Mallory’s parents live in Oregon City, which is just south of Portland, so we visit there all the time. There are tons of young cousins in the family so we have tried just about every kid activity there is within 30 minutes of Oregon City. We finally decided to compile a list of all the stuff we love to do or have tried at least. We will tell you what we recommend and how to do it.
In Oregon City
To be honest, there isn’t a whole lot to do with young kids in Oregon City so we usually end up leaving town to do things, but there are a few things we default to when we don’t want to leave town.
The Mcloughlin Promenade
The McLoughlin Promenade is a favorite afternoon activity of mine. It combines a nice walk with good views and places for the kids to run and climb. If you are lucky, you might get a perfectly placed rainbow like we did after a short rainfall.
The promenade runs from the McLoughlin House to Willamette Falls. When we go, we usually start either at the McLoughlin House or at the Oregon City Elevator. It depends how much time we want to spend there. If it is only going to be an hour or so, we cut off half the walk by starting at the elevator.
If you start by the McLoughlin House, you go down some stairs and will pass by a creek that runs down the hill and get to see some of the plant life that grows along the edge of the cliff.
After the elevator, you walk along the cliff edge with fantastic views to one side and lots of green area to the other side. The grass areas is great for kids to run around and there are trees and big rocks dotted all along the way that make for great climbing and kid games
Toward the end of the promenade, you get a good view of the abandoned paper mill and Willamette Falls. You can take some steps down the hill, cross the street and get a much closer view of the falls. The image below is still from the top of he promenade, but the view you can get is from a viewpoint just out the left side of the frame below.
The McLoughlin Promenade is also a great shot to have some fun with photography. In addition to the great views, there are all kinds of flowers and plants that are fun to photograph. A couple are below and some more in the extra images at the end of the article.
The McLoughlin House marks the north end of the McLoughlin Promenade and stands atop Singer Hill at the corner of Center and 7th. The McLoughlin House was the firs National Historic Site in the West, in 1941, and is part of the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site currently.
We have driven by the McLoughlin House hundreds, if not thousands, of times, but we have only stopped by a couple times as part of a visit to the Promenade. I think it is technically a museum, but I have never seen it open so I think it is only on special occasions.
I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit the McLoughlin House, but if you are visiting the Promenade, the house is a worthwhile spot. There is a nice grass yard the kids can play in and a fun fountain that is especially beloved by small children.
Oregon City Municipal Elevator
The Oregon City Municipal Elevator is on the McLoughlin Promenade and lowers you from the promenade to downtown Oregon City.
The 130 foot tall elevator is a unique gem in Oregon city as it is the only outdoor municipal elevator in the United States and one of only four in the world. It is well worth the visit for the views at the top and the quick ride down. There is always a pleasant operator there that is happy to share interesting nuggets about the elevator.
Downtown Toy Store
At the bottom of the municipal elevator on 7th Street, there is an old toy store that is easy to spot. It is named Coin Corner and Hobbies. It is open 7 days a week from 10-5.
This is always a fun stop after a ride on the elevator. There are a lot of old toys to check out, but also a lot of junk. The store is clean and is an easy way to spend 20-30 minutes and we usually find something fun for the kids to buy.
Oregon City Pool
The Oregon City Swimming Pool is located at 1211 Jackson Street in Oregon City. This is an indoor pool so you can enjoy it year round.
The pool can be fun for most ages, but probably not little kids unless the outside portion is open. It is a 25 meter pool with 6 swimming lanes, a diving board, water slide and basketball hoop.
The free swim schedule can be a bit random with only a couple days open during the winter, so be sure to check the current schedule before you go.
If you do have smaller kids and the pool doesn’t work out well for them, there is an indoor playground available too. The playground is designed for smaller kids, but the price is definitely affordable. The price is $3 per kid, but parents and children under 12 months are free! Once again, the schedule can be a little weird so be sure to check out the current schedule before you go.
The swimming pool is also pretty cheap, with entry costing between $3.50-$5.00 and a discounted family price too.
Rivercrest Park is one of many parks in Oregon City, but it is probably our favorite when summer rolls around. The park is located on Park Dr. just off Linn Avenue.
Most of the park is just a big grass field with lots of big trees and a shelter. But there is also a swingset, playground, horseshoe pits, tennis courts and basketball. In the summer, the park gets much more exciting when the splash pad is running!
Albeke Farms is a great place for berry picking if you are in Oregon City during the summer or fall. Albeke Farms is located at 16107 S Wilson Road on the outskirts of Oregon City.
