A local guide to food and fun for families and any visitor!
It’s weird to consider myself a Portlander but I’ve been living here for 19 years now. What began as a journey to a new place with my now husband has turned into our permanent home with our 3 children, all Portland born and raised. I know there are a TON of resources out there to find hot spots in Portland. This is simply my insider take on must-see places throughout the city from food, breweries, wineries, where to go outside the city and the most kid-friendly places to go while visiting.
Every year I get requests from friends and followers about places to visit while in Portland – I really should have had a list a long time ago. But here we are and I figure I should pop this into a blog post so it’s easily sharable with friends and family alike (please share!!!!) It’s lengthy but I want to include as many categories I can so you truly have a great resource as you plan your trip.
I’ll preface by saying that I will make note on places that are more suited for a date night or adults but overall, Portland is a VERY kid-friendly city. Even the fanciest of restaurants and breweries accommodate for kids which is pretty awesome. Please also note that this list is based on my knowledge of PRE-Covid circumstances, always check on hours and what they offer during Covid.
I think the beauty of Portland is the proximity to being in the city, the mountain and beach (coast). You truly have the best of everything. The city of Portland is very family-friendly and definitely a travel destination. You will never tire of things to do here. So let’s dive in!! Feel free to click to the categories you’re most interested in from the contents below.
- A local guide to food and fun for families and any visitor!
- Ice Cream and Donuts
- Baked Goods
- Brunch Scene
- Favorite Restaurants
- Food Outside the Box
- Top Activities Around Portland + Family Friendly
- Outside the City
- Seasonal Attractions
- Shops + Sites to See
- End of the Trip
Ice Cream and Donuts
Let’s talk sweets shall we? I’m sharing our top spots for all things sweet including donuts and ice cream. There are so many wonderful places throughout the city these are just a few hot spots and our favorite places to go if I’m not baking something sweet myself.
Salt and Straw – IYKYK, Salt and Straw started in Portland but has since spanned throughout other major cities throughout the US. It’s by far our FAVORITE ice cream spots. They have classic flavors on their standard menu but still nothing ordinary – my favorite is their Arbequina Olive Oil! It doesn’t stop there, each monthly they have a rotation of 5 themed flavors that are sometimes crazy wacky but somehow work beautifully!! Multiple locations throughout the city.
Pinolo Gelato – If you’re looking for something a little more subtle and pure, Pinolo Gelato is SO GOOD! Sandro, the owner, is Italian and knows a thing or two about making the perfect gelato! My recommendation is pistachio, it’s smooth, creamy and PURE pistachio flavor!
Sugarpine Drive-In – This spot is GOLD! Not only for their amazing soft serve ice cream and sundaes but they also have a full menu and frosé!!! Sugar Pine is not in the city but a drive out toward the Gorge in Troutdale, OR. This is a wonderful spot to stop on your way out to Multnomah Falls (see below) or the Gorge.
Pip’s Donuts – Pip’s is such a fantastic donut shop! You will be happily surprised when you order. Their signature little cake donuts have exquisite flavors like Passionfruit Poppy Seed. But their donuts are only half of it, if you are a chai lover – try their chai flight (iced for me please), so incredibly delicious! Not to mention, their own is such a pillar of the community and really a leader in community over competition. One more tip, on your birthday (or within 7 days after) you get a free dozen donuts!!!!
Blue Star Donuts – I’m going to be 100% honest, that trendy spot your friends told you to go to when you visit Portland (V**D**) – skip it! If you’re looking for truly unique and delicious donuts that are slightly unique, try Blue Star. Get there early as they sell out of flavors quickly! Multiple locations throughout the city.
Coco Donuts – While we’re on donuts, Coco Donuts are delicious, fresh and classic flavors. A great all around donut shop. Multiple locations throughout the city.
Portland is HIGHLY regarded as a coffee town. If you’re not drinking a $4 pour over coffee with locally roasted beans – what are you even doing?? Here are a few goodies plus a kid bonus and one of my favorite on-the-go!
Coava – Coava is one of the premier coffee shops in Portland – I should know, pre-covid, my husband would make a daily visit. Locally roasted beans with a depth of flavor. Each drink is handcrafted, coffee weight, water temperature precise to make the perfect cup of coffee. Multiple locations throughout the city but the Grand Avenue location has a lovely, large warehouse style space that is perfect for hanging out and getting some work down or catching up with a friend.
