The Ultimate Portland Bucket List: 101 Things to Do with Kids

Whether you’re a longtime Rose City resident or a recent transplant, it’s easy to overlook some of the area’s most unique, fascinating and just plain fun attractions. We’ve gathered together a big list of must-dos and must-sees for any family who calls Portland their home. The next time you’re feeling at a loss for activities to do with your kids, keep this list handy for some inspiration!

See a snapshot of the bucket list life here!
  1. Skate America’s oldest roller rink: The historic Oaks Park Roller Rink boasts a massive Wurlitzer pipe organ and a giant rink for the young and young at heart.
  2. Hike at Tryon Creek: For a big dose of nature right in the city, head to this gorgeous state park — home to tons of wildlife, native plants and an excellent network of kid-friendly trails — nestled in the hills of Southwest Portland.
  3. Experience a movie in a grand theater: With its impressive, ornate interior, the historic McMenamins Bagdad Theater hearkens back to the golden age of Hollywood cinema —and many of the films are family-friendly.
  4. Attend a kids’ symphony: Introduce your budding music lover to the orchestra with the Oregon Symphony’s Kids Concerts. Each hour-long concert features lively medleys of songs that will delight kids of all ages.
  5. Surround yourself with a million books: Inspire your child to become a book lover for life at Powell’s City of Books, the world’s largest new and used independent bookstore. There’s no better place to get lost.
  6. Gaze upon geological wonders at the Rice Museum: This gem of a museum tucked away in Hillsboro is bound to dazzle kids with its fossils, glowing minerals and 4,000 plus sparkling crystals.
  7. Explore Astoria, Oregon’s first city: The final stop on the Lewis and Clark Expedition and officially settled in 1811, Astoria’s historical roots make it a must-see, and its modern-day charms are just as beguiling. Kids will particularly love the Astoria Column, the Peter Iredale shipwreck and Fort Clatsop.
  8. Behold Portland in a new light: Brighten your winter by admiring a variety of innovative light displays across town during the Portland Winter Light Festival, put on by the Willamette Light Brigade in February.
  9. Tour a château-style mansion in the West Hills: Pittock Mansion is one of Portland’s historic treasures, and it’s well worth a closer look. Take a tour of the estate, which includes the mansion, gate lodge and grounds, and then admire the spectacular views of downtown.
  10. Discover all OMSI has to offer: From the planetarium to the science playground to a real submarine, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry offers kids endless opportunities to learn while having a blast.
  11. Find a peaceful retreat at the Grotto: While it’s at its most magnificent during the holidays with a light display and nightly choir concerts, this Catholic outdoor shrine and sanctuary is worth a visit any time of year for its beautiful gardens and statues. 
  12. Slide into a pool: You don’t have to go to a private water park to enjoy water slides and other pool attractions. Visit Mt. Scott, North Clackamas, Southwest or Ida B. Wells-Barnett (formerly named Wilson) community centers for an exciting aquatic outing at a public pool.
  13. See the Chinese Garden lit up at night: Celebrate the Lunar New Year at the Lan Su Chinese Garden with this special event that includes a dragon procession and glowing lanterns displayed throughout the garden.
  14. Go wild at the Gilbert House Children’s Museum: Your kids won’t want to leave this delightful Salem attraction, which features a bubble factory, an outdoor maze, giant slides and tons of fun hands-on exhibits. 
  15. Ride the Oregon City Elevator: Travel up a vertical street via this free municipal elevator complete with observation deck and lenticular images depicting local scenes from past and present. Bonus: Stop by Coin Corner & Hobbies nearby to browse a fun selection of vintage toys.
  16. Watch the Rose City Rollers: Head to the Hangar at Oaks Amusement Park to witness Portland’s renowned women’s roller derby league in action. You’ll be blown away by the athleticism and enthusiasm.
  17. Cross the “Bridge of the People”: Finished in 2015, Tilikum Crossing is one of Portland’s great new treasures. Enjoy roomy walking and cycling paths and behold sweeping views of the city and river on this innovative car-free bridge.
