My family lives to eat out. Portland was a foodie wonderland that was incredibly accommodating for tiny diners like our two and a half year old.



Tanner Springs Park, Portland Oregon
Tanner Springs Park is a little urban ecological adventure waiting to be discovered

Parks & Playgrounds: Portland had an abundance of great outdoor spaces to explore. The Rose Garden Children’s Playground was a favourite that we returned to a few times. There was also a sports field just steps away that was great for running around. Within a few blocks in the Pearl District are Jamieson Park (just a cement area to sort of run or scooter), Tanner Springs Park (a serene urban marsh-type park to wander and pretend), and the Fields Park with a great playground, which was my favourite discovery.

There are unique little communities throughout the city. We went to some of the main attractions – the International Rose Test Garden (my son loved running along the rose paths), the Hoyt Arboretum served as an excellent early morning outdoor adventure, and we spent a great morning at the Portland Children’s Museum. I highly recommend the museum, just go early. Powell’s Books couldn’t be missed and didn’t disappoint with it’s selection.

portland international rose test garden
Running through the roses.

Cool Neighbourhoods: Portland’s Pearl District is well known and we did our share of roaming while my son slept in the stroller. Nob Hill’s NW 23rd Avenue turned out to be a great find. There is all kinds of interesting street art that entertained my son, some yummy food and great shops.

Favourite pit stops

Dicks sporting goods store in Portland Oregon
Racing around our favourite pit stop – the sports store

Dicks Sporting Goods turned out to be quite the spot for our little family! The running shoe display has a mini race track and my son really took advantage of stretching his legs. Maybe I’ve got a future Olympian.

Favourite memories

Watching my son run and roam around the city was such a highlight. He flitted between expressing his passion for baseball pants (which we got at a Dick’s Sports store) and all things pirate. It’s amazing what you can find when you’re looking. We scored a now out of print illustrated encyclopedia on baseball at Powell Books and a pirate cape and sword at Child’s Play. All of these things were inexpensive and easily transported on our road trip home.


Portland welcomes minors in licensed restaurants
Portland welcomes minors in licensed restaurants.

On the brewery scene, we took advantage of Portland’s welcoming of minors in licensed restaurants: Deschutes Brewery still makes my mouth water writing about it. My son’s dinner at 10 Barrell Brewing came on a frisbee he could take home; the food was also nice and healthy. One note on the veg that seems popular on kids menus – it’s a lot of large carrot sticks and celery.
yummy portland food scene


I love baked goods with my coffee. Again, lots to choose from. Lovejoy Bakers was close to a great playground and walkable.

Blue Star Donuts on NW 23rd Avenue in Nob Hill blew our minds with delicious flavours. (NOTE: Blue Star is not the same as the other famous donut shop, Voodoo Donuts, which we read always had long lines… it just wasn’t worth trying for us this trip.) While in that neighbourhood we also lunched at Papa Haydn’s. They had some beautiful desserts, although we opted to try Blue Star instead to diversify. For breakfast we also took advantage of our early starts to go to Mother’s Bistro. They have a play area for children that made the wait for our food more pleasant for everyone.

Food trucks have something for everyone.
Food trucks have something for everyone.

Food trucks are also a must-do in Portland. Although if you have a very fidgety child and/or one that can’t really eat on his/her own, it might be a pass. We went to the pocket off Alder and 9th and each found something great. We ate at O’Bryant Park a nearby square that had a number of homeless people mixed in with everyone else out eating.

Spontaneous fun

We found so many great toys stores in each community we went to. Finnegan’s Toys & Gifts by the food trucks.  Child’s Play in Nob Hill had very knowledgeable staff about their products.

As we wandered around the Pearl District, one great spontaneous find was the KEEN Garage store. They have an interactive shoe display and our son loved cranking the shoes to see it all move.
Portland playground


We stayed at the Portland Mariott Downtown Waterfront. The hotel was nice, but didn’t have a pool which we realized would have been a big advantage for the evenings. We couldn’t get a cot for our son, but there was a chaise lounge chair in the room that we moved beside our bed so he could sleep comfortably without falling out. The hotel was easily within walking distance along the Waterfront Park Trail overlooking the Willamette River.

Street cows in Portland
Cows on NW 23rd


After looking at all of our options, we decided to take a road trip. We had our car for the whole time we were in Portland. Parking downtown was a bit frustrating; most of the street parking we found was short-term (90 minutes max). The convenience at least was the meters could be paid with credit card. There were several sites we wanted to see that were outside the downtown core and having the car made it convenient. There is a great transit system though and we could easily have travelled anywhere we planned to go. When we were downtown or in the Pearl District we walked. We had our stroller just about everywhere.
family vacation in portland

Helpful hint

In many parts of the downtown there are a lot of homeless and at-risk people wandering or residing. We did our best to avoid some of those pockets; if you feel unsafe be sure to check with your hotel or host to better understand the city landscape.

Packing tip

The Pacific Northwest is notorious for rainy weather. Packing layers and always having some rain gear is a must.


Portland TriMet Transit. With buses and trams, its easy to get around.

Food Carts Portland. Find food carts that are dispersed throughout the city.

Hoyt Arboretum. There are 2 miles of trails that families can even take strollers around. Check out Hoyt’s site for a children’s activity map. You can even find the Fairy Forest!


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