Top 12 Best Museums for Kids in Portland

Museums aren’t always enticing for all the family and some have, stuffy, quiet, and not very entertaining. This is not necessarily the best place for kids and young children to go and learn, but in Portland, Oregon they have now dedicated museums to the young. Interactive displays and days are free for adults and children to help promote education in a fun and informative manner. Here are the most popular, educational, most fun or just the best museums for kids in Portland, Oregon…

1. Portland Art Museum – one of Portland’s best museums where kids go free

Portland Art Museum - Portland

The museum has a strong sense of family enjoying the arts together, There is free entry for children under 17 years of age.

Baby mornings are held on the first Thursday of every month which gives a chance for parents and kids to get hands-on and enjoy creating art together. Millar Free day gives a free opportunity for any age to come and enjoy the museum (dates vary).

Address: 1219 SW Park Avenue, Portland, OR 97205

2. Hands On Children’s Museum – an amazing attraction that offers 150 exhibits and 10 galleries, perfect for children

Hands On Children's Museum - Olympia

This nonprofit organization has the sole purpose of educating kids through fun means, using interactive techniques that are unrivaled in the Portland area. It is the perfect place to take children on school tours and family day trips. Highly educational and highly recommended by educators and parents.

This award-winning facility has been voted “The most fun place for kids” for a decade and has been awarded accolades by The Olympian newspaper, Tripadvisor, and is held in high regard by the community.

With programs to suit any child of any ability, you can’t go wrong by taking the family for a bit of good old hands-on fun.

Address: 414 Jefferson NE, Olympia, WA, 98501  

3. Columbia River Maritime Museum – one of the top maritime museums in the country, ideal for kids of all ages

Columbia River Maritime Museum - Oregon

A fun day out for the kids and very educational, the museum is on many school’s field trips programs and is a pleasure to take the kids for a family afternoon excursion at the weekend.

The kids will learn all about the wild Columbia River from traversing one of the world’s most dangerous bar crossings anywhere in the world, to how the coastguards manage to keep people safe. Very educational and yet still remains highly enjoyable.

Address:1792 Marine Dr. Astoria, Oregon 97103

4. Children’s Museum of Tacoma – a lively play-based facility in the heart of downtown Tacoma that provides 5 playscapes for the little ones

Children's Museum of Tacoma

The museum is very much for younger kids and has the belief that the best way for kids to learn is to have fun whilst doing so. With that in mind, they try to make it an enjoyable day out and highly educational.

Since opening its doors 5 years ago they have helped with the development of thousands of children of all abilities. With dedicated staff and carers who take their work with children very seriously yet, they still ensure that the core values of the Children’s Museum are fun and education.

They also have an admission policy of just making a donation when you enter, which makes it affordable for every family to visit.

Address: 1501 Pacific Avenue, Tacoma, WA 98402

5. Olympia Pinball Museum – an awesome museum to enjoy with children where all games are free to play

Olympia Pinball Museum - South Olympia

The Olympia Pinball Museum is a great way to get your kids away from the Xbox or whatever they are playing and enjoy a full-on old-fashioned hands-on fun experience.

The owners and staff are very passionate about their museum and really enjoy interacting with the children, for many it will be something they have never experienced before. Yet it still has educational benefits, giving kids an insight into what entertainment was before the digital revolution.

It is also great for adults bringing back memories of their childhood, you can even sip from a glass bottle of Pepsi whilst leaning against the machines, very nostalgic, just remember you’re here for the kids and let them have all the fun.

Address: 509 Capitol Way South Olympia, WA, 98501

6. Gilbert House Children’s Museum – an inspiring kid’s museum where the aim is to teach through creative play

Gilbert House Children's Museum - Salem OR

Founded in 1989 the museum is a non-profit organization with one goal, to educate children whilst making it a thoroughly fun time for children. With 20 hands-on exhibits and outdoor activities during the summer months, there is plenty to entertain the kids and parents alike.

The institution prides itself on educating children from all social and ethnic backgrounds, everybody is welcome. The main programs are interactive programs including, the Arts, Science, and Humanities. But it is also great for children who may be quiet in school and feel intimidated not releasing their full potential.

At Gilbert House, Children’s Museum children are made to feel very comfortable with the help of very professional staff and a safe environment. A small entrance fee is required to maintain the program and discounts for service members.

