Roadtrip: Family Friendly Portland, OR

Being near a major travel hub means many places are convenient and inexpensive to visit. During a Southwest special, the hubs and I decided to book a long weekend in Portland, Oregon. As usual, our spunky two year old was along for the ride!

It turns out that Portland is pretty family friendly. From a handful of play cafes and family-friendly breweries, to some amazing museums and attractions, Portland has things to please even the smallest of travelers. Here are a few I recommend:


  • Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI): This is a fantastic science museum, and one that allowed our family in free thanks to our ASTC membership! In addition to the standard $14/pp museum admission, you can pay extra to visit the planetarium, submarine, and/or theater. Although we opted against the latter, the museum itself allowed us 2-3 hours of fun and exploration; you could easily make a day of it all.
    • Highlights: The 6 and under area was one of the best we’ve visited! Upon entrance, we were greeted by a friendly employee who gave us the run down and offered we come back to her with any questions or if we needed further assistance. This is one large room, with a tree you can climb under, animal costumes for dressing up, a reading nook, ball drops, and even a gated area for crawling babies only. In addition, our three favorite places were 1) the large sand pit, equipped with sand toys of every kind, 2) the water tables, and 3) the art lab, which included a DIY valentine station and a separate table with slime to play with.
    • The bottom floor was equally as entertaining, with many hands on exhibits. Robots, boats, legos, ball mazes, paper airplanes, and even chemistry and physics labs make this an enjoyable experience for all ages.
    • UniqueThe exhibit we adults found most interesting is the “Beginning the Journey – Examine the stages of human fetal development across nine months of pregnancy with one of the largest public displays of human fetuses.” It was so incredible to see how the fetuses/babies look and develop over time. I also find it incredibly brave and self sacrificing for these mothers to allow their unborn babies to become part of science and used as a resource to teach others. Photos are not allowed in this exhibit, and rightfully so.
  • Aerial Tram: Our son was so excited to ride the tram once he saw it floating over his head. Minnie Mouse was eagerly invited to tag along. Although the tram will only take you from the waterfront to Marquam Hill – OSHU hospital, to be exact – it is an experience worth having. The tram cabins travel 3,300 linear feet at 22 miles per hour, and rises 500 feet during the short four minute trip. It is inexpensive at under $5/pp (children 6 and under are free,) so you won’t want to miss it!
  • Hopworks Urban Brewery: Before departing California, my research led me to a few family friendly breweries, which were quickly added to my list. Hopworks is the ultimate child friendly location! To begin with, they have a nice sized play area equipped with a train table, books, chalk board, and plenty of toys. Once seated, you’ll receive an affordable child menu plus a box of crayons. They even have a separate family bathroom and step stools in the standard bathrooms to accommodate wee ones. Plus, the food and beer (or cider, in our case) was nutritious and delicious. It is always refreshing to find places that truly cater to all ages, and welcome children!
  • Multnomah Falls: A short drive from Portland, this is only one of the many beautiful waterfalls that you can explore along the Columbia River Gorge. However, if you are going to only see one, this is it! Multnomah Falls is the tallest waterfall in Oregon, and the second tallest in the United States. Ample parking is available, and the falls are a short walk away on a paved path. A small visitor’s center, gift shop, and restaurant are also onsite…including clean bathrooms! It was awesome to go a few miles from just light rain to thick snow on the ground. B was so excited to touch snow (the last time he was only a few months old!) Another favorite a ways down the road is Latourell Falls…and there are plenty more in between!
  • Honorable Mention-Embassy Suites Downtown: Obviously, there is not a water park or on-site daycare here (we don’t choose our hotels for these things, although I know some families do); however, this hotel was really spectacular for our needs. We’ve stayed at plenty of Embassy Suites over time, and it is honestly hit or miss. None have been bad, but there have been some that need cosmetic updates. The Embassy Suites in Downtown Portland is the nicest we have visited, and is really top notch, all around. For one, it is a beautiful hotel. It was once the Multnomah Hotel, which welcomed guests such as Elvis Presley,  Charles Lindbergh, and nine different U.S. Presidents. History does appear to be preserved here. My 2 year old got a kick out of breakfast every morning (made to order omelets, breads, cereals, hot plates, fruit, juices, coffee, and really any thing you could want for breakfast.) We, the parents, got a kick out of the manager’s receptions, which included a new, specialty cocktail every evening (in addition to wine and beer samplings,) and a tray of snacks. My son also loved visiting the theater and game room behind the dining area. With children a bit older, I see this as a real plus for the parents to get a break while their kids safely play in the back. A spacious pool and gym are also onsite.

There are so many other child friendly attractions we didn’t have time to experience, but would have liked to: the Portland Art Museum, Portland Children’s Museum and Portland Zoo; play spaces such as Smarty Pants and Roseway Play Cafe; and Laurelwood Brewing and the Kennedy School.

What are your favorite Portland attractions and helpful tips? Drop me a line in the comment section below! 


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