Have a 5 Month old? 5 Year old? 15 Year old? Here’s What to do in Portland

BY MEG ASBY, DENISE CASTAÑON AND TIFFANY HILL

Whether you’ve got a baby, elementary-school-aged kids or teens, we’ve got a fun-filled, day-long itinerary for exploring the Portland area. Even if you find just one new place to play or splurge on a whole day of activities, there are plenty of kid-friendly ideas for fun close to home.

What To Do With Babies and Toddlers

Morning

Most babies, including my own, love to wake up early, ready to take on the day. Engage their senses (and for toddlers, get that AM energy out) with a trip to OMSI. The museum’s Science Playground is specially designed for children ages 0 to 6. Inside, you’ll find activities that stimulate and engage: a netted climbing zone, water sensory stations, pretend play café and store, and more. There’s also a dedicated area just for babies and toddlers. My 8-month-old especially loved the bell shakers in the baby area and sticking his hands in the fountain. Pro tip: The Science Playground also has accessible restrooms and a nursing room — with extra diapers and wipes!

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For older tots with higher energy levels (and fewer nap times), the Oregon Rail Heritage Center is just down the road. Your little train enthusiast can get an up-close view of three vintage working steam engines, and the machine shop where volunteers work to restore the locomotives. Pro tip: The center is only open Thursday through Sunday. On Saturdays, the center offers 45-minute train rides!

After they’ve sufficiently explored, head to nearby Boke Bowl for lunch. This kid-friendly ramen spot boasts tasty yet healthy ramens, curry, poke bowls, salads and more. The bambino ramen bowl (or rice bowl) is created for kids 12 and under in mind, consisting of just broth, noodles, squash and either pork or tofu. For the pickiest eaters, Boke has them covered, too. Enter the peanut-butter-and-jelly bao buns (pictured above). For dessert, don’t miss the Boke twinkie, a housemade homage to the classic snack.  

Afternoon

Courtesy of Tiffany Hill

After your little wakes up from their nap, head west to Nordic Northwest in the Garden Home neighborhood of Southwest Portland.The Nordic cultural center’s newest resident is Ole Bolle, a 19-foot tall troll made by Danish artist Thomas Dambo using recycled woods and materials. It’s free to see Ole Bolle and kids will delight in the troll’s size as he peers into a little red house. On our recent visit, we saw several families wandering the manicured grounds, and taking photos next to the crouching troll. The campus’ quaint café Broder Söder serves coffee, tea, breakfast and lunch overlooking a big grassy lawn. Kids love the æbleskiver, or Danish pancake balls — it’s the café’s speciality. For a bigger variety of foods, such as tacos, pad thai and burgers, there’s BG Food Cartel, a 12-minute drive away in Beaverton. The food cart pod has indoor and outdoor seating, a faux lawn area perfect for little legs, and a bar. 

Evening

Nightlife with a baby or toddler hits different thanks to their early bedtimes. But while you won’t be catching a movie or making dinner reservations for 8:30 pm, there’s still fun to be had (plus well deserved child-free time). Before your kiddo’s bedtime, head to Mox Boarding House in Goose Hollow. Mox is a game lover’s paradise: There’s a game store, gaming rooms with large tables and a restaurant and bar. But since you’ll need to be home shortly, peruse the large variety of board games near the entrance. There are options for the littlest of players, too, so everyone can have a round or two of fun before bedtime.

New games in hand, head one mile north for a pitstop at Mama Bird for takeout. This restaurant specializes in locally sourced chicken, perfectly roasted over a wood-fire grill. They offer family-style to-go meals; the half-bird family meal starts at $69 and whole bird family meal starts at $100 and comes with house made sauces, choice of potatoes, salads and vegetables. After all that fun, and with a full belly, everyone will sleep soundly!

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What To Do With Big Kids

Morning

For a truly unforgettable day with your kids, start it off by waking up at The Portal in Lake Oswego (starts at $240 a night). This AirBnB is filled with the artwork of Steven Ochs including a giant “space cat” you can crawl inside of (pictured above), and a completely mirrored room with voice-operated lights and music. My kids loved dimming the lights and watching their infinite reflections dancing around with glow sticks. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience. Check out is at 10 am. Head to nearby Kyra’s Bake Shop to grab some breakfast. Kyra Bussanich is a four-time winner of The Food Network’s Cupcake Wars and everything in her shop is gluten-free — and exceptionally delicious. After your breakfast treats, see if you can spot the May blooms at the free Rogerson Clematis Garden at Luscher Farm in West Linn. Pro tip: If you want to add a clematis to your garden, the plant shop is open Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 am-2 pm. Then hit the playground at Hazelia Field, just north of the garden. If your crew is starting to get hungry after the park, head to Killer Burger in West Linn. They’ve got bacon-loaded burgers for a range of appetites (pint-sized, regular and double) as well as gluten-free and vegetarian options.

