Guide to Portland: The Fun & Frugal Parents Guide to the City of Roses

things to do in portlandA Guide to Portland, Oregon- A city steeped in contemporary architecture, charming neighborhoods, and abundant natural resources, Portland provides the perfect back drop for a memorable family vacation.  Portland has a multitude of fun and affordable options for families.  Here are a few of the more noteworthy ones:

The International Rose Test Garden:

While stopping and smelling the Roses may not be on most kids’ radars at first glance, even the most cynical of tiny travelers will have to admit that the roses in Portland are pretty impressive. Many rose gardens dot the Portland city limits including The International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park (FREE admission). Kids can enjoy FREE gardening classes at many of Portland’s community gardens as well. If your travel plans bring you to Portland in June, the annual Portland Rose Festival complete with a parade, carnival, and Rose Queen is a big hit.

Portland Saturday Market:

No Oregon trip would be complete without a stroll through Portland’s largest flea/farmers/food market. A stop at the market is a must with children, especially when the weather is nice and the street performers are out in numbers. Unlike what the market’s name suggests, it is open on Saturday AND Sunday and includes a variety of stands and stalls (some include toys and other fun items). Hit the International Food Market for yummy picnic food and nearby Voodoo Donuts for a special treat to round out lunch.

Portland Streetcar:

Jump on the Portland Streetcar for easy access to the Pearl District Portland City Center the South Waterfront and more.  The kids will love the unique experience!  You can grab a handy app for everything you need to know about transit services, fees, and routes in Portland here.

Portland Aerial Tram:

For a fascinating view of the Portland skyline and beautiful Mount Hood and Mount Saint Helens in the distance, take the kids up the Portland Aerial Tram. At $4/adults and kids from 0-6 free, this is a bargain and is especially enjoyable on a warm, clear day. If traveling in June, check on the FREE community activities being offered by the tram each weekend.

Japanese and Chinese Classical Gardens:

Help the kids find their zen at the Japanese and Chinese Classical Gardens. With quiet walkways and a great duck pond, this stop makes a great afternoon respite from the hustle and bustle of Portland.  With kids under 6 FREE, it won’t break the bank!

Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden in Grant Park:

Take your photo with Ramona – The much loved main character of Oregonian Beverly Cleary’s books is available (in bronze form!) for photos at the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden in Grant Park.  Encourage your kids to finish up those last chapters on the plane, car or in the hotel prior to seeing the sculptures of the whole Quimby gang in the park!

Academy Theater and Pub:

If you are looking for something more low key, Portland has a variety of movie theaters which play second run movies at a fraction of the regular cinema cost. On a rainy day (and there will be some!), Academy Theater and Pub plays movies at $4/adult, $3/child. Joy Cinema and Pub offers $1 movies on Monday nights and discounted rate at other times. Note: After 6pm, only adults are admitted at Joy Cinema and Pub.

Tour a Local Brewery:

Trying local beer and exploring local breweries is a mainstay activity in Portland. Breweries have recognized that parents want to try the region’s fantastic suds so many have adapted their menus to include child friendly food at a price that will not break the bank. Hopworks Urban Brewery, for example, has a play area for the kiddos and can be easily accessed by bicycle. Check out their website for their “Tot” calendar which includes craft activities, story time, and delicious snacks for kids.

The Best Cheap Eats in Portland:

Junk food takes on a new meaning in Portland. Bypass the traditional McDonalds and Burger King stops opting instead for Burgerville (don’t forget the Walla Walla onion rings available in the summer) or Zach’s Shack with its crowd pleasing chili cheese fries. Wash the burger down with a cone from Cool Moon Ice Cream on Johnson Street made lovingly by long time Portland resident with ingredients from Oregon.

*Portland has a multitude of FREE newspapers filled with events and activities the kids will love. Pick up a copy of the Northeast Portland newspaper (or check them out online) and flip to the “Free” and “Family Friendly” sections for upcoming festivals and fairs, many of them at little to no cost.

I hope this guide serves as a useful resource for you as you set out to explore Portland.  If you know of some wonderful, budget friendly, places for families to visit in Portland, leave a comment and let me know.  I’d love to hear from you!

Emily Eck

About Emily Oak

I am a Mother, a Lover, a Traveler, Entrepreneur and Blogger. I crave adventure, appreciate good leather, find old weathered wood beautiful, prefer french pressed coffee, and feel alive running in the rain (albeit at a snails pace)! I believe in living passionately, loving extravagantly, taking risks, forgiving often, and living for the audience of One. I am an introvert but you wouldn’t know that if you met me. I LOVE people.