Depending when you are visiting, you might be able to pick strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, boysenberries, marionberries, apples, peaches, pickles, tomatoes, beans, pumpkins or grapes.
Indian Springs Trout Farm
If you want fishing near Oregon City, Indian Springs is a fun place to take little kids. It is also on the outskirts of town, being located on S Springwater Rd. and S Fischers Mill Rd halfway toward Estacada.
If we are honest, the Rainbow Trout Farm in Sandy is way better (see our review here), but Indian Springs if fun if you don’t care about actually catching fish as much and don’t want to drive. The lands are nice and we caught some frogs and snakes last time we went, just no fish.
It was actually really frustrating to watch fish swimming around and having no interest in biting any of our worms! I don’t know if it was just a bad day, but the fish were plenty full and had no interest in food.
Places in Nearby Towns
As there isn’t a whole lot of kid activities in Oregon City, you will need to get out of town if you are staying for very long. Luckily, there are some fun things to do that are pretty close by and don’t require driving all the way into Portland.
Rossee Possee Elk Farm in Molalla
The Rossee Possee Elk Farm is located just outside of Oregon City in Molalla. We had a bunch of people in town for Thanksgiving and found this elk farm on Groupon (the Groupon saved us a ton of money so be sure to check and see if is available before visiting)
Everyone from old to young had a really great time at the elk farm. You start off in the barn where the owner gives a fairly long introduction to the farm and teaches you all about elk. The youngest of kids struggled through this portion as they wanted to run around, but all the adults and older kids found it fascinating.
From there, you head out to see the herds of elk. I was a bit bummed that I couldn’t get close enough to the fence (they make you stay about ten feet back) to get clear shots of the elk.
It is also a bummer that they have to cut off the antlers (it is a safety issue that you learn about on the tour). So other than not getting the photo opportunities I was hoping for, it was really cool to see the elk up close and watch them eat.
After seeing the elk, I thought we were done, but there is a great little petting zoo with ducks, a turkey and tons of goats that you can play in.
Our kids loved this area and happily climbed around and chased the goats.
There is also a play set that our kids enjoyed spending some time playing on while we asked questions of the tour guide and visited the gift shop for some elk jerky.
Mary S. Young Park in West Linn
Mary S. Young Park is located in West Linn along the Willamette River. The park is most popular as a dog park, but it is also popular for bird watchers. In the summer; however, it is awesome for families with kids because there is a great beach area along the river.
The walk to the beach from the parking lot kind of sucks because you are always carrying a lot of stuff like chairs, sand toys and food. The walk is long, but it is also scenic with lots of big trees and grass.
There are a couple trails to get to the beach. If you stick to the right it takes you down a paved trail that is easier with wagons and strollers. If you take the left path it is a bit more scenic, but involves a set of stairs.
The actual beach area is really fun though and the cold river is refreshing on a hot day. The sand is great for little kids and there is a little cove of shallow water that allows kids to play while you watch from the beach.
If you have older kids, the beach area is also fun due to all the big rocks that the kids can climb on and jump off into the river. Even I had some fun playing and jumping off the rocks.
JJ Jump in Clackamas
JJ Jump is an indoor play area in Clackamas that we go to quite often when we need something to do for a couple hours with the kids. It isn’t a huge play place, but we like it because it is easy to watch the kids and they have a great time.
One thing we love is that the prices are not bad at all. Entry is $4.00-$7.00 per kid, but adults have free entry, which I really appreciate in a play place.
JJ Jump consists of 3 rooms: a small toddler play area, a big room full of inflatables and another big room with more inflatables and a giant swing.
The inflatables in the big room were the most fun for our kids. If you have smaller kids, there is also a smaller inflatable reserved for toddlers that is the perfect set up.
Our kids didn’t love the inflatables as much in the second room, which is dark with black lights. They did love the swing though. It looked like a lot of fun, but the line was always forever long.
The kids didn’t mind waiting though and I really appreciated how efficient the employee was working. He was non-stop always prepping or starting someone on the swing. It was quite refreshing to see someone working so hard.
Hidden Falls Nature Park
This is a relatively new park that opened up easy access to a previously difficult to reach waterfall located in east Clackamas toward Damascus.
The waterfall is on Rock Creek and can be accessed from the west side if you park in a neighborhood (Pioneer Dr.) off SE 152nd Ave.
The easier way to find access in my opinion is from the east side, which can be found off SE 162nd just west of Hood View Park.
