Portland in Oregon, the city where Grimm (the TV series) was based, is known for being a hip and trendy city. It might not be on everyone’s radar, but it had been on ours for a while. When we started planning our USA road trip and found we could visit both Yellowstone and Portland in one trip, we knew we were finally going to knock it off our bucket list. That said, as we would be travelling as a family, I needed to find things to do in Portland with kids to ensure our son enjoyed the city as much as we did. Continue reading “5 Awesome Things to Do in Portland with Kids”
The last stop on our two-week USA road trip last year was Portland. I’ve spoken before about why we wanted to visit Portland but one of the aims while there was to have some down time after a lot of driving and to spend some quality time together as a family, out of the car. Our plan was to find fun things to do in Portland with kids, so BattleKid could have some fun, and one things on our bucket list for the city was visiting the Portland Childrens Museum.
Now I’ll admit that I had never come across the idea of children’s museums until I started looking into things to do in Portland with kids. I did some searches and asked some lovely people in some travel Facebook groups I am a member of what there was to do in Portland with a toddler, and the children’s museum cropped up several times.
I also discovered that the childrens museum in Portland is located right beside Oregon Zoo in Washington Park, one of the other places on our Portland bucket list. We could combine the two and so a lovely family day out was decided.
Our first port of call was Oregon Zoo and we had a brilliant time there, in what has to be one of the best zoos we’ve ever visited. Once we had finished at the zoo, we did the short walk around to Portland’s Children Museum to see what it was all about.
The Portland Children’s Museum, as mentioned, is located in Washington Park on the old site of OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, another place we visited while in Portland). It was founded in 1946 by Dorothy Lensch. Having moved to their new site in Washington Park, the museum was able to expand their programs and to open a school as well. The children’s museum now hosts more than 300,000 visitors each year.
We arrived after lunch, having refuelled in the zoo and we paid our tickets and entered what can only be described as a kids paradise.
We were first greeted by a crocodile on his back with his mouth open, the idea being you brushed his teeth. It’s a chance to get involved with your kids and to explain why brushing your teeth is important.
From Mr Crocodile we moved onto the Water Works room and this was by far BattleKid’s favourite section. Having learned my lesson from visiting the water discovery section during our visit to OMSI the day before, I had brought spare socks for BattleKid to change into after this room. He spent ages in this room. We even had family fun at a table where you could build channels for a boat to run down. You could create both fast and slower moving channels and watch the effect of each by letting a toy boat run down them.
After the water room we moved onto the Groundworks area and BattleKid had great fun trying to figure out how to work the diggers in the room. He spent ages filling buckets and moving “soil” from one end of the room to another. And there were even hard hats for the budding builders.
There was also a pet hospital in the next room but BattleKid wasn’t interested so we moved on to the Treehouse. Although a small enough room, the treehouse was great and there was a tunnel for kids to crawl through. Next up was the theatre room. In here was a wall with coloured holes into which you placed an opaque tube which took on the colour of the light. This wall was awesome, and I could have played with it for hours, had I been let that is!
There was a Clay Studio in which classes were run at different times during the day. Kids can make something from clay and come back and collect their masterpiece at a later time.
The Maker Studio was BattleKid’s second favourite section. A room filled with things to use to create anything you like, he made a beeline for the hammering table. Safety glasses on, he grabbed a hammer and got banging. And because it’s a children’s museum, no one batted an eyelid at the noise he was making.
There was every kind of craft supplies you can imagine for children to use. And it was evident they were by the large creation hanging from the ceiling!
Having hammered all the nails he had the energy for, we moved onto the Vroom Vroom section. And you guessed it, it had cars and trains for little ones to enjoy. There was a ramp in this room down which two cars could race. BattleKid and another little boy thoroughly enjoyed their races on this ramp. And when it was time to move on, there was an almighty tantrum from our boy!
Before making our way back to the exit we visited a room with slides, climbing walls and other games, all designed for some fun and exercise. BattleKid did really well on the climbing wall. We stopped by the gift shop on our way out and found a small Curious George teddy which we couldn’t leave behind.
And even though we were finished inside, we weren’t quite finished. There was a piano for kids to get musical at, a train to drive and even a pretend wooden ambulance.
Things to note if visiting the Portland Childrens Museum
- The Portland Children’s Museum hours are from 9am to 5pm, 7 days a week.
- Various activities are held during the day such as story time and pottery glazing. For full details see this section of their website.
- There are different admission prices depending on whether you are a member or not. Non-members will pay $10.75 each, with under 1’s free. Museum members have free entry.
