Our Visit to Oregon Zoo – Review and Tips

While we were in Portland at the end of our USA road trip holiday, we were kindly given complimentary entry to Oregon Zoo in order to review it. During our research on things to do in Portland with kids, a visit to Oregon Zoo came highly recommended so we were thrilled to be invited to review the zoo during our trip. We arrived in smoky Portland on the Tuesday afternoon and had decided to do our visit to Oregon Zoo on the Thursday. So, after breakfast in our hotel, we drove along I-26 from Hillsboro, where we were staying, to Oregon Zoo, which is in Washington Park. It was easy to get to and there was plenty of parking, despite what I had read online.Our visit to Oregon Zoo - blog post header

We arrived before their opening time of 9.30am to collect our tickets and the gates opened just as I exited reception. As you enter the zoo initially you pass through the Entry Plaza where there is the main gift shop, a restaurant and where you can get your photo taken. our visit to oregon zoo - entry ticketsWe decided to go clockwise around the zoo and the first area we visited was the Great NorthWest. Boy, were we blown away by this zone. Set among the trees and forest, this area is simply stunning and houses animals and birds that can be found across the Great North West of the North American Continent. Many of these we wouldn’t have seen in other zoos we have visited.our visit to oregon zoo - Great Northwest Zone of Oregon Zoo our visit to oregon zoo - Great Northwest Zone of Oregon Zoo

It was absolutely beautiful among the trees and waterfall, almost peaceful. We saw gorgeous Black Bears, beautiful Bobcats and the symbol of North America, the Bald Eagles. These are majestic looking birds and an easily recognisable bird.our visit to oregon zoo - black bears From there, we carried on and saw River Otters that were very playful and BattleKid was quite taken by them. We didn’t manage to spot any beavers, I think they were hiding on us. Next up were the Cougars and BattleDad absolutely loved these cats. There were two that we could see and they were beautiful creatures.our visit to oregon zoo - playful otters our visit to oregon zoo - Cougars in Oregon Zoo

From the cougars, we passed by the Petting Farm where we saw a few goats but the gates were locked so we couldn’t go in and pet them. It was a shame as I am quite fond of goats and always enjoy meeting them like at the Small Breeds Farm in Kington.

Just passed the farm and barn is the Carousel. Having been on one in Missoula just a few days before, BattleKid was most definitely not going to let us pass this without at least one ride. So I joined him. We were very lucky as the lady had just opened the carousel at 10.30am so along with one other boy, we were first on.

After our ride, we continued our visit to Oregon Zoo by visiting Nora, the Polar Bear. She was in a very playful mood, sticking her head into an orange bin. We were very lucky to see her as we later discovered she was being moved to a zoo in Utah the following week to be paired up with a male polar bear.our visit to oregon zoo - Nora the Polar Bear

Next, we visited the Primate Forest before going to see the Lions and my personal favourite, the Cheetahs, in the Predators of the Serengeti area. We also came across an animal we had never heard of, let alone seen before; the Caracals. These medium-sized cats are native to Africa, the Middle East and parts of Central Asia and were beautiful looking creatures. BattleKid also had great fun at the meerkats!

our visit to oregon zoo - BattleKid pretending to be a lion
RAWR

our visit to oregon zoo - my favourites, the cheetahs

After the Predators of the Serengeti, we walked past the rhinos and hippos and BattleKid was fascinated by the hippos as they were making a lot of noise! Off Rainforest Plaza, we saw the giraffes, which we always enjoy, before we decided to stop for some refreshments at the Coffee Crossing in the Discovery Zone. The price for a tea, coffee, 1 cake, 1 cookie and some crisps (or chips as they are called in the USA) was only $14, which I think is reasonable.our visit to oregon zoo - Giraffes

We enjoyed our pit stop and afterwards, BattleKid had fun in the playground next to the café, even making friends with a little girl. It was good to let him stretch his legs and burn off some energy after the mammoth hours and miles he had just done in the car.our visit to oregon zoo - discovery Zone palytime

