Portland Oregon for Families in 2022
March 9, 2022 2:53 AM   Subscribe

I'm headed to Portland, OR for a conference at PSU in late April from Thurs - Tues and taking my young family with me. Looking for some tips for where to stay and what to do!

We're coming from overseas, and I personally haven't been to Portland since around 2005 but I know a lot has changed. (Yes, I'm aware that things are a bit dicy in some parts, but also trying not to buy into the hype too much so would love a reality check on that too if possible...)

I've brushed up on all the recent Portland related questions on the green from the last year, but specifically looking for insight on places to stay and things to do as a young family.

I'm particularly struggling to find a good suburb/place to use as home base so to speak. Would prefer hotels or boutique accomodation over AirBnBs though. Budget not really an issue - we haven't travelled in so long and want to make the most of it!

The conference itself will be at PSU. Ideally we'd be no more than a 15 minute car ride from there, ideally somewhere that is within walking distance of things that might be of interest to the kids, aged 5 and 8. Speaking of cars - should we rent one, or are things fairly walkable/lyft-able?

Apart from that, I'd love to hear anyone's picks of the top 3-4 things to do with the kids while we are there to help make it a memorable trip. No specific interests to cater for - this will be their first trip to America, so I'm sure anything general would be more than fine here!

I know this is a multi-parter, but we're a bit excited to get out as a family after so long! Thank you in advance! <3
posted by sxtrumpeto to Travel & Transportation around Portland, OR (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The Portland Zoo is pretty good.
posted by ITravelMontana at 6:35 AM on March 9, 2022

Best answer: Lifelong resident here: things are less shiny then they were in 2005, but not necessarily more dangerous, unless you're involved in cycles of chronic poverty or placing yourself in illegal or illicit situations. Homelessness is widespread and highly visible, on par with visiting any other country with extreme wealth disparity. There are pockets of homelessness, but the issue is very evenly spread across the downtown and east sides of the river. If this is not the norm in your country, I would probably at least prepare yourself for some questions for the kids.

It's not currently open to kids, but this may change shortly (they used to be all ages, but now are 21+ due to pandemic and vaccine rules that are expiring at the end of the month), Quarterworld is a pretty fantastic pinball arcade that is worth the trip to visit if you can bring the kids. Ground Kontrol is another option that appears to be fully open to all ages (Quarterworld is, IMO, notably better).

OMSI might be worth checking out; the age group you've got is ideal for a visit.

No suburbs are 15m from downtown. You'll want to stick to the main quadrants of the actual city (yeah, they're called quadrants, but there are 6 of them; 'south' Portland is a new designation, and not on the map, nor widlely accepted as a quadrant).
posted by furnace.heart at 7:01 AM on March 9, 2022 [2 favorites]

No suburbs are 15m from downtown.
Well, parts of Beaverton are 15 min from downtown depending on where you measure downtown from. From West Slope to PSU is probably 15 min by car, depending on traffic, but it's also full of expensive houses because it's 15 min from "downtown". There are no boutique hotels in the suburbs - it's mostly extended stay or family "suite" hotels.
posted by fiercekitten at 7:31 AM on March 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would suggest using Lyft or Uber to get around. Especially downtown, there are a lot of one way streets and construction areas and it could be pretty frustrating to navigate driving through downtown. And for walking, most neighborhoods in Portland are level, not many hills. Portland is mostly laid out on a grid - there are definitely areas where this isn't the case, but many neighborhoods and shopping areas are easy to navigate on foot as well. Seconding OMSI for the kids.
posted by happy_cat at 8:39 AM on March 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Welcome back!

The Tulip festival in Woodburn is quite popular with families. Enchanted Forest is also a big draw; it's an old-school amusement park for the younger set. Or Oaks Park in Sellwood - close to downtown. Oaks Park also has a roller rink if you want to do a family skate.

Your kids may enjoy eating at Slappy Cakes, where you make your own pancakes.

If you want some American-style overstimulation, you might enjoy Big Al's, with bowling, arcade, food, etc. There's a laser-tag place in Beaverton as well (I haven't been here, so I can't recommend specifically). There's a waterpark attached to the Aviation Museum in McMinnville.

There's a Farmers market near PSU on Saturday. There's the Saturday Market on Saturday and Sunday near the waterfront. There's Powells if you like books. Local kid-friendly hikes, including quite a few right in Portland.

If it were me, I'd stay in NW (21st/23rd Avenue area) or the Pearl. You'll be near the streetcar and/or Max, and can use that to get around, and there are plenty of boutique hotels. There's Jamison Square (park with a fun water feature) for the kids. You can take the Max train to the zoo (and the airport). And the streetcar to OMSI. Scroll down on this page to see some maps.

There's a lot of good info on the Travel Portland site, including hotels and areas of the city.

Seconding furnace.heart's info about the houseless population.
posted by hydra77 at 9:51 AM on March 9, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: When we travel to Portland as a family, our favorite hotel is the Inn at Northrup Station-in the NW 23rd area, on the trolley line. Units have full kitchens, my kids looove the bright decor and free candy, good free breakfast and parking is free. We live driving distance from Portland so we typically drive there, but we usually leave our car and trolley/max/Lyft. The hotel gives a free trolley pass every day and the line runs by Powells so that’s an every trip event.
posted by purenitrous at 10:53 AM on March 9, 2022 [2 favorites]

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