  18. See the Spruce Goose and slide out of a real airplane: McMinnville’s Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum is home to the largest wooden airplane ever built, along with a whole fleet of aircraft for little aviation enthusiasts to gaze upon. Next door, you’ll find Wings and Waves, a vast indoor waterpark featuring a Boeing 747 that serves as a water-slide launch pad.
  19. Walk amid the cherry blossoms at Waterfront Park: Catch this breathtaking display of blossoms lining Portland’s iconic Waterfront Park in early spring.
  20. Visit Fort Vancouver: For a look back at the region’s military and fur trading past, take a quick trip over the Columbia to Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. From a reconstructed fort and village to a working garden to an air museum, there’s a lot for people of all ages to explore.
  21. Play arcade games and catch a movie on the cheap: The historic Avalon Theatre on Belmont shows a variety of family-friendly (and budget-friendly!) films — plus, your movie ticket gets you free admission to the Wunderland nickel arcade in the same building. 
  22. View five mountains at Council Crest: Head to Portland’s highest point on a clear day and see if you can spot Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Rainier.
  23. Visit the PSU Farmers Market: Enjoy the ever-changing bounty of offerings from local farms and artisans at the year-round downtown market.
  24. Romp through tulip fields: Explore 40 acres of colorful tulips along with a variety of other kid-friendly activities at the annual Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival.
  25. Spot Mike Bennett’s whimsical artwork: From one-off installations to wild immersive experiences, see the artwork of Portland’s “Public Joy Creator” in person. 
  26. Visit Hoyt Arboretum: Take advantage of the year-round family activities, or go any day for a rejuvenating walk through some 2,300 species of trees. 
  27. Watch the Thorns and the Timbers in action: Join the passionate Rose City Riveters and Timbers Army in cheering on Portland’s celebrated women’s and men’s professional soccer teams.
  28. Delve into Oregon’s history: Learn more about Oregon’s past through fascinating displays and artifacts at the Oregon Historical Society. Don’t miss the kid-friendly History Hub.
  29. Wave at a whale at the Oregon Coast: Thousands of gray whales travel along Oregon’s coast every year, and spotting one of these ocean giants can be a humbling experience. For your best chances, head to the coast during spring or early winter.
  30. Count the ducklings at Crystal Springs: The 73-year-old rhododendron garden is gorgeous in full bloom, but let’s face it, the biggest draw for many kids are the waterfowl!
  31. Tour Beverly Cleary’s Portland: Take a self-guided tour of all things Beverly Cleary, from Klickitat Street and other sites featured in her books to the Grant Park Statue Garden and two of Cleary’s former homes. 
  32. Get up close to Multnomah Falls: Take the short climb over the bridge to view the spectacular falls in all their glory, and while you’re in the Gorge, check out some of the other falls, such as Wahkeena, Horsetail and Bridal Veil.
  33. Catch a Porch Concert at Cathedral Park: There’s no better venue for a magical outdoor concert than this stunning park below St. Johns Bridge.
  34. Go on a scenic train ride: Take in the beauty of the Pacific Northwest by train on the Mt. Hood Railroad or Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad. Or, catch a ride on a vintage steam engine right in town — the Holiday Express departs across the street from Oaks Amusement Park during the Christmas season.
  35. Walk amid wildflowers: Go for a spring hike at one of the area’s prime wildflower spots, such as Tom McCall Preserve, Catherine Creek State Park, Powell Butte or Trillium Lake.
  36. Visit the Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary: Meet the nonprofit’s wildlife ambassadors, check out the interpretive center and explore the lovely trails, all at the Portland Audubon in Forest Park.
  37. Tour the Lone Fir Cemetery: The Friends of Lone Fir Cemetery offer tours throughout the year of this fascinating landmark, the final resting place of pioneers, city founders, firefighters, women suffragists, early Chinese workers and other figures from Portland’s past. 
  38. See why we’re the Rose City: Explore the spectacular International Rose Test Garden at peak bloom (typically in June) and go on a hunt for your favorite variety. While you’re there, stop by the huge Washington Park Playground nearby.
  39. Climb aboard giant ships during Fleet Week: Greet sailors and tour real military vessels as Navy ships dock along Portland’s waterfront during the Rose Festival.
