Portland in Oregon, the city where Grimm (the TV series) was based, is known for being a hip and trendy city. It might not be on everyone’s radar, but it had been on ours for a while. When we started planning our USA road trip and found we could visit both Yellowstone and Portland in one trip, we knew we were finally going to knock it off our bucket list. That said, as we would be travelling as a family, I needed to find things to do in Portland with kids to ensure our son enjoyed the city as much as we did.
As ever, I turned to my trusted fountains of knowledge, the travel groups on Facebook, asking for advice on fun things to do in Portland with kids. There were quite a few suggestions of things to do in Portland, Oregon, particularly with kids, and a Portland bucket list was formed for our trip. Unfortunately, due to the forest fires along the Columbia Gorge Creek, we didn’t get to visit Multnomah Falls, nor drive part of the Pacific Coast Highway. But we did manage to tick off a few things from our bucket list and we enjoyed some of the best things to do in Portland with kids.
5 Awesome Things to Do in Portland with Kids
OMSI – Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
Our first port of call in Portland was OMSI, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, located on the east bank of the Willamette River. I’ve written about our visit in greater detail on the blog, but I’ll admit I was apprehensive about whether it would be of interest to BattleKid or not. I knew we adults would enjoy it, even more so when I found out they had a Pompeii exhibition on during our visit. But would it have enough to keep a three-and-a-half-year-old occupied and happy?
I need not have feared. We visited the exhibition halls on the first floor and there were plenty of displays in there designed to engage children, albeit of a slightly older age than BattleKid. But none-the-less he enjoyed himself in there.
Next up was the Science Playground, and oh my word, this was his favourite room at OMSI. From a giant sand pit to a water play area, there was so much for kids to play with and enjoy. And it was evident by how busy this room was. It was paradise for our boy after the many miles of driving he’d endured before we arrived in Portland. This place is brilliant and is just one of the fun things to do in Portland with kids, even toddlers can enjoy it.
The Oregon Zoo in Portland, located in Washington Park, was also one of the suggested places to go in Portland with kids. I knew BattleKid would enjoy a visit to the zoo, and it would be a great way to wind down after a hectic two weeks, so this made it onto our Portland bucket list. We were also kindly give complementary entry in return for our review, which I published on the blog shortly after we got back.
Suffice to say we were blown away by Oregon Zoo. We arrived just before opening and thoroughly enjoyed a few hours wandering around the various areas and enclosures. The Great Northwest area was by far our favourite section of the zoo and visiting Oregon Zoo in Portland gave us a chance to see some animals not normally seen in European Zoos, such as cougars, bobcats, black bears and bald eagles, all native to North America.
We saw lots of different types of animals and I was impressed by all their enclosures. And of course, we had to ride the zoo train before we left, much to BattleKid’s delight. We were really impressed by Oregon Zoo and would absolutely recommend it if anyone is wondering what to do in Portland with kids and toddlers.
Portland Children’s Museum
Conveniently located in Washington Park beside Oregon Zoo, the Portland Children’s Museum was another recommendation as something fun to do with kids in Portland. The building in which it is located was once the home of OMSI. But it is now a museum dedicated to children, and it also houses a school.
Inside the museum, it is a treasure trove of fun for kids, with different areas designed to spark free-play, their imagination and to give delight. There is a water area here that BattleKid loved, along with a building room, pet hospital, outdoor adventure area and lots more. Children can be children in this museum. There are daily events such as story telling and pottery classes, and there is a Making Studio with crafts and supplies of all types for little imaginations to run wild.
The children’s museum would be one of the ideal things to do in Portland when it’s raining, as there is enough areas and different things to do indoors. In fact, although it was a lovely day outside, we were so busy inside that we never even got a chance to see the outdoor adventure area! And if the rain doesn’t let up and little people start getting hungry, you can visit the café and either purchase meals and snacks there, or you can eat your own at the café tables. It’s a brilliant place to take kids in Portland and its location beside the zoo means you could combine the two like we did for a fun-filled day out with the kids.
Visit Finnegan’s Toy Store and Powell’s Book Store in Downtown Portland
Selfishly, I wasn’t going to visit Portland without doing a little bit of shopping Downtown. That said, two recommendations were made to us that were ideal for bringing kids. After finishing our own shopping in the Nike Store and Sephora (you can guess who went where), we made our way to Finnegan’s Toy Store as many people had suggested it as somewhere to bring kids in Portland.
Finnegan’s Toy Store was a lovely, quaint, old-style toy store with shelves filled with all sorts of toys. The thing that really appeals in this store is there are no electronic games and gadgets of any kind. It is all about traditional toys and games. There are also a few areas laid out with toys for kids to play with and BattleKid made a beeline for the Brio train set. He could have played there for hours. And we didn’t leave without making a small purchase for our boy, a Brio Police Motorbike which he has loved ever since. It was a lovely store to visit.
After Finnegan’s we walked a few blocks and found another famous Portland store people said we just had to visit, even with kids in tow. That store was Powell’s City of Books, one of the largest book shops I’ve ever been in. I went to check out the kid’s books area while BattleKid stayed with BattleDad (he was a bit tired at this stage), and I’ve never seen a bigger kids book section in all my life. It was amazing. There were lots of areas with seats and cushions for kids (and parents) to read books. And I witnessed parents reading to their children from books on the shelves. It certainly wasn’t frowned upon and was lovely to see. Had BattleKid not been tired at this stage, I could have spent hours perusing the shelves.
Have an Ice Cream in Salt & Straw in the Alphabet District
We had a few eateries recommended to us during my research on things to do in Portland Oregon with kids, and while a few donut shops were high on the list, the one thing that caught my attention was one called Salt & Straw. This place was apparently the best place for ice-cream in Portland, and we chose to visit the one in the Alphabet District after our morning shopping Downtown.
We got an Uber there and were lucky to get a table, as there aren’t many in this little ice-cream store. And holy moly, the list of flavours of ice-cream was as long as my arm. We had no idea what to choose so BattleDad ordered a tasting tray of four different flavours. Apart from the coffee one (I hate coffee) they were the best ice-creams I’ve ever tasted. My absolute favourite was the salted caramel. And there were a few fights as the ice-creams scoops started disappearing.
You can buy tubs of ice-cream from here, something we didn’t do and later regretted in our hotel room after dinner. I can wholeheartedly say you must not visit Portland without visiting Salt & Straw. Hands down one of the best things to do in Portland with kids (of all ages).
So, there you have it, 5 of the best things to do in Portland with kids. We enjoyed each of these and would pay them a return visit in a flash. Portland is a very cool and hip town, and as I’ve already said, I was a bit worried whether we’d find fun things to do with BattleKid. But I think we’ve proved that it can be a city enjoyed by everyone, even families with little ones. I do hope we get a chance to return to Portland as I’d love to spend more time around the Alphabet District.
Have you visited Portland, Oregon?