Portland Oregon: Family-friendly Travel Destination

A family travel destination jewel in the Pacific Northwest, Portland is dominated by the looming and majestic presence of Mount Hood. Portland resides near the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers in the state of Oregon and Portland has been called the most ‘green’ or environmentally conscious city in the United States. The Portland region is renowned for land use planning and investment in light rail for mass transit. This consciousness creates a laid back atmosphere that welcomes family travelers to its many delightful attractions and points of interest.

Portland’s west coast marine climate means that summers are warm and dry while the winters are mild and rainy, ideal for growing roses. For more than a century, Portland has been known as ‘The City of Roses.’ Make Portland your next family vacation destination and be sure to ‘stop and smell the roses.’

Portland Attractions

Oaks Park

Although known for its ecology and planning, Portland is no stranger to thrills and excitement. Your family will delight in the sensations at Oaks Park, from kid’s rides to advanced thrill rides. If your family prefers to generate their own excitement, try skating in one of the west’s largest roller rinks. If you’re celebrating a family birthday during your Portland family vacation, Oaks Park specializes in making your birthday special.

Bicycle-friendly City

Portland is ranked among the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world. As approximately 8% of Portland commuters cycle to work, motorists are well-accustomed to sharing the road with nonmotorized vehicles, making Portland a safer place for a family bicycle trip. The concierge at your Portland family-friendly accommodations can point you towards family-friendly bike trails and assist with bicycle rentals.

For the same reasons Portland is a great bicycling city, families will find it a great place to walk. The number of themed walks available such as the scandalous ‘Underground Portland’ to the delicious ‘Epicurean Excursion’ will entertain the whole family. If cruising is your family’s preference, Portland has choices to meet your family’s needs, including the historic Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler, which will carry your family through the gorge, or a lunch or dinner cruise to combine sightseeing and culinary experience for a lifetime family memory. For family adrenaline junkies the Jet Boat is your ticket. Your family can review this exciting experience and decide whether the thrill of the speed or the breathtaking Portland scenery was the most impressive.

Oregon Zoo

Portland is home to the Oregon Zoo. Among the many wonderful exhibits your family will enjoy, the zoo is renowned for the most successful elephant breeding program in the world.

Willamette Falls

Just a short jaunt from Portland, your family will enjoy picturesque Willamette Falls, the largest waterfall in the Pacific Northwest. While it is only 40 ft tall, it stretches its horseshoe shape over 1500 feet. In contrast to Willamette Falls, Multnomah Falls presents a narrow but tall cascade dropping 620 feet in two major steps. Pack a family picnic at your family-friendly lodging and head to these waterfalls where your family can enjoy a tasty bite together while taking in the beautiful vistas.

Mount Hood

No visit to Portland would be complete without a trip to Mount Hood. Mount Hood, an inactive volcano located 50 miles east-southeast of Portland has a permanent snow cap, making it a unique and distinct part of the Portland horizon. Mount Hood’s twelve named glaciers encompass six ski areas. The Timberline Trail circumnavigating the entire mountain is typically a snow free hike from late July until late autumn making it a fabulous outdoor family activity.

Portland Shopping

Portland’s well deserved ‘green’ reputation has attracted a large number of specialty shops and eclectic shopping experiences. Families will find everything from environmentally friendly pet shops, ski and hiking shops to the largest outdoor arts and crafts market in the nation. It is a “shop ’til you drop” opportunity for the whole family. Portland is an antique shopper’s dream. In Portland, you’ll find a complete antique mall called Stars, as well as an antique shopping area in the Sellwood District. Whether you’re looking for a fun and quirky souvenir or a unique piece of history to bring back home with you, your family is almost sure to find just the right item to remember this Portland family vacation.

Portland Dining

Green Revolution

The ‘Green Revolution’ has attracted a very large number of restaurants featuring the very freshest local agricultural products on their menus. The proximity of the ocean means fish almost swim up to your plate. Since fresh ingredients make for a fabulous dining experience, hungry families will enjoy the endless dining possibilities in Portland. Portland’s restaurants are always happy to accommodate families and provide children’s menus for younger diners.

Portland Farmers’ Market

Make a family trip to the Portland Farmers’ Market to become acquainted with the incredible variety of fresh, local foods to savor. Pick up a basketful of the kids’ favorite fresh fruits like juicy berries and crisp apples for your family to snack on for the day. Don’t be surprised if your family sees the chef of your last night’s restaurant rubbing elbows with the chef of tonight’s restaurant. Most of Portland’s best restaurants shop daily in the Farmer’s Market to please their family diners.


Portland is also known as the motherland of microbrews. Many chefs are more than eager to pair their best culinary creations with a famous local beer or ale. Try a fresh local salmon with a fresh wheat beer or perhaps a rich dark bock beer.

Portland History

Originally known as ‘the clearing,’ Portland was the original land claim of business partners William Overton and Asa Lovejoy. After Overton sold his share of the claim to Francis Pettygrove the land was surveyed and the new owners decided to build a city. Deciding that ‘the clearing’ was not a suitable name, a coin was tossed and Pettygrove’s hometown in Maine, Portland, won over Lovejoy’s birthplace in Boston. Families can view the coin used for this toss at Oregon Historical Society headquartered in Portland.

Portland’s access to the Pacific Ocean and surrounding fertile land made attractive draws for prospective settlers. With approximately 800 settlers, Portland was on its way to becoming the center of the region. Portland residents made their living catching and selling fish, cutting timber and producing lumber, growing and harvesting wheat and raising cattle for market. In 1859 Portland became the 33rd state of the United States.

Portland’s moderate growth increased dramatically when the Alaska gold rush fever hit and prompted the arrival of the transcontinental railroad in Portland. This made Portland a logical departure point for the huge number of gold seekers. The influx of people along with increased shipping initiated the next round of Portland expansion.

In 1907, in conjunction with the 100th Anniversary of the Lewis and Clark expedition, Portland held a World’s Fair. This was a calculated move by the city’s businessmen to wrest political power away from the saloon and brothel-owners of the Northside, who had managed to make their way up as part of the gold rush boom. The Portland World Fair featured exhibits and art from all over Europe and the success of the fair paved the way for future civic planning in Portland.

Portland continued to grow as a poet and artist community. To house the many workers in the shipbuilding industry, Portland created Vanport. Vanport was considered the first public housing project ever built in the United States.

In the late 1960s and 1970s government continued the land conservation policies of earlier administrations. The result is that Portland has preserved much farmland in proximity to dense areas of population. This has resulted in less congestion and more use of mass transit than is common in most US cities. Public transportation is a fun and easy way for families to see the sights and sounds of Portland.

Final Word

Whatever the time of year, Portland makes a beautiful destination for a memorable family vacation. The fresh air of the outdoors, the exquisite scenery, the ‘green’ commitment, and friendly family lodgings, restaurants, and attractions all combine in Portland to offer your family the ideal family vacation destination.

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