best comic book stores anywhere in America. Featuring a curated assortment of eclectic material, ranging from Marvel and DC classics to rare and indie graphic novels, the store celebrates its 15th anniversary next year – an impressive achievement for any bookstore in the age of Amazon. But such is the loyalty of comic fans that they continue to flood here for their animated reading fix. The store also publishes its own books as well as putting on regular in-store art shows.

Floating World Comics

An exterior shot of Floating World Comics store (Photo: Richard Eriksson via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Willamette Jetboat Excursions

With its historic bridges, eye-catching architecture, urban wildlife, and stunning natural waterfall, Portland’s waterfront is an exquisite sight to behold. And one of the most exciting ways to soak up the views is by joining a thrilling jet boat tour. Willamette Jetboat Excursions run a choice of 1, 2 or 3-hour tours that propel passengers along the Willamette River, during which you’ll get to learn all about the area’s fascinating history. The 3-hour tour includes lunch at a floating restaurant.

Let the kids loose at a fun-filled park

The go-to option for parents the wold over struggling for inspiration for where to take their kids, playgrounds never fail to keep children entertained for hours. One of Portland’s biggest and best public play areas can be found in Washington Park, complete with slides, climbing frames and other time-honoured favourites. When the little ones are worn out, the vast park has plenty of other attractions too, including Oregon Zoo, Hoyt Arboretum, Japanese Garden, World Forestry Center, the Children’s Museum, and picnic areas.

LOCATION 4033 SW Canyon Road HOURS Mon-Sun 5am-10pm

Two children hold hands as they admire the views across the city of Portland from Washington Park (Photo: Scott Swigart via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Immerse yourselves in a Irish-themed festival

Celebrating Irish heritage with live music, traditional dancing, bagpipers, food and family activities, Kells Irish Festival is an eagerly awaited event on Portland’s cultural events calendar. The five-day event is spread across three city locations, with a huge amount of attractions and things to do for kids, including arts & crafts, face painting, and a petting zoo including the chance to meet and interact with Irish wolfhounds.

LOCATION Kells Brewery, 210 NW 21st Avenue DATES 14 March 2020

Catch some top class music at a charming farm

Nestled in the quaint town of Happy Valley, a few miles outside of Portland, Pendarvis Farm is best known for its staging of the annual Pickathon Indie Roots Music Festival, featuring a wide range of talented bluegrass, roots and indie performers. Spread across some 80 acres, the rambling farm is the perfect setting for such a large family-friendly music festival, with designated areas for camping, parking, stages, and more.

LOCATION 16581 SE Hagen Road, Happy Valley DATES 30 July-2 August

Pendarvis Farm

A performance at the Pickathon Indie Roots Music Festival at Pendarvis Farm (Photo: David Owen via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Attend an action-packed family fair

A free-to-enter celebration of play and entertainment for all ages, PDX Family Fair brings new and beloved toy and pop culture brands together under one roof for an interactive and fun-filled one-day event. Organised by the local community, the fair features a whole host of activities including family yoga, face painting, storytelling, and a live children’s musician.

LOCATION Oasis of Change, 2037 North Williams Avenue DATES 18 April 2020

Gets your thrills at an amusement park

Opened in the early 1900s near downtown Portland, Oaks Amusement Park is a perennial favourite with families who enjoy exhilarating fairground rides. As well as its heart-thumping jaunts, the venue also has plenty of other entertainment to offer including an indoor roller rink and large grassy picnic areas overlooking the picturesque river. Each summer the park also hosts the Multnomah County Fair.

LOCATION 7805 SE Oaks Park Way HOURS Mon-Fri 10am-10pm Sat-Sun 10.30am-9.30pm

Oaks Amusement Park

Adrenaline-pumping rides at Oaks Amusement Park (Photo: Jeff Muceus via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Kick back with a coffee while the little ones play

Another popular choice for families when the weather turns bad is soft play. In Portland, the best indoor play space is Playdate PDX, situated near the city’s Pearl District. Here, children can shed their excess energy on slides, in tubes, and by stomping around on an interactive light floor. For parents, a well-stocked café provides refreshments while the little ones run riot. The venue also runs regular special events including face painting and jugglers.

LOCATION 1434 NW 17th Avenue HOURS Sun-Thurs 9am-8pm Fri-Sat 9am-9pm