Best Family-Friendly Museums in Portland

The Top Ten Family Friendly Museums in Portland, Oregon

Looking for a great place to take the kids that is also educational? In Portland there are a variety of museums, some kid friendly and some not so much. So where is the best place to head if you have kids? We have compiled a list of the top ten family friendly museums in Portland, Oregon, so that you know the best places to head to and what to expect when you get there. We have done the ground work figuring out which museums in the city are best for kids and why. For example the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry is geared for kids with tons of hands on activities, including science experiments, making it an extra fun museum for families. Then there's the Historic Belmont Firehouse that is almost a local secret, but a fabulous museum for families, especially those with kids into being a fire fighter someday. The Portland Art Museum makes our list for having a special day every week just for kids, making an internationally known art museum family friendly. We included the Portland Children's Museum which is dedicated to hands on learning for children making it the perfect place for families.

We hope you enjoy our top ten family friendly museum list and have a fun family day at one of them.


Oregon City is an easy drive from Portland, and the Interpretive Center, with its covered-wagon-style buildings, is worth the journey. The Center is especially great for kids since it has costumed interpreters and plenty of things to see and touch. Theaters present videos of the journey west, and exhibits provide details of pioneers, Black families in the West, and the coming of the railroad. A craft workshop offers visitors hands-on activities, and the summer months bring a host of special events. If you need souvenirs or other gifts, the museum store will set you up right.

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: The Interpretive Center is fun for kids, because the interpreters dress in costume.

Meagan's expert tip: Be sure to check their hours before driving out to visit, they have odd hours.

Read more about The End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center →

Built for Henry and Georgiana Pittock (who lived in the house from 1914 to 1918), the Pittock Mansion is a stunning architectural specimen and a repository for elegant furnishings. Pittock Mansion has 22 rooms and the gardens outside having stunning views of Portland and Mt. Hood. It was eventually purchased by the state and opened to the public in 1965. Henry remains a Portland icon, well-known for his involvement with the local paper, The Oregonian. Georgiana was a major player in community projects and initiated the renowned Rose Festival. House tours provide insight into the life of the wealthy in Portland's early days.

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: Pittock Mansion is a kid friendly museum that is interesting for kids.

Meagan's expert tip: Visit around Christmas time to delight in the decorations.

Read more about Pittock Mansion →

Oregon Historical Society Museum

History buffs and novices alike will enjoy a visit to this informative museum that tells the tale of the Native Americans and hearty pioneers that settled the Oregon Territory in the mid 19th century. The Oregon my Oregon exhibit will walk you through Oregon's entire history with 50 separate displays that include the Oregon Trail, the Great Depression and World War II. Located downtown across from the Portland Art Museum, the museum houses approximately 85,000 artifacts, photos, books, map and videotape as well as a research library that relates Oregon's history from early days until present. The historians that work their are highly educated on all things Oregon and interesting to speak with.

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: This museum presents information in a kid friendly way making it a great learning experience for children.

Meagan's expert tip: Multnomah county residents receive free admission.

Read more about Oregon Historical Society Museum →

Museum of Contemporary Craft

If you are a DIY kind of person or crafter you will love this museum. In partnership with Pacific Northwest College of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Craft examines the past, present and future of craft and design. The permanent collection includes 1,000 objects, most of which are mid-century ceramics, but the museum's holdings also include works in clay, fiber, glass, metal and wood. Ongoing visiting exhibits examine new movements and interesting innovations. Local artists are often featured here and sometimes on hand to talk about their creations with visitors. If you'll feel inspired after your tour, you can purchase a one-of-a-kind souvenir in The Gallery.

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: Kids are free and they have drop in and make classes for kids.

Meagan's expert tip: They offer complimentary admission on the 1st Thursday of the month.

Read more about Museum of Contemporary Craft →

Cultural District
Portland Art Museum

Founded in 1892, the Portland Art museum is the seventh oldest museum in the nation and the oldest in the Pacific Northwest. The Portland Art Museum is renowned for its extensive permanent collection, which showcases everything from rare and expertly restored ancient works to veritable contemporary masterpieces. Highlights include a diverse collection of Native American art, authentic English silver, a 5,000-work collection of 19th and 20th century photography and a collect of European art including their most famous piece Vincent van Gogh's The Ox-Cart. The campus also includes the Jubitz Center for Modern and Contemporary Art, Gilkey Center for Graphic Arts, and Northwest Film Center.

