Expedia Kids in the City: Portland Oregon

Today, Pit Stops for Kids is proud to participate in Expedia.com’s fantastic Kids in the City summer series. For 12 days, 12 American cities are featured by 12 travel bloggers. Each day, readers of Expedia experience a different city, all perfect for family summer vactions. Today, Pit Stops for Kids is presenting the final city of Portland, Oregon.

As an Oregon resident, it’s hard to imagine a better city to explore with kids than Portland. Small enough to navigate easily, yet big enough to host all the excitement families want in a city vacation, Portland is a fun, stimulating mix of beautiful scenery, outdoor activities, and often-alternative (yet always free-thinking) urban culture. Read on to see our favorite ways to enjoy Portland, then head to Expedia to view our Portland Fact Sheet, containing all the logistical information you need to plan your own Portland summer visit.

Portland spirit river cruise

Get outside.

Portland is famous for its outdoorsy, sporty mentality. Everywhere you go in Portland, you’ll see cyclists heading to work, joggers on the river front, and crew teams skimming down the Willamette. There are abundant natural areas for families to explore. Kids will love walking the river front at Tom McCall Waterfront Park, where they can spy docked ships and watch the working drawbridges lift and fall. Book a cruise on the Portland Spirit to see more of the Willamette, or if you have babies and small children, spend a day in the slow lane at Mt. Tabor Park, where the walking trails meander amid leafy trees and the playgrounds provide hours of fun.

Older kids will love biking the many family-level bike trails, and everyone will enjoy a day trip driving the Columbia River Gorge, located just miles outside the city on I-84. There, families can see the same view as early pioneers at the Cape Horn Overlook, feel the spray of stunning Multnomah Falls, and watch salmon jump up the fish ladder at the Bonneville Dam. And myth buster alert: it rains far less in Portland than you might think, but if a downpour catches you by surprise, you can always stop at the REI anchor store or original Nike store (both downtown) for the latest rain gear.

Learn a thing or two.

Located downtown, families simply must stop at Powell’s City of Books. A Portland institution, Powell’s consists of multiple rooms (and stories, no pun intended) of new and used books. An entire room is dedicated to children’s books, where readings are often held around the squishy chairs and kid-sized tables. School-aged kids and teens enjoy their own spaces as well, and adult book-lovers will have to be pulled out against their will! Be sure to grab a store map at the entrance to get around!

Portland MAX lightrail

Across the Willamette from Powell’s lies OMSI, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. OMSI boasts a full-scale hands-on museum, with permanent exhibits on earth, life, and chemical science, a baby and toddler area, a fun logistical puzzles and brain teaser section, and working science labs for school-aged kids. Everyone will love the IMAX and planetarium shows, and past visiting exhibits have included headliners like Sue the dinosaur and Richard Scarry’s Puzzletown.

Portland bicycle cab

A short MAX ride away (more on Portland’s public transit to come), Portland’s Washington Park houses the Oregon Zoo and Portland Children’s Museum. Small enough to be manageable and yet big enough to feature all the animals families want to see, the Oregon Zoo remains one of our favorites for its friendly, knowledgeable staff, great shows, and park-like atmosphere (feel free to bring in a cooler on a wagon and picnic on on the center green spaces). On rainy days, the Children’s Museum can’t be beat. Featuring three stories of interactive fun, young kids will love the tree fort, working grocery store, vet clinic, and waterworks, but the museum’s most unique exhibit is its pottery art studio and ‘recycled art’ lab. Open during select hours and fully staffed, these spaces allow kids to create freely, using real art equipment, supplies, and tools. My kids have spent literal hours inside!

Minutes outside of the city, families will find countless Oregon farms and vineyards, many with you-pick opportunities and country entertainment, and in McMinnville (45 minutes away), kids will go crazy for the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum and adjacent Wings and Waves indoor water park. Plan to spend the better part of a day at this highly educational (yet completely entertaining) complex, which will teach families about WWII aviation history, space program events, and even the science of water. The water park is as big and comprehensive as any we’ve seen, and includes attractions for everyone from toddlers to teens.

Voodoo doughnut

Eat like a local.

Portlandians love their local, whole foods, which are abundant at the Portland Saturday Market and at downtown’s many Portland food carts during the summer months. During a weekend walk along the water front or downtown blocks, food trucks are available at every corner, offering everything from gourmet grilled cheese to escargot. Our favorite trucks include The Honey Pot, selling slices of pie, and Herb’s Mac and Cheese, featuring delicious, farm-to-table–you guessed it–macaroni and cheese. If you want to sit down for a meal, a McMenamins is likely nearby. A chain of restaurants in Oregon, McMenamins are always converted from historic or fated-to-be-demolished buildings, ranging from old schools to fire stations to train terminals. For a morning treat, head to Voodoo Doughnut, located near the Burnside Bridge downtown, for some of the world’s most unqiue doughnut creations.

portland saturday market

Stay in the heart of it all.

Families centralized in the downtown area will have little use for their car, due to Portland’s efficient and simple-to-navigate public transit system. Both the Hotel Monaco Portland, which caters to kids, and the Embassy Suites Portland, which offers a fantastic free breakfast, lie within Portland’s ‘Fareless Square’, where rides on the MAX lightrail are free. The Hotel Monaco also rents out free bikes to families, so they can explore downtown on wheels. Within the downtown area, families can spend time at Pioneer Square, Portland’s signature shopping and eating mecca, and in the adjacent Pearl District, where antique shops and speciality stores invite families to poke around.

Whether you spend a day or spend a week, you’ll fall in love with Portland. While you’re planning, don’t forget to check out our Fact Sheet and video at Expedia.com. While you’re there, check out the other cities represented: Philadelphia, San Francisco, Denver, New York, Chicago, Boston, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Seattle, San Diego, and Minneapolis.

Pit Stops for Kids was compensated to support the Kids in the City summer-travel campaign.