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50 Things to Do with Kids in Portland Oregon Before they Grow Up

Portland, OR: 50 Things to Do With Kids Before They Grow Up

By Guest Contributor

By Asha Dornfest of Parent Hacks and Blythe Butler of The Blythe Spirit.

In our biased opinions, Portland is a family paradise. Kids here love the outdoors in its leafy summertime brilliance and its wintry, puddle-soaked glory. They can learn to do almost anything, from cooking vegetables grown in a neighborhood garden to swinging from a trapeze. And they do it all in a city that’s criss-crossed by trains, streetcars, buses, and even an aerial tram. Let us show you around:

1. Spend an afternoon at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), including a tour of the USS Blueback Naval submarine.

Things to Do With Kids in Portland Oregon
 

2. Splash in the “tidal” fountain at Jamison Square.

3. Drink a heavenly seasonal Burgerville milkshake, made with local huckleberries, caramel apples, or chocolatey hazelnuts.

4. Slide down the waterslide at the indoor Southwest Community Center pool.

5. Take a free children’s gardening class at one of Portland’s Community Gardens.

6. Eat elephant ears and dance to live music at the Portland Saturday Market.

7. Get a bird’s-eye view from the Portland Aerial Tram.

Things to Do With Kids in Portland Oregon
 

8. Visit Packy at the Oregon Zoo.

 

Things to Do With Your Kids in Portland Oregon
 

9. Play in the brook at the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden.

10. Watch the ducks at Laurelhurst Park.

11. Climb up Mount Tabor — an extinct volcano in the middle of a neighborhood with a playground at the top.

12. Eat a homemade Ruby Jewel ice cream-and-cookie sandwich at the Portland Farmers Market in the Portland State University park blocks.

Things to Do With Kids in Portland Oregon
 

13. Go to a free Oregon Symphony Neighborhood Concert.

14. Eat cotton candy, ride the bumper cars, and roller skate on the wooden rink at Oaks Park Amusement Park.

15. Eat a single Moonstruck Chocolate truffle.

16. Grab a slice of pizza and watch a $3 second-run movie at McMenamins Kennedy School.

Things to Do With Kids in Portland Oregon
 

17. Take a downtown Portland fountain walk. A self-guided tour map is available at the Visitor Center in Pioneer Courthouse Square.

18. Hang out in the children’s section or take in storytime at the Central Library.

19. Take a free streetcar ride in downtown. (update: no longer free; thank you to our commenter below!)

20. Watch a minor-league Beavers baseball or Timbers soccer game at Providence Park.

21. Take the MAX train to Washington Park.

22. Watch July 4th fireworks over the Willamette River.

23. Go to the Children’s Museum.

24. Watch the Vaux Swifts’ return to the Chapman School chimney every night in September.

25. Pick fresh berries and peaches on Sauvie Island. In the Fall, visit the pumpkin patches and corn mazes there.

26. Stake out a prime sidewalk viewing spot for the Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade.

27. Paint your own pottery at Mimosa Studios. Afterward, walk down Alberta Street and eat a lavender syrup crepe at Tour des Crepes (It’s charmingly housed inside an old garage, and the crepe-cooking happens in an Airstream trailer out back). Tour des Crepes is now closed and replaced by an Iraqui food spot (thanks, JR!)

Things to Do With Kids in Portland Oregon
 

28. Pick up some gifts at Thinker Toys or Annie Bloom’s Books in Multnomah Village. Walk around the corner to the candy shop for a sweet treat.

29. Take a hike in the middle of the city in 5,000-acre Forest Park.

Things to Do With Kids in Portland Oregon
 

30. Take in the views of the city from Council Crest Park.

31. Walk along the elevated boardwalk in the Japanese Garden.

32. Relax with a cup of tea and some snacks in the pavilion at the Classical Chinese Garden.

33. Don your slicker and rain boots and walk through the puddles just about anywhere in Fall. The busy squirrels and the falling leaves will keep you distracted.

