Visiting Portland

Parent Q&A

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  • Hello BPNers,

    Our family (kids ages 9 & 14) will spend a week this summer in Seattle and Portland and the areas in between. We'll start in Seattle and drive to Portland by car. I've looked in the archives, but would like newer recommendations on places to hike, spot wildlife, and interesting things to do in and around those 2 cities as well as on the road in-between. We're open to ideas!


     Mount St. Helens just north of Portland is pretty fascinating for adults and kids.

    We moved to Portland recently and have been exploring the area with our children. I’d be happy to share ideas and help you with your itinerary. The San Juan islands (just off the coast of Seattle) are stunning, the Oregon coast is beautiful as is the Gorge and it’s waterfalls (about 25 min outside of Portland). In Portland don’t miss the Japanese gardens, Ken’s bakery and Salt and Straw ice cream. Your kids might also enjoy The Oaks amusement park (a historic amusement park located in the city) and Powell’s bookstore. Feel free to message me for more ideas! 

    I’d highly recommend a day trip to Bainbridge Island - I’m biased because I grew up there but think the ferry ride in and of itself is really gorgeous on a sunny PNW summer day, and there are lots of fun restaurants and things to see along Winslow Way if you decide to walk on instead of drive a car over. Enjoy your trip!

    In Seattle the space needle and Music Museum are great. Your kids might be too old for this but when we when there when our kids were younger we got a really cute book called the "Wheedle in the Needle" about a creature called a wheedle who lives in the space needle. There's a really tall (at least to me!) Ferris wheel nearby too that they might like. Also- many, many, MANY donut shops. You could go on a donut extravaganza :)


Just a quick recommendation: While in Portland, take a ride in what our kids affectionately call "the egg"!  It's fun even if you are just passing through Portland, as it goes right over I5.  It's cheap, memorable, and offers fabulous views of the city.


Archived Q&A and Reviews


Portland with a group of pre-teens

March 2015

Hello- my son's class is taking a trip to Portland in May. I need overall advice and recs for places to eat. Kiddos are ages 11-14. They are staying in NE Portland. I was wondering if the public transport was easy to navigate? I was curious about the crime in Portland, especially in NE. And I was hoping to get some recs for great places for dinners out (and which to avoid!). Besides rain gear, anything else to know? I haven't visited Portland since the mid 90s (before kids)!


I just went to Portland in December with my teenage boys, who had a great time at Pips & Bounce, a bar and restaurant with a whole bunch of ping pong tables. Their seven-year-old friends liked it too. And we stayed in the NE and found the public transport pretty easy. Jen

Portland Restaurants

Sept 2014

Visiting Portland for the first time and would love ideas for great restaurants. Not interested in super fancy but want great food, fun atmosphere. Any other 'must do' activities welcome as well!

Portland bound

Portland has such a vibrant and diverse food scene it's hard to start - even more so than here, according to some.

I'd vote for checking out the food trucks/carts. They were a 'thing' in Portland long before they caught on big here and elsewhere, and Portland has several venues where you can go to several at once.

Two other suggestions: For a kid-pleaser, try Slappycakes (make your own pancakes at your table with lots of fixings) or for an adult pleaser (way too mature flavors for my kids) Salt and Straw ice cream.

And if you happen to want/need to eat gluten free, Portland abounds with fabulous choices, like the Hawthorne Fish House, etc. - Can't go wrong in Portland

Pok Pok!! It's delicious and super fun, but be prepared to wait. You can go across the street and spend money while you wait in their sister restaurant, Whiskey Soda Lounge. A cool part of town as well. Jealous! rachel

Portland, Oregon with a one year old

July 2013

I am planning to take my one year old to Portland, Oregon this summer. I am looking for recommendations on where to stay, any playgrounds and public spaces I should visit and kid- friendly restaurants that serve fresh, local food. I will not rent a car and will use public transportation. What will the weather be like i.e. should I pack rain gear? Where could I rent or buy baby equipment if needed e.g. stroller, extra diapers, etc. as I want to pack light? Thanks! Anonymous

There are lots of things to do. Portland is very family-friendly, particularly for tots. I'm not sure of your or your child's interests so I'll just capture the general stuff here in downtown Portland and nearby.