Good Coffee – Good Coffee is just that – GOOD! With multiple locations throughout the city it’s a lovely spot to pickup a latte, my favorite is their horchata latte! The NW location has a lovely outdoor area perfect for kiddos to burn off some energy and close to Jamison Square if you’re looking for a summer splashpad!
Dutch Bros. – Okay, some hardcore Portland folks will disagree with me on this but Dutch Bros. is AMAZING!!! Skip Starbucks and go through any of the MANY Dutch Bros. drive-through spots in the city. They are the FRIENDLIEST and have some delicious coffee to-go! They also have the Dutch Frosts for kids which are favorites of my kids, there are their favorite flavor combos: [Watermelon + Blue Raspberry] [Strawberry + Lemon] [Blue Raspberry + Strawberry]
I’m an avid baker but sometimes I need something sweet and don’t feel like baking! Here are some bakeries/sweet shops with some delicious goodies to try.
Grand Central Baking – You will find multiple locations throughout the city and for good reason! They not only have delicious baked goods but offer a full menu of savory items and fresh bread. Check their website for order ahead items if you need something special to bring to an event.
St. Honoré Bakery – Truly, each item is better than the next. From the fresh baguettes to the exquisite French pastries – the croissants are INCREDIBLE! If you can, hit up the location in NW to see the gorgeous oven that was build with stones from France. There are multiple locations throughout the city.
Lauretta Jean’s – This may be the best pie shop EVER! From sweet to savory pies and baked goodies, you won’t be disappointed.
Aside from coffee, beer is another hot one here in Portland. Craft beers is the specialty and there are sooooooo many wonderful breweries for those that are into high quality beer. While I can’t give you full tasting notes on beers (I don’t drink it) my husband is a connoisseur if you will. So many beers and so little space to include them all – you can always leave a comment if you need more recs and I’ll include for you and others to see.
Rogue Brewery – Rogue is brewed in Newport, OR – a coastal town (see below in outside the city) but you can find their beer throughout Portland. If you don’t get a chance to tour the brewery out in Newport, definitely stop by their Eastside location in Portland and enjoy an amazing outdoor space. Kid friendly as well!
Cascade Brewing – Cascade Brewing is the leader in Sour Beer brewing here in Portland. A unique place to try some different beers. This is not a kid friendly location.
Great Notion Brewing – Great Notion started a MOVEMENT with their beers. From flavors like – Passion Fruit Mochi and Blueberry Muffin, the creativity is insane!!! Not only in their beers, but the artwork on each can is something spectacular. Great Notion has several locations and also offers a full menu – just note that their beer is ONLY sold at their locations, so be sure to pick a few up before heading back home.
Hammer and Stich – A fairly newer brewery that has lovely beers and a fantastic outdoor patio for seating. Their restaurant/brewery is family friendly and a great stop on your trip. Find their beers at shops throughout Portland.
Wayfinder – With some pretty rad beers, Wayfinder also has a great pub menu and a FABULOUS outdoor area including fire pits throughout. A definite city hang out space.
Deschutes Brewery – Deschutes was founded in Bend, Oregon and named it after the iconic waterway flowing through town, the Deschutes River (pronounced da shootz). Probably my favorite in terms of look and feel (inside) and menu offerings. Deschutes has a fabulous upscale menu for a brewery but completely kid friendly. A Portland beer staple in our house as well.
If you have never heard of or seen the Portland Brunch scene – let me educate you. Portland + Brunch is a thing of beauty but also a thing of much waiting and anticipation. You see, some brunch lines are EASILY an hour to an hour and a half wait on the weekends. Pro-tip, brunch on a weekday!!! Here are some of my favorite spots, all fine for kids!
Genie’s – Genie’s is an ICONIC spot, really has that diner vibe. Great portion size, nothing crazy fancy just good old omelets, pancakes and amazing Bloody Mary’s! This is the PERFECT spot for food to cure a hangover. Oh and the prices are totally reasonable!
