Near the beginning of our family gap year, we spent a day in Portland. This is how we spent our 24 hours there, and I hope it helps you plan your day if you’ll be visiting soon!
I had to specify Portland, Oregon in the title because I grew up near Portland, Maine. And while that’s a great town to visit, too, this post is about how to spend 24 hours in Portland, Oregon with kids!
After spending a month in Washington, the first stop on our family gap year, we began to make our way down the west coast, and our next stop was one full day in Portland!
Nobody in our family had ever been to Portland, so I spent some time researching how best to spend our day there. It was a rainy day and some of our plans panned out better than others, but all in all we had a great time!
Food Carts & Weather Machine
We got to Portland around lunchtime, and despite the rain that started to fall, we walked around several blocks of a food cart pod before deciding where to eat. I wish I could remember the name of the cart where I got my food, but I ate a delicious gourmet grilled cheese sandwich!
We took our meals down the street to check out the Weather Machine we had heard about from Atlas Obscura. Unfortunately we just missed its daily fanfare, but the blue heron on top shows up for drizzly weather. We did not need the weather machine to let us know it was drizzling, but it’s still cool.
After finishing our lunch, we walked over to Powell’s Books, a well-known used & new bookstore with several floors and rooms full of literature. The visit was worth the hype — we had a great time exploring the shelves and made a few purchases.
Apparently I was so taken with the shop that I took zero photos!
Voodoo Doughnut & Keep Portland Weird Sign
After browsing the bookstore, we headed over to Voodoo Doughnut (we had already visited the one in Denver, but this is the original), where we could also see the “Keep Portland Weird” sign.
Yep, we walked to all of those places — Portland can be pretty walkable depending on your destinations. These are all close enough for an enjoyable jaunt, even in iffy weather.
But next, we got into our car and drove over to the Portlandia Statue.
Unfortunately, the surrounding building was under construction and the statue wasn’t visible! Oh well, maybe next time!
Mill Ends Park
We WERE able to see Mill Ends Park, though, the tiniest little park you ever did see. In fact, it’s in the Guinness Book as the world’s smallest city park.
It might be hard to tell from the photo, but that sign comes up to about my knees, and the tree is shorter than me (no small feat). It’s set in the middle of a fairly busy street, but there’s a median so you can stop and admire it.
The greenery and accoutrements change from time to time, and the park has a very interesting history! You can read about it here.
End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center
We spent the remainder of our day at the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. The week before we left Washington, we made sure to include some homeschool lessons about the Oregon Trail (yes, including playing the video game!), so the kids had some background before we visited.
We were hoping to spend a few hours at the center, but their website showed the incorrect closing time, so we sped through the center in the final hour. I’d definitely recommend allowing at least two hours to fully explore, so call to double-check their operating hours!
The center is made up of three buildings, plus a visitor center/gift shop.
In the first building, you get ready for your journey by exploring the general store, learning what the pioneers packed on their journey, and loading up a wagon!
They also had a model home and classroom, and the little ones had fun playing with period toys!
The big kids highly prioritized the “bacon” when packing their wagon.
The middle building houses a theatre that shows a film about the Oregon Trail, and the third building has more exhibits and information about what happened along the trail and when people arrived in Oregon.
Outside there was a trail to follow with more information and things to see. There’s even a plaque to mark the spot that’s been designated the “end of the Oregon Trail.”
They often give tours and hold events where period performers showcase games and activities from pioneer times, and I’m sure that would be so fun! We’ll have to visit again sometime!
We definitely could have spent more time exploring Portland, but we had to move on in our journey!
If we visit again, I would hit all the same spots and more. I’d love to see the weather machine actually go off at noon and spend lots more time browsing the shelves at Powell’s.
Also, we had several restaurants on our list that we didn’t make it to, including Pine State Biscuits, Cheryl’s on 12th, and Blue Star Donuts. We’d also like to visit the Rose Test Garden and Multnomah Falls.
But for 24 hours in Portland, I think we did pretty great!
Have you visited Portland? What are your favorite things to do, see, and eat? Let me know so I can add them to our next itinerary!