I haven’t been to Portland since I was a kid and made a brief stop (I think?). I don’t even remember that so I don’t really count it. I’ve been hearing great things for years, but we’re always more inclined to go south to warmer weather than north to chillier weather. Some of our dearest friends just moved up there though, so we decided to put on those heavy coats and head north for a visit during our winter break.
Portland is a ten hour drive from San Francisco. It sounds daunting to do with kids, but it honestly wasn’t terrible. Brian and I like to leave while it’s still early enough for the kids to fall back asleep, but not too early for us to be alert enough. I took the 4:30 shift (which I prefer!), and he filled our Yetis with hot fresh coffee before we headed out the door. All good. We stopped twice (three times if you count the time the officer pulled me over for speeding near the Oregon border… delayed us 10 minutes, haha, but he didn’t give me a ticket!! Brian will never let me live it down) and we arrived at around 2pm.
I’m the type who would be totally cool sipping coffee and eating pastries all on a rainy Portland day x4, and not getting out at all because obviously- it’s winter and not warm, but between our AMAZING Portland friends/hosts and our own kids, we have seven little wild ones who need to run out that energy, so we had to A-game.
Here’s everything we saw, loved, and ate as a little summary, and more detail on everything below:
Day 2: Morning at church, Scooter Rides on the Hawthorne Bridge, and a visit to my aunt and uncle in Vancouver Washington
Day 1: Oregon Zoo & Blazers Game
Our first excursion was a Saturday misty trip to the Oregon Zoo. It’s stunning, compact, clean, and gives beautiful views of the animals. I’ve been to our SF Zoo more than I can count, and to the San Diego Zoo once, but I honestly think this one was the favorite of the three. It was totally manageable with 7 kids, and - maybe because there was misty rain falling- it was not even slightly crowded.
I LOVE giraffes.
We stopped at Trader Joe’s before we went so that we didn’t have to buy zoo food (overpriced and usually just meh anyway. :) They apparently have a Christmas lights exhibit through the holidays in the evenings, which looked like fun, but we had plans to watch basketball on a double date that night!
Brian is a Warriors fanatic and they were playing the Blazers WHILE we were there. Best luck ever. We had a quick bite at Wayfinder Brewery. Generally speaking, breweries aren’t known for their food, but in Portland it’s actually common for the local breweries to have amazing food, and this one totally did. I highly recommend the banh mi and the fried cauliflower. Craving that cauliflower now actually, so I might try to make it at home.
Five minute drive to the game from there, and into the super clean, #local arena. Like, all the food options were so legit and local. I had this random thought right after halftime that some soft-serve sounded good, and so I went up and two booths away was local Tillamook soft serve. Check and check. Had soft-serve in hand and was back to my seat in 5 minutes. I’m into this Portland vibe. The Warriors won, and we were VERY happy. The fans didn’t even heckle us for being Warrior fans. ;) Oregon people are generally SUPER nice.
Day 2: Hawthorne Bridge
An hour scooting across the bridge and back and up and down the riverside was perfect for getting energy out on day 2. A double rainbow made it extra cool. I won’t pretend I loved having the cars on one side and the heights on the other side, but between four grown-ups, we corralled all the kiddos safely around and they LOVED it. I’m the same when I take my kids on the Golden Gate. It’s SO high and so many cars. Gives me some panic, but honestly, if you’re not a stressed out mama like me, it’s a good little activity, and gorgeous.
We drove across more bridges to visit family in Vancouver, Washington after the bridge adventure, so day two was perfectly mild and relaxing.
Day 3: New Year’s Eve on the 4T Trail
The hardest things can sometimes be the best things. We learned it when we took 7 kids on a hike to the Hollywood sign last year, and we learned it when we took the same 7 kids on the 4T trail this year.
The 4T trail stands for Trail / Tram / Trolley / Train. In my head it was more of an urban experience than a woodsy one, but in real life it was more of a woodsy experience than an urban one. ;) The trail starts at the Oregon Zoo (kind of a weird starting point right off a freeway onramp), and you hike up the stunning mountains through the trees, winding around in muddy terrain… for four miles. The big kids (5 & up) were in their element, running ahead the whole time and having the BEST time. The grown ups loved it. The 3 & 4 year olds loved half of it, and were in tears by the end of it, poor babies! We had a BOB which was a bit tricky to maneuver, but necessary. The top of the trail about 2/3 in had the most beautiful view of Mt. Hood.
Pro Tip: wear shoes that can go in the washing machine. hahaha.
The tram was the highlight because of the satisfaction of accomplishment, the warmth, and the views. The kids also liked the little lurch as it went down to the ground.
Caught the trolley and found the nearest stop with good food. Another brewery, this time Deschutes. Perfect for a big group. Waited only about 15 minutes, but I took the 10-year-olds for a quick shop across the street where there were the CUTEST little spots.
We were BEAT by the end of the day, in the best possible way. I loved ending 2018 exploring with every bit of energy we had. We went home and everyone got clean and in pj’s. Set up some sparkle photobooth fun at the house for the kids (Jack went straight to bed), while we watched the ball drop at midnight east coast time. ;) Best New Year’s strategy for west coast kids ever.
Vacuumed a lot of sparkle that night… and the next day… and the next day we left. Our hosts are probably still vacuuming sparkle.
DAY 4: POKPOK & MCMENAMINS KENNEDY school
Per the recommendation of my Vancouver cousins, we had lunch at PokPok on New Year’s day. We actually had so many amazing food recommendations from my cousins that I was grateful it was New Year’s Day so the restaurants being closed helped us make up our mind. PokPok did not disappoint. It’s my favorite Portland meal, actually, and I keep wishing I could get their chicken wings in San Francisco because they were THAT good.
So when I go back to Portland (when, NOT if), I will 100% be stopping back for PokPok again. It’s legit. SO. After lunch, we went to McMenamins. McMenamins is this super interesting group who bought several unconventional spaces of real estate in Oregon and I think Washington too, and reinvented their use. The McMenamins we visited used to be a school, and now it is a space with restaurants, bars, and a movie theater playing old movies. We watched The Sound of Music in the theater, and the guys went and grabbed a drink and chatted while we were in there eating popcorn. Kind of a win for all, and the vibe in the spaces is so cool.
SO. If you’re thinking about a trip to Portland, just do it and I’m pretty sure you’ll love it. Get your fill of allllll the local coffee, breweries, and ice cream, and don’t be afraid to bring the kids with you.