The hike down is all paved. It is short, but quite steep. We had lots of young kids and it was not a problem at all.
The trail bottoms out at Rock Creek where a picturesque wooden bridge crosses the creek and gives you a view of the waterfall.
The viewpoints aren’t the best, but it can make for some fun drone flying to get down by the base of the waterfall.
There is also a little path on the east side of the bridge that leads to the top of the waterfall.
Enchanted Forest in Salem
Enchanted Forest is one of Mallory’s favorite places from her childhood and she now loves taking our kids there. She likes to describe Enchanted Forest as Disneyland on a 1970’s acid trip. After my first visit, I had to admit it was a pretty apt description.
The park costs nothing like Disney Land of course, but it also isn’t cheap. Our family of four easily spent over $100 at Enchanted Forest.
You start Enchanted Forest going through a castle building and then walking a path through the forest that is lined with themed installations and scenes from different fairy tales.
Some of the exhibits we stopped at included Humpty Dumpty.
This crazy witch that was actually a slide.
Hansel and Gretel.
After you get through the story area, there is a great bean bag slide for the kids.
Then you head into Western Town, which is a collection of shops and some great street performers.
After Western Town, you can head to the carnival rides. The rides aren’t anything real exciting, but they are great for little kids. There is also a haunted house you can visit if you dare.
As you can see, our little London was not up for the haunted house, but both of our girls loved the little train.
The bumper boats didn’t work very well, which was annoying, but the girls still had fun riding them multiple times.
And, of course, the carousel was their favorite part.
Finally, you end in a medieval land with more stores and attractions.
All in all, our kids love Enchanted Forest. It is always their favorite day when we visit Oregon.
Oaks Amusement Park in Sellwood
This amusement park, located in Sellwood, is another fun adventure for slightly older kids (think 6-12).
The park has a number of attractions including thrill rides, family rides, kids rides, roller skating, miniature golf, go karts and fair food. An individual ride is going to set you back a ridiculous $5, but you can get bracelets at a much better value, ranging from $20 to $42.
North Clackamas Aquatic Park
Although I am not a huge fan of this aquatic center, we go to it quite often because it is the best one near to Oregon City and the kids love it. We also recently have been able to find a killer groupon deal that saves you about half off then entrance fee and included free rock climbing. Without the groupon deal, I think the cost is a bit excessive for what you get.
This aquatic park includes a lap pool, diving board, hot tub, rock climbing wall, wave pool, 3 slides and 2 small kid areas. Our younger kids love the wave pool, but it is the worst wave pool I have ever been in so don’t get your hopes up too much.
The slides are decent, but all have 48 inch height requirements and they are very strict, which is a bummer. Our kids have been able to ride much bigger slides at many other water parks and haven’t been allowed on these at 47 inches.
The Oregon Zoo is in Portland just west of Downtown. It is not the best zoo you will visit, but it does have some unique things worth seeing.
Elephants are a big part of this zoo so if you have an elephant lover, it will be worth the trip. There is also a lot of animals native to the Northwest so it can be fun to see animals you aren’t used to seeing at other bigger zoos.
The zoo isn’t terribly large so you can see it all in a half day if you want without killing yourself.
The biggest issue I have with the Oregon Zoo is that it is really overpriced. For the size of the zoo, it should not be $17.95 for ages 12 and up and $12.95 for ages 3 and up. This is especially painful after you have to pay for parking and overpriced sub-par food.
To get a much better idea what the zoo has to offer, including each of its different attractions, review our full guide on the Oregon Zoo here.
OMSI is the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. OMSI is about what you would expect in a children’s science center. The prices are excessive, but we get in for free (except for some exhibits) with reciprocity from one of our local museums so be sure to check out your memberships.
Other than the temporary exhibits that are an extra charge, OMSI has a space science center with a planetarium, a chemistry and physics room, a play area for younger kids and toddlers, and a natural sciences room.
The Portland Children’s Museum is probably about what you would expect from a children’s museum in any bigger city. I personally hate going to regular children’s museums that aren’t unique, but our kids always love them.
My biggest complaint about children’s museums is applicable here in that they charge for parents to enter even though we are only there for the kids. The Portland Children’s Museum is $11 (which isn’t terrible) for anyone over 1 year old (that is the part I hate).
Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden
The Rhododendron Garden is one of our favorite places to spend an hour or two when we just want to walk and let the kids burn off some energy. The Garden is located near Reed College in South Portland.
