Every summer, we share our favorite, can’t-miss Portland activities for families. This year, of course, many of those events have been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But even if this summer will be different, there are still lots of ways to keep busy, have fun and make memories. Whether you want to stick close to home or venture out safely in the Portland area, we have some ideas for you!

Close-to-home ideas

Watch and learn. Help grow your kids’ creativity with online art tutorials. We like the Cool Beans Club’s fun art projects for kids including a project using dandelions for color. Or check out Art Classes for Kids, where kids can learn to mimic masterpieces from Picasso, Matisse, Van Gogh and more.

Start a garden. It’s not too late to plant starts, especially easy-to-grow plants like herbs. Give your kids the job of picking herbs that you use for cooking.

Sign up for the library’s summer reading program. A great motivator to get your kids to read over the summer, plus kids can get a t-shirt.

Look to the sky. With COVID-19 reducing activity around the world, one benefit may be less light pollution — making for better opportunities for stargazing. Check out some ideas in this National Geographic article to get started.

Give back. Here are some kid-friendly ways to volunteer from home.

Test your hypothesis. Try some at-home science experiments that perfectly balance fun and education!

Pair some screen time with hands-on fun. The “Watch This, Do That” series shares ideas for watching movies like Frozen, Toy Story or Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and then enjoying a screen-free craft or educational activity. Or create your own “watch this, do that” with your family’s favorite show or movie by watching a few episodes of a cooking or baking show, and then trying something out in the kitchen.

Sign up for a virtual summer camp. If you don’t feel comfortable sending your kids to an in-person camp, but would like more structured activities for them, virtual camps may be a good fit. They are often one to two hours online with some activities to try offline. This at-a-glance chart can help you identify which camps are offering virtual options.

Have a “theme week.” We love this idea shared in a Portland moms’ Facebook group: Keep hometime fresh for your kids by focusing on different ideas each week. Immerse yourselves in topics like ancient Egypt, mermaids, LEGO creations, cats … whatever your kids like, and take a week to focus on that. Keep it loose, with kids directing. You can check out virtual books on each week’s topic, find TV shows and online tutorials, use craft supplies to create art, and more.

Add water. Keep kids busy and cool with these ideas for backyard water play on our Pinterest board. You can go all out with a backyard water park, or provide some simple toys for your kids. Don’t have much outdoor space? We’ve added some indoor water ideas, too.

Make art.  The Craft Factory is offering art projects to go, Mimosa Studios is open by appointment, and SCRAP is open by appointment or for online shopping.

Check the PDX Kids Calendar for virtual events. If you miss your local kindie musicians, make a date to catch one of their virtual shows. Red Yarn, Aaron Nigel Smith, Tallulah’s Daddy, Mo Phillips, Penny’s Puppets, Olive & Dingo, and more are holding virtual shows. Check our calendar for schedules.

Explore nature in your neighborhood. Friends of Tryon Creek has many free online activities, including downloadable scavenger hunts, nature journal prompts, activity sheets and more. 

Attend a free at-home camp with Tualatin River Keepers. They’ve adapted their regular adventure camp into a free, at-home Stay Home Summer Camp. Registration is required and each day you’ll receive three to five activities, including options for crafts, physical activity, science and more. 

Go camping … in your backyard. Set up a tent in your backyard for daytime outdoor play, or have an adventure camping overnight. If you want to splurge, or need camping supplies, you can rent a “Patio Pod” from Xscape Pod with everything you need, plus some sweet extras like a s’mores kit and bluetooth speakers.

Cook something up. If your kids liked all the pandemic stress-baking, broaden their skills with a slew of foolproof recipes just for kids from America’s Test Kitchen. Prefer to add to your cookbook collection? Look for America’s Test Kitchen: The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs. And if you’d rather have a pro virtually guide your older kid through cooking a meal, check out the one-on-one online classes from The Merry Kitchen

Get musical. Music Together of Portland has moved their popular parent-and- kid classes online, and many local organizations are holding private instrument lessons virtually, too. Portland Music School, School of Rock, Emily Aldridge Music and Bloom Music Studio have options online to get started with keyboard, piano, guitar, drums and more.

Create a COVID-19 time capsule. You can use this popular set of prompts, or create artwork, a scrapbook, an iMovie, or even a podcast.