Eating: Hopworks (organic food and brews, great kids' play area); Laughing Planet (quick, healthy foods in convenient locations across Portland and they have dinosaurs at each table for the kids to play with); Jam on Hawthorne (breakfast and kids' play area); ice cream at Salt & Straw;

Things to do: FREE concerts in the park virtually every night of the week in the summer (; Jamison Square in the Pearl (ice cream across the street, too); taking a $1 tour via the street car; taking the aerial tram for a view of Portland and surrounding mountains/volcanoes; the Oregon Zoo and steam train (awesome zoo--can take the MAX there); berry picking on Sauvie Island, in Canby, or Hillsboro; check-out the children's section at Powell's bookstore downtown; Oaks Amusement Park (preschool rides for 6 and under on Tue/Wed for $6.50/per kid) (adults are FREE); Washington Park playground; the Rose Garden; the Park Blocks Farmer's Market is wonderful on Saturdays (music, beautiful setting under trees, etc.); bike or walk along the Willamette River; fountains by the Saturday Market;

The weather: You said 'summer' so I'm assuming you mean before September? The weather should be predictably nice. It can be hot, like in the 90's for days and the nights are often warm.

Have fun!

Off beat hotel in Portland, OR

Aug 2011

I am planning to visit Portland, OR in a few months, and am looking for hotel recommendations: affordable, character, and coveniently located.

Thank so much!
Hitting the road

The Mark Spencer is fantastic in every way - location, great staff, VERY reasonable. I stayed there for a week once. It's just off the beaten path, a couple of blocks away from the fancy-shmancy hotels in the central downtown area but just close enough (I could walk to Nordtrom - lol) and just a block from the famous Powell's Books in the Pearl District. It's unpretentious, clean, and has a FABULOUS breakfast buffet that can last you all day if you pick up a yogurt or two and a couple of pieces of fruit. Anon

We've always enjoyed staying (and eating at) the McMenamins Hotels in the Portland area. Each hotel is in an historic property with rooms and public spaces decorated to match. We enjoy their restaurants and beer, as well. Here's what they say about themselves: 'With McMenamins, the mundane becomes magical - depending on which historic hotel you choose, you may find an onsite brewery, a movie theater, a full-service spa, gardens and orchards, a winery, soaking pools, live music and more. Along with comfortable guestrooms, original artwork, restaurants and pubs, of course.' This is their website:

Our adult son just moved to Portland, so we've looked for an 'off-beat' place to stay while visiting...and discovered some great possibilities on VRBO.COM (Vacation Rentals By Owner)- we love the S.E. 'Hawthorne' neighborhood (near the Baghdad Theatre) and found a very sweet apt in a beautiful older home, with new bed and full kitchen,& helpful owners nearby with whom we enjoyed a good glass of wine, for less than most hotels,a few blocks from a great bakery, restaurants and a lovely park. We had a great stay and experience, coming home to our own apt like locals. In Portland it's good to know the neighborhood you want. Highly recommend VRBO for travel of more than 1 nite! Joanna

I stayed at the Kennedy School a few years ago, and it was great!! It's an old school that has been turned into a hotel. It also has a movie theater, 2 bars, a restaurant, a pool, and meeting rooms. It's within walking distance of the Alberta Arts district. Here's the website:

Check out any of the Portland Mcmenamins hotels:

I haven't stayed there, but I looked into McMenamins in Portland. They have a bunch of historic buildings that they operate as restaurants, hotels (on the cheap side, I think), and movie theaters with food (Parkway-esque).

Driving to Portland--good places to see & stay?

