Portland was the first stop on our Oregon Coast adventure and we explored the city in search of the best things to do in Portland with kids. In a city renowned for its thriving food and drinks scene and eccentric vibes, there is an impressive selection of sights, hikes and activities for little adventurers. From its beautiful parks and quirky street art to the fascinating museums and stunning waterfalls, here’s our guide to the best things to do in Portland with kids!
The Best Things to do in Portland with Kids
Portland is a great city for families and we had a fun time checking out all the sights. From the fun and interactive Children’s Museum to the enthralling Witches Castle, here’s our guide to the 18 best things to do in Portland with kids!
1 | Portland Children’s Museum
The Portland Children’s Museum focuses on providing a hand’s on, immersive play experience and is an awesome outing for younger kids in Portland. With zones including Waterworks, a Pet Hospital and an Outdoor Adventure area, the museum was a hit with our two kids and we spent over half a day there!
Things to do in Portland with kids tip: The Children’s Museum is popular and the chaos can be a little overwhelming for very young kids. If this is the case, make a retreat to the Sprout Spot, a dedicated room for kids age 3 and under. It’s a great space which provides a safe environment for infants to crawl, play and explore.
2 | Hike to the Witches Castle
Start from the Upper Macleay parking lot and follow a beautiful half mile forest trail down to the stone ruins of the Witch’s Castle in Forest Park. The ruins have a dark past: according to local legend, the owner of the land murdered one of his workers who had fallen in love and eloped with his daughter.
It’s a relatively easy hike trail which is mostly downhill to the Witch’s Castle meaning an uphill climb on the return – it’s not so challenging, our two year old managed to walk almost all of the way there and back. We visited on Halloween and the trail was especially beautiful with the Fall colors are in full effect.
Things to do in Portland with kids tip: the Witch’s Castle is accessible from both the Upper Macleay and Lower Macleay parking lots. If you would like more of a challenge, it is also possible to continue the hike up to the historic Pittock Mansion in the West Hills of Portland, a 5.7mile round trip from the Lower Macleay Park trail head.
3 | Powell’s City of Books
With aisle upon aisle of captivating books, the iconic Powell’s City of Books is one of our favorite things to do in Portland with kids. Regarded as the world’s largest independent bookstore, Powell’s covers an entire block of the city.
The dedicated kids section is full to the brim with every kids book imaginable and ranges from the classics to the inspirational to the current character favorites. Our kids spent hours reading at the kids tables and choosing some new books to take home.
Things to do in Portland with Kids Tip: if you are in Portland at the weekend, kids story time takes place at 11am every Saturday in the Rose Room. It’s a lovely space and we spent ages checking out our new books!
4 | Sweet treats at Voodoo Doughnuts
With over 50 imaginatively named and flavored doughnuts, Vodoo Doughnuts is the ultimate sugar treat in Portland.
The toppings and fillings include Fruit Loops, Oreos and peanut butter and jelly and there’s even a Vodoo Doll shaped doughnut. Kids will love the colourful offerings on display in the spinning doughnut case.
Things to do in Portland with kids tip: if your kids are more into ice cream than donuts then check out the awesome Ruby Jewel and Salt & Straw.
5 | Spot the Street Art
Portland has a vibrant and colourful collection of street art and kids will have fun spotting what’s on display across the city.
Our kids favourites included the pink flamingo at Pie Spot, the iconic Keep Portland Weird slogan across the street from the original Vodoo Donuts on 3rd Avenue, the Art Fills the Void giant banana (SE 12th and Division) and the Rhino Collector on 13th and Morrison.
Things to do in Portland with kids tip: if you are a street art fan, we also loved the Everything is Everything mural (508 SE Grand Avenue) and Capax Infiniti at 1114 SW Washington Street.
6 | Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI)
With a planetarium, a submarine and a science playground, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry is a great outing for inquisitive kids in Portland. The exhibits are hands on and interactive and there’s opportunities to take part in experiments, play with sand and crawl through the roots of a giant tree.
The USS Blueback is docked in the Willamette River and young transport fans will love the opportunity to explore what once was a working submarine.
Things to do in Portland with kids tip: the OMSI has a great range of activities for little kids up to pre teens. For younger visitors, the Science Playground is exclusively for under sixes.
7 | Sauvie Island
Located just 10 miles northwest of Portland, Sauvie Island is a fun escape to the countryside.
Kids will love picking the strawberries, cherries, blueberries and blackberries that are abundant during the summer months or exploring the corn mazes and pumpkin patches that make Fall a special time to visit.
The Sauvie Island beaches which line the Columbia River are another great stop. Kids will have fun wading in the shallow waters and watching the boats pass by.
Things to do in Portland with kids tip: we visited the Sauvie Island Pumpkin Patch on Halloween and had a blast. Our kids loved the hay ride to the pumpkin patch, checking out the animals in the Animal Barn and trying to navigate the corn maize!
8 | Ride the Portland Aerial Tram
The four minute ride between South Waterfront and Marquam Hill offers picturesque views of the city and kids will enjoy the novelty of taking a ride on an aerial tram. The backdrop of the iconic Mount Hood steals the show and, on a clear day it is possible to see Mount St Helens.
9 | Historic Columbia River Highway
The mighty Columbia River and its beautiful waterfalls and viewpoints make for an awesome excursion from Portland.