  40. Watch the Grand Floral Parade: A beloved Portland tradition for more than a century, behold elaborately decorated floats and joyful entertainment at this Rose Festival pinnacle event.
  41. Stroll along the Eastbank Esplanade: This 1.5-mile paved trail between the Hawthorne and Steel Bridges includes a floating walkway, public sculptures and commanding views of downtown and its famous bridges.
  42. Behold Haystack Rock: The famous Cannon Beach monolith is stunning from near and far, and during the spring and summer at low tide, you can explore diverse tide pools near the base of the rock.
  43. Climb Mt. Tabor: Hike to the summit of an extinct volcano and take in one of the best views of the city.
  44. Love your local toy store: A well-curated toy store is pure heaven for little ones. Check out Black Wagon, Grasshopper, Hammer and Jacks, Kazoodles, Piccolo Mondo, Mud Puddles, or Thinker Toys.
  45. See Willamette Falls: Admire the unique horseshoe-shaped falls just south of downtown from a viewpoint in Oregon City or on a boat tour.
  46. Smell the roses and visit the playgrounds at Peninsula Park: From the top-notch playgrounds and splash pads to the sprawling formal rose garden (complete with an elegant gazebo), this historic park is worth a special trip.
  47. Sign up for a summer reading program: Keep your kids’ minds active all summer long by enrolling them in a summer reading program at your local library. These programs typically include fun prizes and incentives to keep your children motivated.
  48. Trace the Gorge by foot or bike: Choose a portion of the paved Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail (currently there are three disconnected segments) and take in breathtaking vistas along the river.
  49. Visit Portland’s top-rated playground: Westmoreland Park’s Nature Play area is the reigning PDX Parent Pick for Best Playground, and it’s no wonder with its beckoning natural climbing structures and extensive sand pit. While at the park, stop by the monumental fly casting pond, voted Best Swimming Hole by neighborhood geese. 
  50. Play a Painted Piano: Whether you happen upon one or go on a special journey to find one, the vibrantly decorated public pianos placed throughout the city during the summer sound so sweet.
  51. Get your thrills at the Alpine Slides: Head to Mt. Hood Skibowl during the warmer months to fly down a half-mile double track with your kiddo by your side in a beautiful mountain setting.
  52. Bike along the Banks-Vernonia State Trail: Ride part of the 21-mile trail following an abandoned railroad bed, which includes 13 bridges and a massive trestle over a ravine, and be rewarded with stunning scenery through forested and country landscapes. 
  53. Explore the Enchanted Forest: There’s no amusement park like this surreal wooded wonderland near Salem that brings to life nursery rhymes, fairy tales, the Wild West, old Europe and more.
  54. Watch a film outdoors: There’s something magical about a big screen in the open air. Parks across the region offer movie showings throughout the summer, and keep an eye out for rooftop/lot screenings as well! Another option further afield: Newberg’s 99W Drive-In.
  55. Walk the Seaside Prom: Head to the popular resort town of Seaside to enjoy the seemingly endless kids’ attractions, including bumper cars, arcades, beach bike rentals and a carousel, and stroll down its charming 100-year-old promenade.
  56. Chow down at the Portland Mercado: For a mouth-watering selection of Latin American food, visit this colorful Southeast Portland food cart pod and market hall.
  57. Go to an old-fashioned amusement park: In operation since 1905, Oaks Amusement Park feels like a blast from the past with its historic carousel, classic midway, bumper cars and more. Make some memories of your own at this beloved attraction.
  58. Take in Timberline Lodge: You don’t have to be a snow bunny to enjoy this National Historic Landmark. Head there any time of year to admire the magnificent architecture, grab a meal or stay overnight in one of the cozy rooms and greet the resident St. Bernards.
  59. Go to a beach 20 miles from downtown: Sauvie Island’s Walton Beach, that is. This popular stretch of sand along the Columbia is a great place to go swimming and sunbathing on a warm day.
  60. Take part in the Bridge Pedal: Enjoy incredible views while zigzagging over the Willamette by bike (or foot) during this annual August event, in which bridges and streets close to car traffic.