- There is a Portland Children’s Museum free day, and this is generally the first Friday of each month, but can change.
- Exhibits include Building Bridgetown, Clay Studio, Maker Studio, Water Works, The Market, Groundworks, Outdoor Adventure, Pet Hospital, The Theatre, Twilight Trail, Treehouse Adventure and Vroom Vroom.
- The Outdoor Adventure is a large 1.3-acre outdoor space, although I cannot comment on it as we didn’t get a chance to visit it.
- The museum has a café that serves nutritious meals and snacks. And you can use the café tablets to east your own food which is welcomed too.
- Portland Children’s Museum is fully wheelchair accessible indoors and they also welcome families with members with disabilities and learning difficulties too.
- There is parking in front of the museum in the public car park of Washington Park and costs just $4.00 per day, ideal if you plan to combine a visit to the zoo with the children’s museum as well.
- The main toilets for the museum are located in the café at the front of the building.
- There are stroller lockers located beside the toilets as the general policy is no strollers on the museum floor.
So, is it worth visiting the Portland Children’s Museum? Absolutely. BattleKid had a brilliant time just being a kid and got to do things he wouldn’t normally such as play with water, dig “soil” and hammer nails. The museum is designed for kids between the ages of 0 and 12 years of age in mind, and it shows.
My only gripe is that it is the same entrance price for both adults and children. This is the first time I’ve come across this and felt there should have been a slightly smaller price for children’s entry. That said, if your child and you want to spend all day there, it’s worth it. Either way, a visit to the children’s museum in Portland is worth it, particularly if you combine it with a visit to Oregon Zoo next door.
Have you heard of, or come across children’s museums before?
*We were not asked to write this review. All prices are correct at the time of writing this post (Jan 2018)
Those of you who have read our USA Road Trip Holiday Diaries will know that we visited the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, or OMSI as it is known, while we were in Portland. This had been recommended to us and was on our Portland Bucket List. In this post I’ms haring with you our visit to OMSI as well as some useful information should you plan a visit there yourself.
The day after we arrived in Portland we decided to head there. I was quite excited as I had found out they had a Pompeii Exhibition on at the time of our visit to OMSI. BattleDad is a huge fan of Roman History and we’d love to visit Pompeii at some stage so to see the exhibition was an unexpected bonus. Our only reservation for our visit to OMSI was whether BattleKid would enjoy it. We need not have worried.
OMSI was founded in 1944 and was originally located in Washington Park at the site of the Portland Children’s Museum. However, as visitor number grew, and exhibitions got bigger, a new location was found for it on the east bank of the Willamette River.
The OMSI building is huge and houses no less than 3 auditoriums, a planetarium and numerous exhibition halls. They also have a submarine exhibit in the form of USS Blueback which was used for the film The Hunt for Red October before being towed to its current location at the pier adjacent to the main OMSI building.
Exhibition halls include the Featured Hall for special touring exhibits and the Turbine hall with exhibits for engineering, physics, chemistry and space travel. There is also the Life Sciences Hall which is all about biology, and includes talks and demonstrations with live animals. The Earth Science Hall features geology-oriented exhibits with two specialised laboratories. The Planetarium holds astronomy and laser light shows. And there is the Science Playground which we spent the most time in.
We arrived shortly after 9.30am after driving from our hotel and once we’d bought our tickets for the Pompeii Exhibition (including museum admission) and planetarium tickets, we made our way to the café for a quick cuppa and bite to eat. There I had my very first peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which was quite nice.
After we had eaten, we made our way upstairs to explore the exhibitions halls. As soon as we entered this area, BattleKid made a beeline for some giant cubes and dived right in. He and I had great fun at a giant pinball machine which was designed to educate children about food groups. Although he was too young to understand these, he still had fun trying to whack the balls!
There were exhibits about recycling and garbage, exhibits about animals where we saw a Dire Wolf skeleton and saw live animals, and my personal favourite, an exhibit about fluorescent materials. This brought me back to my science background.
Next, we moved onto the Science Playground. And BattleKid had a whale of a time in the Science Playground. This area has been designed for families with newborn to children of six years of age. Fully enclosed and designed so that children are visible and secure at all times, it encourages children to discover through play and imagination. It has various experimental stations including
- a stimulating infant area
- a giant sandbox
- a water area
- a reading area and
- a physical sciences area.