I am always surprised that it costs money to enter the garden as it seems like a city park that would be free, but the entry fee is only $5 and kids aged 12 and under are free so it is not enough to really bother me.
There is also free entrance on Mondays and Tuesdays so that is a great time to visit.
The garden features a lake and small streams and water features with beautiful trees, flowers, ducks and, of course, rhododendrons.
One of the great things is that you get to see a variety of different ducks, and my personal favorite, wood ducks, are always a highlight.
Here is a unique duck we found that I haven’t seen other places.
Of course, with all the flowers around, it is easy to find things to explore and photograph.
Portland Saturday Market
The Saturday Market is a popular tradition in Portland that is held every Saturday and Sunday from March through December. It is located in the Tom McCall Waterfront Park underneath the Burnside Bridge.
It is the largest continuously operated outdoor market in the United States. It is full of fun and unique vendors. We love markets, but have been to so many we get sick of seeing the same stuff at every one. It is fun seeing some actually unique things.
While the actual market is better suited for older kids, the Skidmore Fountain at the market is a great stop for younger kids wanting to play in the water if it hot enough out.
In full disclosure, we haven’t been to the market in a few years. With the homeless problem out of control in downtown Portland, we haven’t been eager to venture down to the market.
Portland Japanese Garden
The Portland Japanese Garden is one of those classic Portland spots that is well worth a visit. It is located west of Portland, near the Oregon Zoo.
While I love the Japanese Garden for its beauty and peaceful nature, the price is obscene in my opinion. While it is great that 5 and under are free, the admission for others ranges from $13.95 to $19.95. $20 for a garden is just ridiculous to me, but I guess I am cheap, which you probably concluded long ago.
Notwithstanding the price, it is worth the splurge to experience such a unique location. Be sure to check out more of the Portland Japanese Garden’s Instagram for beautiful images, like the one below from Lisa Christy.
One cool thing that separates the Portland Japanese Garden from what you would expect is a cultural village where you can learn a lot about Japanese culture and go beyond just experiencing a peaceful garden.
The garden is famous for its fall colors in a maple tree, but it also features cherry blossoms, a small waterfall, a zen garden and much more. You can see part of the awesome zen garden in the image below from wedding photographer Lushi Song, who graciously provided it.
The Japanese Garden probably isn’t the best for small kids, but it can be a nice escape for a half day.
Lan Su Chinese Garden
The Chinese Garden is quite a bit different than the Japanese Garden. It is located nearer to downtown, just north of downtown and down the street from Voodoo Donuts.
The Chinese Garden is a bit cheaper at $12.95 for adults, but it also features less of the cultural displays and is a smaller garden.
You probably won’t spend more than an hour here, but it is a beautiful setting in downtown with the juxtaposition of skyscrapers in view outside its peaceful square.
Like the Japanese Garden, the Chinese Garden isn’t the best for small kids, but because you will spend less time here, your kids will stay better entertained and it can make a great break if you happen to be downtown with your kids.
A water feature at the Rhododendron Garden.
Another shot at the Chinese Garden.
The Cousins posing in a beautiful tree along the McLoughlin Promenade.
We got flowers on the McLoughlin Promenade in mid-February.
another detail shot of some plants that are easy to spot along the McLoughlin Promenade.
Some more close up shots from a bit later in the spring or early summer.
You can see the beautiful stone railing that runs along the McLoughlin Promenade. in many places it is right up against the edge so you want to watch the little ones. Our boy constantly tried to climb through to get to the cliff.
Another cousin picture posing on some of the many rocks along the McLoughlin Promenade.
A shot of Willamette Falls from the McLoughlin Promenade-taken with a really old camera back in 2009.
London loved chasing the goats at the elk farm.
The petting zoo at the elk farm was loaded with toys and stuff for our little kids to do that sweetened the experience.
The kids loved climbing on the tires at the elk farm. Plus, look at all those elk in the background!
Turkeys at the elk farm.
Our whole group on the tour at the elk farm.
Harper riding the slide at Enchanted Forest.
Waiting for the train ride at Enchanted Forest.
The train ride in motion.
Face painting at Enchanted Forest was expensive, but our kids loved it.
Part of Western Town at Enchanted Forest.
Another shot at Enchanted Forest.
Another Exhibit at Enchanted Forest.
On the scenic path to the beach at Mary S. Young Park.
Some additional drone shots from Mary S. Young Park.
Another long exposure from Mary S. Young Park.
A couple more pictures from Mary S. Young Park in West Linn.
Another shot of Hidden Falls.
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