Kid-Friendly

Traveling to Portland with Kids? You’re in Luck.

Bond with you wee ones at a parent-child yoga class. (Photo: Alamy)

When traveling to a new city with kids, it’s easy to hit the “big three”: the children’s museum, the zoo and the science museum. And Portland has great versions of this trifecta. But sometimes parents want to veer off the well-traveled path and explore the hidden gems a city has to offer.

Below you’ll find options for kid-friendly adventures in Portland that aren’t quite so crowded as the “big three” and are every bit as fun — no matter the weather.

Where to Move

Outside: Tucked away behind Reed College in posh Eastmoreland you’ll find a hidden treasure in Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. At just under 10 acres, it’s the perfect size for exploring with kids of all sizes. And there is lots to explore.

While March through May is the showiest time for the garden — that’s when you’ll be treated to hundreds of blooming rhododendrons and azaleas — the landscaping will leave you inspired in any season.

portland with kids
Kids can burn off energy outdoors at Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. (Photo: Alamy)

Kids can float feathers and leaves down the stream, feed the many species of ducks or just run around. If you’re lucky, you may even see an eagle soaring overhead.

For even more outdoor fun, head about a mile west to Westmoreland Park. This nature-based play park eschews the traditional play-structure playground, embracing instead logs to climb, sand to play in and branches to build with.

Inside: If it’s pouring rain but your kids are still feeling the need for speed, head to Playdate PDX in Northwest Portland. The space is dominated by a multistory play structure to end all play structures.

Designed to look like a castle, the play structure lets your kids climb, slide, jump, bounce and burn up enough energy to thoroughly enjoy the in-house café. Parents can sit back and relax with a cup of Stumptown coffee. Its a win-win.

Where to Eat

Outside: Assemble a picnic at the PSU Farmers Market, which is open year-round, or treat yourself to a meal from one of the market’s food trucks. (You’ll have to stand in line if you want a breakfast burrito from Enchanted Sun, but you won’t regret it.)

Enjoy your meal while listening to live music. Insider tip: If you’re there during strawberry season, you must buy them. Oregon strawberries are like no other.

Inside: Kid menu? Check. Play area? Check. Locally sourced, locally crafted organic beer? Check, check, check. Kids are not only tolerated, but welcomed at Hopworks, so you can enjoy your brew and burger without worry.

peaTime your visit from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. to take part in Hopworks’ happy hour and get a great deal on some delicious food. (Order the pretzels.)

Where to Learn

portland with kids
Stoke your child’s imagination at Pearson Air Museum. (Photo: Alamy)

Outside: Cross the river and state lines to Vancouver, Washington, for a trip back in time at Fort Vancouver. Folks in period costume will guide you through the grounds and the history of the site, from its beaver fur-trading days in the early 1800s to the establishment and use of military barracks later in the century.

Or you can choose to wander around on an unguided tour. Also on site is the Pearson Air Museum, one of the nation’s oldest operating air fields and home to several small planes and exhibits.

Inside: Train lovers, rejoice! The Oregon Rail Heritage Center is the perfect spot for train-loving kiddos (and their adults). This free-admission museum is run by a team of dedicated volunteers who know their trains. Inside you’ll find three steam locomotives, rich in history and impressive in stature, along with rotating exhibits.

Outdoors, you can climb aboard one of the retired trains. Insider tip: If you visit between Thanksgiving and Christmas, you can ride on one of the steam locomotives as part of the organization’s Holiday Express train rides.

Where to Relax

Outside: With its location between the Willamette and Columbia rivers, there are lots of opportunities to find water in the Portland area. But one of the most lovely and secluded is in neighboring Lake Oswego’s George Rogers Park.

You can dip your toes in the water, lounge on the sand or watch painters paint the gorgeous landscape. There are some really cool volcanic rocks to be found on the shores here, too.

Inside: Feeling stiff from travel? Why not check out a parent-child yoga class! Studios like The Bhaktishop, Sellwood Yoga and Yoga Shala, among others, offer regular parent-child yoga classes — a great way to recenter and reconnect, Portland style.