  61. Tour the Tillamook Creamery: Cheese sampling, mesmerizing factory machines, fun exhibits, gooey Tillamook ice cream … this popular Oregon attraction is bound to be a hit with your little one.
  62. See inside Mount St. Helens’ crater: For an up-close view of the mountain’s volcanic summit, take a day trip to the Johnston Ridge Observatory (about two hours northeast of Portland) and explore some of the ample hikes in the area.
  63. Sample the city’s sweet eats: It’s not an unreasonable goal to try all of the PDX Parent Pick nominees for best sweet treat. They are: Blue Star Donuts, Cloud City Ice Cream, Fifty Licks Ice Cream, Doe Donuts, Pip’s Original Doughnuts, Salt & Straw, Soro Soro and Voodoo Doughnut.
  64. Take a boat ride down the Willamette: See the city from a different vantage point on the Portland Spirit or, for a summertime thrill, on a jet boat.
  65. Cheer on your favorites at the Soapbox Derby: Families adore this yearly August spectacle featuring wackily decorated cars speeding down Mt. Tabor.
  66. Take the Trillium Lake Loop Trail: Enjoy beautiful views of Mt. Hood and the glassy Trillium Lake with this easy 2-mile lake hike, perfect for families with younger kids. 
  67. Befriend the Belmont Goats: They’ve relocated to North Portland, but Portland’s famed resident herd continues to welcome visitors to their pasture with a baa.
  68. Visit a village minutes from downtown: For a charming kid-friendly retreat right in the city, find your way to Multnomah Village, home to the Multnomah Arts Center, Thinker Toys, Annie Bloom’s Books and a variety of family-friendly eateries. Don’t miss the Multnomah Days street festival in August. 
  69. Go to a Red Yarn show: Find out why the local kids’ performer has gained something of a cult following in Portland.
  70. Visit Bob’s Red Mill: Stop by the charming Milwaukie home of this nationally distributed grain company for a comforting meal followed by a stop in the bountifully stocked Whole Grain Store.
  71. Brave the Witch’s Castle in Forest Park: Take the ¾-mile trail from Lower Macleay Park to see the Witch’s Castle, an eerie, moss-covered stone structure shrouded in myth. 
  72. Check out an armload of books at Central Library: A quiet respite in the middle of downtown, Multnomah County’s Central Library boasts beautiful architecture, cool historic artifacts and, of course, a large, well-curated selection of books.
  73. Walk behind a waterfall: Go for a day trip to Silver Falls, the “crown jewel” of the Oregon State Parks, and take the short trail to North Falls, which traces the natural grotto that has formed behind the waterfall. To really get your fill of falls, continue along the famous Trail of Ten Falls, a truly breathtaking experience.
  74. Enjoy Art in the Pearl: The streets of the Pearl District come alive over Labor Day Weekend at this free arts and crafts festival, where local talent is displayed in spades. 
  75. Follow the Fruit Loop: Visit the animals, navigate the mazes and — most importantly — fill your fruit baskets at the many farms on the Hood River Fruit Loop
  76. See the swifts take over the sky: Join spectators in September at Chapman Elementary as thousands of migrating swifts swoop acrobatically through the air before disappearing into the school’s chimney.
  77. Celebrate Oktoberfest at Mt. Angel: This family-friendly event takes place in the charming Bavarian-inspired town of Mt. Angel and boasts a wealth of fun activities and attractions.
  78. Attend a kids’ show: Want to turn your kiddo into a theater lover? The Oregon Children’s Theatre and the Northwest Children’s Theater hold wonderfully entertaining productions throughout the year geared toward (and often featuring) children. 
  79. Get up close to Oregon’s most famous fish: Visit the Bonneville Dam and Fish Hatchery to see fish climbing underwater ladders, impressive views from the dam, ponds where you can feed trout, and Herman the Sturgeon — an 80-year-old, 500-pound Oregon icon. Fall is the best time to visit to view spawning salmon.
  80. Meander through the Japanese Garden: See why this serene, immaculately tended garden, tucked in Washington Park’s hilly landscape, is one of Portland’s top year-round attractions.
