Fun Places for Kids in Portland, Oregon

by Aaron Charles

Kids will rarely be bored in Portland, Oregon, if their parents are in the know about where to go and what to do. True, the winters tend to overdo the rain showers, leaving plenty of opportunity for indoor activities. But the summers nearly always compensate for the winter lull with abundant sunshine and activities to match.

Creative

Portland is known for its creative types, and these have provided many opportunities for kids to exercise their inner Tesla or Van Gogh. At Portland's Children's Museum (portlandcm.org), for example, the motto is, "Our main exhibit is the imagination of the children who play here." Activities change regularly, but kids may find themselves glazing clay or crafting with felt. Or you can bring your kids to embrace the art others have made along downtown's Fifth and Sixth avenues, where bronze, cement and marble animal statues invite curious hands.

Educational

The idea that learning can be fun may be a cliche, but it's still true. One unconventional spot for learning about science in Portland is found underground -- in a tunnel where "MAX," Portland's light rail train, stops to let passengers on or off near Washington Park. "Wired" magazine cited this stop as the deepest underground station in North America. Here kids can read geological and cultural facts about the region inscribed on the tunnel's walls. Beyond this, Portland also offers the traditional fare of a local science museum (omsi.edu) and a zoo (oregonzoo.org).

Active

An active child is a happy child, and when kids release their youthful energy outside the house parents are usually happier too. The Portland Rock Gym (portlandrockgym.com) offers a climbing wall and patient instructors, allowing exuberant children to burn their energy facing the wall's challenge. Safety equipment and a 38-foot rope help kids learn their way up without a morbid fear of crashing down. In addition, in the summertime, kids can have a lot of fun outside at the Salmon Street Springs Fountain at Waterfront Park in downtown Portland. This fountain takes the pastime of running through the sprinkler to an entirely different level.

Simply Play

Sometimes, though, kids have the most fun when they're simply allowed to play freely. The numerous area parks provide the right environment for this. Portland's Forest Park, in the northwest part of the city, has walking and biking trails and connects with picnic areas along the way and at trail heads. At the end of the day, though, when tired and tuckered, kids might enjoy a movie played at a selected park or at downtown's Pioneer Courthouse Square on giant inflatable screens. The showings change every year. Check with Portland Parks and Recreation for the latest listings.

About the Author

Aaron Charles began writing about "pragmatic art" in 2006 for an online arts journal based in Minneapolis, Minn. After working for telecom giant Comcast and traveling to Oregon, he's written business and technology articles for both online and print publications, including Salon.com and "The Portland Upside."

Photo Credits

  • Todd Warnock/Lifesize/Getty Images