Stick to the outdoors and get ready to have fun! Sure, many families found a way to play last summer, but this year more and more attractions are open with COVID precautions in place. From no-cost outings to big splurges, you are sure to find something that your kids will get excited about.
Oregon’s Amusement Parks
A pandemic, devastating wildfires and a damaging winter ice storm. Any one of those catastrophes could have closed the Enchanted Forest for good. The amusement park brought to life by Roger Tofte in 1971 faced all three calamities in one year. But theme-park lovers raised more than $450,000 to keep the park afloat. As of press time, the Enchanted Forest is devising a plan to reopen safely. But don’t expect every ride to be open, certain attractions like the shoe slide and the storm-damaged kiddie train will remain closed. Timed entry tickets must be purchased online; tickets go on sale five days in advance.
From the thrilling AtmosFEAR to the tamer Chipper’s Chopper, the rides are open on the weekends at Oaks Amusement Park. And starting June 14, the park will be open seven days a week, noon-7 pm, with limited capacity. General admission with unlimited rides: $39.95. Under 48 inches admission with unlimited rides: $19.95. Find out more at oakspark.com.
Dive Into a Good Book
Summer reading is back! And it will look a lot like it did last year, with Multnomah County Library offering paper and online game boards. Starting June 16, pick up a game board at your library or sign up online. Have your kids mark one space for each day they read, listen to a book, or do any of the fun activities listed. Each time they mark at least 15 days (they don’t have to be in a row!), go to the library for a prize. After completing 45 days total, your kids can nab a T-shirt and an entry in the grand prize drawing. Pro tip: T-shirts can run out, so don’t wait until August 31 to claim prizes! (Other county library systems such as Fort Vancouver Regional Library and Washington County Cooperative Library Services also offer a summer reading program. So be sure to check with your local library if you do not live in Multnomah County.)
A River Runs Through It
Driving across the Willamette River day after day makes it start to fade into part of the city’s scenery, and you can easily forget that it’s actually a body of water we can cool off in! For general splashing around, head over to the beach at Sellwood Riverfront Park. But plenty of folks take off on paddleboards from the spot, too. If you are looking for a paddleboard (or kayak!) to rent, check out Next Adventure Paddle Sports Center, 624 SE 7th Ave. or Portland Kayak Company, 6600 S Macadam Ave. Other family-friendly destinations with riverfront beaches include George Rogers Park in Lake Oswego and Mary S. Young Park in West Linn. You can also dip your toes in the Columbia River at Walton Beach on Sauvie Island. (FYI — you’ll need to purchase a $10 parking permit.)
Rose City Celebrations
This year, the Rose Festival will have an abbreviated schedule. The Grand Floral Parade is on hold, but the Porch Parade will be back May 31 to June 13. And a new Rose Festival Queen will be crowned on June 18. Visit rosefestival.org for the Porch Parade map and information on how to view the coronation.
If you need to bribe your kids to finish a hike, the monthly Family Forest Day at Hoyt Arboretum might be all the enticement they need. On certain Saturdays, arboretum volunteers will set out activity tables on the trails to help families learn about various nature topics. Go in-depth on pollinators on June 19, birds on July 10, and bugs and slugs on August 21. Check in at Stevens Pavilion at 4000 SW Fairview Blvd. Find out more at hoytarboretum.org/learn/family-forest-days.
Up in the Air
If your family is looking for a treetop thrill, check out one of these aerial or zip line attractions. Families with toddlers to teens can all find some fun at Tree to Tree Adventure Park in Gaston. While older kids can scamper on the aerial and ropes courses, and zip lines, there’s a special lower-to-the-ground area for kids ages 2 to 8 years old. Find out more at tree2treeadventurepark.com. The adventures at Skamania Lodge and Resort in Stevenson, Washington, are better suited for families with older kids. Riders must weigh at least 60 pounds to go on the 2.5-hour zip line tour. And the aerial course is for folks ages 8 and older. Find out more at skamania.com. Pumpkin Ridge Zip Tour welcomes kids 8 to 12 to zip line with a responsible adult, while those ages 13 to 18 may zip with a responsible adult on site, and not necessarily on the tour. The two-hour, guided tours cover seven zip lines and three suspension bridges. Find out more at pumpkinridgeziptour.com. And Mt. Hood Adventure Park at Skibowl in Government Camp also features an aerial park, among its other attractions. Tour five balance bridges, or hit their zip lines or bungee jump. Find out more at skibowl.com/summer.
Mark Your Calendars
Browse the booths at the waterfront to find the perfect Portland-made product. Portland Saturday Market, the long-running, open-air bazaar featuring handcrafted jewelry, pottery, kids’ apparel, soaps, sweets and more is back. Saturdays only, 10 am-5 pm. Portlandsaturdaymarket.com.