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: Sunday afternoons begin with a kid-friendly tour, followed by interactive art--making activities in the colorful Kinney Classroom.

Meagan's expert tip: They offer several free seminars for teachers throughout the year.

Read more about Portland Art Museum →

Oregon Maritime Center and Museum

For a real taste of maritime travel and commerce in years past, you'll want to visit this intriguing museum. Its exhibits feature navigation instruments, model ships, photographs, memorabilia and artifacts from actual vessels. Exhibits are housed on the last operating steam-powered sternwheeler "Portland" moored in the river. The U.S. Portland is on the National Registry of Historic Places. Volunteers will guide you through the ship including the engine room and pilot house. There's a children's corner where children can touch nautical objects and blow the ship's whistle. Active duty military recieve free admission and so do children 6 and under.

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: Oregon Maritime Center and Museum has a corner just for kids.

Meagan's expert tip: Children 6 and under receive free admission.

Read more about Oregon Maritime Center and Museum →

This impressive museum next door to the Oregon Zoo is styled like a contemporary lodge and educates visitors on forests around the world. The role of woodlands in nature and in human life is detailed, and old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest and rainforests of the tropics serve as prominent examples. Ecology, wildlife and conservation are all addressed, and a giant, artificial Douglas fir serves as a talking guide for visitors. Many of the exhibits are hands on and great for kids. Special exhibits are displayed regularly, and a gift shop sells relevant merchandise. On some evenings they offer a special time for those 21+ to learn and drink.

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: The World Forestry Center is an educational museum great for families.

Meagan's expert tip: They offer $3 admission on the 1st Wednesday of each month.

Read more about World Forestry Center →

Financial District

This interactive museum seeks to stimulate children's interest in the natural world and in society. Hands on exhibits foster an understanding of such concepts as sound, gravity and medicine by promoting experimentation and fun. Kids can toy with light and shadow, manipulate water-powered machinery, create with clay, play dress-up, and work on art projects too. A grocery store and cafe provide them the opportunity to experience the world of adults and expand their boundaries even further. They also have rotating exhibits like Dinosaurs: Fire and Ice, where kids have the chance to explore dinosaurs and the environment they lived in hands on.

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: The Portland Children's Museum is a great place for a family to spend the day.

Meagan's expert tip: On the 1st Friday of the month it's free admission from 4 PM - 8 PM.

Read more about Portland Children's Museum →

Dedicated to technology and science, this museum offers interactive educational exhibits that everyone can enjoy. The museum's six huge halls are filled with hands-on displays related to everything from outer space to computers. Labs throughout the museum offer more in-depth exploration with exhibits like the chemistry lab and the life lab, which houses various live animals and insects. Upstairs they offer a large area just for younger children where they can play and learn through hands on exibits like a sand area and water area. Downstairs they have rotating national exibits like Lego's and Bodies. Beyond the exhibits, the museum features an Omnimax theater, planetarium and motion simulator.

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: OMSI is a great museum full of fun hands on activities for the whole family.

Meagan's expert tip: Visit on the 1st Sunday of the month for $2 admission.

Read more about Oregon Museum of Science and Industry →

Jeff Morris Fire & Life Safety Foundation and Portland Fire & Rescue have teamed up to bring you a remarkable facility known as the "Safety Learning Center & Fire Museum," at the Historic Belmont Firehouse. Tours are usually last an hour or more. During the tour you can experience the "Fire Engine Experience" emergency response simulator and the firehouse fire pole. Exhibits include the "Greater Alarm Dispatch Board", a firefighter photo display, the "Destructive Power of Fire" exhibit, and the fire engine pump panel exhibit. They also have a theater room showing safety education. You will see antique equipment like the 1859 Jeffers Sidestroke Handpumper, the 1879 Amoskeag Steam Pumper, the 1860 Hose Cart, and a variety of hand tools used over the past 150 years. A 30 minute audio tour is available for $1. They also have a gift shop and safety store.

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: The Historic Belmont Firehouse is a fun museum for kids.

Meagan's expert tip: You can request a tour on their website.

Read more about Historic Belmont Firehouse →


Meet Meagan Wristen

Meagan Wristen is an Oregon resident by choice and thinks Portland is a tremendous city that everyone should visit. Originally a Texas girl, she has lived all around the United States,...  More About Meagan