From whale watching on the coast to skiing in the mountains, these winter getaways near Portland are tops with families
Winters in the PNW are enchanting—like living in a snow globe. The best way to experience it is to trade the city for snowflakes and sled rides at one of our favorite winter getaways near Portland. Whether your family is into skiing in the mountains, whale watching on the coast, or exploring new restaurants and museums, these vacation hot spots are coolest in the winter month. So pack up the kids and the warm clothes and drive to these Oregon destinations. Your winter wonderland road trips await.
This article is sponsored by Salishan Coastal Lodge and SCP Redmond Hotel, Oregon-based, sustainable, eco-friendly hotels. Situated near natural landmarks and on-site wellness amenities (including the Spa at Salishan and the meditation room and SCP Fit at SCP Redmond Hotel) both hotels offer the perfect blend of relaxation and adventure. Plan your visit to Oregon today!
These family weekend getaways near Portland are extra special in the wintertime
Looking for a quick, easy winter getaway near Portland with pristine nature, outdoor activities, and delectable food, wine, and beer? Get your walking shoes and appetites ready. The Tualatin Valley has all of the above and more.
The valley is known for its wine, but the epic green rolling hills invite families to walk, hike, and picnic. Stretch your legs and breathe in the fresh air at Wapato Lake National Wildlife Refuge, which recently opened in Gaston. The nearby Chehalem Ridge Nature Park offers 1250 acres of off-road trails, forest, and wetlands.
After enjoying the great outdoors, bring the entire fam to Ardiri Winery, just up the hill from Gaston. The family-owned, family-friendly winery has epics views of Mount Hood, tasty Pinot Noir, and an expansive lawn to let the kids run around. Get there on the right day and there may even be free oven-baked pizzas available. Holiday lights throughout the property and firepits everywhere provide maximum coziness and Holiday cheer.
If beer is your thing, the locals have launched the Tualatin Valley Ale Trail, with its own app. Get deals, win prizes! Download the app, show up with kids, and sip away.
Find out more: tualatinvalley.org
Post up in the shadow of Mount Hood on the banks of the Columbia in Hood River. Besides the easy mountain access, and assortment of ski and snowboard rental shops, Hood River teems with activities for Tinies. Toot toot! The Mt. Hood Railroad runs a special Christmas Train every year throughout the season.
Or turn your free-range kids loose at the Children’s Park at 9th and Eugene, or Waterfront Park on the river. The Children’s Park is a wild playground obstacle course of wood, with twists and turns, turrets and tire swings, sand and slides. Waterfront Park lets the kids climb, spin, and generally run amok—set against a stunning river tableau.
Find out more: visithoodriver.com
Mount Hood is Oregon’s iconic peak, and Timberline Lodge makes a perfect home base for your family weekend getaway this winter. Just an hour-and-a-half from Portland, let the snowshoe adventures begin. Rent on the mountain or gear up back in Portland at your favorite outdoor store. Then try out the 3/4-mile trail above the lodge for stunning views. It’s not exactly easy going—the kids should be prepared for a hike. Afterwards, scurry back to the lodge to warm up with a heated outdoor pool, game room, and lending library. Perfect weekend.
Find out more: traveloregon.com
One hour south of Portland, Salem has a whole new world of winter fun for kids--making it an awesome winter road trip for Portland families. Stay a few days to take advantage of nearby day trips like a hike in Silver Falls State Park. In Salem, spend some time wandering around the Oregon Garden, an 80-acre botanical paradise. The whole family will learn new things with a visit to the historic state capitol, although portions are closed until 2025.
After the history lesson turn them loose at the beautiful Riverfront Park on the Willamette River. It houses a gorgeous (indoor) carousel where Santa Claus is rumored to hang out. Older kids will appreciate Salem walking tours, including the exquisite Deepwood Museum & Gardens. On the way out of town fill them up with milkshakes, burgers, and fries at the northernmost In-N-Out Burger, just off I-5 in nearby Keizer. Warning: lifelong In-N-Out addiction is real.
Find out more: travelsalem.com
With countless opportunities for mountain biking, rafting the Deschutes River, and beer-tasting at breweries, Bend is a beloved summer destination for PNWers of all ages. But substitute skiing for biking, and a sleigh ride for rafting, and you’ve got the perfect place for a family-friendly winter excursion. Got some little skiers in tow? Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort features 3,700 acres of lift-accessible terrain, a free beginner chair lift, the Snowblast Tubing Park and a deal that allows children 12 and under to ski for free, with the advance purchase of a three-day adult lift ticket.
Planning to visit Bend during the holidays? A horse-drawn sleigh ride will whisk the fam along the Deschutes River at the Sunriver Resort, just 17 miles south. Hungry? Take the kids to the Old Mill District, with a plethora of tot-tested tasty treats. Thirsty? There’s a long list of Bend breweries that are kid-friendly and winter-friendly, with heaters, firepits, games, and snacks, including Crux Fermentation Project, Bend Brewing Company, and Sunriver Brewing‘s Galveston Pub in Bend.
Find out more: visitbend.com
Movie buffs, head to Astoria—a fantastic winter weekend getaway that's just two hours west of Portland—to re-trace the steps of The Goonies. If you haven’t seen the film a million times already, be sure to re-live it with the kids before you get to town. Do the “Truffle Shuffle” and you could be in luck—at press time the world famous Goonies House at 368 38th St. has re-opened to visitors. Or bring a cool $1.7 million and buy the whole house. Re-create the jailbreak at the Oregon Film Museum, a great cold-weather retreat for the whole family. The picture-perfect Victorian town has also served as the location for Kindergarten Cop, Short Circuit, and many more kid flicks.
Once you’re done exploring outside, try one of Astoria’s family-friendly breweries like Buoy Beer, which offers up a kids’ menu along with floor-to-ceiling windows for a fantastic view.
Find out more: travelastoria.com
About three hours southeast of Portland in the shadow of Black Butte and the Three Sisters, the quaint town of Sisters reminds locals of what Bend was like years ago. This winter road trip will make you feel like you’re a world away, with old-fashioned storefronts and the natural beauty of the surrounding area. Your family can ride horses or cross-country ski at Black Butte Ranch, or hole up with board games, popcorn, and movies in a Camp Sherman cabin. Sisters is also a great launching pad for ski areas like Mt. Bachelor and HooDoo.
Find out more: visitoregon.com
Like snowbirds heading south, the majestic gray whales migrate to the warmer waters of Baja California every winter. Depoe Bay is the place to catch a glimpse of these titans of the sea, and a great family getaway near Portland. Like anyone headed on vacation, they’re in bit of a hurry to get where they’re going and don’t lollygag around too much, but about 30 whales pass by whale watching sites each hour. During peak times (mid-December to mid-January, and again starting mid-February) there are multiple spots from Brookings to Astoria to help you sight these intrepid travelers. Bring your binoculars, warm clothes, and a little patience, and you might catch a glimpse. If not, there’s always storm watching, snuggling, relaxing, and tide pooling.
Find out more: traveloregon.com
Just like Depoe Bay, over 20,000 gray whales—nearly 30 each hour—migrate south along the coast to reach their breeding grounds in Mexico. The best spots for viewing the magnificent creatures are listed here. You can grab a nearby perch at the Neahkahnie Mountain Historic Marker on Highway 101 or Ecola State Park 18 miles north—you just might just catch a glimpse of a spout or a breach. Fancy something else after your whale of an adventure? The winter months are also a wonderful time for beachcombing at nearby Oswald West State Park, or scarfing down piping hot pizzas at Marzano’s Pizza Pie right in town.
Find out more: exploremanzanita.com