Portland Local Highlights

Published on June 09, 2022 - Updated on June 09, 2022

Portland is a magical place where the city meets the forest! It’s a beautiful place to raise a family or visit on vacation! Portland has so much to do but hopefully this highlights list will help you narrow down the must-dos in Portland!

Portland Highlights and Local Favorites

Oregon Zoo

4001 SW Canyon Rd, Portland, OR 97221

Oregon Zoo

The Oregon Zoo is THE PLACE to bring your family when you are in Portland! Rain or shine, The Oregon Zoo is bound to be a good time! The zoo is large (64 acres) and surrounded by the Pacific North West’s natural beauty yet only minutes from downtown! There are set paths to follow to explore all sections of the zoo. And with so many new or newly renovated habitats, my best advice is to pack up the stroller with snacks, layers, and water and hit the path!

There are 215 different species and 15 endangered species at The Oregon Zoo. From animals native to the area and beautiful elephants to penguins and polar bears, your littles will not get enough of these furry (or scaly or feathery) friends! You can pack your own snacks or grab something at one of the many food stands or restaurants. The Oregon Zoo offers your typical burger joint favorites, pizza, nachos, pretzels, sno-cones, as well as fountain drinks, beer, wine, and margaritas! The grassy area by the Elephant Lands is the perfect spot to stop for a picnic. If it is raining, eating indoors at Cascade Grill is a great option!

The Oregon Zoo is located in Washington Park, with 410 acres of beautiful wooded trails, complete with a rose garden, a playground, and an archery range. Be sure to stop and smell the roses or check out a trail before or after your zoo adventure! 

Hoyt Arboretum

4000 SW Fairview Blvd, Portland, OR 97221

Hoyt Arboretum

Hoyt Arboretum is the perfect place to get away for a good hike! Located in Washington Park, Hoyt Arboretum is minutes from downtown, literally walking distance from Nob Hill! So if you have a busy day planned exploring the city, heading to Hoyt Arboretum is a very doable way to spend time in nature! Hoyt Arboretum is a museum of living trees. With 12 miles of hiking to explore and over 2,000 species of trees and shrubs, you and your littles will have a great time exploring!

On a sunny day, I love to head southwest (from the parking lot) towards the big hill to explore all the trails weaving around the hill. It offers the most sun exposure and just feels good for the soul! The big hill is also a great spot for a picnic! If you head northwest you will come across a beautiful A-frame picnic shelter with tables. From there you can head to the bamboo garden and several trailheads. Hoyt Arboretum is the perfect spot to build your toddlers' hiking stamina as there are many intertwined trails and lots of plants and wildlife to keep them distracted! 

Hoyt Arboretum is located in Washington Park so if you want to make a day out of it you definitely can. You can check out the Rose Garden, Washington Park Playground, or Oregon Zoo. Hoyt Arboretum is a close drive to Nob Hill in Portland, home to Salt and Straw ice cream and Sante Fe Taqueria if you are feeling hungry! 

Pirate Park

Northwest Graf Street, Portland, OR, 97229

Pirate Park

Pirate Park is a destination playground! The name speaks for itself-- it boasts two pirate ship play structures! This dynamic playground has so many slides, bridges, climbing structures, and best of all, a sandbox! This playground is perfect for toddlers but older kids can definitely tag along and have a great time! The turf floor is perfect for your littles who are just starting to get on their feet.

There are a couple of picnic tables and benches to share a snack or take a break from playing. The Rock Creek Trail runs along this park and continues for 3.5 miles. It also connects to the Westside Regional Trail and Waterhouse Regional Trail. Going north on the Westside Regional Trail you will come across Kaiser Woods Nature Area and Kaiser Woods Park and just off the Westside Regional Trail are Orchid Park, Ulrich Gerber Park, and Bethany Creek Park. You can easily make a day out of this by stroller running or family biking from park to park! 

