Portland is a vibrant city with plenty to do, see, and eat. Whether you live here or are just visiting, it can be hard to consider venturing outside city limits. This list will make you think again! Mix it up a little with a day trip or overnight to one of these cool destinations outside Portland. Read on for 25 ways to fuel your family’s wanderlust.

photo: Katrina B. via flickr

Half-Day Excursions

Sauvie Island. Hikes, farms, and fishing holes abound on this tranquil destination island just a stone’s throw (about 17 miles) from the hustle and bustle of the city. Depending on the time of year, you can take your pick from any number of affordable family activities.

Ft. Vancouver. Head over the river to Vancouver, Washington for an educational afternoon at Fort Vancouver. Pick up a Junior Ranger booklet and check out blacksmith demonstrations, the English garden, a playground and more.

Vancouver Community Library. This is a favorite among Portland parents, with the entire top floor dedicated to children. Hop on 205, cruise past IKEA, and you’ll be there in less than 20 minutes. You can pack a lunch, hit up storytime, and then let your little readers loose. For even more ways to explore Vancouver, check this list.

photo: Matthew Warner via Flickr

Bonneville Fish Hatchery. Great for budding scientists, head to Cascade Locks on the Columbia River Gorge to tour the state’s largest fish hatchery. At just 40 miles from Portland, and with free admission, this is a great choice for an outdoorsy, educational half-day trip.

Tualatin Wildlife Refuge. Take your little naturalists to walk the trails at this wildlife refuge in Sherwood, just a 40 minute drive from Portland. Visit the educational center and enjoy a picnic lunch. Read our full article for more info.

Sherwood. With a charming, walkable downtown and plenty of farms in the surrounding area, a visit to this community just 40 minutes from Portland is well worth the trip.

Woodburn. In spring, you can visit the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival, but there’s lots to do and see year-round in Woodburn, located 30 miles from Portland. Indoor and outdoor parks abound, along with family farms and great restaurants.

McMenamin’s Edgefield. Gardens, affordable food, and a theater are just some of the family-friendly amenities awaiting you at this destination resort in Troutdale, 16 miles from the city.

photo: Pete via flickr

Day Trips

Salem. There’s tons to do in the state capital. At a little over an hour straight down I-5 South, it’s a doable day trip with plenty of great parks to play in and an impressive children’s museum. Read our full write-up on Salem for more details.

Hood River. In an hour and fifteen minutes, you can find yourself in the growing community of Hood River, with a great downtown shopping district, plenty of delicious restaurants, an active waterfront park, and gorgeous hikes in all directions. Don’t miss the family farms along the historic “fruit loop” outside town.

Timberline Lodge. Whether your family enjoys winter sports or not, Timberline Lodge (64 miles from Portland) makes for a memorable day-trip. Enjoy amazing food at the restaurant, or just order cozy drinks and play games while you watch the weather. Read on for more.

Tillamook Cheese Factory. Watch how they make your favorite cheese at this recently-expanded factory, with a farm exhibit, cheese-tasting, and fabulous ice cream parlor. At just an hour-and-a-half from the city, you can pop out to the coast after for a quick “hello” to the ocean.

photo: Wings & Waves via yelp

Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum. Perfect for the little one in your life who loves things that go, this plane museum has plenty of hands-on ways to explore aviation. Just one hour from Portland outside McMinnville, this is an easy trip for a fun-filled day.

Wings & Waves. Just across the parking lot from the museum is one of the most unusual indoor waterparks anywhere, with a 747 on the roof and all the twisty, zippy water slides you could ask for.

Silver Falls & Silverton. Outside Salem in the town of Silverton lies one of the best waterfall hikes in the state: the Trail of the Ten Falls, which includes four that you can walk behind! Choose the mileage that works best for your hikers and get any remaining wiggles out at the playground in the day-use area. Sync up the hour drive with naptime, and you’ve got the perfect day trip from Portland.

Cannon Beach. Just as special in the off-season as it is at the height of summer, this beach town remains a popular destination, with views of iconic Haystack Rock from pretty much anywhere up and down the wide sandy beaches. Pick up a kite at any number of seaside shops and hit the sand!

Need more ideas? Check out this list for 8 more great day trips!

photo: by Annette Benedetti

Overnight and Longer

Bingen, Washington. This tiny gem just over the bridge from Hood River has been getting a lot of attention recently, mostly due to the recently-opened (and family-friendly) Society Hotel. But don’t stop there! Nearby White Salmon has an adorable and well-curated bookshop, plus a number of impressive restaurants and easy hikes.

Great Wolf Lodge. With the new day-pass option, you can get away with a quick trip (an hour and a half from Portland) to the indoor year-round waterpark in Grand Mound, WA. But why not stay overnight at this all-inclusive resort and spa?

Newport & Oregon Coast Aquarium.  At just a little over two hours away, this quaint beach town has a lot to offer, from adorable B & Bs to wharfside dining and shopping. Don’t miss the aquarium, where touch pools and other interactive exhibits will help your little ones get the most out of their beach vacation.

photo: via Three Bears Lodge

Breitenbush Hot Springs. At just two hours from the city, this kid-friendly hot springs is an easy day trip– but the location is so beautiful, and the amenities so enticing, we really recommend you stay awhile. Relax in outdoor hot springs (note: clothing is optional), stay in a private cabin or room at the lodge, and enjoy fresh vegetarian meals as part of your stay. Or check this list for even more hot springs options.

Sunriver. There’s a reason this resort community outside Bend (190 miles from Portland) remains a favorite summer destination among families. Make that several reasons, including the High Desert Museum and SHARC, the amazing indoor/outdoor waterpark that’s a day’s activity all by itself. But winter’s a great time to go, as well, with plenty of festive activities and winter sports on the agenda.

Lava River Cave. Just outside of Bend, you can check out a mile-long lava tube (!) on a self-guided tour. This destination is open only during the summer months, so plan ahead to stay in Bend and check out Smith Rock on your way back.

Sou Wester Lodge via Yelp

photo: Sou’wester Lodge via yelp

Port Townsend and Whidbey Island. At 3.5 hours from Portland, including a ferry ride, this destination is the furthest on our map. But it’s well worth the trip! Kayak, explore tide pools, walk on the beach, and breathe in the sea-salt air on these quiet islands outside Seattle.

Mt Rainier National Park.  Whether you’re looking for winter adventures or a spectacular summer camping spot, head north to Mt. Rainier. Cabins, lodges, and campsites abound; the hiking is beautiful; and you can even check out native Northwest animals at the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park!

Astoria and the Long Beach Peninsula. Where the Columbia River meets the sea, you’ll find the iconic seaside town of Astoria, just a two-hour drive away. Head over the bridge to the Washington side and stay in a vintage trailer at the family-friendly Sou’wester Lodge, then set out by foot, bike, or car to explore.

featured image Amie B via yelp

-Melissa Poulin


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