Hunnymilk – Hunnymilk is a fun brunch spot! Have you ever had a hard time choosing between sweet and savory for brunch? Or getting sweet then diving into your significant other’s dish for a bit of savory? Well Hunnymilk solved that!! One price – choose one sweet and one savory + drink! A short but incredibly thoughtful and delicious, seasonal menu – must stop! While this is fine for kids, the price is a little spendy and not sure kids would need a full portion. You be the judge.
Sweedeedee – One of my favorite spots in the city for brunch! It’s small and definitely can have a wait so be prepared. Their seasonal cuisine menu is just lovely. From the baked goods including sweet and savory to their pickled and preserved veggies that are showcased in the cafe. This is a fine spot to bring kids but it is a small space and not great seating for a large party.
Slappycakes – To be honest, I have NEVER been to Slappycakes! But I know folks that bring their kids often and it’s supposed to be fabulous for them! It’s basically habachi for pancakes – choose your flavors and toppings and get a squeeze bottle to make your own pancakes. It’s not for everyone but definitely could appeal to kids! Of course they have a full menu and their pancake toppings are very Portland – Lavender Honey, Local Goat Cheese, Chocolate Hazelnut Spread, Organic Chocolate Syrup and more.
Screendoor – If you’ve driven around Portland on Sunday, you’ll probably see folks outside of Screendoor restaurant – and for good reason! Their brunch menu is so dang good! Get the chicken and waffles, great for kids but be prepared for a wait.
POA Cafe – Not the typical brunch scene or spot but this little gem serves some of the BEST smoothies around town. They also of course serve cocktails, coffee and a lovely brunch menu. Outdoor space is beautiful and kid friendly! Perfect for a quick grab and go or place to sit and chat casually with a friend.
As I mentioned earlier, I think MOST places in Portland are kid friendly but some of these restaurants I would recommend for a date night and best not suited for kiddos! Portland food is SOOOO good and this is just a small list of some of our favorite places.
St. Jack’s – Now with 2 locations – NW Portland and Lake Oswego, St. Jack’s is an elevated restaurant with fine French cuisine from oysters to scallops to incredible steak! If you can, stop by their Happy Hour for a lighter fare menu with more moderate prices. *great for date night but outdoor seating and some menu options could be good for kids
Clarklewis – Clarklewis is a lovely local restaurant that specializes in local, in season cuisine – the true farm to table experience. I highly recommend doing the Chef’s Tasting Menu if you and your party don’t have any restrictions to your diet. It’s a lot of food, all so incredibly delicious and you get a sample of what’s the hottest on the menu that night. *great for date night
Farmhouse Kitchen Thai – Oh my oh my – this place has some INCREDIBLY amazing dishes! So flavorful, authentic and great for family style if dining in. Also a great takeout option. Their Thai Tea is something else!!! Multiple locations and kid friendly!
Lang Baan – If I had to choose an incredible dining experience that I’ve had – it would be from Lang Baan. Before it became as well known as it is now, I had the honor dining there. A VERY authentic Thai dining experience, not your typical Pad Thai but truly unique dishes that change with the season. Menus are prix fixe and I highly recommend doing the drink pairings as well. Reservations are VERY hard to come by, so book when you can. *date night, not kid friendly
Flying Fish Co. – A hot spot to pickup some local, fresh seafood to prepare yourself or stop by for some outdoor seating. Best oysters in town!!! Casual and kid friendly.
