To put it lightly, planning family activities in the late winter and early spring can be tricky. The weather shifts minute to minute, it’s not always appealing to kick everyone out of the house just to pack them in the car only to head to yet another building, and driving to another location doesn’t always get you the dry outdoor experience you’re seeking. In most cases, unless you and your family are champions of putting on a rain jacket and pretending it’s warm, you’re going to need an indoor activity at a fun venue – and for most of us, that means sticking to a budget as well.
If you have multiple parents and kids in your group, you can bet any amount you want that at least one person will not be thrilled with the day you planned – it may sound negative, but it’s just a law of physics (not really but just go with it). That’s ok, we’re not looking to make every person thrilled if we’re talking about a large group, we’re just trying to amuse the masses here, and if everyone is happy, great. If not…well there’s always next time. If you’re dealing with a small family of 3-4 people, chances are you can find something for everyone.
Does that mean that with the “right” amount of planning, caffeine, snacks, juice boxes, patience, and understanding – every trip can be a success? Yes, and some just won’t be, and that’s ok. What’s the first rule in parenting? If at first you don’t succeed, cry, cry try, try again. The truth is you won’t know if you will emerge victorious until the family vehicle is parked back at the house at the end of the day. But if at least one of your kids smiles or gosh, even thanks you, you’ll certainly feel like a hero. If that thank you comes with a hug, well, all the better.
Don’t let the end of the day attitudes paint your glorious plan in the wrong light, either. If you witness the fam having fun throughout, don’t let some end of the road crankiness spoil the entire day. Even when they’re having a good day, most children (and let’s face it, most adults) eventually get tired and just want to go home. That doesn’t mean they didn’t enjoy themselves, and it definitely doesn’t mean your efforts went unnoticed. If you’re one of those detail oriented planny plannersons, you gave up on hearing consistent “thanks” long ago. But you won’t let a lack of thanks stop you, although you’re not against hearing one every once in a while, either.
The odds are you already have a well designed plan for the upcoming weekend, but on the off chance you do not, or are just looking for some fresh ideas, here are some mostly indoor options you may want to consider:
Bricks Cascade – Portland’s Premier LEGO® Expo
Location: Oregon Convention Center
Hours: Saturday and Sunday 10am-4pm
Cost: $11 per person ages 3 and up, $40 for a family four pack
Why attend: you love LEGOs, your kids love LEGOs, everyone loves LEGOs. And here you don’t have to worry about cleaning up or convincing your kids to. You can witness some truly amazing custom LEGO designs, build your own, buy some specialty LEGOs you didn’t know existed, or perhaps get a starter set to ignite the creative fires in your children that you had growing up.
Portland Kid’s Fest – Whoop It Up Winter Weekend
Location: Portland Expo Center
Hours: Saturday 10am-5pm and Sunday 10am-4pm
Cost: family tickets online are $25 for a group of 5, kids 3 and under are free, expect to pay $30 for the same offer at the box office.
Why attend: low cost event that’s indoors for kids of all ages. Live entertainment, fun and games for the whole family. Even if this isn’t usually your sort of event (noisy, crowded, same price as a movie, etc), you might need something like this if the current forecast of a weekend of cold and rain becomes reality.
Portland Saturday Market – 2020 Season Opening
Location: Old Town Market
Hours: Saturday 10am-5pm and Sunday 11am-430pm
Cost: free admission, costs vary by booth
Why attend: it’s a low to no cost adventure for the family in a fun open air atmosphere of more than 200 vendors showcasing a variety of goods and services – and the whole thing looks and acts like a fair. It can get crowded even on cold and wet days (especially when the 2019 season ended in December), so don’t assume the weather will keep the crowds at bay. If it’s a fun and low cost thing to do in PDX, people will come Ray, people will most definitely come.
Kid’s Morning Skate
Location: Oaks Amusement Park
Hours: Saturday 10:30am-12pm
Cost: $7.50 gets you admission for one adult and one child 10 and under only. Additional adults and older kids in the family can still attend, they will just need their own tickets.
Why attend: Safe and fun skating lesson for young kids in a group environment. Chipper the Squirrel will be on hand, with a DJ playing kid-choice music, and some skate games to round out the occasion. If your kids don’t already know how to do the Hokey-Pokey on skates, they soon will, but it’s up to each parent if they should. Once the skate session is complete, if the weather isn’t too bad, feel free to roam the rest of the park and check out the other rides and games on their 44 acre property nestled alongside the Willamette River.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – In Concert!
Location: Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
Hours: Saturday 730pm
Cost: tickets are just about sold out, there are still some available in the $115-170 range before any fees.
Why attend: it’s a steep price so it’s not for everyone, especially those that expect to have their kids in bed around the same time the movie would be starting. But for those with the time and money to spare, it’s a really special way for your family to experience one of their favorite movies, in a unique setting with a live orchestra playing the soundtrack throughout the movie. Parking can be tough to find nearby, so come prepared to walk a few blocks if needed.
Not finding what you’re after or you really want to chance making an outdoor day trip? Here are some other ideas to toss around at the Saturday morning breakfast nook:
Oregon Zoo – it’s surprisingly tranquil at the zoo on cold and rainy days, but you’re not the only one that stays indoors when the weather turns, you can expect at least a few of your children’s favorite animal pals to take shelter as well. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go or should expect a bad turnout, just make sure to keep your expectations level as the cost to go on sunny days is exactly the same as rainy days, even if the actual experience can be different. If the zoo is not what you’re in the mood for, feel free to check out the Children’s Museum, located on the same property.
Give the Pittock Mansion Hike an attempt – it’s a relatively simple hike, just a long trail with switchbacks. Anyone that has “climbed” Multnomah Falls will find this one even easier, with the added bonus of avoiding the sometimes dodgy traffic on I-84.
Sky High Sports – an indoor trampoline and jumping activity haven you wish existed when you were your kid’s age. All in a building that could be an abandoned Costco (it isn’t) but has a very fun and welcoming vibe. Not the cheapest place, but a really fun experience if you’re on the lookout for a way for your kids to run and jump to the point of exhaustion while you sip coffee and finally read a book.
Newport Aquarium – if you’ve been here, not much has changed, except they added a neat steampunk inspired exhibit, as well as raised admission prices just a little. It’s not easy to find good weather days at the south coast in the winter, but it’s not much easier in the spring either, so you may as well go now. The aquarium doesn’t exactly have an offseason, so prepare for crowds even if you think you’re going on an off day.
Like the idea of an aquarium, but you’d rather stay close to home and be an active otter yourself rather than a lot of driving and wandering? You’re in luck – the North Clackamas Aquatic Park is open 1-5pm on weekends and has a number of fun and safe indoor ways for you and your kids to stay active in a wet and wild environment.
Casey Mabbott is a husband and parent first, and also an experienced and dedicated writer and researcher. Born and raised in the Portland area, when Casey is not spending time with his family gallivanting around Portland and the surrounding areas, he genuinely enjoys helping people (especially families) find the “hidden gems” in the Pacific Northwest. In today’s world of lightning fast information at our fingertips, it’s truly a wonder to stumble across a place, an experience, or an activity you’ve never heard of.