The other day, as my kids were scream-fighting over a bouncy ball and I was hiding behind the kitchen island/taking a lie-down on the floor, I realized I had not been beyond a one-block radius of my house in seven days. Here I was, getting a very close-up view of all the crumbs along the baseboards, because I hadn’t done anything outside the home in a week. I know I’m not the only rainy day stir-crazy mom out there, so for all y’all desperate parents, I thought I’d put together a resource list of indoor kids activities in Portland, Oregon and the Portland metro area.
Many of these places we have tried; others I can’t wait to visit. And there are indoor kids activities in this overflowing-with-fun list for just about every flavor: activities for toddlers, preschoolers, big kids—and even parents who may or may not want a mimosa on a weekday. (Hey-o!)
Arts studios that will clean up mashed clay for you? Check.
Restaurants that include play places (and aren’t McDonald’s)? Check.
Gyms that encourage your kids to literally climb the walls? Check.
These indoor kids activities in Portland equal your sanity-saving plan for all the rainy, snowy, sleety weather we still have to endure. Winter, eat your heart out, ’cause this family is now prepared with plenty of indoor family activities that don’t include lying facedown on the floor.
Indoor Kids Activities in Portland
Library story time. Libraries around time have programming tailored for every age group, where kids can sing, craft and, of course, listen to stories. Tip: Some story times fill up, so you have to get there right on time or even a few minutes early to guarantee a spot.
Library activities. From learning Spanish or sign to toddler dance parties, libraries are happenin’ places! Look through the events page and check back often, as they add programming when they win grants or get funding.
Play cafes. Whoever thought of making a cafe with a giant play area should win the freakin’ Nobel Peace Prize. Parents get a jolt of caffeine (or a bit of booze—no judgment!) while kids play—and leave you to sip a coffee that’s been reheated zero times. We love Pied Piper in Sellwood, Southeast’s TaborSpace and Southwest Portland’s Maplewood Coffee & Tea; also check out Lake Oswego’s The Play Boutique, Wipper Snappers in Sandy and Roseway Play Cafe in Hollywood.
Restaurants. Feeding your kid without having to cook or do the dishes—what’s not to love? And when you can let them play to their heart’s content instead of fidgeting in high chairs, everyone ends up happy. Try Hopworks Urban Brewery, Max’s Fanno Creek Brew Pub in Tigard, Nicoli’s in Lake Oswego and Laughing Planet.
Play gyms. When the kids are using your home like a jungle gym—doing parkour on the couches, say, or swinging from the curtains—it’s time to let them loose in an actual play gym. Some are dedicated spaces, like The Playground Gym in Northeast Portland; others are temporary setups in community centers or actual gyms, like Tigard’s Indoor Play Park and Oregon City’s Indoor Playground.
Play spaces. With something for everyone, play spaces like Tigard’s Jenni and Tommy’s Kids Unplugged are worth every cent of admission. They have different rooms for different interests, like a dress-up area, a train room and a big jungle gym. Speaking from experience, the enormous bean pit is in itself worth the drive!
The hardware store. Carts shaped like race cars, a million fans and lights, wide aisles perfect for racing and even dogs—these are just a few reasons why The Home Depot is like a giant playground where you can also get spare lightbulbs and batteries. Our local Ace Hardware also has kid-sized carts Peeper loves to push as we peruse paint colors.
The mall. True, the mall’s indoor playgrounds are surely cesspools of rotavirus, but when you need to get out of the house, you need to get out of the house. Just bring wipes and hand sanitizer.
Bounce houses. Kids can literally jump their jiggles out in indoor bounce houses like JJ Jump in Clackamas and Vancouver, and Pump It Up in Beaverton. These places have a variety of blow-up castles, slides and mazes as well as play areas for when your kids need a little time with both feet on the ground.
Climbing gyms. I don’t know about your kids, but mine are miniature monkeys. Instead of trying to keep ’em on the floor, try taking them to a climbing gym like The Circuit (multiple locations) or Northeast’s Portland Rock Gym. Look on the web site for kids’ open climbing times, and read all the instructions before going. The Circuit requires a one adult to one child ratio, so if you were hoping to take all your kids by yourself, they won’t allow it for safety. (Another tip: The Circuit’s Tigard location has a set-up where kids can climb up a wall and slide back down. Wheeee!)
Gymnastics gyms. Ali of Run Knit Love tipped me off to the wonders of gymnastics open gyms, where your kids can jump into ball pits, go nuts on trampolines and test out the balance beam. Try The Children’s Gym in NE Portland, Westside Academy in Tigard and Naydenov Gymnastics in Vancouver. Pro tip: You can test out a dance, gymnastics or tumbling class (though not open play) for free at most gyms to see if it’s a good fit for your kids.
Trampoline joints. It’s no secret ’round these parts that my kids love their trampoline, but they may turn up their noses at their tiny one once they catch air at these places: the wall-to-wall trampolines of Southeast Portland and Vancouver’s G6 (which has a separate tramp for littles, and dodgeball or basketball dunk baskets for the bigger ones) and Tigard’s Sky High Sports with its dedicated court for kids under 6.
Arts and crafts studios. For kids who love to be creative (and the parents who don’t want to clean up after them), drop-in crafts spaces are perfect indoor kids activities. Try Multnomah Village’s The Craft Factory, Beaverton’s Masterpiece Art Studio (which includes clay, yay!), Spark Art Center and the Portland Child Art Studio (which offers discounts for kids of families on public assistance). There are also tons of paint-your-own ceramics spots; just google one near you. (Looking for more? PDX Parent has a great resource of Portland area arts and crafts studios.)
Music jams. West Linn’s nonprofit Youth Music Project offers all-ages open mic, karaoke and guitar/ukulele jam nights—all for free! Check the events calendar for timing.
See a movie. Movie theaters that actually encourage kids to come? That is worth checking out. Catch a show at Portland’s kid friendly movie theaters: Academy Theater in Southeast Portland (which offers slammin’ deals on tickets Mondays and Tuesdays), McMenamins Kennedy School (which has mommy matinees where even crying babies are welcome, and where you can hit up the warm soaking pool after the movie), Southeast Portland’s Laurelhurst Theater (where kids’ matinee tickets are just a few bucks) and Tigard’s Joy Cinema (with Monday tickets at only $1!).
Go skating. Remember lacing up your skates and eyeing unfamiliar kids to an 80s soundtrack? The music might have changed, but your kids can have a similar experience at roller skating and ice skating rinks. Check out Oaks Park (which has a preschool skate on Tuesdays and Wednesdays), Gresham’s Skate World and the Lloyd Center Ice rink.
Go to a museum. Portland’s kid friendly museums are crowded on crummy days for a reason: They’re fun! Try OMSI, the Portland Children’s Museum, the Portland Art Museum (which offers awesome family programming, like Baby Mornings on the first Thursday of the month and Sunday family tours) or—for the kids obsessed with cops and uniforms—the (free) Portland Police Museum.
Please weigh in: What indoor kids activities in Portland (or the surrounding metro area) did I miss? What rainy day outings do you do with your family?