Portland is a mere three- to four-hour drive from Seattle, totally doable on a Friday night, depending on traffic, bladder capacities, and the length of your shopping stop at the Centralia outlet mall. FYI: There are public restrooms as well as a Burgerville drive-through on the east side of the freeway (this Oregon chain has arguably the best burger next to Dick's and even better seasonal shakes). Find out about more restaurants on the Seattle-Portland I-5 corridor here.
If you decide to ride the rails, Amtrak will deliver you to downtown Portland where you can get almost anywhere you need to go via the MAX train or the Portland Streetcar. Tickets are available at kiosks at each stop for both, or you can download the PDX Streetcar ticketing app on your mobile device and buy tickets virtually.
Now that you've made it to Portlandia (if you haven't partaken of this popular satire, check out an episode or two before your trip), it's time to buckle down and have some fun.
OMSI: The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, located on the east bank of the Willamette River just south of downtown Portland, is a hands-on, interactive paradise for both kids and adults. You'll want to budget at least a half a day here in order to explore the everyday sections, including the paleontology lab, the submarine and the planetarium. There's a restaurant and snack bar on-site, or you can bring your own food to eat in the sack lunch area. 1945 SE Water Ave
Glowing Greens: Make sure you wear white when you head downtown for this indoor 18 hole 3-D miniature golf course, since this event is a black light adventure. An average glowing game can take approximately 45 minutes, or you can opt for a shorter nine-hole experience. 509 SW Taylor
Portland Audubon Society: If you are looking to stretch your legs, Forest Park is a short five minutes from downtown Portland. More than four miles of forested hiking trails are available to the public. At the Audubon's Wildlife Care Center, you'll learn about the Audubon's work rehabilitating and releasing approximately 3,000 animals per year. You might also meet a Peregrine Falcon, a Northern Spotted Owl and some of their other non-releasable native birds. NW 29th Ave & Upshur St
Oregon Zoo: Set in Washington Park, it is home to 1,955 animals and includes several animals and activities we don't have in Seattle, including a polar bear and a new zoo railway. The Zoo is super easy to access by MAX from downtown Portland. 4001 SW Canyon Rd
Portland Saturday Market: Located downtown near Waterfront Park, the Market is one of the largest continually operating outdoor arts and crafts markets in the nation. It's a great spot for finding an artisan gift or souvenir. Grab a snack from one of their many vendors, and then sit back to enjoy some ever-present busking.
Powell's City of Books: If you think it's odd to recommend a bookstore as a must-see stop, clearly you have not been to Powell's. Located downtown off of Burnside, this is a book-lovers utopia. One Yelp reviewer wrote, "If it's not here, it's not a real book." Wander this quirky, multileveled, multi-staircased, entire city block building – I guarantee you will find something you love. 1005 W Burnside St
Oaks Amusement Park: Located just north of the Sellwood Bridge, it's America's oldest continuously operating amusement park and offers two dozen rides. The old-fashioned indoor roller skating rink is open year-round, too. 7805 SE Oaks Park Way
Avalon Theatre & Wunderland: Located on Belmont, the Avalon offers hundreds of arcade games at just a nickel a pop. Games range from old classics to the latest and greatest, and you can even win tickets and trade them for numerous small, easily broken plastic things which kids LOVE! If you tire of the bells and whistles of the arcade, pop in to the theater for a discount movie. 3451 SE Belmont St
McMenamin's Kennedy School: Portland, aka Beervana, has more brewpubs per capita than any other city in the U.S. Indulge in a little brewery fun (in a renovated historic elementary school that's also a hotel, no less) while your kids enjoy a movie in the theater and a great kid's menu. 5736 NE 33rd Ave
Voodoo Doughnut: You can NOT leave the city without stopping here. Make sure you bring cash and allot enough time, because this store in Old Town Portland on Third always has a line out the door. Downtown: 22 SW 3rd Ave; Eastside: 1501 NE Davis St
Portland food carts: Multiple locations around the city.
Laurelwood Public House and Brewery: New American pub-style food with plenty of options for hungry kiddos: chicken strips, tater tots, and quesadilla wraps. Northeast: 5115 NE Sandy Blvd; Southeast: 6716 SE Milwaukie Ave
Lucca: Fancy wood-fired pizzas. 3449 NE 24th St
Laughing Planet: Super kid-friendly menu based around fresh vegetables, bowls, and burritos. Kids will go ape for the PB&J smoothie, a berry-banana-peanut butter blend. Multiple locations around Portland.
Mississippi Pizza: Amazing, distinctive thin-crust pizza with a rotating menu of toppings. 3552 N Mississippi Ave
Cloud City Ice Cream: Superb ice cream with simple and creative flavors: circus animal cookies in a vanilla base, sea salt cookie dough, "better than therapy" ginger cookie in a lemon curd base. Bring your appetite. 4525 SE Woodstock Blvd
Slappy Cakes: Slappy Cakes is an all-day breakfast restaurant that lets you cook your own pancakes at your table, complete with toppings and fillings of your choice. 4246 SE Belmont St
There are myriad options, of course. Travel Portland is a good clearinghouse for information of lodging and much more. You may prefer loyalty programs at hotels you already use, or it's often fun to try a rental through VRBO or airbnb, or a similar service called AllTheRooms, which offers a little bit of everything.
Editor's note: This article, originally published in March 2014, was updated in March 2019.
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