Address: 116 Marion St, Salem, OR 97301

7. Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks & Minerals – a cool museum that is home to fine galleries and displays, suitable for kids 

Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks & Minerals - Portland

This museum whilst retaining a fun factor is a little bit more serious, not only is it very educational for children but most adults could learn a few things too. With multiple displays and exhibits to take in, including The Adventures of Bruce Carter, a famed local who scoured the world in search of rare and interesting minerals.

The Destination Moon display is all about the Apollo Moon landings which is a favorite for many children. The museum runs these programs in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and The National Air and Space Museum, ensuring a high level of production and maximum education. A great day out for all the family is guaranteed.

Address: 26385 NW Groveland Dr. Hillsboro, OR 97124

8. Pittock Mansion – an astonishing child-friendly museum that is full of history and beauty

Pittock Mansion - Portland

Pittock Mansion was originally built and occupied from 1914 until 1918 and has largely remained untouched. Giving a fascinating insight into how life was for the gentry over 100 years ago.

The museum is educational and child friendly, with its large gardens to walk with the kids in after exploring this magnificent former residence. Visiting around Christmas time is great for kids as there is a stunning light display.

Address: 3229 NW Dr, Portland, OR 97210

9. Kidd Toy Museum – a fun and unique toy museum that exhibits toys from 1869 to 1939, great for kids and adults 

Kidd Toy Museum - Portland

For a fun and interesting day out the museum offers an insight into how children’s toys used to be made and not just mass-produced in a factory.

The museum offers over 15,000 toys that are largely handmade from scrap materials. Frank Kidd traveled the United States and the world to build his collection, his desire was borne from his own childhood where he found there was little in entertainment. When he was an adult decided he would make some of his own toys and bring joy to future generations. The desk clerk is very friendly and loves to talk and show the pieces to children. 

Don’t let the exterior fool you, the house goes a long way back and there are thousands of toys on the second floor. Frank is now semi-retired but occasionally gives personal tours and you can see the pride he has for the collection. His face lights up when he sees the children smiling and enjoying themselves.

Address: 1301 SE Grand Ave, Portland, OR 97202

10. The Freakybuttrue Peculiarium and Museum a peculiar museum that features bizarre and spooky exhibits, artwork and merchandise

The Freakybuttrue Peculiarium and Museum - Portland

This museum has to be one of the most bizarre museums in the country, housing displays of surreal artwork. Dedicated to all things weird, an afternoon here will not disappoint both children and adults. Open since 1967 and continuously hand-making new content, the staff are friendly and are happy to show you around and explain some of their ideas and concepts.

Some are truly baffling but it makes for a great day and is pretty unique. Some displays may not be suitable for very young kids but it’s all done in good taste. Not necessarily educational but great family fun all the same.

Address: 2234 NW Thurman St, Portland, OR 97210

11. World Forestry Center – an educational institution that supports the future of forests, perfect for a day out with the kids

World Forestry Center - Portland

The Worlds Forestry Museum is an educational yet fun experience for kids, helping them to understand the need for environmental awareness. The museum has incorporated lots of child-friendly areas including tunnels and caves which give them a feeling of the outdoors.

The tunnels and caves are located indoors and supervised by guides, this makes the attraction ideal for rainy days. Located over 2 floors the museum has first-floor exhibits and displays concerning the forests of the Pacific NW, allowing kids to learn about their immediate environment.

The second floor boasts exhibits from forests all over the world, rotating displays which include the arts and the history will leave children mesmerized.

Address: 4033 SW Canyon Road, Portland, OR 97221

12. The Historic Belmont Firehouse – a historic family-friendly museum that provides tours and a great experience

The Historic Belmont Firehouse - Portland

Let’s face it many children including ourselves at some point when asked what they would like to be when they are older and many will answer, a fireman. For many, it became reality, not just a dream, at The Belmont Firehouse you can experience what it can be like to be a fireman.

With open days and tours led by experienced and fun firemen and women, they strive to educate and yet still make it a great day for the kids. They can even slide down the call to action poll under safe supervision. A fantastic day for all the family.

Note: At the time of writing the station is closed due to Covid restrictions.

Address: 55 SW Ash St, Portland, OR 97204


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