The magnificent Multnomah Falls, although just 30 minutes outside of Portland, is a world away from the city. Framed perfectly by the Benson Bridge, its icy waters tumble over 600 feet to the ground. Save some time to make the short hike up to view the falls from the bridge or, if you are feeling adventurous, continue to the very top for a birds eye view.
The Bonneville Fish Hatchery is a great stmtop where kids will love feeding the fish and watching the giant sturgeon.
Beacon Rock makes for a fun hike along the drive. It starts with an easy one mile trail which is quickly followed by 52 switchbacks to the top!
There are lots of other waterfalls as well as scenic viewpoints along the highway. Our kids are big waterfall fans and enjoyed visiting the Latourell Falls, Horsetail Falls and Bridal Veil Falls alongside Mulntomah Falls. They also enjoyed the views from Vista Point and still we still giggle about how we almost got blown over by the strong winds!
Things to do in Portland with kids: if you have time, the Rowena Crest Viewpoint is further along the route. It’s amazing views mean it is more than worth the extra drive!
10 | Food Trucks
Portland is renowned for its food truck scene and kids will love the vast selection of delicious options on offer at the food truck pods dotted across the city.
The vendors at the Cartlandia food truck pod, with over 30 carts, serve up dishes from across the globe. Alongside its family friendly beer garden, diners can indulge in Indian, Mexican, Puerto Rican and Thai fare.
Portland Mercado and the Third Avenue food cart pod are other great options.
11 | Portland Puppet Museum
The Portland Puppet Museum displays over 2,000 puppets from around the world. Kids can put on their own puppet show and learn from the puppet master, Steven Overton, who owns the museum.
12 | Washington Park
Together with the aforementioned Children’s Museum, Washington Park boasts an array of kid friendly activities. It is home to the Hoyt Arboretum Oregon Zoo, the International Rose Test Garden, the Japanese Garden and the World Forestry Discovery Museum. There’s also an amazing playground where kids can run free.
- World Forestry Discovery Museum: the World Forestry Discovery museum takes kids on a journey through forests across the world. Highlights include the rides on rafts, jeeps and trains while exploring other continents and a steam locomotive sits outside the museum.
- Japanese Garden: Portland’s Japanese Gardens are considered the most authentic outside of Japan. Kids will love exploring the peaceful garden which is home to meandering streams, traditional arched bridges, a pagoda surrounded by an abundance of trees and greenery.
- International Rose Test Gardens: more than 10,000 roses grow in the International Rose Garden. The gardens originated as a safe haven for hybrid roses during World War I and are now a Portland staple. The best months to visit are May through June.
- Oregon Zoo: the Oregon Zoo is home to elephants, lions, black bears, rhinos and sea otters.
- Hoyt Arboretum: 12 miles of hiking trails surrounded by over 2,000 different types of trees. A Redwood Trail leads to the Redwood Deck and a stunning view of the towering redwoods.
13 | Oaks Amusement Park
Located along the Willamette River, the Oaks Amusement Park is one of the oldest amusement parks in the USA. The highlights include roller coasters, a retro three lane slide, bumper cars, a carousel and a ferris wheel. A train runs through the park and there is a roller skating rink
14 | Portland Saturday Market
The huge outdoor market sells a treasure trove of kid pleasing goods including wooden toys, handmade clothes and musical instruments. If you’re in Portland on the first Sunday of the month the Kid’s Corner entertainment includes puppet shows, science fares and seasonal events such as pumpkin decorating and Santa visits.
Things to do in Portland with kids tip: the Portland Saturday Market is open Saturday’s (10am to 5pm) and Sunday’s (10am to 4:30pm) from March to December.
15 | Playdate PDX
If you chance upon Portland on a rainy day, PDX is an amazing indoor play space with ball pits and cannons, slides and an interactive dance floor which lights up.
16 | Mill Ends Park
Portland is home to the Guinness World Record’s ‘World’s Smallest Park’. The tiny patch of grass was founded by Dick Fagan, a writer whose column was known as Mill Ends and who claimed to have regular discussions with Mill Ends resident leprechaun colony.
The beloved tiny park has housed a swimming pool for butterflies complete with a diving board, a leprechaun, a miniature ferris wheel and a tree.
17 | Make a wish at the Wishing Tree
Kids will love the Wishing Tree in North East Portland. Visitors write their wish on a tag and hang it on the tree. Then, take some time to read the wishes of others and hope that they come true. The tree is beautiful both to look at with its endless tags and to read the heart-warming wishes of others.
Things to do in Portland with kids: if you want to make a wish bring your own tags and sharpie along as supplies can run out at the tree. The tree is located at 2954 NE 7th Avenue. Please be respectful of the local residents who graciously allow the Wishing Tree tradition to continue.
18 | Cool off in Portland’s Fountains
If you visit Portland during the summer, kids are sure to love the interactive fountains and splash pads that are dotted throughout the city. Perfect for cooling off on a hot day, the fountains are located in popular tourist spots including Jamison Square and Waterfront Park. The fun water features include blow holes, wading pools, water arches and jets!
Where to stay in Portland with kids
We stayed at the awesome Inn at Northrup Station. It is colourful, quirky and perfectly located for exploring Portland. The suite style rooms are huge, come with fully equipped kitchens and are perfect for a family stay.