Yoko’s Sushi – Portland has a HOT sushi scene, there are dozens of amazing sushi spots. Yoko’s has been around for a VERY long time!!! I would highly recommend doing take out there or be prepared for a long wait for dining. *kid friendly
Bamboo Sushi – For a more elegant sushi dining experience, Bamboo Sushi is the place to be. With their sustainable practices and unique dishes, it’s a wonderful spot to enjoy. Multiple locations throughout the city *great for date night
Noble Rot – Looking for some views and wine? Noble Rot is a GORGEOUS spot with perfect outdoor seating. Their wine selection is wonderful, great for a pre-dinner drink or enjoy their limited menu. *great for date night, not kid friendly
Olympia Provisions – Olympia Provisions is a staple in Portland. True charcuterie meats are brought to life at their restaurants. Perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner Olympia Provisions has it all. You can also pickup their meats in their shops or local grocery markets. Multiple locations throughout the city. *kid friendly
Laurelhurst Market – If you’re looking for steak, this is your spot! With a selection of local beef – their menu is incredible. This is also a great lunch stop! They also have a Butcher Shop on site if you’re looking to pickup items to cook yourself. *date night and kid friendly
Lardo – Into sandwiches? Then Lardo is a must stop for you! A spot that once started as a food cart has evolved into 2 brick and mortar locations with some off the chart sandwiches. Definitely let your creativity go here! *kid friendly, great lunch spot
Afuri – Tokyo-based hot spot featuring creative ramen and sushi! Great food and lovely SE location. Their ramen bowls are incredible and the rest of their menu options are delicious. Great for sharing! For a more casual experience, try their ramen and dumpling location: *date night but kids would also enjoy
Boke Bowl – A super casual dining spot for amazing ramen, dumplings and buns. This is a perfect spot to stop for a quick lunch on the run. Order at the counter and find a spot to sit. Great spot to hit up after going to OMSI. *great for kids
Nostrana – A very authentic Italian dining experience. If you’re traveling from the East Coast, this is NOT your grandma’s spaghettis and meatballs spot. This is a very elevated, fine dining Italian cuisine. Their dishes are simple made with local, seasonal ingredients. But their pizza is definitely not to be missed, with homemade mozzarella cheese. *great for date night and kids
Santa Fe Taqueria – For the longest time, we used to come to this hot spot once a week to listen to local kid music artist, Mr. Ben. We’d get food, margaritas and kids would dance to the tunes of Mr. Ben. This is a super casual place for some delicious Mexican food with great options for kids. A nice stop if you’re shopping along NW 23rd Avenue.
Kachka – One of the best Russian restaurants in the country, Kachka has a unique menu offering incredible dishes and local, in-house made infused vodkas. Check out their shop to take goodies home with you! *kid friendly
Cooper’s Hall – One of my favorite spots in the city!!! This absolutely GORGEOUS space is a fantastic wine bar with a wall of wine on tap – yes! Great a glass of one of their wines that are on tap, or better yet, get a few bottles filled to-go. A great sustainable way to share wine. Their food is also wonderful, locally sourced and fresh. *great for date night
Lovely Fifty Fifty – Pizza is something special here in Portland. It’s not the expected Neapolitan you get on the East Coast, it’s a gourmet experience. Sarah Minnick is known for her dough and pizza creations, the face behind Lovely Fifty Fifty. Not mention, they offer some delicious ice cream flavors! Perfect spot to pickup pizza! And not to brag, but Portland was actually named for the BEST pizza in the nation and Lovely Fifty Fifty was at the top of the list.
Departure Restaurant – Great views, swanky scene and good food! This pan-Asian cuisine focused restaurant is a hot spot for date night. With the gorgeous outdoor dining space, it’s one to check out in the summer months. *great for date night
Food Outside the Box
Portland’s catch phrase is “Keep Portland Weird” – weird is relative, I think there are so many incredible things to see and do and our food scene is probably one of the most incredible throughout the nation (yes, even NYC). While NYC has MORE restaurants, I do think that what Portland has to offer is better quality food – everywhere you dine. These next few spots are more than just a place to eat – rather food + entertainment or just different.
Food Carts – You can’t come to Portland and not stop at a food cart! There are food cart pods all throughout the city in different neighborhoods. I’ll be honest, 10+ years ago I’m not sure I would have eaten at a food cart. Fast forward and food carts serve some of the BEST food and with food sanitary standards even higher than some restaurants. A few hot spots to check out include: Hawthorne Asylum which has so many carts and not to mention, in the works – a 40 Tap Beer Hall coming in September 2021. If you’re over on the other side of town, check out the St. Johns Food Cart pod, smaller in scale but some tasty bites including sushi, falafal, fish and chips and of course more beer!
McMenamin’s – I could really have an entire page dedicated to the McMenamin’s! Scattered throughout the city and even outside the city, McMenamin’s is a collection of restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, concert venues and more. Over the years, the family-owned establishments have transformed old schools, churches and other buildings to create these incredible spaces. Locally in Portland, you can head to Kennedy School to catch a movie, enjoy a meal, book a hotel stay or stop by the soaking pool. Just outside the city, Edgefield is a gorgeous estate that offers food, live music concerts, winery, a hotel and more. While all the spots offer food, I’d consider them best for burgers + fries for most locations.
