Portland's Top 10 Indoor Attractions

Published Sep 19, 2019 | Updated Oct 28, 2019

With the weather turning grey and rainy, it's good to have an arsenal of indoor activities at your disposal. Portland has many educational, indoor attractions. Here are 10 of our favourites. 

Surprise, surprise, another rainy day in Portland. The kids have just spent the whole week stuck in the classroom and they're dying to get out of the house for a fun adventure. What are you going to do? Have no fear! Your list of Portland's Top Indoor Attractions is here. Like all big cities, Portland has a variety of excellent educational experiences and exhibits. So, when the rain strikes again, take the family to one of these awesome spots. 

1. Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

With 200 interactive exhibits and activities--that's right, 200--the OMSI is the great place to visit on a rainy day. There's something fun for everyone and you'll never get bored! The museum is designed to encourage visitors of all ages to learn and use their imaginations. Kids and adults can put on their lab coats and be scientists for the day by visiting the Chemistry and Physics Labs. If you're fascinated with the universe, you might take a trip to the Kendall Planetarium to learn about what's happening in the night sky. But that's only the beginning; there's a lot to discover. Don't take my word for it. Visit the OMSI ASAP! 

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2. Portland Children's Museum

Kids will be praying for a rainy day if they know that means that they'll get to go to the Portland Children's Museum. In addition to its 13 fun and creative exhibits, Portland Children's Museum hosts a handful of daily workshops so you get more bang for your buck. Staff members lead families through storytimes and hands-on projects, such as craft making and taking apart instruments and putting them back together. If you're drawing a blank when it comes to fun things to do with the kids, Portland Children's Museum is always an easy and fun solution. 

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Photo Credit: Portland Children's Museum

3. Oregon Rail Heritage Center

Chugga-chugga choo-choo! The Oregon Rail Heritage Center is home to three steam locomotives, vintage passenger cars, artifacts, and featured exhibits. It's a great place to visit if you're looking for a free outing. Yes, admission to the ORHC is always free. For a unique experience, ride the Oregon Pacific Railroad passenger train from the ORHC on Saturdays. There are four trips each day, and each trip is approximately 45 minutes roundtrip. If you get there early, you might even get the chance to ride in the locomotive cab with the engineer! (Please note that train rides on the OPR are not free, and prices are listed per person.)

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4. Portland Art Museum

There's always an awesome exhibit to explore at the Portland Art Museum. Take your time and meander through the museum's ancient and modern collections. If your child needs some more structure to get the most out of his or her time at the museum, the Family Tour that runs on Sundays from 12:30pm to 1:30pm is a great option. Each week, a docent will take visitors on a tour of the museum focusing on a new theme, such as Mythology in the Museum or Fashion and Art. 

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5. Oregon Jewish Museum & Center for Holocaust Education

The OJMCHE is dedicated to teaching the public about the stories of Oregon's Jewish population and the Holocaust. It invites visitors to resist indifference and discrimination in the hopes of creating a just and inclusive world. The museum has three core exhibits and three featured exhibits. Though some of the themes the museum explores can be heavy, it's important to expose kids to them so they learn how to engage in intercultural conversations.  

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Photo Credit: Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education

6. Pittock Mansion

Exploring the grand halls and rooms of the French Renaissance style Pittock Mansion is a magical experience for kids and adults. The 16,000 square foot mansion located in the West Hills of Portland has 23 rooms, including a library and a Turkish Smoking Room, and has an amazing view of the city. The grounds around the mansion are a public park open daily until 9pm, so they're free to visit. But you'll have to buy tickets if you want to explore the mansion itself. Kids under 6 years old are free. 

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7. The Oregon Historical Society

Want to learn something new about your own state and country? The Oregon Historical Society Museum has a variety of current and permanent exhibits that explore the history of Oregon and America. There are lots of hands-on activities, objects, and pictures so visitors have an immersive experience. Until January 26, 2020 the current exhibit The All American Toy Company: An Oregon Original will be on display. It showcases a lineup of toy vehicles that represent the Oregon's expanding industries starting in 1947. Kids will love it, and parents will also find it engaging. 

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Photo Credit: Oregon Historical Society

8. Oregon Maritime Museum

The kids will be jumping for joy when you tell them that you're taking them to the Museum on the River! The steam-powered sternwheel tugboat Portland was the last of its kind to be built in America and is the only operating sternwheel tugboat operating in the country today. It's docked in the Willmette River in downtown Portland's Waterfront Park and operates as a floating museum. A volunteer docent will take you on a tour of the tugboat and tell you stories about the tug and the region's maritime history. There are also maritime artifacts and ship models on display. 

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9. Washington County Museum

With three current exhibits exploring the history of the Tualatin Valley and the Portland Metro area, the Washington County Museum is a charming rainy-day destination. We recommend visiting the museum for its Free Family Mornings series held once a month on Saturdays during the school year. During these workshops, an artist from the community leads families through a themed art project. These workshops are free and no registration is required. Make sure you visit the museum's website to learn about the next Free Family Morning workshop. 

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10. World Forestry Center

You live in Portland. You love the outdoors. Why not use this rainy day as an opportunity to learn about forests from the Pacific Northwest and around the world at the Discovery Museum in the World Forestry Center, located in Washington Park? Come and learn about the importance of forests in our lives; the animals that live under our forests; and forests from Russia, China, South Africa, and Brazil. You can even go on a raft ride down the Clackamas River without getting wet. The World Forestry Center is a must-see for locals and visitors. 

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What's your favourite family-friendly indoor attraction in Portland? Let us know by commenting below!

Sarah Lindquist
By Sarah Lindquist
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