While we were enjoying a break, BattleKid also spotted the zoo train. Before we went on the train we finished off visiting the rest of the animals which included BattleKid’s favourites, the penguins, and the seals which seemed to be playing with BattleKid at the glass. They would swim away, turn back, swim directly towards him and turn at the last minute. He found this all very funny.our visit to oregon zoo - Laughing at the Penguins our visit to oregon zoo - Seals playing with BattleKid

Satisfied we had seen everything we wanted to during our visit to Oregon Zoo, it was time to take the train, or Spencer as BattleKid called him (from Thomas the Tank Engine). The train meanders through parts of the zoo including the Great Northwest and the Elephants Lands, which we had visited after our ride on the carousel. It was a lovely way to end our visit to Oregon Zoo.

our visit to oregon zoo - waiting for the zoo train
Patiently awaiting “Spencer”
our visit to oregon zoo - BattleKid wearing an explorers hat
Our little explorer

As we passed through Entry Plaza on our way out, we stopped by the gift shop to buy a magnet (something we always do on our travels) and got BattleKid a small toy. Overall, we absolutely loved our visit to Oregon Zoo. It was a great way to spend some time together as a family outside of the car. Dare I say it, BattleDad and I think Oregon Zoo tops even Chester Zoo which has been our firm favourite since our visit last year!

Facts about Oregon Zoo

  • Oregon Zoo was formerly known as the Washington Park Zoo, mainly due to its location.
  • It is set among 64 acres and houses no less than 1955 animals from 232 species.
  • Founded in 1888, it is the oldest North America zoo west of the Mississippi.
  • It’s exhibits include the African Rainforest, Savannah and Predators of the Serengeti, as well as Elephant Lands, Amazon Flooded Forest, Bears, Condors of the Columbia and the Great Northwest (our favourite).
  • Oregon Zoo has species survival plans for 21 endangered or threatened species and has successful breeding programs for the California Condors, Asian Elephants and African Lions. 

Things we discovered during our visit to Oregon Zoo for you to consider if visiting the zoo

  • The zoo opens daily in peak season from 9.30am to typically 5.30pm. During off peak season, the zoo closes at 4.30pm.
  • Oregon Zoo is not as big as some we’ve been to but there are plenty of areas and zones to explore so a stroller/buggy would be advisable for young kids.
  • There is a zoo train and carousel (additional costs for these). We went on both and enjoyed them, although the train more so than the carousel.
  • Oregon Zoo has 4 main restaurants/cafes, serving drinks and food which varies from snacks and cakes to full meals. As mentioned we had two hot drinks, a cake, cookie and crisps/chips and the total was $14, which was reasonable compared to other zoos we have visited. There are also smaller drinks huts around, mainly during the summer and on busy weekend.
  • Picnic areas are available.
  • There is a big gift shop at the entrance.
  • Toilets are dotted all over the zoo. We were actually surprised by how many, certainly more than some other zoos I won’t mention.
  • Information signs are really good and animal signs are informative. For kids, there is a zoo key available from the admissions kiosks which unlock secrets of the zoo, costing $2.50. We didn’t get one but they would be brilliant for older kids.
  • There are a few play areas around the zoo and we tried two of them at the primate area and discovery zone. BattleKid enjoyed both.
  • Parking is available beside the Zoo and Children’s Museum and is payable. It costs $1.60 per hour or a maximum of $4 in off peak season and $6.40 during peak season. We arrived at 9.20am on a Thursday morning after the summer and there was plenty of parking but I’ve heard it gets very busy during the summer so arrive early!
  • Baby changing facilities are available around the zoo.
  • The zoo is fully accessible and wheelchairs, strollers/buggies and electric scooters are available for hire.

Oregon Zoo prices**:

March 1st to September 30th:       Ad £14.95            Child £9.95

October 1st to February 28th:        Ad £9.95               Child £4.95

Child prices are for children aged between 3 and 11 years of age. Children aged 2 and under are free. There are discounts available for senior citizens (65 and over) and military personnel. Discounts may also be available, check the Oregon Zoo website for details. Tickets are available for purchase online.

our visit to oregon zoo - facebook post

 

I am so glad we had the opportunity to visit Oregon Zoo. We were especially blown away by the Great Northwest zone and had the chance to see many animals we wouldn’t normally see in European zoos. Oregon Zoo is easily doable in one day and children of any ages will thoroughly enjoy it. I highly recommend you visit it if visiting Portland.

