Visitors can be wowed by IMAX films at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. // © 2015 Gia-Goodrich/Travel Portland
Feature image (above): With unique attractions and natural beauty, Portland is a great choice for families. // © 2015 iStock
Portland, Ore., marches to the beat of its own drum. As the Pacific Northwest’s second biggest city, this engaging hub celebrates its nonconformity, and “Keep Portland Weird” bumper stickers are a popular accessory for locals. It lays claim to the world’s smallest dedicated park — Mill Ends, just 24 inches across — and holds the current Guinness world record for the world’s largest box of doughnuts.
It’s also one of the country’s greenest cities: Even the Portland Trail Blazers’ basketball arena has earned LEED Gold certification. With its hip but unpretentious range of activities, attractions and restaurants, Portland is eager to please families in a unique fashion.
Visitors notice Portland’s family-friendly atmosphere from the moment they arrive at Portland International Airport, which features child-oriented assets such as nursing stations and play areas. From there, the gang can hop on the fun and easy-to-navigate MAX — Portland’s impressive light-rail system — for a ride into and around downtown.
Portland is a city with a unique network of neighborhoods, each with its own personality and accommodations to match. While many hotels appeal to multigenerational travelers, families can’t go wrong with the conveniently located Embassy Suites by Hilton Portland Downtown. Parents and kids alike give the property a thumbs-up for its suites with separate bedrooms. Added perks include a free, daily cooked-to-order breakfast, an evening reception with complimentary snacks, an indoor pool and a video arcade.
Among the city’s family attractions is Portland Children’s Museum, where wee ones can splash, stomp around and explore the various hands-on displays. The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry’s interactive exhibits invite clans to experience a motion simulator, design a flying machine and marvel at an IMAX film. The Oregon Zoo lures families with some 2,000 animals from around the world, train rides and summer concerts. The neighboring World Forestry Center connects people with nature, with options such as “wet-free” raft riding and virtual smokejumping.
For active families, Portland offers jetboat tours on the Willamette River and bike rides along scenic waterfront paths. When it’s time to relax, bookworms of all ages can get lost in the block-long Powell’s City of Books, the world’s biggest independent bookstore. Each day of the week, colorful farmers markets pop up in various locations around the city. Portland also boasts the largest continuously-operating open-air crafts market in the U.S., held every Saturday.
Come mealtime, families flock to Slappy Cakes, a make-your-own pancake restaurant with built-in table griddles. Laughing Planet Cafe delights diners with toy dinosaurs on each table and tasty burritos, soups and salads.
But perhaps the most quintessentially Portland food stop is Voodoo Doughnut, with singular sweets such as peach fritters topped with cream-cheese frosting and pink and orange sprinkles. It’s the perfect example of how Portland keeps it wonderfully weird.
WHEN TO GO
Portland’s mild climate, with average temperatures from 43 to 69 degrees Fahrenheit, makes it a year-round destination. In spring, nature lovers get their fill of flowers, particularly during the signature Portland Rose Festival from late May to early June. Summer brings long daylight hours for outdoor activities in and near the city. The cooler, wetter fall and winter weather encourages indoor explorations of Portland’s vibrant arts, coffee and craft beer scenes.
Portland International Airport welcomes about 16 million passengers annually, with nonstop routes to and from many domestic destinations and several international destinations. Rated highly for its family appeal, it’s a skylight-filled space with special touches such as a huge river map on the floor of Concourse C and an art display in Concourse E. Restaurants keep prices comparable to what customers would pay elsewhere. Throughout the airport, live musical performances entertain families with everything from jazz to marimba.