A recent study by the Family Travel Association showed that 88% of families are likely to travel with their children in the next 12 months, and 83% of respondents plan to take a multi-day vacation in the U.S. Additionally, 72% of respondents are willing to fly domestically, with only 40% planning to fly internationally. These stats illustrate that domestic family travel is here to stay, and it’s never too early to begin planning your next family vacation. Between a day at the newly renovated Oregon Zoo, a trip to the one-of-a-kind Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), or dinner at a local brewery where bringing children is encouraged, the city of Portland welcomes families with open arms.
Whether your child is just learning to walk or running nonstop, Portland has family fun attractions for all ages. The Oregon Zoo completed $125 million in renovations in October 2021, welcoming guests with a new look and feel. Most recently, the Zoo welcomed King, a 3,000-pound rhinoceros from Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo to his new habitat in the newly completed Rhino Ridge. King is joining a plethora of new habitats and improvements that have been instituted since the bond measure passed in 2008 to fund the renovation, including a new Polar Passage, Primate Forest, Education Center, Elephant Lands and more. Learn about the new zoo here.
With a planetarium, a giant-screen theater, a retired navy submarine (the USS Blueback is docked in the Willamette River right outside), traveling exhibits of all kinds, as well as the newly reopened Turbine Hall and reimagined Science Playground, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) has lures for all ages. Located nearby is the Oregon Rail Heritage Center (ORHC), which spotlights Portland’s industrial heritage. Free to enter, ORHC provides for the preservation, operation and public enjoyment of Portland’s historic locomotives, railroad equipment, and artifacts, and educates the public about Oregon’s rich and diverse railroad history.
Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2021, Powell's City of Books, the largest used and new bookstore in the world is a must-visit for families. Located in downtown Portland and occupying an entire city block, Powell’s stocks more than a million volumes. Nine color-coded rooms house 3,500 different sections and offer a huge selection of out-of-print and rare books. Powell's features a robust children's book section, with regular staff picks and recommendations to peruse as well. In October 2021, Powell’s City of Books teamed up with the family-friendly Ex Novo Brewing to create a limited edition City of Books IPA, supporting independent bookstores and booksellers across the country with 10% of proceeds donated to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation.
Ex Novo Brewing is one of many Portland breweries that welcomes youngsters. At Hopworks Urban Brewery and Hopworks BikeBar play areas complement healthy kids’ food while the parents enjoy stellar organic brews and grownup menu options. McMenamins Kennedy School was literally built for children as an elementary school in 1915. Since then, this once-abandoned Northeast gem was renovated and turned into one of Portland's most unique hotels with a brewery, restaurants and more. Laurelwood Public House & Brewery offers handcrafted beers and good local grub alongside a kids play area, with a craveworthy kids menu to boot.
Looking for a non-brewery dinner? Check out Toki, a casual spinoff of Peter Cho’s Han Oak. This new downtown eatery serves gimbap supreme—a veggie-stuffed, seaweed-wrapped rice sandwich—plus the famous Han Oak chicken wings dusted with ramen seasoning, and the kid approved steamed bao burger with a panfried bottom, oozing with American cheese and plenty of pickles. A Pearl District taqueria with design elements reminiscent of Californian and Mexican taquerias, Papi Chulo's serves kid-friendly birria tacos, cochinita pibil, burrito bowls and, of course, margaritas for the parents. Located near OMSI, Boke Bowl offers approachable Asian-inspired dishes made from scratch with fresh ingredients, including ramen, salads, steam buns, poke bowls and more.
If you're craving something sweet, stop by Ruby Jewel for an assortment of cookie ice cream sandwiches or 1927 S'more Company for a seasonally inspired s'more (pumpkin pie s’more, anyone?). In the heart of the West End, Petunia’s Pies offers a varied selection of gorgeous baked goods, all of which happen to be gluten free and vegan — making ideal treats for the children that so often miss out on sweet goodies because of dietary restrictions. Plus, cocktails are also available for their parents. Opened April 2021 in Sellwood, Holler Treats is a nostalgic, playful pastry project led by Pastry Chef Danielle Bailey serving up whimsical ice cream, cakes, pies and a full espresso bar coffee.
Of course, you’ll need somewhere to nap during these action-packed days. One of Portland’s most recognizable landmarks, the iconic Heathman Hotel, invites families to "Get Your Glamping On" with a package that features a tent and lantern rental for day use, a complimentary children’s book to bring home and kid-approved treats & snacks. On the East side, the design-inspired KEX Hotel, a “social hotel” from Reykjavik, Iceland, opened its first U.S. location in Portland in November 2019. The project revitalized the 22,500-square-foot Vivian Apartment building, built in 1911, and has transformed some of their bunk rooms into “Family Rooms” with bunkbeds for the kids and king beds for the parents.
For a complete sense of what a trip to Portland with the kids could look like, check out our sample itinerary here.