Kids Love Portland

There are many family-friendly reasons to visit this city

By: Julee Shapiro

When it comes to the Northwest, many think of Portland as a second city to Seattle and it is, in terms of population. But Portland holds its own when it comes to parks, public transportation, museums and other cultural institutions. Here are a few of the best reasons to encourage clients to make their next family vacation an urban experience in the City of Roses.

The center of downtown Portland, Pioneer Courthouse Square (surrounded by SW Yamhill, Morrison, Sixth and Broadway), also known as Portland’s living room, is a great place to blow off steam. Kids will love the steps, statues and four-way continually spouting water fountains. The light rail Metropolitan Area Express (MAX) stops here too. Kids under 7 don’t need a ticket, and some of the shorter rides are even free for grown-ups.

The Oregon Zoo (4001 SW Canyon Road), the Portland Children’s Museum (4015 SW Canyon Road) and the World Forestry Center (4033 SW Canyon Road) share a parking lot in Washington Park. The MAX Light Rail stops there as well. In fact, the stop (Washington Park) is less than five minutes from downtown and happens to be in the deepest underground light rail tunnel in North America and second deepest in the world. On the elevator ride up, kids can watch the feet tick off as they climb to the surface. Plus, MAX riders get a discount on zoo admission.

The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (1945 SE Water Avenue) the locals call it OMSI is on the east bank of the Willamette River, just south of downtown, five minutes by car (or a short bus ride). Kids of all ages will love the 219,000 square feet of brain-powered fun including interactive exhibits and hands-on demonstrations like an aerodynamic ball room, water play and an animation studio that even the little ones can understand. There’s also a big-screen OMNIMAX Theater and the USS Blueback, an actual decommissioned U.S. Navy submarine. Kids over 3 years who can crawl through the opening can tour the sub. (Sub tour and OMNIMAX require additional fee.)

Powell’s City of Books (1005 W. Burnside), the “world’s largest independent new and used book store,” features three floors of books and periodicals, with a large children’s section. You’ll find several kid-sized tables and sun streaming through the windows on a nice afternoon plus plenty of affordable reading material. Pearl Bakery (102 NW 9th Avenue) is a block east, where you can pick up a delicious treat and continue another block to a shady park and playground.

Finnegan’s Toys (922 SW Yamhill) is the perfect spot to test out and shop for toys not always found at the traditional shops. (FAO Schwartz watch out!) Toys on display can be (gently) played with, including a train table loaded with engines and a gravity-powered marble tower. It’s on the MAX line, across the street from the main library.

Visitors can experience the charm and excitement of minor league baseball at PGE Park (1844 SW Morrison), recently renovated to add state-of-the-art amenities without sacrificing the stadium’s 1926 design. It’s home to Triple-A baseball’s Portland Beavers, an affiliate of the San Diego Padres. Hot dogs are plenty, even the best seats are less than $15 and nabbing a foul or home run ball is nowhere near as rare as at a major league stadium. It’s on the MAX line and the Portland Timbers’ soccer games are played there as well.

The Central Library (801 SW 10th Avenue), built in 1913, features a kid-friendly room named for Portland’s most famous children’s book author Beverly Cleary. While there, pick up a map to some of the actual locations fictionalized in her beloved stories about Beezus and her little sister Ramona.

Share-it Square in the Selwood neighborhood (SE Sherrett and 9th Street), is a grassroots public square created by the local community. At each of the four corners of this residential intersection, you’ll find a station created by the neighborhood and fabricated almost entirely of recycled materials and natural resources. There’s a Tea Station where free hot tea is available 24 hours a day; an Information Station; a Produce Station where people can give away or exchange food or household items; and a Play Station/clubhouse with a toy kitchen, games, toys and books. There are also antique shops and cafes nearby.

Portland is one of the country’s most bike-friendly towns. A number of trails line the Willamette River, plus there are marked lanes and paths all over the city. To rent mountain bikes try Fat Tire Farm (2714 NW Thurman) and hit the trails in Forest Park. For in-town bikes, try Waterfront Bike and Skate Rental (315 SW Montgomery, Suite 360).