First stop was the water area of course. Only, we hadn’t quite planned for the wet floor. We had to take BattleKid’s shoes off as we entered but forgot to take his socks off. Wet feet were the result for spending so much time having splashy fun in the water area. It also meant he couldn’t really go into the giant sandbox as his feet were still wet and I didn’t fancy trying to get sand off his feet!
Next BattleKid had fun at the physical sciences area and was playing with other children, putting balls through holes and down ramps.
We moved into one of the rooms off the main one and he and I did a fun game with magnetic balls in a maze. I ended finishing it when he got bored!
As were we getting close to our 12pm time for the astronomy show in the planetarium, we had to drag BattleKid away from the Science Playground. This was the first time BattleDad had been in a planetarium and he and I enjoyed it. It was great being shown some of the star constellations we can see above our house in Portugal, although I couldn’t tell you their names, apart from the Plough now. BattleKid got a bit restless before the end but stuck it out thankfully.
After the stars show we made our way to the Pompeii Exhibition. They allowed entry at timed intervals, which was to allow them to show the short video at the start of the exhibition. This gave some background about Vesuvius and Pompeii and the build up to that fateful night in 79AD.
Once you had watched the video, you were let into one of the main exhibition halls which featured artefacts from Pompeii including urns, gladiator clothing and weapons, mosaics and frescoes. Between this hall and a second one, there were over 200 artefacts on loan from the Naples National Archaeological Museum.
It was amazing to see how well preserved some of the items were and the level of detail in them, particularly metalworks such as jewellery and coins. After the main hall, we were led upstairs where there was another short video. However, it was advised that it was unsuitable for young children and we were allowed to skip this video and were let into the next exhibition hall by a member of staff. #
The video we didn’t see was a 4D one in which you could experience the fury of Vesuvius in an immersive theatre with vivid sights, sounds and shaking ground. I think it was very helpful of OMSI to allow families with younger children to skip this part.
The last room of the exhibition had more artefacts and also body casts of people from Pompeii. It was a sobering place, especially seeing the body casts of children. We didn’t stay long in this room with BattleKid.
Before we finished our visit to OMSI we visited the gift shop which is well stocked, and BattleKid got a little space ship souvenir with his name on it for his room. Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to OMSI and highly recommend it. Had we known how good the Science Playground was going to be we might have booked a later showing in the planetarium and let BattleKid enjoy it even more. I am so glad it was recommended to us and made it onto our Portland Bucket List.
Visitor information for OMSI
- There is a large car park adjacent to the OMSI building with a charge of $5. WE were there early on a Wednesday morning in September and there was plenty of parking.
- OMSI is served by public transport. The OMSI/SE Water Ave Station connects to the MAX, bus and Portland Streetcar lines.
- The museum is open from 9.30 to 5.30 Tuesday to Sunday. It is closed on Mondays.
- The café is open from 8.30 to 5.30 Sunday, Tuesday-Thursday and from 8.30 to 8.00 on Friday and Saturdays.
- Submarine tours are from 9.50 to 4.30 and you can even do sleep overs!
- Entry to the museum costs $14.50 for an adult and $9.75 for a child (3-13 years).
- Entry to the submarine costs $6.75. For the Empirical Theatre, which we didn’t go to, an adult costs $7-8.50 and a child is $6-6.50. Entry to the Planetarium costs between $5.75 and $7.50.
- The Pompeii Exhibition ended in October. To see up-and-coming events, please visit the Events page of the OMSI website.
We can highly recommend visiting OMSI if you are ever in Portland, Oregon. There is plenty to see and do for children and adults alike. Children will particularly like the Science Playground, so give yourself plenty of time in there.
*Prices are correct at the time of writing.
**We were not asked to write this review.
After getting showered and dressed, we ate breakfast in the hotel at 8.30am. BattleKid and I went back to our room to do some final packing while BattleDad visited a chemist for some throat spray and melatonin for BattleKid for the plane.
We had to check out by noon, so shortly before we loaded up the car and set off to drop off the AirBnB keys before heading to Portland International Airport.
We got rid of our bags, made our way through security and went to some lunch. As we had some time to kill before our flight was due to board, we found the children’s play area and let BattleKid have fun. He even met another boy with the same name as him and it got quite confusing for them when we or the other parents would shout the name.
The play area at Portland Airport is great and both older kids and toddlers had fun in there. BattleKid’s favourite part was the soft airplane. We boarded at 4.30 for our 5.30pm flight and settled down for the night. It was an uneventful flight, with BattleKid and I managing a few hours’ sleep.