Farmer’s Market – Farmer’s Markets are all over the city in the summer months, each neighborhood creating their own with local fruit, veggies and goods. Perhaps the largest and most established one that runs all year is the Portland State University Farmer’s Market. This large market runs downtown in the Park Blocks. You’ll find an abundant number of vendors – which you can locate through this page. If you have time, definitely check out a local market near where you are staying or make the trip to the PSU Market for good food! And the best part is, not all markets are on the weekend – find weekday markets throughout the city.
Local Markets – I know traveling, especially with kids there are moments that you do NOT want to go out to eat or even order take out. Maybe you have a kitchen where you are staying and want to cook something up? Whether you’re looking for delicious deli prepared food or fresh, local ingredients to cook – these top markets will have you covered!!! New Seasons Markets are located all around the city, they offer local selections of meat and seafood as well as a lovely prepared food section. Zupan’s – one of the premier elite grocers in the area. They also have a fabulous prepared food area and pre-prepped dishes like fresh pasta ready to cook. Another great local option is Market of Choice scattered throughout the city! If you’re looking for Asian groceries or prepared foods, HMart or Uwajimaya are your go-to stops!
Burgerville – Burgerville is our local fast food chain – I would stop here for one of their seasonal shakes! Summertime you’ll find Hood Strawberry Shakes, Marionberry Shakes. While in the fall Apple Shakes and one of their most popular Pumpkin Shake.
Little Big Burger – One more fast food joint for you – if you need to do fast food, THIS IS IT! Little Big Burger is known for their high quality gourmet burgers with toppings like chèvre, crumbled blue cheese or Tillamook cheeses and truffle fries, yes they are DELICIOUS! Super casual and a fun stop with kiddos!
Top Activities Around Portland + Family Friendly
Here’s the thing, this section is really just some wonderful places to go around the city. Some are definitely more kid-centered but truly all of them are fascinating and perfect for any tourist and kid alike. The beauty of Portland is the outdoor fun, yes, even in the rainy months these spots are hot to check out! Be sure to check the Seasonal Attractions below.
OMSI – Kids and adults alike love OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry)! This is a massive science museum that also has a rotating exhibit, a theater, submarine and planetarium. To really experience it all you’ll need a full day or several. If you are a member to another science museum in the country, you may want to check for reciprocation for discounted tickets.
Oaks Park – Oaks Park is a fun little kiddie amusement park – you won’t get giant triple twist rollercoasters but just small scale rides. Perfect for the younger crowd! If amusement parks aren’t your thing, try good old fashioned roller skating instead!
Oregon Zoo – I may be biased but our zoo is pretty wonderful! It’s set up in Washington Park which is such a beautiful location within the city. Fun fact, it’s the oldest zoo west of the Mississippi!!! Check out the condors, eagles, Nora the polar bear who just returned back to the zoo! Lions, tigers and bears – oh my! If you are a member to another zoo in the country, you may want to check for reciprocation for discounted tickets.
Washington Park Playground – Nestled around the International Rose Test Garden and the Oregon Zoo, you may want to take a quick stop to one of the best playgrounds in the city. A perfect place to have a picnic and cool off in the shady trees. Kids love this park for the great equipment!!
Portland Art Museum – The art museum is located in SW downtown. It’s a beautiful museum with much to offer any art enthusiast. Best of all, children 17 and under are free!!!
Oregon Rail Heritage Center – If you are a fan of locomotives – this is the place for you! Free admission and tours at the Oregon Rail Heritage Center, check out locomotives up close and personal. Train rides offered at select times as well.
Hiking + Biking Trails – Hiking trails are plenty and so many within city limits. Forest Park is one of the country’s largest urban forest reserves. Some of our favorite hiking trails include: Macleay Park, Stone House (Witch’s Castle). Outside of Forest Park some other fun hikes include Oaks Bottom, Mt. Tabor and The Springwater Trail. Or head over to Gateway Green Bike Park for some adventurous mountain biking! Reed Canyon is a private trail that is part of Reed College, it’s quite beautiful and it’s own habitat but makes for an easy hike.