Cath x

*We were kindly given complimentary entry to Oregon Zoo for the purpose of this review. However, as always, these are my own honest thought and opinions.

**Prices correct at the time of writing this post.

our visit to oregon zoo - pinterest pin our visit to oregon zoo - twitter post

Our Visit to Portland – Planning Part 2 of Our USA Road Trip

As part of our epic USA road trip this year, we are taking in the wonderful city of Portland. It might seem like an unusual city to some but BattleDad and I have wanted to make a visit to Portland ever since we started watching the TV series Grimm. It always looked very chic and like it could be a cool place to visit. I’ve written about our wish to visit Portland and we’re finally doing it. But planning our visit to Portland has been no meant feat I can tell you.

visit to portland
Portland by Night – Picture Source

Oregon is also somewhere I have wanted to visit to see autumn colours. While most people will visit Maine or New England to see autumn colours, Oregon is also somewhere to visit for this time of year. We may or may not see much in the way of autumn colours as we are visiting at the very start of September but you never know.

Our USA road trip starts in Portland but we don’t stop there. Firstly, we head to a place called Richland for an overnight stay before we spend a whole day driving to start part one of our trip: our visit to Yellowstone. After exploring Yellowstone for a few days, we make our way to Missoula for 3 days before heading back to Richland via part of the Dalles Shamrock Route. After another overnight stay, we head to our final destination of our USA road trip, Portland. There we will have 4 days to take in part of Route 101, the Pacific Coast Highway as well as discover and explore Portland and the surrounding areas.

Once again, I turned to the travel Facebook Groups I am a member of and asked for peoples advice on what to see and do in Portland, particularly with a 3 year old in tow. And boy did they come up trumps.

Recommendations for Our Visit to Portland

Portland Children’s Museum – This museum is dedicated to children and is located in Washington Park, near the Oregon Zoo. It is the 6th oldest children’s museum in the world. The Portland Children’s Museum is not a typical museum, opting to spend time investing in familiar materials to craft priceless opportunities for children to learn through play, rather than in precious objects. The exhibitions, workshops and objects on display are designed to be fun and bring about both creative and cooperative play in children. Reading some review on TripAdvisor, it seems it is designed with younger children in mind, which is perfect to us. So, I think a visit to this Children’s Museum is high on our list of things to do during our visit to Portland.

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry – This museum is one of America’s leading science centres and is a big attraction in Portland. Their mission is to Inspire curiosity through engaging science learning experiences, foster experimentation and the exchange of ideas, and stimulate informed action.  I have a feeling the Orgeon Museum of Science and Industry is going to be a lot like Techniquest, which I’ve brought BattleKid to, and will be enjoyed by both him and us adults. Another one for the to do list during our visit to Portland, particularly since they currently have a Pompeii Exhibition taking place.

Oregon Zoo – Also located in Washington Park near the Children’s Museum, this 64-acre zoo boasts nearly 2000 animals and over 200 species, and is also the oldest North America zoo west of the Mississippi. Exhibits include African Rainforest, African Savannah, Predators of the Serengeti, Amazon Flooded Forest and Condors of Columbia, to name but a few. I think no visit to Portland with a toddler in tow would be complete without adding the Oregon Zoo to your to do list. And it is most definitely on ours. With it being located beside both the Children’s Museum and the Hoyt Arboretum (see below) and with a light rail link to the Portland Japanese Gardens (see below), I think we’ll combine a visit to the zoo with these other attractions too.

Portland Japanese Gardens – Another attraction situated in Washington Park, these traditional Japanese gardens occupy 9 acres and is composed of eight garden spaces and a cultural village. With waterfalls, ponds, bonsai gardens and traditional plants, I think this is going to be a lovely place to visit for some quiet time after a hectic few weeks. As it is located at the opposite end to the Oregon Zoo and Children’s Museum we might make the Portland Japanese Garden our last stop during our visit to Washington Park. And I am secretly hoping some acers have vibrant leaves for me to photograph.

