Five Tips for a Kid Friendly Portland Visit

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I often get reflective around the fall, 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 kid friendly Portland, Oregon trip back in September.

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 all the things to do in Portland with kids.

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.

This post was updated on March 6, 2020.


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Kids playing piano in kid friendly Portland, Oregon
Playing on the piano outside of the World Forestry Center (September 2016)

Things to know about kid-friendly Portland

The city of Portland is located in the Pacific Northwest state of Oregon. With a population of over 600,000, Portland has many attractions for families to experience. There are also restaurants, cafes, and parks for families to visit while in Portland.

Getting around Portland with public transportation can be relatively easy. The city’s TriMet system has a light rail, a bus, and street car. Driving around Portland is also very straightforward. For families, walking around Portland can also be a fun option. The book, Walking Portland, has some great ideas for walking around the city.

In terms of lodging in Portland, the city has plenty of unique and quirky neighborhoods for families to stay. Besides the Downtown neighborhood, Chinatown, Pearl District, and Nob Hill are also popular among travelers.

Hiking in Portland with the kids (February 2016)

Our tips for having a kid friendly Portland experience

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 with so many family things to do in Portland, visiting there with kids 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.

Kids exploring a garden in kid friendly Portland
Our kids walking through a garden in Portland (October 2016)

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. There are so many fun family things to do in Portland! But I urge you to resist the temptation of filling your schedule, 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.

Naptimes are a must when traveling with young kids!

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 things to do in Portland with kids. 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.

A child exploring Lan Su Chinese Garden in kid friendly Portland
Having fun at the Lan Su Chinese Garden (September 2016)

Let them run around

There are so kid friendly Portland places for kids to run around. On your next 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.

Playing at Pittock Mansion (October 2016)

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. We never run out of things to do in Portland with kids when it comes to food!

Making pancakes at Slappy Cakes (February 2016)

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 option for family things to do in Portland, 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!

Hiking through Washington Park (September 2016)

Exploring all the things to do in Portland with kids

We love visiting Portland because there are so many things to do! We have so much fun exploring the city. You truly can have a kid friendly Portland experience!

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.

Five Tips For A Kid Friendly Portland Visit | The Wandering Daughter

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