The winter months are fast approaching. It’s already the end of October, and next week the last month of fall begins. I often get reflective at this time of year, thinking about the things we did as a family over the course of the year. 2016 was filled with travel, including a trip to India, but I think my favorite family trip this past year was actually our trip to Portland, Oregon back in September. As you recall, Travel Portland provided us with passes to a variety of attractions in this northwestern American city, and my kids and I had an amazing time exploring Portland to its fullest.
This was also the first time I was sight-seeing on my own with the kids (as my husband was occupied with a conference for most of the trip), and although it was sometimes challenging to wrangle two young ones, I figured out some tricks to keep the kids from having meltdowns every day.
If you’re a parent of young kids like me, then you know how important it is to avoid a meltdown. Every city poses challenges when visiting with young kids. And even family-friendly cities like Portland can have its own set of challenges. If you’re planning a visit to Portland, here are my tips for traveling there with young kids.
Build in nap time
The biggest difference between traveling with adults and traveling with young kids is the pace. Before I had kids, I used to pack in as many sights and activities as I could in a day of travel. Now that I have kids, the pace of travel is decidedly much slower. In cities like Portland, you could easily fill your schedule with hiking, museums, and restaurant hopping. But I urge you to resist the temptation, unless you enjoy having meltdowns in public. Instead, build in some nap time into your day. We had a car, so I always planned a long drive in the middle of our days so the kids could sleep in the car. Even if you don’t have a car with you, take a long break at a coffee shop for some down time, or remember to pack a stroller so the kids can have a rest from walking.
Choose kid-friendly activities
When you do visit the city’s attractions, pick ones that are family-friendly. In Portland, this is fairly easy to do as there are many places in Portland that cater to families with children. I really loved the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and the Portland Children’s Museum for their interactive and educational exhibits. But I also liked the Portland Japanese Garden and the Lan Su Chinese Garden for their treasure hunts, which helped the kids engage more with those spaces. Do a little bit of research beforehand on Trip Advisor or Yelp to see what other families say about attractions in Portland.
Let them run around
There are so many places in Portland for kids to run around. On your visit to Portland, build some time for your kids to run around and play. They will love you for it, and you will enjoy the break from having to entertain them. We loved the Rose Garden Children’s Park and the Oregon Zoo because they both had a lot of space for the kids to explore. But they also enjoyed running around the outside grounds of the historic Pittock Mansion (a bit of history AND play for them!). With its stunning backdrop of the city, it was a perfect place to race back and forth and play Tag.
Make meal time fun
Portland is a food lover’s heaven. With so many hip restaurants and bars, it’s easy to find a place to eat in this city for any kind of appetite. And the best part about it? Many of these restaurants are quite kid-friendly. Slappy Cakes allows you to make your own pancakes, right at your table! And Hopworks Urban Brewery has a special family section with a play area to keep the kids occupied while waiting for their food.
Explore the outdoors
What I love about Portland are the woods. It seems the whole city is filled with hiking trails and forests. For a free activity option, take your kids exploring in one of these forests. On our visits to Portland, we’ve spent time in Washington Park, Forest Park, Macleay Park, and Hoyt Arboretum, but there are plenty more parks to visit while you’re in the city. If you’re in the mood for an excursion, head to the famous Multnomah Falls, which is about 30 miles outside of the city. Spending time hiking in the outdoors not only allows your kids a chance to let our some of their restless energy out, but it also allows you as a family to connect back with nature!
People think we’re crazy sometimes for traveling with young kids. But I’m a firm believe in the power of travel to teach and transform. And if we want our children to be globally-minded people, we need to show them what the world is like. Whether it’s exploring a market in Southeast Asia, or one in the Pacific Northwest, I love showing my kids how amazing and wonderful the world is.
Have you been to Portland, OR with your kids? What are your tips for exploring the city?
Disclosure: I received passes for myself and my children from Travel Portland to OMSI, Portland Japanese Garden, Lan Su Chinese Garden, Oregon Zoo, and Pittock Mansion. However, the opinions expressed by me in this post are completely my own.