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Portland with Kids
Adventure-driven Oregon has plenty to delight families throughout the year, and many of the state's best kids-oriented attractions and activities are in greater Portland. Just getting around the Rose City—via streetcars and light rail trains on city streets and kayaks, excursion cruises, and jet boats on the Willamette River—is fun. For listings of family-oriented concerts, performances by the Oregon Children's Theatre, and the like, check the free Willamette Weekly newspaper.
Beyond Portland, leading destinations in the state for families include Bend, Eugene, Crater Lake, Grants Pass for rafting, and the entire coast for myriad outdoor adventures, including Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, whale-watching cruises out of Depoe Bay, the Tillamook Cheese factory, and the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport.
Museums and Attractions
On the east bank of the Willamette River, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) is a leading interactive museum in the Northwest, with touch-friendly exhibits, an Omnimax theater, the state's biggest planetarium, and a 240-foot submarine moored just outside in the river. Along Portland's leafy Park Blocks, both the Oregon Historical Society and the Portland Art Museum have exhibits and programming geared toward kids.
In Old Town, kids enjoy walking amid the ornate pagodas and dramatic foliage of the Lan Su Chinese Garden. This is a good spot for a weekend morning, followed by a visit to the Portland Saturday Market, where food stalls and musicians keep younger kids entertained, and the cool jewelry, toys, and gifts handcrafted by local artisans appeal to teens. Steps from the market is the Oregon Maritime Museum, set within a vintage stern-wheeler docked on the river. And just up Burnside Street from the market, Powell's City of Books contains enormous sections of kids' and young adults' literature.
Portland is dotted with densely wooded parks—many of the larger ones have ball fields, playgrounds, and picnic areas. The most famous urban oasis in the city, Forest Park (along with adjoining Washington Park) offers a wealth of engaging activities. You can ride the MAX light rail right to the park's main hub of culture, a complex comprising the Oregon Zoo, Portland Children's Museum, and World Forestry Discovery Center Museum. Ride the narrow-gauge railroad from the zoo for 2 mi to reach the International Rose Test Garden and Japanese Garden. From here it's an easy downhill stroll to Northwest 23rd and 21st avenues' pizza parlors, ice-cream shops, and bakeries.
Tour boats ply the Willamette River, and a couple of marinas near OMSI rent kayaks and conduct drag-boat races out on the water. There are also several shops in town that rent bikes for use on the city's many miles of dedicated bike lanes and trails. There's outstanding white-water rafting just southeast of Portland, along the Clackamas River. On your way toward the Clackamas, check out North Clackamas Aquatic Park and Oaks Amusement Park, which have rides and wave pools galore.
Nearby Mt. Hood has camping, hiking, and biking all summer, and family-friendly ski resorts—Timberline is especially popular for younger and less experienced boarders and skiers.
From summer through fall, the pick-your-own berry farms and pumpkin patches on Sauvie Island make for an engaging afternoon getaway—for an all-day outing, continue up U.S. 30 all the way to Astoria, at the mouth of the Columbia River, to visit the Columbia River Maritime Museum and Fort Stevens State Park, where kids love to scamper about the remains of an early-20th-century shipwreck.
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