January 20, 2018

Portland with Kids: Exploring Washington Park


Portland Children’s Museum

I’ve lived in Portland, Oregon for quite some time and I can tell you that this city has endless activities for families. Not only is Portland a very bike-friendly town, but some areas, like Washington Park, just seem to have it all, like running and hiking trails, picnic spots and a fabulous playground.

From a single parking lot, you can visit the Oregon Zoo, Portland Children’s Museum and the Discovery Museum at the World Forestry Center. It’s rare to be able to access that many family-friendly activities from one place. Washington Park sits in the hills right above downtown and is a must-see for any Portland visitor.  Here’s a little more about a few of my favorite spots to take my kids.

Portland Children’s Museum: The Portland Children’s Museum is anything but a museum. Really, it should be re-named Portland’s Greatest Play Area. There are numerous exhibits, which focus children on playful learning. The youngest visitors can start in the Baby Garden. There’s a Pet Hospital, a Grocery Store, a Theater and even a Water Works room, which all promote exploration in learning. Don’t forget the Big Dig if you have little ones that love sand, shovels and diggers.

Oregon Zoo

Oregon Zoo: A trip to Washington Park wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Oregon Zoo. The elephants are among the zoo’s most popular animals, especially with a baby due in winter 2012-2013. The five sections of the zoo (Asia, Fragile Forests, Pacific Shores, Africa and the Pacific Northwest) are easily visited in one day and include lots of exhibits where you can see the animals up-close just behind the glass. Our kids love when the sea lions and polar bears swim right up to the glass. Their size and beauty is amazing. As a bonus, don’t forget to take a ride on the Washington Park and Zoo Railway.

Discovery Museum at the World Forestry Center: Just across the parking lot from the zoo entrance is the  Discovery Museum at the World Forestry Center. Visitors can learn about forests and the people who live and work in them. Families have the opportunity to “journey around the world” while learning about different types of forests from rainforest to the boreal forests of the north. Experience a rafting ride that won’t leave you soaked, get a bird’s-eye view of the forest and don’t miss Peggy the Train, a logging train built in 1909. Used until the 1950s, Peggy spent her life in the forests of the Pacific Northwest.

A few of my other favorite attractions at Washington Park include the Portland Japanese Garden, International Rose Test Garden and Hoyt Arboretum. Getting to Washington Park is easy too. It’s accessible by car through several entrances. Or, go green by taking the Portland TriMet’s MAX light rail service to Washington Park Station.

Got a minute? Kidventurous has been nominated for two family travel awards and we would love your vote. You can find out more in this recent post about the awards. Thank you!

Christin Coureux is a contributing writer who also shares tips and advice about traveling with kids on her blog, Kiddos on Board.

Photo Credit: Christin Couvreux 


  1. I’ve never been to Portland (yet!). I can’t wait to go w/ my kiddos. Great tips!



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