34. Take a day trip to see the midsummer snow on Mt. Hood.

35. Do some holiday shopping on NW 23rd Avenue, and enjoy the sparkly trees.

36. Eat a Grape Ape or a Dirt Doughnut at Voodoo Doughnut.

37. Keep an eye out for miniature plastic horses tied up to metal rings along neighborhood sidewalks.

Things to Do With Kids in Portland Oregon
 

38. Share a dozen Saint Cupcake mini cupcakes with friends.

39. Cheer the bands in the Rose Festival Junior Parade, or dress up and join it yourself.

40. Visit Mill Ends Park, the smallest park in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

Things to Do With Kids in Portland Oregon
 

41. Bike along the Eastbank Esplanade.

42. Unleash your inner American Idol at Airplay Café’s Open Tike events – open mikes for kids under 12. (update: Airplay Cafe is no longer in business.)

43. Pick up some bargain dress-up duds at the huge Catlin Gabel School Rummage sale, one of the largest rummage sales in the world. (update: no longer available)

44. Meander down Peacock Lane the last two weeks of December and see a streetful of spectacularly lit homes.

Things to Do With Kids in Portland Oregon
 

45. Take in a children’s show at the Ladybug Theater.

46. Climb on the big wheels at Big Truck Day at Conestoga Rec Center.

47. Put on your best finery and enjoy Little Sippers afternoon tea at the Heathman Hotel.

48. Invite nine of your friends and schedule a backstage tour of the Rose Garden Arena (now the Moda Center) home of the Portland Trailblazers.

49. Swing from a trapeze in a DO JUMP! theatre class.

50. Walk along Tom McCall Waterfront Park and enjoy the view, rain or shine.

(This series was inspired by Mommy Poppins’ 100 Things to Do with Your Kids in NY Before They Grow Up.)

Guest Contributor
About the Author

Guest Contributor

We often publish pieces by guest contributors. If you’re interested in being one, please drop us a line at contact[at]alphamom[dot]com.

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We often publish pieces by guest contributors. If you’re interested in being one, please drop us a line at contact[at]alphamom[dot]com.

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Comments

64 Comments
  • Tara

    October 15, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    Hi Asha and Blythe! You did such a great job on this! I live in Portland and have been raising my daughter here since she was a little over a year old. Now, 10 years later, I can say we’ve done almost a majority of things on your list. We just went to the Oregon Zoo a few weeks ago again to see the new baby elephant, Sam. Too cute.
    Portland is such a great place to visit with children and a great place to have a family. A couple things I’d add: spend a few hours at the gingerbread house in Sellwood and make the trek to Newberg for a drive-in movie.

  • Janet

    February 16, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    Oh and Id like to add
    The rock museum…the largest display anywhere

  • Richard & Mai

    June 7, 2009 at 9:33 am

    Hi
    We are in Portland coming from Denmark and UK and will be in Portland with my work for nearly 3 weeks. any suggesions on things my wife can do in the day? Or things we can all do on an evening? Kids aer 6 & 11.

  • Kristin

    June 10, 2009 at 11:03 am

    This is great! We just moved to the Beaverton area from Missouri just a little over 2 months ago. We have already done about 5 things on this list, but there is so much more that I never knew about. Thank you! Also will be following you on Twitter.

  • Courtney

    June 17, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    Very helpful! We are visiting Portland with two toddlers! Thanks!

  • […] alphamom.com via Heidi on […]

  • N

    January 15, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    This is a great list! My husband and I love to visit Portland. While we don’t have kids yet, we’re looking forward to taking them with us one day.

    One thing to note about this list – #19 is now illegal, since they’ve gotten rid of the Downtown Fare Free Zone (September 2012)!

    We accidentally rode for free our first time back in December because there hadn’t been any signs or announcements on our last visit in August! I felt so bad after we found out!

    • Isabel

      Isabel

      January 15, 2013 at 12:28 pm

      Thanks for the update!

  • Jane

    January 23, 2013 at 8:40 pm

    Hi! Great list! I would just like to add that the Portland Beavers no longer play at PGE Park. That stadium has been renamed JELD-WEN Park and houses only the Portland Timbers as an MLA stadium.

  • Rebecca

    February 27, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    I was so excited when I saw The Catlin Gabel Rummage Sale on this list because I went to school there! Sadly Catlin stopped doing the Rummage Sale a couple of years ago:(

    • Isabel

      Isabel

      February 27, 2013 at 7:56 pm

      thanks for the update.