International Rose Test Garden – Another Portland attraction located in Washington Park, this garden is located near the Japanese Gardens. Occupying 4.5 acres, these gardens come into their own between April and October with different species in bloom at different times. The International Rose Test Garden has over 7000 plants of approximately 550 species. Who knew there were that many species of rose plants! If we get time we will pop in for a look after the Japanese Gardens and, if we do, I’ll be sniffing them to my heart’s content.

Hoyt Arboretum – Also located in Washington Park, this 189-acre arboretum hosts approximately 6000 individual trees and over 2000 species of shrub from around the world. Hoyt Arboretum boats 12 miles of trails, two of which are wheelchairs accessible, a visitor’s centre, indoor classroom, a picnic shelter and meadow. Although recommended as somewhere we should go during our visit to Portland, I am not sure if we will manage to squeeze this in.

Parks – As well as Washington Park, two other parks were suggested as somewhere we might like to visit. They were Forest Park and Mount Tabor Park. Forest Park is located in the west of Portland, while Mount Tabor Park, a dormant volcanic vent, is located in Southeast Portland. Again, I am not sure if we’ll have to time to visit these two parks during our visit to Portland.

Multnomah Falls – A waterfall located on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge, Multnomah Falls is one highlight I am not going to miss, come rain or shine. When we started thinking about visiting Portland many years ago, these falls were something I stumbled across and that was it, we had to go. From pictures I’ve seen they look spectacular. They are also located only 35 minutes’ drive from where we are staying in Portland.

visit to Portland
Multnomah Falls – Picture Source

Other Recommendations for Our Visit to Portland

Eateries – These have included places for the best donuts which include Voodoo Doughnuts and Blue Star Donuts. For great coffee (BattleDad, not me) we have been recommended a place called Stumptown Coffee Roasters. For BattleKid, the best ice cream place recommended to us was Salt and Straw Ice Cream near to a good shopping area. That’s me sorted! For breakfast, I stumbled across as place called Slappy Cakes, a place where you make your very own pancakes on a griddle at your table. It’s then up to you what you have with it. Only a 20-minute drive from our Portland accommodation, I think we’ll be having breakfast there! And for all-round good food, we’ve been recommended a place called Mother’s Bistro and Bar but have been told to get there early! This is always a good sign so that might be a good place for dinner.

Powell’s City of Books – The world’s largest independent book store, they have a very good children’s section and are located in Downtown Portland. I think we might find a nice book or two in there for BattleKid and plan to combine a trip there with some general shopping.

Resources Recommended for Our Visit to Portland

Two websites were recommended to me for our visit to Portland and I’ve found them both very helpful so far.

Cascadia Kids – A blog dedicated to travel with kids in the British Columbia, Oregon and Washington States of Canada and America, respectively, this has given me some very useful information. One particular post I enjoyed and gave me inspiration was Portland in a Day: 12 hours of fun. Through reading this post I discovered just how much of our Portland wish-list was located in Washington Park and in what order we might want to consider doing them.

Redtri – Another blog dedicated to inspiring parents to do fun things with their kids and they have a section on Portland. They have posts with days out ideas as well as a calendar of events on for families. I haven’t consulted this website too much but may do so closer to the time.

If I thought the Yellowstone leg of our USA road-trip was going to be jam-packed, Portland looks just as bad. As mentioned we want to take one day to drive part of Highway 101, the Pacific Coast Highway so it only really leaves us two and a half days to do things in and around Portland. I also want to do a bit of shopping and visit the Disney store to see if I can pick up one or two things in preparation for our visit to Disneyland Paris in December, and I might even get a few things exclusive to the states.

So, our visit to Portland is going to be busy. I mentioned all these great things to my mum and she said, “Are you going to have any part of the holiday that is just a holiday?”. I saw her point, and thankfully we haven’t planned anything to do during our few days in Missoula and Lolo, so I think that will be the real holiday part of our USA road-trip.

To summaries, our Portland Bucket List looks a bit like this.our visit to portland

Whether we get it all done remains to be see but we’ll definitely do our best to pack in as much as possible.

Cath x

our visit to portland our visit to portland