Afternoon

After lunch, visit Tigard’s Reset Button Arcade. It’s $10 per person for unlimited free play of retro games for the entire day. Pro tip: You can even come and go throughout the day! Hours vary, check them before you go. Or book an archery lesson for the whole family at Archers Afield ($65 for up to five people, pictured above). Pro tip: If you are feeling ambitious and want to hit both, these two businesses are located in the same shopping plaza. Or let the kids get creative and messy at the Slime Kitchen in Washington Square Mall. They can choose from various types of slime bases (clear, butter, thick and more) and customize it with scent, color and mix-ins ($30 per maker) .

Evening

For dinner, Washington Square Mall offers delicious options. One of my family’s absolute favorite fast casual spots is Ezell’s Famous Chicken. We fill up on crunchy chicken tenders, potato salad, mac ‘n’ cheese, buttered corn, baked beans, warm dinner rolls and sweet potato pie. Or hit up Din Tai Fung for tempting Taiwanese dumplings, buns, wontons and more. Full and happy, it’s time to head home to wind down after your extremely fun-filled day!

What To Do With Tweens and Teens

Morning

If your teens are like mine, they’re going to want to sleep in. While they snooze, slip out the door and pick up breakfast. I’m steadfastly devoted to Blue Star Donuts, but I’m not a Voodoo Doughnut hater — if you’re feeling touristy and want the pink box, Voodoo makes a great maple bacon. Wherever you go, there’s nothing like the smell of donuts to lure teens from their beds.

Start the day at Wonderwood Mini-Golf, a whimsical, indoor course that opens at 10 am, and costs only $10 to play. If your teens are still dragging, they can grab a cup of joe next door at the fantasy-themed Wonderwood Springs café. 

Just about the time the sugar wears off, head to Pasture PDX, a whole animal restaurant, and my favorite sandwich shop in Portland, no contest. After we decide what to order, my daughter and I like to walk down the sidewalk rainbow to take a look at the eclectic wares at Frock Boutique while my husband and son wait for our food to arrive. 

Afternoon

Now that you’ve eaten the best sandwich of your life, head to Hopscotch Portland, an immersive art experience in the Goat Blocks (pictured below). This is my daughter’s favorite thing to do in Portland. You can bounce on a responsive trampoline of light, navigate a glowing ball pit, spray paint the walls with color, and much more in the 14 experiential exhibits. This is a popular date night spot, so even teens who eschew all things childish can play unselfconsciously here. 

At this point in the day, you’ve spent a lot of time (and money) indoors. Go for a walk in the de facto arboretum of more than 700 trees at Lone Fir Cemetery. Teens will love the “Please Use Ghost Brush Before Leaving the Cemetery” sign and the unique memorials — including a Scrabble-themed tombstone — at one of Portland’s oldest continuously used cemeteries, established in 1855.  

Evening

At Lone Fir, you might come across the burial sites of patients of Oregon’s first psychiatric hospital; it seems apt to follow your cemetery stroll with an early dinner at the Hawthorne Asylum Food Cart Pod, situated in the former location of the facility. The pod offers a wide variety of cuisine, from Smaaken Waffles to sushi burritos at Rollin’ Fresh (pictured right), which means everyone leaves happy. 

At this point in the day, my son would be itching for screen time, but there is nothing for me to do at arcades except be overstimulated. That’s why I love The People’s Courts. My son can play classic arcade games, while the rest of us compete at pickleball, cornhole, bocce or ping pong. Pro tip: If you want to play pickleball, be sure to reserve a court in advance at thepeoplescourts.com.

End your day with a late-night, discount movie at the historic Academy Theater, established in 1948. Tickets are less than $10 at this classic cinema, so stock up on concessions and relax after your bliss-marathon of a day.

More weekends to fill? Check out all of our family fun ideas here or our ultimate Portland bucket list (there’s 101 activities!)

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