  • D'Arcy

    March 15, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    This is a great list. I was born and raised in Portland and I’ve pretty much done everything on this list with my kids. One adventure that should be added is spending an afternoon at Powell’s Bookstore. My children also loved seeing the inside of Pittock Mansion, I was surprised how much my son enjoyed it.
    We love Peacock Lane, we grab our Starbucks and walk it every December, it’s become a tradition. 🙂

    • Susan

      November 2, 2015 at 12:42 pm

      Yes. A definite destination. 

  • Heather

    March 28, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    Awesome list–Powell’s Books should be top of the list though, right next to OMSI. Oregonians are VERY proud of Powells. If you’re including day trips from Portland, you should definitely include a hike anywhere along the Columbia River Gorge, the Tillamook Cheese Factory and eating a loaf of Haystack Bread in Cannon Beach.

  • Beckyfs

    April 13, 2013 at 11:10 am

    Thanks for the great list. Just to let you know, Ruby Jewel is now an ice cream shop on Mississippi.

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  • […] 50 things to do with kids before they grow up […]

  • Sara pimley

    April 29, 2013 at 1:30 am

    Portland no longer has a minor league baseball team. No more beaver baseball. However they are building a new minor league baseball stadium in Hillsboro next to the Hillsboro stadium.

    • Heather

      June 5, 2013 at 2:37 am

      …And PGE park is now called JELD-WEN Field.

    • aalex

      July 1, 2013 at 7:39 pm

      Hillsboro Hops games. Find seats in the shade. It was a hot 97 degrees and directs sun yesterday but lots of kids of all ages.

  • J R

    July 12, 2013 at 4:34 pm

    #27 update–the crepe house is now an Iraqi food spot. Awesome food and great decor!

    • Isabel

      Isabel

      July 12, 2013 at 6:14 pm

      thank you!

    • Dyanna

      May 3, 2014 at 5:59 pm

      #27 – Walk down the street to Salt & Straw – the best Ice Cream you’ll ever have, all natural and locally sourced ingredients.

  • Racheal McGillivary

    July 17, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    Playing on the Christmas lights:

    At Christmas Time, you can take a drive at Portland International Raceway and see the 12 Days of Christmas in a light display. You can also tune into the radio station and listen to the Christmas songs during your drive. We go every year. It’s great for families coming here for Christmas vacation and locals alike. 

  • Eve

    July 29, 2013 at 9:12 pm

    Great list, thanks. We’ve done much of this with our grandsons ages 6 and 4. But, their favorite and constant request is to take the streetcar to Poiwell’s bookstore. The children’s area is huge. You can sit for hours reading through the books together. The grilled ham and cheese sandwiches in the coffee shop are great and be sure to get a free Powell’s sticker. 

  • cat

    August 7, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    You forgot to say check out the fish hatchery ans learn about salmon and stergeon at bonneville dam!

  • Tami

    November 27, 2013 at 2:59 am

    You might want to add Urban Adventure Quest to your fun list. It is a great Family scavenger hunt/Amazing Race type adventure in downtown Portland. Teens actually getting engaged in an activity with their families… unheard of today 😉

  • Rebecca

    December 20, 2013 at 11:32 am

    #20 – Sadly, the Beavers are no longer here.  Instead we now have the Hops in Hillsboro.  Still a great idea to catch a game with the family

  • Marie

    December 27, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    Great list! We no longer live in Portland but I am so pleased we did a lot of these before we left. I would add one item that we got to do multiple times: Imago Theater. They have wonderful plays for kids! Check them out!

  • Marie

    December 27, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    Oh! And let’s add Salt and Straw ice cream. Delicious for the entire family!

    • CJT

      December 28, 2013 at 4:11 pm

      Can sub out Saint Cupcake #38 which is closing at the end of 2013… “All is not lost for Saint Cupcake fans. The Southeast Portland shop at 3300 S.E. Belmont — dubbed Saint Cupcake Deluxe — will undergo a short remodel at the start of 2014 then reopen as the second Quin outpost with a small line of regular-sized cupcakes alongside Curl’s candies. Saint’s bite-sized mini cupcakes appear to be gone for good. “

  • Rachel ball

    January 7, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    #20. The beavers no longer exist!!

  • Susan

    January 7, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    The link to the Ladybug Theater is wrong. It should be http://ladybugtheater.com/

  • Libby

    January 9, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    St. Cupcake just closed at the end of 2013. 🙁 it’s very sad because they were amazing cupcakes.