While Portland Pride’s iconic waterfront parade is on hold this year, the organization is hosting movie screenings at Zidell Yards. But the event kids will probably enjoy most is the message of love, hope and acceptance delivered by the talented Portland Gay Men’s Chorus. The chorus will be celebrating Pride Month with virtual concerts featuring anthems made famous by Whitney Houston, Gloria Gaynor, Lady Gaga and Dolly Parton, as well as emerging queer artists. Friday, June 18, 8 pm and Sunday, June 20, 3 pm. Tickets are free, but donations are accepted. Register at live.pdxgmc.org.
Imagine browsing local merchants and makers, trying new food and drinks, and listening to live music. If that sounds really good to you right now, then the Portland Night Market just might be your happy place. This indoor/outdoor event is back with timed-ticketed entry, and limited vendors and attendees. Friday and Saturday, June 25-26, and Friday and Saturday, September 10-11, 4 pm-10 pm. 100 SE Alder St. Get tickets at pdxnm.com.
If you are as thrilled by the prospect of live music as we are, you’ll probably want to be at this year’s Waterfront Blues Festival, July 2-5. The 2021 Blues Fest will be a socially distanced event at The Lot at Zidell Yards. Each day of the festival will include two separately ticketed shows, featuring several performances from amazing local, regional and national artists. Livestream tickets will also be available. In-person tickets can be purchased by the pod (two-, four- and six-person pods), instead of individual tickets. Kids are welcome, and babies under 1 do not need a seat, but do count toward the six-person-per-pod limit. For example: Two adults, two children over the age of 1 and one child under the age of 1 would need a four-person pod. But six adults with one child younger than 1 would not be allowed in a six-person pod. FYI: Kiddos need to stick to the pod space during the concert. Find out more at waterfrontbluesfest.com.
The Blues Festival is not the only summer concert coming to The Lot at Zidell Yards. During the Live at the Lot concert series, you can catch The Dandy Warhols on June 4 and 5, the all-female rock group Ashleigh Flynn & The Riveters on June 20, and many more artists. Kids are welcome at the concerts, so it’s up to you whether to go for a grown-ups-only date night or make it a family outing. Zidell Yards also teamed up with the Hollywood Theatre to offer movie screenings, including Troop Beverly Hills on June 22 and The Muppet Movie (the 1979 version) on July 27. And we just got word before press time that the Portland Kids Film Festival will light up the big screen at The Lot on July 22 and 29. Each day will feature three screenings: a mix of animated and live-action shorts, and two feature-length films. Find tickets and more information for all the events at thelotatzidellyards.com.
Lunch Al Fresco
Serendipity will be at work for this year’s Portland Parks & Recreation’s Free Lunch + Play. When families go to select PP&R parks for the free meals and activities for all children under 18, they may happen to stumble upon a free concert or pop-up cultural event. While the time and place of the Free Lunch + Plays will be published ahead of time, the pop-ups will be unannounced. This reimagined version of free summer concerts allows PP&R the opportunity to bring back music and cultural events to our parks while limiting crowds. Free lunch in the park could end up being your family’s most exciting part of the week! Find parks for Free Lunch + Play at portland.gov/parks/free-lunch-play.
Make a Splash!
Kids all over the city rejoiced upon hearing that Portland Parks & Recreation’s splash pads are set to start up daily on June 11 through Labor Day from 11 am-7 pm. And interactive fountains opened mid-May. Please do keep in mind that the water is recirculated, so it’s OK to play in, but not to drink. (And, ahem, please do your part to help keep the water clean by taking littles to the potty if they need to go!) Check out the map to find a splash pad near you!
New on the Blacktop
Psst. Without much fanfare, Portland Public Schools (PPS) recently updated several playgrounds this year. Need a new place to play? Explore the new structures at Astor, Bridger, Bridlemile, Creston and Peninsula elementary schools. Beaumont Middle School also features a community-funded depave and design of a new nature play area. And outdated pieces were removed from Richmond Elementary School and replaced with picks from staff. “We are incorporating more and more inclusive play features into all of our playgrounds and work with school staff on the design and selection of equipment as well as certified playground designers,” says PPS spokesperson Karen Werstein. “We also have added equipment into the engineered wood fiber areas that can be used by physically challenged students as well.”
East Portland has a new, shiny gem in the recently renovated Leach Botanical Garden, which spreads out over 16 acres and is home to more than 1,000 species of plants. Visitors can now take in a stunning treetop view on the aerial tree walk. There’s also a new pollinator and habitat meadow, gathering lawn with an arbor and fire feature on a terrace, central pathway between the Manor House and Upper Garden, and more. Visit leachgarden.org, to reserve a timed entry ticket. (Admission is free, but donations are welcome.)
The Rose City Rollers are bringing the fun and roller skates to various outdoor spots this summer! After winter’s popular Skatemobile at the Lloyd Center parking garage, the Rose City Rollers will start at the Southeast Waterfront with timed sessions of socially distanced outdoor skating on Saturdays and Sundays. It’s suitable for all ages and skill levels. $20 for entry and rentals or $10 if you bring your own gear. They’ll also provide maps of suggested routes. Tickets must be purchased ahead of time. Visit rosecityrollers.com for locations in June and beyond.