  81. Explore the Portland Art Museum: Kids under 17 receive free admission to this internationally recognized institution.
  82. Cheer on the Blazers: There’s nothing quite like seeing the Trail Blazers step onto the court at the Moda Center with the crowd going wild.
  83. Try a new cuisine: Encourage your kids to be adventurous eaters. Burmese, Peruvian, Senegalese … you name it, Portland has options! 
  84. Check out the area’s ample pumpkin patches: Find out why Portland has been named the Best City for Pumpkin Lovers. There are so many pumpkin patch farms in the region (each offering fun fall activities and attractions) that you could try a new one every year.
  85. See the squishing of the squash: Watch elephants smash massive pumpkins at this oddly satisfying October event at the Oregon Zoo.
  86. Get spooked at the Davis Graveyard: A Portland Halloween institution, this elaborate residential graveyard display in Milwaukie has been drawing crowds (and spooky spirits) since 1998.
  87. Get lost in a corn maze: Wind and weave your way through a fun outdoor labyrinth. Many local pumpkin patches — including Sauvie Island’s Topaz Farm, Bella Organic Farm and The Pumpkin Patch — build large, intricately designed corn mazes in the fall. 
  88. Watch a one-of-a-kind boat competition: Cheer on costumed paddlers as they compete in colossal, hollowed-out gourds at the West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta in Tualatin.  
  89. Find rare apples: Gala shmala. After a visit to the Portland Nursery in October for its family-friendly Apple Festival, you’ll have a deeper appreciation for this often underrated but oh-so-delicious fruit. 
  90. Attend the Columbia Gorge Model Railroad Show: Your kids don’t have to be train enthusiasts to be awestruck by the elaborate layouts and 30 plus model trains operating at once at this premier show.
  91. Tour a chocolate factory: Book a tour at the delectable Creo Chocolate to learn about the bean-to-bar process, taste yummy samples and make your very own chocolate bar.
  92. Go bird watching: Grab your binoculars and head to a nearby wetland, such as Oaks Bottom, Sauvie Island, Fernhill or Smith and Bybee, and see how many different species of birds you can spot. You’ll often see the greatest wildlife diversity in fall through spring, so this makes for an excellent cold-weather activity.
  93. Explore Portland’s smaller indie bookstores: For an intimate book-shopping experience and an excellent selection of kids’ reads, check out Annie Bloom’s, A Children’s Place, Green Bean Books, Maggie Mae’s or MudPuddles.
  94. Hit up a holiday market: With the city’s abundance of local artisans, Portland knows how to put on a good holiday market, and there’s no easier way to get all of your gift shopping done at once while supporting local makers. 
  95. Go sledding on Mt. Hood: Favorite tubing/sledding spots include White River West Sno-Park, SkiBowl (which also offers Cosmic Tubing on weekends), Summit Pass or the Snow Bunny Sliding Area.
  96. Experience ZooLights: Make your way through an immersive series of light displays at the Oregon Zoo, which serves as the perfect, winding backdrop for this dazzling holiday installation composed of 1.5 million lights. 
  97. See The Nutcracker in person: There’s a reason the Oregon Ballet Theatre’s production has become a yearly Portland tradition, along with several other Nutcracker shows at smaller venues across the city.
  98. Strap on some snowshoes: Put on your winter gear, rent snowshoes and trekking poles, and try out this fun snow activity, great for the whole family. Popular Mt. Hood beginner spots include the Crosstown Trail, Tilly Jane Trail and Mirror Lake.
  99. Catch the Christmas Ship Parade: Watch boats light up the waterways! On most nights in December, a fleet of brightly decorated ships sail the Willamette and Columbia rivers. Check out the parade schedule and then head to the riverfront for a show.
  100. Stroll down Peacock Lane: Bundle up and head to Portland’s Christmas street to view a stunning array of twinkling lights and creative residential displays. It’s the perfect way to get in the holiday spirit.
  101. Give back: Teach your kids to be active community members by volunteering with the whole family at local nonprofits such as Oregon Food Bank, Friends of Trees, Sunshine Division or SMART Reading.
Credit Sean Pavone

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Renee Peters
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