Buranko Cafe and Bar

108 SW Pine St, Portland, OR 97204

Buranko Cafe and Bar

Buranko Cafe and Bar is my go-to spot for kid-friendly, trendy dining in the city! Buranko offers a full menu of Asian fusion dishes, a kids menu, homemade sodas (that my toddler was completely obsessed with), an extensive cocktail list, beer, and wine. They also have the cutest kids matching plates and cups! But what makes Buranko kid-friendly is how welcoming they are to littles! They are so warm and friendly and do not make you feel like you shouldn’t be bringing your kids to their cool restaurant.

They have a huge fish tank with couch seating right next to it, a play area, and a changing table! If you’re looking for a trendy, Instagram-worthy spot to take your littles definitely check out Buranko!

Buranko is located in downtown Portland, close to the waterfront. If you want to extend your adventure check out Tom McCall Waterfront Park for a stroll along the Willamette River.

Fanno Creek Trail

13500 SW Hall Blvd, Tigard, OR 97223

Fanno Creek Trail

The Fanno Creek Trail is a picturesque ADA-accessible paved trail that spans 4.5 miles. Pack your family up for a stroller run or family bike ride! This trail is wide, flat, and doesn’t run along a busy street, so it is perfect for new bike riders! There are parks and playgrounds sprinkled all along the trail so make sure to plan to stop!

Woodard Park is great for both older kids and toddlers with a giant tree to climb on and two different play structures. Dirksen Nature Park is a beautiful nature park with more trees to climb on, two different playgrounds, unpaved trails, sports fields, and restrooms! Heading north, Greenway Park offers several playgrounds and a disc golf course. The Fanno Creek Trail is perfect for a summertime adventure but is most picturesque during the fall. The trees often line the trail and it is so beautiful. 

Tryon Creek

11321 SW Terwilliger Blvd, Portland, OR 97219

Tryon Creek

Tryon Creek is a great spot to take in nature and get a little (or long) hike in! Tryon Creek is located in Southwest Portland and is minutes away from downtown so it's easily accessible if you are looking for a little nature stop! Bring your bikes or go on foot because Tryon Creek offers 8 miles of trails including equestrian and paved trails! Many of the trails are toddler friendly so your littles can roam free and you don't have to worry about them launching themselves off a steep edge.

The creek offers a glimpse into some beautiful wildlife. There are bridges and benches all along the trails as well. There is a picnic shelter, nature center, restrooms, and a water fountain at the main entrance to the park. There is plenty of parking but it can get crowded on a sunny weekend so come early or maybe around 2-3 pm, when people start to head home. 

McMenamins Edgefield

2126 SW Halsey St, Troutdale, OR 97060

McMenamins Edgefield

When in doubt and when with kids any McMenamins is my go-to restaurant. McMenamins is an awesome local chain of restaurants that renovate older, often unique buildings and offer delicious staples and lots of beer and wine.  McMenamins Edgefield is a large property with lush gardens, walking paths, lots of outdoor seating with heaters and bonfires, and several restaurant options.

We usually eat at the Power Station Pub and then head over to outdoor seating near the Little Red Shed to enjoy more drinks and hang out either in the sun or by a fire. The Power Station Pub has a changing table and is very family-friendly. The dining area is fairly open and no one bats an eye when my toddler dances by our table. Their menu has burgers, sandwiches, salads, amazing tater tots, and a kids' menu, and there are several options that can be made vegan and gluten-free. You could easily spend a half-day exploring the property and playing outside at Edgefield!

Edgefield is a 5-minute drive from Imagination Station (a huge, amazing playground) and Glenn Otto Park! You can also make this a pit stop before heading to the gorge!

Horsetail Falls to Ponytail Falls

Historic Columbia River Hwy, Cascade Locks, OR 97014

Horsetail Falls to Ponytail Falls

When in Portland a Gorge hike is a must-do! There are so many hikes to choose from and with so many options it can be hard to pick the right one for your family. Our family favorite is Horsetail Falls to Ponytail Falls on the Oregon side of the Gorge. This hike is 0.9 miles and you get to see two beautiful waterfalls along the way. The best part about this hike is going behind the waterfall at Ponytail Falls. You can rest, take pictures, or adventure down to the pool of water!