Audubon Society – The Audubon Society actually connects with a trail in Forest Park, take a hike from or to the Audubon Society where you can meet birds of prey including: Aristophanes the Raven, Julio the Great Horned Owl or Ruby the Turkey Vulture. You may want to call ahead to find out when these large birds will be out, usually 1-2x a day a staff member has one of them out and you can get a chance to see them up close and personal, ask questions and maybe even hear Aristophanes the Raven talk – YUP!!
Pittock Mansion – If you head up toward Pittock Mansion you have a few options, walk about the beautiful grounds and even hike around there (also connects into Forest Park along the Wildwood Trail) or explore the mansion itself. This historic house museum of course comes with a story, you can learn more about it here. Great for history buffs or older kids. If nothing else, on a clear day you have a BEATUFIUL view of Mt. Hood and great for photo opportunities.
Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden – More beautiful greenery! The Rhododendron Garden is a beautiful, tranquil place surrounded by native trees and flowers along the Crystal Springs Lake. You’ll see plenty of butterflies, ducks, geese and other water animals along your visit. Great spot for a picnic lunch or a much calmer and leisurely walk. Good for young kids – it is free entrance but priced reasonably.
Downtown East and West Esplanade – Portland is a city divided by water – the Willamette River (pronounced Will-am-it) splits the city into East and West, while the Burnside Bridge (and road) split the city North and South. As a river runs through us, there is ample opportunity to explore both sides including Tom McCall Waterfront Park – in early spring that is where you will see all the cherry blossoms in bloom. Or walk along the East Esplanade along the river and take in the views or bike down to Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People is a cable-stayed bridge across the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon, United States. It was designed by TriMet, the Portland metropolitan area’s regional transit authority, for its MAX Orange Line light rail passenger trains. The bridge also serves city buses and the Portland Streetcar, as well as bicycles, pedestrians, and emergency vehicles. Private cars and trucks are not permitted on the bridge. It is the first major bridge in the U.S. that was designed to allow access to transit vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians but not cars. [wikipedia] You can also hop on the streetcar from there or Max Line and make your way through the city.
Wunderland Arcade – Sometimes you just need to do something with the kiddos, especially if it’s too hot or rainy. Stop by the Wunderland Nickel Arcade! It’s a super affordable way to keep kiddos entertained as most of the games cost $0.20-$0.40 to play. The arcades also have movie theaters which often show 2nd run movies as the FRACTION of the cost of a traditional theater. A fun-filled day for sure! Multiple locations throughout the city.
Outside the City
This section is definitely dedicated to those folks that have extra time to travel a bit as well as access to a car. Portland is AMAZING but there are also some incredible places to visit if you make it to Oregon within 1-2 hours from the city.
Oregon Coast – First rule of the Oregon Coast to know – IT IS NOT WARM! I repeat – IT IS NOT WARM! Even on a 90 degree day in Portland, the Oregon Coast will be lucky to hit 65-70 + probably windy! If you are used to lounging on the beaches on the East Coast or South, be prepared to bring a sweatshirt and jacket (windbreaker) and definitely NOT enter the water! That being said, is is a BEAUTIFUL place and so many treasures. The Oregon Coast is not a crowded Spring Break going beach but rather a chill location to enjoy walks, build a fire and even drive onto the beach – you can even camp at many. I suggest finding when low tide is and hit up areas like the famous Cannon Beach and explore the tidal pools. Nature’s aquarium – you’ll see starfish, sea anemones, mussels and other sea life. You an also head to Astoria and check out the shipwreck at Fort Stevens Park. While in Oregon, experience Tillamook Creamery – watch the cheesemaking process and don’t forget to leave without some ice cream. If you make it to Newport Beach, stop at the aquarium , visit the real life sea lions and grab a bite and brew at Rogue Brewery!
Mt. Hood – Whether you are here in the winter or summer, experiencing Mt. Hood is nothing short of beautiful! You can see Mt. Hood, St. Helens and often Mt. Adams from the city views in Portland but it’s something else to actually head up to the mountain. If you are traveling in the fall/winter, be prepared for snow covered roads and having chains to attach to tires to get you up the mountain. Skiing is excellent and there are 3 different resorts on the mountain, including Timberline, which may look familiar as it’s was used as the outside building in The Shining film. Not up for skiing? Try cross country skiing or snowshoeing along Trillium Lake. If you take a ride in the summer months, you can still enjoy dining at Timberline with a view of the snowy mountain or head to Trillium Lake for a hike or picnic. Quick tip, if you head up to the mountain – DEFINIITELY stop at Joe’s Donuts on the way!
