Welcome to Portland, one of the coolest and weirdest places to live in the US!
If you are planning your first visit to the City of Rose (Portland’s nickname), you might wonder how does it feel to be there the first time. We felt the same couple years ago when we’re looking through articles with similar names: “Best cities to raise a family”, “Best places to live”, etc. Portland held high positions on many of them, named one of the most bike-friendly, eco-friendly and family-friendly US city. After our visits there I can tell you it’s all true and even more: Portland is eclectic, cozy, incredibly green with tons of recreational opportunities so easy to hit. You can be whoever you wanna be in Portland, with a rare chance to catch a sideways glance.
This post is for parents, who want to know Portland, but wanted to make sure the kids will also have a great time. We always plan our trips around our plans, mixing it with cool ideas kids will be excited about. Some of the 15th places, listed below, wasn’t designed specifically for kids but are family-friendly and were experienced by us and our 1, 4 and 9 years old.
- Best time to visit Portland
- How to spoil your visit
- Where to sleep
- Where to eat
- 15 things you should try while visiting Portland with kids
Best time to visit Portland
There is no best time to visit Portland, it’s all based on your desires: what you are gonna see and do. Summers usually very sunny, dry and sometimes really hot, while winter is mild with a rare chance of temperatures to hit below frizzing. Rainy season last from October till May, so be prepared for gloomy weather. We prefer to explore new cities from outdoor so our second visit in September brought us much more joy than in beginning of December: the days were longer, dry and very sunny.
How to spoil your visit to Portland
Truth be told, Portland is a city where you’ll have to try really hard to spoil your visit there. It’s a beautiful, family-friendly place full of all kind of activities: beautiful gardens, dozens of parks, museums, galleries, roasters, breweries, and great eateries where visitors with kids feel welcome. Meanwhile, after our second visit we found out couple moments I wish somebody told us before.
Stick to only to “kids will love” places. Period.
Not going out of town. One day I will make a full post about this topic :).
Oregon is home for multiple nature wonders and some of them in just half an hour drive from the Portland. It’s roughly like driving from one end of the city to another! Anyway, make a drive through spectacular Columbia Gorge and visit at least a couple of waterfalls. It’s very worth to spend there from a couple of hours to the day if not longer. Multnomah Falls is the tallest and most popular but not last – there are more than a ninety of other waterfalls! They are all different and many of them doesn’t require any hiking, not crowded at all and easily accessible by car – you just drive a couple of minutes from one place to another. Check for possible closures or wildfire here before you go. Come early in the morning or late in the afternoon to beat the crowds if you plan to visit Multnomah and watch kids closely while visiting Columbia Gorge: there are plenty of slippery places and some exposed cliffs. We spent an entire day at the Gorge, (we also made a tour at the
Underestimate the weather. If you are coming during the rainy season (October – May) you should be properly geared up. While most of the time it only drizzles, heavy rains occur and sometimes, unexpectedly. Waterproof boots, waterproof jacket, umbrella, sweater – you don’t need to carry all of that around, but it’s good to know you can pull it on any time you need. Electric shoe dryer takes up very little space but can save a day (it did for us and our 4 pair of shoes). First time and single time our kid was crying about how cold he is, happened in Portland when all of his “waterproof” clothing was soaking wet in half an hour.
Where to sleep
Our most favorite options to look for accommodations became Airbnb/VRBO (for personal experience and meeting the locals) and Priceline (best hotel deals). After we came back home I found this local gem I would love to try for staying: McMenamins Kennedy School. Sounds weird but true: hotel located in a former school! Plus heated pool, free theater admission, bar, restaurant and all of it surrounded by “not your ordinary hotel” design – seems like the price worth the experience.
Where to eat
Portland can be your next foodie destination. There are so many places to have the unique experience of any kinds and diet, you’ll be surprised! Since two of our kids are very small (1 y.o. and 4 y.o.) and usually behave like normal, happy kids (read: loud, moving around instead of sitting still like little Buddhas and waiting quietly), most of the time we stay out of any eateries. But during our last visit, we felt like we just need to visit some brewery and treat the adults by local craft beer Portland is so famous about.
We had a great experience at Hopworks Urban Brewery. Besides nice food and a huge beer selection, it was the most kid-friendly place we have ever visited. 3 playing areas, toys, huge magnetic chalkboards – kids went bananas when they saw all of it. Laughing Planet is another worth place to visit with little ones, especially with picky eaters, like one of our kids. Large varieties of kid styled healthy meals, fast served and reasonably priced. The place is very spacious and has tons of dinosaurs to play with :). Both places located on the Eastside of Portland.
Being in Portland and not trying local doughnuts is a crime! Usually, we don’t buy any doughnuts, but in Portland, it’s hard to resist. They look like a small weird piece of art. We tried: Nola Doughnuts (great for adults: Cajun Maple Bacon, texture and taste are melting in your mouth), Voodoo Doughnuts (Great for kids: dough tastes like in regular doughnuts, but in design and names imagination gone wild. Huge doughnuts, one is more
15 things you should try while visiting Portland
- Have a ride! Rent an electric scooter or a bike. A fun, quick and cheap way to explore the city.
- Walk at least one of the multiple bridges.
- Climb a submarine if you never did before.
- Stop and smell the roses at the International Rose Test Garden. The roses bloom from April through October.
- Have a quiet moment at Grotto. Beautiful Catholic outdoor sanctuary, surrounded by gardens, sets on 62 acres and have exceptional views of the city.
- Buy a book (if you can limit yourself to just one :)) at the biggest independent bookstore in the world! Powell’s City of Books.
- Sip craft beer at
- Gobble at unique local doughnuts.
- Catch a breeze at one of many gorgeous Columbia Gorge waterfalls.
- Board on Portland aerial tram.
- Visit Zoo and/or Portland Children’s Museum.
- Play at Westmoreland Nature Playground. Besides
coolplayground, there are an amazing water play section, pond, and a nice boardwalk.
- Listen to local music at Saturday(and Sunday) Market. It’s also a great place to ride an electrical scooter: all the way along the Willamette
riverand through multiple bridges.
- Relax and sip a tea at serene Lan Su Classical Chinese Garden.
- Play I spy from Portland Council Crest Park. How many volcanos can you spot on a clear, sunny day? (Answer: 5. Mt Hood, Mt St Helens, Mt Adams, Mt Jefferson, and Mt Rainier.)
Thanks for reading and happy travelling!