March 2010

We are road-tripping to Portland this summer! We want to break the trip up, and stop once on the way up, and perhaps a different place on the way back. It doesn't have to be half way there. We may want to get more miles behind us on the first day so we arrive fresher at my brother's. I'm traveling with six year old kids--so kid friendly activities/places would be great! Portland bound

We've made that trip countless times, most recently with the grandkids. Going up I-5: Mount Shasta (a sacred 'power point' according to some spiritual traditions) is a wonderful place to stop, with the opportunity to explore the mountain itself, as well as many fascinating little shops in the town. Don't miss Shasta City Park, where the headwaters of the Sacramento River emerge from the side of the mountain. People gather there with containers to fill up with deliciously fresh, absolutely pure spring water as it comes right out of Mount Shasta.

Ashland, of course, is a great place to enjoy the theater. Further up into Oregon, we love to stop at the Village Green Resort and Gardens in Cottage Grove (not as expensive as it sounds). There are vast, beautifully landscaped gardens which my grandkids loved exploring and running around in. There's even a labyrinth! Check it out at And consider visiting the drive-through Wildlife Safari in Winston OR. The kids were fascinated.

Your best option would be to return to the Bay Area by traveling down the coast route, Highway 101. The Oregon coast is amazingly awesome: gorgeous beaches and state parks, the Prehistoric Gardens (somewhat accurate life-size replicas of dinosaurs in a rain forest setting), the Mark Hatfield Marine Science Center and the fabulous Oregon Coast Aquarium, both in Newport, dune buggy rides in the Florence area--these are just a few highlights; there's much, MUCH more! For a place to stay we like Adobe Inn in Yachats (pronounce it 'YAH-hots')--it's right on the ocean, and a beautiful, gentle trail leads along the coast northward to an accessible beach.

Hope you enjoy your trip! Berkeley Grandma

During a trip to Oregon, we stayed at the Rail Road Park, just outside of Mt. Shasta ( It was funky, but fun; each room is a converted railroad car. For young kids, it would be a blast, and it is a good place to break up the trip. Have fun! Claire

We drove north on Hwy 5, then on the return trip we cut over to 101 along the Umpqua River Gorge, south of Eugene. We drove home through the redwoods and wine country. Or should I say, the whine country. We'd been on the road for a WHILE by the time we got to Cloverdale!

Hwy 5: KOA Mt. Shasta is wonderful for kids (note, may be a bit chilly in the evenings in spring)

Hwy 5: Eugene Oregon Motel 6 was really nice, clean, great pool, coffee shop across parking lot, not too expensive. Eugene has a nice science museum - about 1/10 the size of SF's exploratorium but cute, hands on, and fun.

Hwy 101: Do Not Stay at Motel 6 in Eureka. It's revolting.

If you like roadside attractions, consider checking out the Roadside America website. That's how we found the concrete dinosaur place on the coast. It's a hoot.

Hwy 101: if you use the bathroom at the Bigfoot place where they carve statues with chain saws, bring your own soap. They don't provide it. Needless to say, we didn't stay long.

Prehistoric Gardens: Address: 36848 Highway 101, Port Orford, OR [Show Map] Directions: 10-12 miles south of town on US 101. Phone: 541-332-4463

... Road Trip!!

You didn't say if you'll be driving up 5 or taking 101 along the coast. We highly recommend taking 101 and stopping at Casa Rubio which is right on the CA/OR border (literally on the border.)

My husband's uncle owns/runs it, and it it truly a little spot of heaven. It is footsteps away from the beach--water is cold but my kids love it. Lots of shells and things to tool around for. Since we are family, we have stayed in every room (except the 'Nest' which is for a single or couple). They all have kitchen facilities (one allows dogs) and have a view of the ocean.