The hike is short but if hiking with a toddler or younger child be ready to hold their hand as the trail can get rocky and has some steeper drop-offs. There are no restrooms. There is a parking lot right next to Horsetail Falls and plenty of street parking along the road but be aware that the road is narrow and cars will be passing through. Also keep in mind that during the summer months you will need a permit to drive and park along the “waterfall corridor” on Highway 30. You will have a one-hour window to enter the waterfall corridor. You can reserve a permit at https://oregon.gov/odot

You can make a day out of it and hike Multnomah Falls and Bridal Veil Falls, then head over to Hood River for dinner and water fun!

Westmoreland Park Nature Playground

7530 SE 22nd Ave, Portland, OR 97202

Westmoreland Park Playground

Westmoreland Park Nature Playground is a beautiful and aesthetic playground in the heart of Portland’s Sellwood neighborhood. This park is a nature-based play area that offers huge logs, boulders, wood-based climbing structures, and a sand area. This playground is best enjoyed in the summer when the water pump for the sand area is turned on but if you bring your weatherproof gear you can climb, play, and slide in any weather!

Next to the playground are beautiful evergreen trees, perfect for picnics or hiding from the sun. There is a paved trail around the park and unpaved trails as well. The pond is home to geese and ducks, perfect for bird watching and so, so beautiful to look at! There are seasonal bathrooms and plenty of street parking. 

Glenn Otto Community Park

1102 E Historic Columbia River Hwy, Troutdale, OR 97060

Glen Otto Park

If you’re looking for trails, water, and a playground then look no further than Glenn Otto Park! It is a beautiful park that spans over 6 acres and offers something for everyone! There are trails upon trails in the park. Some are paved and some are hard-packed but still jogger stroller friendly. The trails do not have large drop-offs so it is a perfect place to let your toddler roam free!

The beach access is great for warm days, or come with your rain boots and weatherproof gear and get your splash on! My favorite little beach area is about a quarter-mile south of the main beach, accessible via a hard-packed trail. If you veer right instead of going down to the beach you will reach the playground, restroom, and lots of picnic tables. Sugar Pine Drive-In shares a parking lot with the park and they serve delicious ice cream and a full menu including vegan and gluten-free options! There is so much to do, you really could spend a whole day enjoying all that Glenn Otto Park has to offer!

Have you been to Portland? Does your family live there? Let us know what your favorite local spots are in the comments below! Or tag us in your photos on Instagram @gethappyly for a chance to be featured!

Interested in other amazing cities around the U.S.? We've got a whole bunch of local-recommended spots in major (and not major!) cities across the country. Check out our blog for great advice on cities like Chicago, Denver, Maui, Chattanooga, and more! Or, if you are interested in getting information about taking the family to the national parks, we've got some great tips on Saguaro National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Haleakala National Park, and Mt. Rainier National Park!

For even more local activities and attractions at your fingertips, be sure to download the happyly app, the country's only mobile-first family activity planning app, for fast access to all of our frequent blog content, favorite activities, and expertly designed curated days, both locally and in many communities and travel destinations across the country.

Thoughtfully captured by:
Karrie Escobar
Mom. Realtor. Adventurer. Karrie (Kahdi) is a native Californian who loves the forest, the beach, surfing, hiking, enough to brave all the rain in Portland, Oregon. Finding adventures with her toddler or playing just about any sport with her family and friends is how she likes to spend her free time. While she spent most of her career in education she transitioned to real estate to help busy families build generational wealth and reach their goals through home ownership! She knows the suburbs as well as she knows downtown. From the cutest coffee shops and the most toddler friendly parks to the neighborhood with the best views- Karrie knows the area and wants to share her knowledge and outings with the Happyly family!
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Whether you're interested in city life, exploring nature, or a delicious food scene, Portland has it all. Here are our favorite city highlights!