As part of our epic USA road trip this year, we are taking in the wonderful city of Portland. It might seem like an unusual city to some but BattleDad and I have wanted to make a visit to Portland ever since we started watching the TV series Grimm. It always looked very chic and like it could be a cool place to visit. I’ve written about our wish to visit Portland and we’re finally doing it. But planning our visit to Portland has been no meant feat I can tell you.
Oregon is also somewhere I have wanted to visit to see autumn colours. While most people will visit Maine or New England to see autumn colours, Oregon is also somewhere to visit for this time of year. We may or may not see much in the way of autumn colours as we are visiting at the very start of September but you never know.
Our USA road trip starts in Portland but we don’t stop there. Firstly, we head to a place called Richland for an overnight stay before we spend a whole day driving to start part one of our trip: our visit to Yellowstone. After exploring Yellowstone for a few days, we make our way to Missoula for 3 days before heading back to Richland via part of the Dalles Shamrock Route. After another overnight stay, we head to our final destination of our USA road trip, Portland. There we will have 4 days to take in part of Route 101, the Pacific Coast Highway as well as discover and explore Portland and the surrounding areas.
Once again, I turned to the travel Facebook Groups I am a member of and asked for peoples advice on what to see and do in Portland, particularly with a 3 year old in tow. And boy did they come up trumps.
Recommendations for Our Visit to Portland
Portland Children’s Museum – This museum is dedicated to children and is located in Washington Park, near the Oregon Zoo. It is the 6th oldest children’s museum in the world. The Portland Children’s Museum is not a typical museum, opting to spend time investing in familiar materials to craft priceless opportunities for children to learn through play, rather than in precious objects. The exhibitions, workshops and objects on display are designed to be fun and bring about both creative and cooperative play in children. Reading some review on TripAdvisor, it seems it is designed with younger children in mind, which is perfect to us. So, I think a visit to this Children’s Museum is high on our list of things to do during our visit to Portland.
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry – This museum is one of America’s leading science centres and is a big attraction in Portland. Their mission is to Inspire curiosity through engaging science learning experiences, foster experimentation and the exchange of ideas, and stimulate informed action. I have a feeling the Orgeon Museum of Science and Industry is going to be a lot like Techniquest, which I’ve brought BattleKid to, and will be enjoyed by both him and us adults. Another one for the to do list during our visit to Portland, particularly since they currently have a Pompeii Exhibition taking place.
Oregon Zoo – Also located in Washington Park near the Children’s Museum, this 64-acre zoo boasts nearly 2000 animals and over 200 species, and is also the oldest North America zoo west of the Mississippi. Exhibits include African Rainforest, African Savannah, Predators of the Serengeti, Amazon Flooded Forest and Condors of Columbia, to name but a few. I think no visit to Portland with a toddler in tow would be complete without adding the Oregon Zoo to your to do list. And it is most definitely on ours. With it being located beside both the Children’s Museum and the Hoyt Arboretum (see below) and with a light rail link to the Portland Japanese Gardens (see below), I think we’ll combine a visit to the zoo with these other attractions too.
Portland Japanese Gardens – Another attraction situated in Washington Park, these traditional Japanese gardens occupy 9 acres and is composed of eight garden spaces and a cultural village. With waterfalls, ponds, bonsai gardens and traditional plants, I think this is going to be a lovely place to visit for some quiet time after a hectic few weeks. As it is located at the opposite end to the Oregon Zoo and Children’s Museum we might make the Portland Japanese Garden our last stop during our visit to Washington Park. And I am secretly hoping some acers have vibrant leaves for me to photograph.
International Rose Test Garden – Another Portland attraction located in Washington Park, this garden is located near the Japanese Gardens. Occupying 4.5 acres, these gardens come into their own between April and October with different species in bloom at different times. The International Rose Test Garden has over 7000 plants of approximately 550 species. Who knew there were that many species of rose plants! If we get time we will pop in for a look after the Japanese Gardens and, if we do, I’ll be sniffing them to my heart’s content.
Hoyt Arboretum – Also located in Washington Park, this 189-acre arboretum hosts approximately 6000 individual trees and over 2000 species of shrub from around the world. Hoyt Arboretum boats 12 miles of trails, two of which are wheelchairs accessible, a visitor’s centre, indoor classroom, a picnic shelter and meadow. Although recommended as somewhere we should go during our visit to Portland, I am not sure if we will manage to squeeze this in.
Parks – As well as Washington Park, two other parks were suggested as somewhere we might like to visit. They were Forest Park and Mount Tabor Park. Forest Park is located in the west of Portland, while Mount Tabor Park, a dormant volcanic vent, is located in Southeast Portland. Again, I am not sure if we’ll have to time to visit these two parks during our visit to Portland.
Multnomah Falls – A waterfall located on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge, Multnomah Falls is one highlight I am not going to miss, come rain or shine. When we started thinking about visiting Portland many years ago, these falls were something I stumbled across and that was it, we had to go. From pictures I’ve seen they look spectacular. They are also located only 35 minutes’ drive from where we are staying in Portland.
Other Recommendations for Our Visit to Portland
Eateries – These have included places for the best donuts which include Voodoo Doughnuts and Blue Star Donuts. For great coffee (BattleDad, not me) we have been recommended a place called Stumptown Coffee Roasters. For BattleKid, the best ice cream place recommended to us was Salt and Straw Ice Cream near to a good shopping area. That’s me sorted! For breakfast, I stumbled across as place called Slappy Cakes, a place where you make your very own pancakes on a griddle at your table. It’s then up to you what you have with it. Only a 20-minute drive from our Portland accommodation, I think we’ll be having breakfast there! And for all-round good food, we’ve been recommended a place called Mother’s Bistro and Bar but have been told to get there early! This is always a good sign so that might be a good place for dinner.
Powell’s City of Books – The world’s largest independent book store, they have a very good children’s section and are located in Downtown Portland. I think we might find a nice book or two in there for BattleKid and plan to combine a trip there with some general shopping.
Resources Recommended for Our Visit to Portland
Two websites were recommended to me for our visit to Portland and I’ve found them both very helpful so far.
Cascadia Kids – A blog dedicated to travel with kids in the British Columbia, Oregon and Washington States of Canada and America, respectively, this has given me some very useful information. One particular post I enjoyed and gave me inspiration was Portland in a Day: 12 hours of fun. Through reading this post I discovered just how much of our Portland wish-list was located in Washington Park and in what order we might want to consider doing them.
Redtri – Another blog dedicated to inspiring parents to do fun things with their kids and they have a section on Portland. They have posts with days out ideas as well as a calendar of events on for families. I haven’t consulted this website too much but may do so closer to the time.
If I thought the Yellowstone leg of our USA road-trip was going to be jam-packed, Portland looks just as bad. As mentioned we want to take one day to drive part of Highway 101, the Pacific Coast Highway so it only really leaves us two and a half days to do things in and around Portland. I also want to do a bit of shopping and visit the Disney store to see if I can pick up one or two things in preparation for our visit to Disneyland Paris in December, and I might even get a few things exclusive to the states.
So, our visit to Portland is going to be busy. I mentioned all these great things to my mum and she said, “Are you going to have any part of the holiday that is just a holiday?”. I saw her point, and thankfully we haven’t planned anything to do during our few days in Missoula and Lolo, so I think that will be the real holiday part of our USA road-trip.
To summaries, our Portland Bucket List looks a bit like this.
Whether we get it all done remains to be see but we’ll definitely do our best to pack in as much as possible.