  • Jenn

    January 9, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    There is not a Beavers baseball team any longer and PGE park is now Jeld-wen

  • Christina Paulson

    January 9, 2014 at 10:17 pm

    The Rose Garden Arena is now the Moda Center.

  • Melissa E.

    January 26, 2014 at 11:53 am

    St Cupcake may be closed but Cupcake Jones is alive and well (and awesome)!

  • Douglas Lamprecht

    February 12, 2014 at 2:03 am

    #20 now called Providence Park.

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  • meeg

    April 11, 2014 at 8:50 pm

    jeld-wen park is now renamed Providence 🙂

  • Sher

    April 12, 2014 at 3:42 am

    There is an amazing local family run business in Oregon City on Main St. across from the court house called Wrightberry’s and they sell mini cupcakes called “lil guys” 🙂 that are outstanding! 

  • KAITLYN

    May 13, 2014 at 11:57 pm

    PGE park or Jeld-Wen field as now been renamed Providence Park.

  • Jeanne

    June 1, 2014 at 9:29 am

    Saint Cupcake IS still open on Belmont & reopens in NW Portland summer 2014.  Checkout their website @ saintcupcake.com. 

  • Sara

    June 14, 2014 at 9:50 am

    Saint cupcake is reopened!!

  • mdg

    July 6, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    I believe that the airplay cafe is no longer in business.

  • jennifer

    July 7, 2014 at 8:34 pm

    St. Cupcake is now reopened!

  • Wendi

    July 10, 2014 at 9:28 am

    Jeld-win is now Providence Park. I just found this out when we went to a Portlad Thirns game.

  • Valerie

    August 2, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    #20 Jeld-Wen has been renamed.  Again.  It is now Providence Park

  • Joanna

    August 9, 2014 at 8:42 pm

    We are taking a family trip to the Portland area for 1 week, and this blog is exactly what I was looking for! Thanks!

  • Mindy

    September 1, 2014 at 5:16 am

    #38 – Saint cupcake recently reopened.

  • Condo Cathy

    September 17, 2014 at 7:31 pm

    People who are suggesting Salt & Straw must have just moved here! So overrated

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  • Carolyn

    September 22, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    Hmm, that Ladybug Theater site seems to be dead. Try this one: http://ladybugtheater.com/

    I also would highly recommend seeing a Tears of Joy production (http://www.tojt.org/) and visiting Ping Pong’s Pint-Sized Puppet Museum (http://www.puppetmuseum.com/PingPongsPSPM.html).

  • Jessica

    March 26, 2015 at 8:41 pm

    #38 – Saint Cupcake currently has two locations – http://www.saintcupcake.com/

  • […] Before getting pregnant, C and I went on an incredible 7 day foodie/beerknurd trip to the pacific northwest. While we were at the different breweries, brewpubs and microbreweries we couldn’t help but notice the surprisingly large number of hipster families around us. They were so cool and we wanted to be like them “when we grew up.” Although I wouldn’t have ever really thought of Portland as particularly family friendly, visiting this eclectic city sans-baby made me realize that we could easily re-create a version of our trip with kids one day. I would definitely want to do some of the things on the list written by Portland locals Asha Dornfest (author of parenthacks.com) and Blythe Butler (author of theblythespirit.com) that is posted on alphamom.com.  […]

  • Jon

    June 7, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    Saint Cupcake has reopened with new owners but the same recipes.

  • Erica

    July 4, 2015 at 9:15 pm

    #46 the link for Big Truck Day is old. Here is the new one for 2015:  http://www.thprd.org/events/big-truck-day

  • jaja

    July 5, 2015 at 12:44 pm

    Cool list. I have been trying to do things with my family all weekend.

  • Sarah

    July 19, 2015 at 7:29 pm

    You can add the Hillsboro Hops to #20

  • Billy

    July 26, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    I’d say you should add a #51 – introduce them to pinball at Ground Kontrol is a rite of passage for PDX dads.

  • connor

    October 26, 2015 at 5:28 pm

    its acctualy providence park

  • Rachael

    January 13, 2016 at 11:34 am

    Great list!  Thank you so much. I would add to the Timbers game to take in a Thorns game, as well. The women’s play is also spectacular!  Looking forward to returning to Portland again soon.