As usual BattleDad didn’t sleep much and as a result was knackered by the time we landed in London on the Sunday morning. He had to run an errand while there, so once we’d transferred from Terminal 3 to 5, he went off, leaving BattleKid and I to chill out. When he got back we checked through our bags and went through and grabbed a Wagamama’s for lunch/dinner.
BattleKid is quite fond of noodles but was fascinated by chopsticks, which I can’t figure out myself. Our flight was due to leave London shortly after 4pm but we were delayed by an hour and a half.
The plane had come from Athens and was carrying a man with a broken leg. They had gotten him into the plane using a particularly narrow wheelchair in Greece, but he became wedged in his seat and they couldn’t get him back out at Heathrow. The crew called the on-site nurse who had to call for a doctor’s assistance. They couldn’t administer any more pain relief as he was on morphine already. Eventually they freed him with gas and air. As soon as all the passengers were on the plane we took off.
Our misfortune in getting back to Portugal didn’t end with that. We were seated towards the rear of the plane and ended up beside a group of about 12 gentlemen who were clearly on a golfing holiday and who were quite drunk even before they boarded the plane. As a result, they were loud and leery and a right pain in the behind. A poor elderly couple in front of us ended up sitting in the crew’s jump seats for the flight as they couldn’t stand the noise. I take my hat off to the crew who somehow kept their cool with them.
I’ve never been gladder to get off a plane. We collected our bags and headed out to find the car. I read the parking printout and couldn’t get the ticket machine to accept payment. I found a parking office and he informed me I had done our entry to the car park wrong. Thankfully he sorted it out with no additional costs and I now knew what to do next time I booked parking at Faro Airport. We got back home after 10pm and fell straight into bed, shattered but pleased we’d had a great holiday in America. It was certainly one we would remember for a very long time.
If you’ve gotten this far, I have to thank you for reading all about our incredible USA holiday. Has it inspired you to consider a road trip with your family?
We woke around 7am and after showers and getting dressed, I packed some of our things up in preparation for our return to Europe. We called an Uber at 9am and got him to drop us off at a bistro that had also been recommended to us, Mother’s Bistro and Bar in Downtown Portland.
We had to wait about 10 minutes for a table as it was very busy, even though it was after 9am. And the wait was worth it. I had the Wild Salmon Hash and poached egg, while BattleDad had the same hash but with scrambled eggs. Oh my word, the food was amazing. Even BattleKid ate well. It wasn’t a cheap breakfast, but I could understand why it was so busy. Once again, thank you to those on Facebook who recommended it. Definitely a great breakfast!
After we were suitably fed, we walked from there to a shopping area in Downtown Portland, visiting yet another Sephora for me and a Nike shop for BattleDad. Neither of us got away with cheap purchases. I bought some more makeup and another Tom Ford perfume, while BattleDad bagged himself some very nice Nike trainers and an Oregon football jersey, which was not cheap.
From there we walked to Finnegans Toy Store, where we got BattleKid a Brio Police Motorbike toy. It was a quaint toy store selling more traditional type toys and not an electronic gadget or toy in sight. BattleKid could have stayed for hours playing with the Brio Train set on display. I can highly recommend this shop as a stop in Portland if you’re with kids.
We had also been urged to visit Powell’s City of Books store, so from the toy shop that’s where we headed. It was amazing. Occupying a whole city block with over 1 million books, it is easily the biggest book shop I’ve ever come across. The children’s section was huge and there were areas to sit and read to kids too. We didn’t make any purchases there, but it was lovely to say we’d visited it.
Next on the cards was Voodoo Doughnuts but the queue was incredibly long just to get into the shop, so we called an Uber to take us to Salt’N’Straw in the Alphabet District of Portland, another Facebook recommendation. And we weren’t disappointed. We got a tasting tray of ice cream, and apart from the coffee flavour, they were amazing. The salted caramel was out of this world.
After our ice cream treat, we had a wander along the main street of the Alphabet District of Portland, and it was here we got a taste of the Portland we had been hoping for. Cool little cafes beside hip and trendy shops, and buildings that were right out of Grimm, this was the Portland we’d come to see. If we get the chance to return to Portland, this is the area we’ll probably spend more time at.
We got another Uber back to our hotel at 2pm, and spent the afternoon chilling and packing. BattleDad and I also got a proper chance to read our Kindles. At 5pm we went across to Red Robin for our last dinner before getting BattleKid into bed for 7pm. By 9pm I couldn’t keep my eyes open so followed him in after a great day discovering Portland city itself. I could easily see us returning to Portland for another visit in the future.