Multnomah Falls – More outdoor beauty, Oregon really is quite gorgeous with many natural wonders. Multnomah Falls is located in the Gorge, you’ll see the majestic Columbia River Gorge on one side as you travel to the falls. The falls over gorgeous sites, hiking trails and photo opportunities. It’s also a great place to stop on your way to Mt. Hood in the summer months as a long day trip. Pass through Hood River for a bite to eat, shops and beer!
Wineries – Oh, did you think I forgot about my wine lovers? No way!! There are soooooooo many incredible vineyards in Oregon and even in the Portland area. But a HUGE cluster of wonderful wineries are just outside of the city in Yamhill County. Most places are kid and pet friendly. Oregon is known for it’s Pinot Noir wines, so definitely be prepared for tasting those. Check with individual wineries about food on site, some will allow you to bring in food (Day Wines) in which case, stop at the Red Hill Market on your way in but many will have a lovely menu to order little bites. Some of my favorite places to stop include: Durant Vineyards which not only has wine but also makes their own olive oil, Dobbes Family Estate, Anne Amie for the gorgeous views, Argyle Winery for bubbles, Domaine Serene for a truly elevated experience – you can also head to their tasting rooms in Portland. Adelsheim has lovely wines, you can also head to Maysara for beautiful views and wine. You can always book a tour and let an expert lead you through wine country. Or make it an overnight, there are some fun places to stay – perhaps try the Vintage Trailers, or for a luxurious experience, The Allison Inn and Spa or a more traditional spot The Dundee. There are many interactive maps of the area to help narrow down where you want to go. Here is one that highlights some wineries. And one more with more information on what to find where.
As with most major cities, some things are perfect for certain seasons so depending on when you’re here visiting – check out this list of great things that may be available!
Cherry Blossoms – I mentioned above the Cherry Blossom Trees at Waterfront Park. If you’re lucky enough to be here in early spring you can witness the gorgeous display of trees. One hundred ornamental cherry trees link the plaza northward to the Friendship Circle, a collaboration by sculptor Lee Kelly and composer Michael Stirling. From a wide concrete circle rise a pair of 20-foot stainless towers from which emanates music based upon traditional and contemporary Japanese instruments. The sculpture commemorates 30 years of the Sister City relationship between Sapporo, Japan, and Portland.
Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm – If you’re here visiting March – May, you may want to head out to the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm. This insane display of tulips is unbelievable! It’s a great activity a little outside the city, picture worthy, activities and games for kids and food on site.
Splashpads – Young children will LOVE the splashpads throughout the city! Summertime heat can be brutal and while there are public pools around, sometimes a splash around in the different pads and water park areas is all you need. You can check out the full list of splashpads and interactive fountains here. Jamison Square is one our favorites, but check around to see where there are ones near where you are in the city.
Rose Gardens – Portland is the City of Roses and for good reason – we have some GORGEOUS displays of roses throughout the city. A few hot spots include the International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park which will also gives you wonderful views of the city and Mt. Hood. You can also head to Peninsula Park where you can view the beautiful rose garden, play at the playground and/or splashpad!
Berry Picking – Berries are plentiful in the summer months! One of our favorite activities is heading out to the farm and picking berries. If you are here in June, you may be lucky enough to enjoy Hood Strawberries, one of the brightest red strawberries known for it’s intense sweetness and red color all the way through. Blueberries and raspberries soon follow and finally blackberries – Oregon ranks number one in the United States in frozen blackberry, Marionberry, and black raspberry production, and is a top 5 producer of frozen red raspberries and boysenberries. [Oregon Berries]. There are plenty of U-pick farms throughout the area. Some of our favorites include: Columbia U-Pick and Sauvie Island Farms. Most farms will also have peaches and later in the season apples and pears.
