The Portland Metropolitan area comprises Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas Counties, as well as the southern edge of Clark County in Washington State across the Columbia River to the north. The area is home to nearly two million people, who live, work, and play in one of the most beautiful urban areas in the country—at least, that’s what we think.
Portland sits just to the south of the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers; it is indeed a port city. It is situated approximately 70 miles from the Pacific Ocean and connects to the Pacific via the Columbia River. Its busy shipping schedule makes it the third-leading commercial maritime center on the West Coast. A significant portion of its freight is eastern Oregon grain, barged down the Columbia, loaded into huge grain elevators, and poured into freighters heading for Asia. On the receiving end, Portland is the third-largest West Coast port for ships bringing Japanese cars into the United States.
Visitors come from all over to see what makes the Portland area different from other parts of the country and world. This chapter emphasizes the local and regional attractions—natural, historical, and contemporary—that define and characterize our area. Getting to these attractions is usually simple. Most are concentrated within the city center. Downtown Portland, which is encompassed in our Southwest Portland section, is agreeable for walking, and even if the weather is not entirely cooperative, the distances are relatively short. Fareless Square, a downtown zone along the bus mall (in which bus fare is free), invites visitors to join local residents on buses, MAX trains, and streetcars to get around downtown more easily. Visitors to attractions in outlying areas, such as Fort Vancouver, will depend more on cars. You can still take public transportation, but it requires more planning and commitment.
The entire Portland Metro area is an attraction, full of interesting things to watch, do, hear, and taste. During the spring and summer, expect the occasional parade, especially during the Rose Festival and on the Fourth of July, as well as street festivals, bike races, weekend runs, and even the occasional protest outside some government building. For more information about special happenings, see our Festivals and Annual Events chapter, and for other attractions, such as galleries and museums, see The Arts chapter. Additionally, if you’re traveling with kids, you may want to check out the children’s museums and amusement parks in the Kidstuff chapter. We have made every effort to report the most current and accurate hours and addresses. However, given the rate of change in the area, visitors are advised to call their destination beforehand to make sure the information is accurate.
“If a place has a reputation as being great for children,” one of our friends once observed, “it’s probably no good for adults.” Fortunately, he wasn’t referring to his native city. Portland is a great place both for children and for the adults who live with them. Many of the area’s major attractions—Washington Park, the Chinese Garden, the Oregon History Center—interest persons both small and large, and many of the attractions designed just for children hold a kind of giddy appeal for their guardians. Here, then, are some of our favorite places to go with children in the Portland Metro area and a little beyond.
A chief pleasure of living in or visiting Portland is its proximity to so many other beautiful places. A two hours’ drive west of Portland will take you to the magnificent Oregon coast with its forests, rock formations, and unsullied beaches, while in half an hour, you will be immersed in the rich and fertile Willamette Valley wine country. An easy hour’s drive east leads to the awe-inspiring Columbia Gorge and its stunning waterfalls and, by another route, the majestic Mount Hood. If you drive south, in an hour you’ll reach the largest and one of the loveliest state parks in Oregon, Silver Falls State Park. So pack your picnic basket, a good map and, of course, your Insiders’ Guide, and go discover Oregon firsthand.