It would be a great place to take a relaxing refresher int he middle of a long drive. f

Family-friendly hotels in Portland

March 2009

My husband, 6 year old son & I will be going up to Portland, Oregon, in April and I was hoping to get some recommendations on family-friendly hotels that have kitchenettes (or at least a microwave/refrigerator). We will be there for three nights. Would prefer to stay downtown or in a neighborhood with close access to public transit. Thanks! Kristen

Check out Park Lane Suites We stayed there last summer with our two young children and it was perfect for us. It is in an ideal location - you can walk to grocery store, boutiques, restaurants, parks. Longer walk to rose garden, but we did it twice (with a double stroller). The bedrooms are tiny and there isn't a pool or much outdoor space. You open the front door and you are practically standing in the parking lot. But the kitchen is great, priced well and can't beat the location. Really friendly staff. Oh - and they have a coin-operated laundromat on premise which was nice for us after having been on the road for a week. Amy

This doesn't meet your needs for a kitchen, but I had to respond because my favorite hotel ever is in Portland. McMenamin's Kennedy School is a combination hotel, community center, movie house, brew pub and art gallery, all housed in an old elementary school. Check out their web site -- it's a very cool place. and their beer is good too!

We're just back from 6 days in Portland. You might want to consider the very lovely and very affordable Everett Street Guest House, in a good NE neighborhood, close in and walking distance to transit, shops, etc. Two guest rooms and a self-contained cottage with kitchenette. While the house is beautifully decorated, I do like the slogan, ''No frilly curtains, teddy bears, or potpourri.'' John

A fabulous hotel in downtown is the Ace Hotel - cool, hip, bohemian aesthetic. Check out the room with bunk beds for families. Don't know about kitchens though. you'll love Portland

Driving to Portland - where to stay along the way

Nov 2005

My family (2 adults, one 3 year old) will be driving to and from the East Bay to Portland, Oregon over the Christmas Holidays. We will be gone about 10 days total. We plan drive only a few hours a day and stay overnight at places along the way.

Any ideas for great family-friendly scenic places to stay along the way. We are budget oriented and have enjoyed staying in youth hostels in the past, but I am concerned that the rain could be a problem since most hostels kick you out from 10-4. We don't want to spend more than $100 per night and even that is steep for us.

Thanks! Excited about our road trip! Replies received (click to see full review)

  • Ashland is a great family/kid friendly town ...
  • I loved staying in the town of Mount Shasta ...

    girls get away with baby

    July 2002

    I am taking a ''girls get away'' in early May as a get together with my best friend and my 8-month-old daughter. We are flying into Portland (Oregon) and are looking for a place that would be nice, baby friendly and reasonably priced. It doesn't have to be in Portland, it can be in a small town just outside, but not more than a 1-1.5 hour drive from the airport. I would like some place that we would be comfortable hanging out in while the baby naps and if the weather is bad, but also in an area that would be fun to walk around in and to explore. I would love your suggestions. Thanks! Karyn

    The downtown Marriott is conveniently located, and is right across the street from the River. The neighborhood is pleasant, the hotel is moderately priced and has a few restaurants. In the past they've offered $79/nite special rates for the weekends.
    We stayed at the Governor Hotel, which is right in the middle of town and walking distance to all kinds of interesting things. Not sure how baby-friendly it is but thought I'd recommend it anyway - it's got a restaurant called Jake's Grill in the bottom of it and it's really cool and historic but not fussy.

    While we're on Portland, don't miss Powell's books (a couple blocks from The Governor) which is the biggest bookstore anywhere (used to be two car dealerships) - we shipped two boxes of books home from there, you can spend a day just browsing and sitting in the coffee shop area.

    Also the baby might enjoy the Oregon Museum of Science (not sure I've got the exact name) which is abundantly cool, though you'll need to drive there. Well worth it. I should warn you that there is an exhibit there on the development of the human fetus that has real specimens in it so if you're not prepared for that avoid it (incredibly interesting, incredibly disturbing - I saw it 7 months pregnant). But the museum is amazing and you and the baby would have a great time.

    Didn't manage to get to the 24-hour Church of Elvis so I don't know if that's cool. As far as I can tell it's the 0-hour Church of Elvis since it's never open. Betsy