In May of 2017 we visited Portland, Oregon for a week. It was our first big trip together, what got us hooked on traveling. It was rainy, it was cold, and it was fun.
We did lots of walking, visited Forest Park, we walked around the Zoo and the Japanese Gardens, toured a sub, and ate lots of food. That’s not to say that it was all fun and games.
We originally visited in order to see if it was a place we would live to live one day. When we left, we knew that while we might live there in the future, our present was more concerned with traveling and living somewhere with a high pay to living situation.
After a quick story, let’s talk about the top five family friendly places to visit in this rainy and pretty city.
Everyone knows Portland is rainy, that’s not breaking news. But did you know that where we live (Atlanta, GA) actually has more rain? What we don’t have often is hail. Now here’s a fun story…
The scene was downtown Portland, the setting was sunshine, the objective was food. As we were walking to the pizza shop, it began to rain again. Not shocking, so we kept walking.
All the sudden the rain started hurting. It was hailing. Not slow might I add, it was a full-on monsoon of hail (is there a word for that?)
Que obstacle one, finding food required first finding shelter. For the next five minutes we ran from shelter to shelter, trying to find a place to eat. You see, we gave up walking a few blocks to the pizza shop we wanted to go to it was too far in hail.
It was on this day that we almost used Uber for the first time! (Until we realized that the price to go a few blocks was $30…) In the end we were so soaked we caught the MAX, went to our AirBnB, and ate pizza with our hosts (from a separate pizza shop).
Family Friendly Adventures
Portland is full of things to do from tours to spas to zoos. We’ve picked out the top 5 things to do in Portland if you have a family (or are just a child at heart.) Let’s begin.
1. Forest Park
Forest Park (click name for link to site) is the US’s largest in city park, it’s freaking massive and if you are from the South and don’t travel often like we were, has the biggest trees you’ve ever seen. It’s simple to get to by car, but if you are MAX only like us, it takes a bit of planning.
There are a few main spots people go to in Forest Park, the most prominent the Stone House, pictures below. You can also take paid tours or just hike around where you wish. It’s a beautiful park that can get you and your family outside and active. We were lucky enough to go when it was just cloudy, not raining, but I’d bring a rain jacket just in case.
OMSI is maybe the best place for traveling families to let the tiny humans run free. It was hard to visit as a couple without kids, but we could tell the children were having an absolute blast. OMSI is an interactive museum with traveling exhibits located on the top floor. At the time we were there, it was an exhibit on a Lego artist (and the reason we went.) There is also a tour of a decommissioned submarine for families with kids over 3 years old and 36″ tall, MadMan enjoyed and would go again.
It’s easy to get to walking, taking MAX, or driving; though I don’t know anything about their parking situation or if you have to pay. As an aside, MadMan (currently cooking dinner) says I should probably say what MAX is. MAX is their public transit system, their subway, their tube whatever you want to call it. It was great, and we never had any problems getting around for the whole week.
3. The Rose Gardens
The Rose Gardens are a great place for your flower children. Not very interactive; but very beautiful during the right times of the year. Children and adults that love plants, roses, and science will be interested in their test garden and it makes for a great place for photos.
If your kid likes to run wild and play, this will be boring for them. I would suggest a picnic during lunch or dinner for these children. Right next door is the Japanese Gardens, along the same lines, geared towards older children and calm kids.
4. The Japanese Gardens
The Japanese Gardens are a great place for the obligatory travel lesson (or was the just my family?) They have tours, exhibits, a small history museum, and Japanese gardens (duh). It will be most enjoyed by lovers of history that take the in-person tour or know enough to walk through on their own.
While we might not visit again, it was informative, and we saw groups of families teaching their children about Japanese history and culture. Also, outside food isn’t allowed so don’t pull the bugles out when you’re starving (they sold food in there, how was I supposed to know?!).
5. The Zoo (& the World Forestry Center)
The Oregon Zoo is an obvious place for children and right next door is the children’s museum and the world forestry center (we didn’t check out that museum but the forestry center was pretty flippin cool.) This zoo struck me better than most as I prefer wildlife sanctuaries. They really care about the wellbeing of the animals and the education of the people. Many of their animals can’t be released for various reasons and live in amazing areas.
These are great places to teach your children about climate change, our impact on the environment, animals and their wellbeing, and the various parts of the world. Even the MAX ride is pretty cool, ending up really far underground with a built-in history lesson. Overall, it was a blast. We walked quite a bit and got to learn quite a bit more.