Portland, Oregon: A Weekend Getaway with the Kids
Perhaps you’ve heard of an award-winning TV comedy series called Portlandia. It’s a somewhat tongue-in-cheek celebration of all of the unique quirkiness that is the city of Portland.
And if you get the chance to visit Portland…you’ll see that it is indeed a one-of-a-kind destination! It’s a fascinating blend of the quirky and the quaint and a place where a dynamic urban vibe meets the breathtaking beauty of the Great Northwest. It’s a city where you’ll find innovative gourmet foods and world-class coffee that’s also home to super-cool hipsters, nature-loving locals, chefs, designers, artists, families and friendly folk everywhere.
The locals may call it by many names: Stump-town…Rose City…Brewtopia…Bridgetown…or P-town, but whatever you decide to call it, your entire family will fall totally in love with Portland. There’s so much to do in Portland with its mountain explorations, intriguing museums and culinary adventures that you could easily spend a week and never get bored.
But, if you ONLY have one weekend…here are some of my gang’s personal family-friendly ideas to make your weekend getaway fabulous!
Fun Things to do in Portland, Oregon with Kids
DAY 1: A Taste of Portland
Being in Portland on a Saturday morning means you’re in luck! That’s when Oregon’s largest open air Farmers’ Market is on display. The market, located on Portland State University’s campus, is teeming with tempting baked goods, fresh produce, local specialty foods and, of course, Portland’s world-famous gourmet coffee.
Just a few blocks from the Farmer’s Market is the Oregon Historial Society’s Museum. The museum is designed to be a fun, family experience, where all can learn about and share in the history and story of Oregon.
Every family can create their own Portland adventures, and my foodie family was in heaven! With options ranging from gourmet food trucks to high-end eateries, deciding where to dine was a real challenge for us.
Some friendly locals recommended the top-rated Mother’s Bistro and Bar. So we stopped in to have brunch with the real Portlanders. We loved Mother’s perfect mix of elevated made-from-scratch comfort food, shabby-chic elegant décor and a weekend brunch with creative cocktails. Our favorite brunch dishes included the delectable Eggs Benedict, Belgian Waffle and Mac & Cheese! And make sure to save room for their famous pies. Mother’s can be a little sinful! As Chef Owner Lisa Schroeder says, “It’s all about the love!”
Saturday afternoon, we headed out to take in some of the breathtaking natural beauty of Oregon. Washington Park was a great place to do it! We soaked in the scenery of stunning mountains and lush green gardens. My girls especially enjoyed the interactive displays at the Forestry Center, and we all enjoyed our picture-perfect stroll around the 5 1/2 acres of Japanese Gardens. There are many other family friendly activities in the park, including the Oregon Zoo, the International Test Rose Garden, and the Portland Children’s Museum.
Now back to the FOOD!!!
After much “research,” we decided on dinner at North Portland’s recently-opened Tasty n Sons, one of Chef John Gorham’s top-rated restaurants. Very trendy, yet family-friendly, this industrial chic restaurant on bustling North Williams street offers unique tapas-style, globally-inspired comfort food. We love small plates, because that means we can try a little bit of a lot of stuff. Our mouths watered as we tasted finger licking Spicy BBQ Pork Ribs, flavorful Skillet Corn Cake, the “house specialty” Radicchio Salad, crispy Fried Chicken, absolutely addictive Maple Bacon Wrapped Dates with Almond, and Dungeness Crab Dip with (as my girls said) the best flatbread we’ve ever had! Save room for their out of this world desserts! Tip: This restaurant is also well-known for brunch and offers free parking!
After an amazing dinner we “escaped” to something entirely new to our family: TripAdvisors’ top-rated Escapism Portland. This mystery experience offers many different theme rooms in various locations around Portland. We chose the Ritual Room! Our adventure began as we drove to what appeared to be a deserted office complex. With nervous excitement, we climbed up a couple staircases and hesitantly knocked on the door. We were greeted by the hostess who briefed us on the rules and led us into the eerie room of mystery. The challenge: Solve the puzzles and escape the room before time runs out. If you are struggling and need a “life line,” the hostess will reluctantly dispense clues over an antique telephone. We had a blast working (and laughing) together as a family. (Don’t let my kids know I told you, but we failed!) Note: Because of the dark, spooky setting and degree of difficulty of the puzzles, I don’t recommend this for families with children younger than 12.
Day 2: Zippin’ through the City
Have you ever been on a Segway? Portland is a wonderful place to do it! We started our Sunday with a thrilling Portland by Segway ride. After a brief Segway 101 lesson, we cruised through the downtown area, across Portland’s iconic bridges, and along the Esplanade and water’s edge. We LOVED watching the city whiz by and learned so much from our enthusiastic and knowledgeable tour guide. All four of us had a blast on this tour.
