Last weekend Arun, Little Bear, Arun’s parents and I all drove south to Portland for a long weekend away from the city. We explored downtown, did a bit of outlet shopping, and checked out the Portland Children’s Museum in Washington Park.
When we were researching what to do in Portland, we came across a few options that we thought Little Bear would like. One was the zoo, which is also located in Washington Park, next to the Children’s Museum and the Discovery Museum & World Forestry Centre. We ultimately decided against going to the zoo because of the allegations of abuse against the elephants there. We’re total animal lovers, and I’m sure Little Bear would have loved seeing the animals, but we just weren’t comfortable going there.
Choosing the Children’s Museum over the zoo was not a mistake at all! I know that if I lived in Portland, I would definitely buy a family membership to the museum. If you have never been to a children’s museum, think of it as learning through play at its best.
When you walk in you are encouraged to interact with everything you see around you.
Our first stop was at Building Bridgetown, where Little Bear was able to grab a hard hat and a construction vest and help piece together bits of piping along a wall. The whole room is set up like a construction site and there are trucks and a large road rug for kids to have fun with. Outside of the construction site kids can set up a garden of flowers by inserting flowers into different tubes.
After that we headed to Grasshopper Grocery and Butterfly Bistro. This was a popular spot, for sure! There were grocery carts and shopping baskets where kids could load up on all their favourite food from Grasshopper Grocery. In the grocery store there were also check out counters and aprons for possible employees. In the same are, the Butterfly Bistro allowed the children to “cook” whatever they bought from the grocery store.
Another favourite spot of ours was the Pet Hospital. When we take Ziggy to the vet, Little Bear usually comes along with us, so he was familiar with this set up and happily listened to a dog’s heartbeat, checked x-rays, gave a dog a bath and then pulled it along to the “park” for a potty break.
If you do come here, it’s a good idea to bring a change of clothes! At the Water Works there are smocks for the kids to use, but there were none that fit quite right on Little Bear, so he did get a bit wet, but he didn’t seem to mind it at all. The Water Works exhibit was a lot of fun, if, although a little loud, and Little Bear had a blast pouring and dumping water into the different sinks and fountains that the museum has set up.
For Portland locals, The Clay Studio is a great feature. Kids get to play with clay and if they sculpt something they want to keep, it can even be fired in the kiln by the museum. It does take a couple of weeks to get it back though, so if you’re just visiting for a few days like we were, this wasn’t an option. Not that we would have needed to fire Little Bear’s production…but he had a great time hammering and pressing it out!
There were other exhibits as well – some that would be better for the slightly older crowd (The Garage, Zany Maze, Play it Again Theatre, and Twilight Theatre) and also one that was geared to babies. This room, Baby’s Garden, was a bit anti-climatic. It’s geared for children under 3, and since Little Bear is almost 2.5, we thought we’d check it out just to see what was there. There wasn’t much and it was a bit out of place for the museum, where everything seemed to be done up so well. Most of the museum is completely toddler friendly though, so this would only be a disappointment for the under 12 months old crowd.
Also plan for the museum to take up the better part of your day. We didn’t make it to the Outdoor Adventure exhibit, as it took nearly 2 hours to complete the indoor portion. After a bit of a break for lunch, Little Bear was pooped, so we opted to leave the museum at that point.
Next time you’re in Portland, be sure to visit the Children’s Museum. Hands-on learning and family fun at its best!
Portland Children’s Museum is open everyday from 9 AM to 5 PM. Admission is $10 for everyone aged 1-54. Under 1 is free and over 55 or military is $9. On Fridays from 4-8 PM admission is free (this is subject to change, check their calendar for more details).