Is it worth visiting the Portland Childrens Museum?

The last stop on our two-week USA road trip last year was Portland. I’ve spoken before about why we wanted to visit Portland but one of the aims while there was to have some down time after a lot of driving and to spend some quality time together as a family, out of the car. Our plan was to find fun things to do in Portland with kids, so BattleKid could have some fun, and one things on our bucket list for the city was visiting the Portland Childrens Museum.

PORTLAND CHILDRENS MUSEUM

Now I’ll admit that I had never come across the idea of children’s museums until I started looking into things to do in Portland with kids. I did some searches and asked some lovely people in some travel Facebook groups I am a member of what there was to do in Portland with a toddler, and the children’s museum cropped up several times.

I also discovered that the childrens museum in Portland is located right beside Oregon Zoo in Washington Park, one of the other places on our Portland bucket list. We could combine the two and so a lovely family day out was decided.

Our first port of call was Oregon Zoo and we had a brilliant time there, in what has to be one of the best zoos we’ve ever visited. Once we had finished at the zoo, we did the short walk around to Portland’s Children Museum to see what it was all about.

The Portland Children’s Museum, as mentioned, is located in Washington Park on the old site of OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, another place we visited while in Portland). It was founded in 1946 by Dorothy Lensch. Having moved to their new site in Washington Park, the museum was able to expand their programs and to open a school as well. The children’s museum now hosts more than 300,000 visitors each year.

We arrived after lunch, having refuelled in the zoo and we paid our tickets and entered what can only be described as a kids paradise.

We were first greeted by a crocodile on his back with his mouth open, the idea being you brushed his teeth. It’s a chance to get involved with your kids and to explain why brushing your teeth is important.PORTLAND-CHILDRENS-MUSEUM

From Mr Crocodile we moved onto the Water Works room and this was by far BattleKid’s favourite section. Having learned my lesson from visiting the water discovery section during our visit to OMSI the day before, I had brought spare socks for BattleKid to change into after this room. He spent ages in this room. We even had family fun at a table where you could build channels for a boat to run down. You could create both fast and slower moving channels and watch the effect of each by letting a toy boat run down them.PORTLAND-CHILDRENS-MUSEUM

After the water room we moved onto the Groundworks area and BattleKid had great fun trying to figure out how to work the diggers in the room. He spent ages filling buckets and moving “soil” from one end of the room to another. And there were even hard hats for the budding builders.PORTLAND-CHILDRENS-MUSEUM

There was also a pet hospital in the next room but BattleKid wasn’t interested so we moved on to the Treehouse. Although a small enough room, the treehouse was great and there was a tunnel for kids to crawl through. Next up was the theatre room. In here was a wall with coloured holes into which you placed an opaque tube which took on the colour of the light. This wall was awesome, and I could have played with it for hours, had I been let that is!PORTLAND-CHILDRENS-MUSEUM

There was a Clay Studio in which classes were run at different times during the day. Kids can make something from clay and come back and collect their masterpiece at a later time.

The Maker Studio was BattleKid’s second favourite section. A room filled with things to use to create anything you like, he made a beeline for the hammering table. Safety glasses on, he grabbed a hammer and got banging. And because it’s a children’s museum, no one batted an eyelid at the noise he was making.PORTLAND-CHILDRENS-MUSEUM

There was every kind of craft supplies you can imagine for children to use. And it was evident they were by the large creation hanging from the ceiling!

Having hammered all the nails he had the energy for, we moved onto the Vroom Vroom section. And you guessed it, it had cars and trains for little ones to enjoy. There was a ramp in this room down which two cars could race. BattleKid and another little boy thoroughly enjoyed their races on this ramp. And when it was time to move on, there was an almighty tantrum from our boy!

Before making our way back to the exit we visited a room with slides, climbing walls and other games, all designed for some fun and exercise. BattleKid did really well on the climbing wall. We stopped by the gift shop on our way out and found a small Curious George teddy which we couldn’t leave behind.PORTLAND-CHILDRENS-MUSEUM

And even though we were finished inside, we weren’t quite finished. There was a piano for kids to get musical at, a train to drive and even a pretend wooden ambulance.PORTLAND-CHILDRENS-MUSEUM

Things to note if visiting the Portland Childrens Museum

  • The Portland Children’s Museum hours are from 9am to 5pm, 7 days a week.
  • Various activities are held during the day such as story time and pottery glazing. For full details see this section of their website.
  • There are different admission prices depending on whether you are a member or not. Non-members will pay $10.75 each, with under 1’s free. Museum members have free entry.
  • There is a Portland Children’s Museum free day, and this is generally the first Friday of each month, but can change.
  • Exhibits include Building Bridgetown, Clay Studio, Maker Studio, Water Works, The Market, Groundworks, Outdoor Adventure, Pet Hospital, The Theatre, Twilight Trail, Treehouse Adventure and Vroom Vroom.
  • The Outdoor Adventure is a large 1.3-acre outdoor space, although I cannot comment on it as we didn’t get a chance to visit it.
  • The museum has a café that serves nutritious meals and snacks. And you can use the café tablets to east your own food which is welcomed too.
  • Portland Children’s Museum is fully wheelchair accessible indoors and they also welcome families with members with disabilities and learning difficulties too.
  • There is parking in front of the museum in the public car park of Washington Park and costs just $4.00 per day, ideal if you plan to combine a visit to the zoo with the children’s museum as well.
  • The main toilets for the museum are located in the café at the front of the building.
  • There are stroller lockers located beside the toilets as the general policy is no strollers on the museum floor.

PORTLAND CHILDRENS MUSUEM - Is it worth visiting

So, is it worth visiting the Portland Children’s Museum? Absolutely. BattleKid had a brilliant time just being a kid and got to do things he wouldn’t normally such as play with water, dig “soil” and hammer nails. The museum is designed for kids between the ages of 0 and 12 years of age in mind, and it shows.

My only gripe is that it is the same entrance price for both adults and children. This is the first time I’ve come across this and felt there should have been a slightly smaller price for children’s entry. That said, if your child and you want to spend all day there, it’s worth it. Either way, a visit to the children’s museum in Portland is worth it, particularly if you combine it with a visit to Oregon Zoo next door.

Have you heard of, or come across children’s museums before?

Cath x

*We were not asked to write this review. All prices are correct at the time of writing this post (Jan 2018)

PORTLAND CHILDRENS MUSEUM

 

 

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.

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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.

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