If your children are too young for a Segway ride, another great family activity is a visit to the top-rated Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. You can’t miss it…it has a 240-foot submarine moored outside!
If there is one MUST experience for every visitor to Portland, it is the unique Food Truck culture. Portland may have the most and best food trucks anywhere: over 600 roaming restaurants around town! If you are true foodies like my gang, consider a fun and informative 90-minute tour with the “Guru of Food Trucks,” the charismatic Brett Burmeister of Food Carts Portland. Brett knows literally EVERYTHING there is to know about the Portland food truck community. With his expert knowledge and recommendations, we sampled phenomenal BBQ, Iranian and Chinese dishes. Among all the exotic tastes at the Alder Pod, ironically as it turned out, our family’s highlight was sharing a couple super-tasty, oozing hot sandwiches from the bright red Grilled Cheese Grill food truck!
There are lots of other yummy experiences in Portland. In the afternoon my girls and I opted for some retail therapy by exploring Portland’s vibrant downtown shopping scene at Pioneer Place Mall. We also got our sightseeing on, visiting the authentic Suzhou style Lan Su Chinese Garden. We thoroughly enjoyed our tranquility break in the beautiful tea house.
And guess what? By divine fate, it just so happened we were in Portland during Restaurant Month (March)! One of our favorite finds was in the Northeast section of the city: a superb menu served by the French-inspired Verdigris. It was both quaint and contemporary at the same time. My girls loved being able to watch the talented chefs at work in the open kitchen. Verdigris’ menu changes seasonally because it uses local produce. Our highlights included: delicate Shrimp Consommé, flavorful Idaho Trout Two Ways, Vegetable Gnocchi, a spectacular steak and a dreamy variety of desserts that made us want to lick our plates. (Don’t worry, most of us refrained!) Tip: Look for street parking near the restaurant.
After dinner we were not ready to call it a night. So we headed out to Comedy Sportz Portland, a wonderfully fun, family-friendly show that pits two teams of comedians against each other in a hilarious improv competition. Our girls loved it and vigorously cheered on their favorite comedians.
2 more fun things to do in Portland that you should fit into your schedule
But not just any doughnuts…Portland’s own Voodoo Doughnut! There is NOTHING like it! Anytime day or night at their original location, you can sample their extraordinary selection of doughnuts (except on a few major holidays).
Our favorites included the signature Voodoo Doll doughnut, the Bacon Maple Bar doughnut and the Portland Cream doughnut. Mmmmm! My gang was extremely fortunate to meet the one-of-a-kind philanthropist/entrepreneur/doughnut master and absolutely charming Tres Shannon, one of two founders of this sweet institution. His love of Portland and doughnuts is infectious! If you’re lucky, you may even see him in the Old Town store officiating at a Voodoo Doughnut wedding. (Yes, they do about 500 weddings a year!) Tip: Be prepared, some of the more entertaining doughnuts are ADULT-themed and Voodoo is cash only.
BOOKS, BOOKS, BOOKS!
Powell’s City of Books is the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world. With over 1.5 MILLION books, it occupies an entire city block. You name it, they have it: new, used, and extremely rare. Have fun wandering aisle after aisle after aisle.
Where to Stay in Portland
Hilton Portland & Executive Tower is a gem! Our family loved it. It’s perfectly located in the heart of the shopping, food truck and entertainment district. It also happens to be the only hotel in the city that offers families use of an indoor pool. Be sure to stop by the open and modern gastropub HopCity Tavern in the lobby for their great breakfast buffet or a la carte menu and for delicious meals throughout the day.
P-Town: Gourmet food, kid-friendly attractions and some quirky unique, only–in-Portland experiences. Our family will never forget our magical weekend.
You may also enjoy:
- Discover the Wonders of The Emerald City at the Seattle Center
- Seattle’s Prime: Best Things to do in Seattle with Kids in 2 Days
- Welcome to “VanGroovy:” A Perfect Vancouver Vacation
Hilton Mom Voyage writers receive free night certificates to use at Hilton Hotels & Resorts worldwide. To learn more, visit our About Us page.
Lisa’s family was provided with discounted and/or complimentary meals and admission to some of the attractions/restaurants so that she could try them and review them for your information. Lisa chose the above restaurants and attractions based on their reviews and recommendations from friends.
Know Before You Go
- Portland is a hub for donut enthusiasts, with classic local favorites like Blue Star Donuts, Pip’s Doughnuts & Chai, and Voodoo Doughnuts.
- There’s no sales tax in Oregon, and The Saturday Market is the perfect place to take advantage of this.
- For some family fun, Washington Park is an excellent spot with views of mountains and numerous gardens.