Portland for families

By: Virgin Atlantic

November 6, 2015

With the Pacific Northwest’s best science museum, donut gastronomes and an indoor black-lit mini-golf centre, it’s no wonder families flock to Portland for an eclectic few days of urban entertainment. Here’s a list of favourite spots in Portland for families.

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI)

If Portland has one “don’t miss” youth attraction, OMSI is it. North America’s best interactive exhibits, “da Vinci’s Machines,” “Sherlock Holmes,” always pass through and the regular exhibition halls feature over 200 interactive stations. Current exhibits range from the brainy, “Genomes: Unlocking Life’s Code” to the brawny, “Guitar: The Instrument that Rocked the World.” OMSI also features seven hands-on wet labs, should you find the exhibits a little dry.

Portland for families | OMSI
Many at OMSI are surprised to tour a Soviet Union submarine © Torsten Kjellstrand

Portland Children’s Museum

A child’s transition from children’s museum to science centre patron is as much a rite of passage in the Northwest as catching one’s first salmon. Portland’s Children’s Museum remains up to date with construction zones, art studios, an interactive pretend grocer, 1.3-acres of outdoor play space and even a pretend pet hospital. There’s a theatre for budding actors or costume designers, and best of all, there are daily activities and usually a travelling exhibit in residence – currently a Blue Man Group sound exploration, allowing younger visitors to step out beyond the staples.

Portland for families
Kids don’t get “museum feet” at Portland’s Children’s Museum © Torsten Kjellstrand

We all scream for (weird) ice cream?

One of the best elements of Portland for families is that the city still manages, as the bumper stickers scream, to stay weird. This provides parents an ideal opportunity to stir up **bleep** and Jane’s vanilla lifestyle, think soccer Saturdays and smartphones, with a twist or two. Look no further than Portland’s ice cream emporia, beginning with Salt & Straw‘s “pear & blue cheese,” “arbequina olive oil,” and “strawberry honey balsamic with black pepper.”

Portland for families
Crowds gather around Salt&Straw most weekend evenings © Jamie Francis

Kids gough nuts for doughnuts

Voodoo Doughnut remains a must-stop, especially if your “˜tweens have begun sneaking into PG-13 movies. The infamous pink box has become the de rigueur return carry-on for a few years, but “Diablos Rex,” “Marshall Mathers” and “Dirty Snowballs,” among many others too tawdry to mention, always look their best when fresh.

Portland for families
The World Forestry Center invites children into the forest © Travel Portland

World Forestry Center Discovery Museum

World Forestry Center Discovery Museum may sound like a yawn to the teen set but it’s a surprisingly accessible and interesting introduction to forest ecology, especially given the urban forest surroundings in Washington Park. The 20,000 square foot museum includes resident exhibits describing local forests as well as forest exhibits from every major arboreal zone on earth, which means kids will return home knowing more about where they came from then when they left.

Portland for families
Playful sculptures romp about most parks © Jamie Francis

Forest attractions through the trees

Washington Park is frequently listed among the premier urban parks in North America. The 400-acre wood may also be Portland’s best multigenerational destination, hosting an assortment of Rose City highlights including The Rose Garden. The Japanese Garden with its bonsai trees and waterfalls will enthral the most active child and, if not, the Elephant House Playground is the biggest in the city. Real elephants reside inside the 2,000-animal Oregon Zoo. There are soccer fields, 15-miles of trails and an archery range here as well. Be sure to check the park’s schedules for concerts and other events.

Portland for families
Powell’s serves as part bookstore-part library-part community space © Torsten Kjellstrand

Delving into Dumbledore at Powell’s

Certain witches, vampires and werewolves have done wonders to turn reluctant readers into bibliophiles. Powell’s casts the same magic as a bookstore. Think of it as Hogwarts for the page. Few kids have ever seen this many books outside of the library, and most libraries don’t even have this many books. But there is something else about Powell’s, the maze-like structure perhaps or the nooks and crannies that drip with ephemera, an ideal way to spend a rainy afternoon, especially when no clerk here will ever persuade a browser to buy or move on.

Portland for families
Saturday Market has persevered for 42 years and counting © Jamie Francis

Portland Saturday Market

The best cities contain stores that double as attractions, and then there is the legendary Portland Saturday Market. The weekly bazaar presents scores of artists plying crafts, cooking up concoctions and performing magic and music. Located for almost half a century in the Old Town neighbourhood beside the Willamette River, over 350 craftspeople occupy more than 250 booths every week. Best of all, the traditional Saturday market also runs on Sundays through the end of the year.

Portland for families
Multigenerational animals can be found all over Portland © Torsten Kjellstrand

Portland’s Urban Adventure Quest

Our kids may be staring into their smartphones way too often these days, but the rise of the app-happy generation has also engendered one awesome old school family activity: the scavenger hunt. Portland plays host to the Urban Adventure Quest, an app-based team scavenger hunt program that has swept across the U.S. Sign up as a family and follow clues all over the city, learning interesting historical and cultural facts along the way. If the Adventure Quest appears too involved, why not go geocaching for an afternoon or an hour. Originating less than an hour from Portland, all you, or your kids, need is GPS to uncover more than 1,000 caches within five miles of downtown. Of course, you can always retreat indoors for a little black-lit mini-golf at downtown’s Glowing Greens, should the incessant rain melt your phone.

Our partnership with Delta connects you to a wide range of destinations across the United States and Canada. Why not make Portland for families your next trip?

Written by Crai Bower

Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic

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