Outdoor Adventure at Portland Children's Museum: What To Know Before You Go

The Portland Children's Museum opened their long-awaited Outdoor Adventure exhibit on Earth Day last week, and my children and I had a great time checking it out! Honestly, it's fantastically designed for all ages, with a sand pit, fountains, a small manmade creek, a climbing tree, trails, picnic areas, and more. If you plan to check it out, here are some thoughts to consider before you go:

  Signage for the newly opened  Outdoor Adventure  area at  Portland Children's Museum

Signage for the newly opened Outdoor Adventure area at Portland Children's Museum

Getting In

Children's Museum admission tickets include Outdoor Adventure. To save on admission cost, check out a cultural pass from the library, buy a membership, or find a friend with a membership (which always includes at least one guest benefit). Families who receive income assistance qualify for a $10 annual membership--what a fantastic deal!

My son immediately delved into the sand area for some digging work

What to Bring

Playing in the creek with PCM's child-sized buckets

Your child will get dirty and wet (and will have a delightful time in the process), so pack a bag with a change of clothes. I found myself wishing my children were wearing rain boots after my toddler's pants and shoes were soaked by another child lifting a small dam in the creek--but rain boots make for difficult tree climbing, so opt for water shoes instead if you have them. When sunshine is in the forecast, don't forget sunscreen or hats and sunglassesPack a lunch too--the museum has an indoor café, but the covered picnic areas will allow you to soak up the outdoor scenery.

What Not to Bring

Rain or shine, you won't need an umbrella (the museum provides them to borrow) or sand toys--the sand area includes plenty of natural materials like sticks and shovels, and there are wooden boats and buckets for creek play. A stroller might take some effort to maneuver on the gravel trails (though it wouldn't be an impossible feat), so consider wearing your infant in a carrier instead.

Enjoying Your Visit

  My five-year-old daughter had been talking for weeks about wanting to climb a tree. The Zoom tree was just what she needed!

My five-year-old daughter had been talking for weeks about wanting to climb a tree. The Zoom tree was just what she needed!

Outdoor Adventure covers more than an acre, but don't worry if your child spends most of his or her time in one area rather than exploring the entire space. Learning happens best when children are engaged and focused, so let them delve into the area that most interests them!

The museum tends to be busiest on Fridays and weekends, so consider going on another weekday if you'd like to avoid a crowd. The lunch and nap hours (12-2pm) tend to be quieter as many families head home and the after-school crowd arrives a bit later.

Finally, be intentional about your family's  natural rhythms and transportation for a more peaceful experience. For example, take public transportation (like the MAX) to avoid parking fees (the city of Portland installed parking meters for the museum and zoo lots in January 2014). if you plan to visit the museum's indoor exhibits as well, visit those first and use the Outdoor Adventure as a way for your family to decompress afterwards. 


If your family adores visiting children's museums, zoos, and aquariums, and if you plan to visit several of these places over the course of the year, you should consider joining a program or network that will give you discount admission rates. For more information about this, see my post about Getting Free Cultural Passes and Discount Museum Tickets.

Other outdoor-related posts:

Freedom to Play: A Childhood Outdoors

5 Books that Changed My Parenting: Book Two

Hug A Farmer, Share Their Bounty: Join A CSA This Year