Rivers – While heading outside of the city to go to the Coast is a lovely idea, staying close-in and hitting up the rivers is a perfect way to cool off. The Willamette, Columbia and Sandy Rivers are all perfect for hanging out and enjoying the warm weather. Many with sandy beaches, or some with slightly rockier terrain. Sauvie Island is filled with beaches along the Willamette – just be sure you don’t land at the nude beach – not kidding!! You can cross over to Vancouver, WA and take a dip in the Columbia River – a great spot there is Frenchman’s Bar Regional Park. And finally, a little further out, head to Oxbox Park where you have plenty of hiking trails, camping and the Sandy River. For kid-friendly hang out – I suggest heading ALL THE WAY DOWN to the boat ramp area.
Movies in the Park – Pre-Covid, Portland Parks and Recreation would host free movies and concerts in the park. Due to Covid, it has been postponed, but keep checking as restrictions lift.
It may rain a bit in Portland but I promise you there are plenty of things to stay busy. Much of the outdoor activities mentioned above including hikes are perfect to do all year long. But here are a few time specific activities.
Pumpkin Patch – As with most of the United States, pumpkin patches and corn mazes are hot in the fall months. For a very BUSY activity packed experience, check out Roloff Farms – yes the same Roloff’s from Little People, Big World! Their farm is action packed and great for older kiddos. Sauvie Island is filled with patches, including Bella Organic Farms, The Pumpkin Patch and more. Be aware that heading that direction on a weekend you’ll have quite a bit of traffic and busy sites.
Watch the Swifts – Every fall, the Swifts begin their migration and you can see them flying from chimney’s throughout the city. It becomes quite the spectator event. You can learn more about it and where to find them here.
Zoolights – The Oregon Zoo hosts of one the most beautiful and fun zoolight spectaculars! Definitely one to see if you are around for the holidays.
Christmas Lights at PIR – The Portland International Raceway hosts their own lightshow, in years past it has been a fun bike through event, perfect for families. In 2020, it was organized as a car event. Keep posted for 2021!
Christmas Ships – Stop along the river and watched the boat parade all lit up. Full schedule available as event nears.
Peacock Lane – This four block street in in Southeast Portland is known for it’s elaborate decorations. Be prepared to walk around the neighborhood and view the gorgeous spectacular display.
Shops + Sites to See
Powell’s Books – IYKYK, Powell’s Books is one of the most iconic bookstores in America. Spanning an entire city block, you can pretty much spend the entire day there and not make a dent! Unique by offering a selection of both new and used copies of books, you can find a great bargain!
Nob Hill – Nob Hill spans NW 17th to NW 24th Avenue, also called the Alphabet District. Head onto NW 23rd which is bustling with lots of fun shops and restaurants. Stop for happy hour at Solo Club or for some ice cream at Salt & Straw.
Pearl District – The pearl district is just down the way from NW 23rd Avenue, it’s also where you can find Powell’s Books. Another area with tons of shops and restaurants to browse.
Hawthorne Blvd – The Hawthorne district is BUSTLING! Lots of fun vintage shops, smaller shops with eclectic gift selections. Of course more dining along here as well.
Sellwood District – You can really head into almost any neighborhood in the city and find a cute little core downtown. Sellwood area is adorable and has many shops, restaurants, bars and a great spot for antiques!
Cathedral Park – Portland is the city of roses but also the city of bridges – one of the most GORGEOUS bridges in the city is the St. Johns Bridge. With it’s gothic look and green color is really stands out as something incredible. From the bridge itself on a clear day you can spot Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams. Head below to Cathedral Park to capture some pictures you’ll want to share with the world!
Street Art – Portland has some pretty awesome murals throughout the city, lots of picture worthy ones. If you’re looking for some photo opportunities, check out this site to locate them!
End of the Trip
I could literally sit here ALL DAY and share incredible places to visit, eat and enjoy the great city of Portland! There are neighborhoods I didn’t even make mention of or our friendly neighbor over the river, Vancouver, WA which has an awesome core downtown for food, drink and antiquing. There are so many Portland Guides online but these are just some of my favorite places and spaces and I hope you get to experience some on your visit.
As always, happy to answer any questions – just leave a comment or shoot me an email! If you visit Portland and use this guide, I’m ALWAYS appreciative when folks leave a review. And if you’re local to Portland, leave a comment below with your favorite hot spots so others can check them out as well!