Adventures around the Portland Area

If you head out, please follow social distancing best practices. Wear a mask, maintain six feet of distance with people outside of your group, and don’t go out if you’re not feeling well.

Eat a free lunch with Portland Parks and Recreation.
Starting June 22, their popular Free Lunch + Play program is back this year with lunch and grab ‘n go activity kits. Find locations, dates and times on their website.

Visit a local natural park.
Check out these suggestions from the Portland Parks and Recreation’s Environmental Education team for fun spots to visit plus ideas for exploring them with the kids.

Grab your bike.
Portland is one of the most bike-friendly cities around. Check out these reader poll winners for family-friendly bike trails. If you’re looking for more adventure, try this list of local kid-approved mountain bike trails

Go on a family-friendly hike. Hike to the top of Mount Tabor for great city views or head to Lower Macleay Park to check out the “Witch’s Castle.” Here are some more local hikes you voted your favorites.

Pick some berries. Portland is ripe with berry-picking spots. Grab a sun hat, and be prepared for a delicious adventure. Here are some of our favorite spots. Before heading out, check the farms’ websites for what is ready to pick and for the latest information on safety precautions and processes for COVID-19.

Get kids active and engaged at an in-person summer camp. Use our Summer Camp Guide to find in-person camps that have modified their programs for social distancing.

Smell the roses. Even when the flowers are out of season, many local gardens are worth a visit. Check out the International Test Rose Garden in Washington Park, Peninsula Park Rose Garden, Portland Japanese Garden (advance tickets required) and the Oregon Garden in Silverton. Be sure to check their websites for the latest updates and guidelines for visiting.

See the elephants, lions and giraffes — in person. The Oregon Zoo is planning to reopen! Learn what to expect and how to plan your visit.

Or visit some local farms to meet animals. You can visit the barn at The Pumpkin Patch at Sauvie Island, and Triskelee Farm is open for social-distanced and private tours. Portland Goat Parties is also hosting families for visits, and Frog Pond Farm has been offering a popular drive-thru safari on weekends; check their Facebook page for dates.

Book a private party at an indoor playspace. If you’ve been missing indoor play areas, you are not alone. Starting June 19, readers’ poll winner The Wiggle Room in NE Portland is accepting appointments for individual families to use their indoor playspace. You can read about their safety precautions and sanitizing processes and book online. 

Bring a picnic. Here are some drool-worthy picnic spots to try.

Go fish. At Rainbow Trout Farm in Sandy, you and the kids can fish 10 ponds filled with rainbow trout. At this scenic 30-acre spot, you don’t need a license or equipment, and they even clean the fish for you. 

Take a book, leave a book at a Little Free Library.

Make like Ramona. Head to Northeast Portland for a self-guided Ramona Quimby walking tour. Walk by her school, Beverly Cleary’s house, and even the spot where Ramona’s boots got stuck in the mud in Ramona the Pest. Pro tip: Both kids and adults love the Ramona and Henry Huggins audiobooks!

Check out the new window displays at Hammer and Jacks. If you are missing open play and kindie shows at this beloved toy store, you can still swing by to visit their storefront window. They have two great installations  —  a growing one of kids’ protest signs (you can make and drop off your own) and the “A to Zoo” display of cartoon wood cutout animals. 

Try an obstacle course in the sky. Tree to Tree Adventure Park in Gaston is open, and they have modified their operations for social distancing. Reservations are mandatory so book online before you head out. You can read a review of our pre-COVID-19 adventure here.

Search for tiny treasures while geocaching

Catch a movie. The 99W Drive In in Newberg is open. Check their Facebook page for the latest information, including movie times and if they are accepting or requiring reservations. Spots are limited. Note: The onsite bathrooms are for emergencies only. 

Tour a submarine. The USS Blueback Submarine at OMSI is now open, and you can get a glimpse at how a crew of 85 lived on the vessel. If your kids are older, you can take in the current exhibit BODY WORLDS & The Cycle of Life. Check out OMSI’s website to learn more about their limited capacity, cleaning practices, and when the exhibition halls, planetarium and theater will open. 

Try out a local swimming hole. Here’s a map to find the right one for your family. Double check that places are open to the public, and keep in mind, it may be harder to social distance at more popular spots, so prepare to be flexible and come back another time.

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