A Day in the Pearl District (Portland)
Portland’s Pearl District is a fun place for a day trip with your family. Some “must do” stops include Jamison Square, Tanner Springs, and The Fields Park — all for free! There are also tons of shops & restaurants to keep you busy for an entire day!
I think your best option is to take the Portland Streetcar to the Pearl District and then travel by foot. (You can get to the Streetcar easily from Tri-Met’s MAX Train if you’re traveling from the suburbs or your hotel.) Everything is walkable once you arrive in the area. Parking is available, but it’s limited and it’s metered.
Like most areas in Portland, the streets of the Pearl District are laid out like a grid — the numbered streets run north to south and the lettered streets run (in alphabetical order) east to west.
Start your day out at Tanner Springs Park. There are signs that explain what the park is all about, which makes for a great learning opportunity for your family.
There are paths to walk on and also plenty of places to sit, relax, or enjoy a picnic. In the warmer months you can also watch the fish swimming around in the shallow water. (Important — dogs are not allowed in this park.)
Next you can follow the boardwalk on NW 10th south a few blocks to Jamison Square. There you will find plenty of open space to run around, some grassy areas, and an awesome water feature in the warmer months. The water is definitely the highlight of the park. It continually fills (to about a foot deep) and empties, and also cascades down from the stone steps. Dress appropriately because your kids will want you to wade in the water with them!
The Fields Park is also be a fun place to stop in and play. There is a children’s area and plenty of open space for everyone to run around, including an off-leash area for your dogs.
Items that I would recommend to bring with you on your day trip would be a backpack filled with minimal beach essentials (including water shoes & long shorts to protect their feet and legs when they are climbing on the stone steps at Jamison Square), a change of clothes, and a camera. Optional items to consider bringing would be a small cooler with water and snacks, sidewalk chalk, and a picnic blanket.
WHEN TO GO
The best time of year to go to the Pearl District would be late spring, all summer, and early fall, although you can find fun things to do year round.
For a family trip, I would recommend scheduling your visit for a weekday during daylight hours. It can be just as much fun on weekends and holidays, but there will be a lot more people out (which means that you probably won’t be able to find a parking spot).
Some special events that the Pearl District has to offer include The Bunny Hop (held the weekend before Easter), a Bastille Day event (in July), a bike race (in the summer), a Christmas tree (in December), and First Thursday (an evening of arts with open houses & events, held throughout the year).
You don’t have to worry too much about restrooms because Jamison Square is home to one of Portland’s infamous “Portland Loo”. The Fields Park also has a Loo.
Before, during, or after your stops at the parks, there are tons of great kid friendly places to eat. The Pearl District has an amazing selection of restaurants for all ages and taste buds.
Here’s a list of some of my favorites, organized by location, and within several blocks of the parks:
On NW 10th:
On NW 11th:
On NW 12th:
On NW 13th:
The Pearl District is one of my family’s favorite spots to visit in Portland and I think it will become yours, too.
Please share if you have a favorite activity, event or restaurant in the Pearl District!
Amy Bassett happily lives in NW Portland with her husband, daughter, and 2 dogs. Her passions include reading, writing, traveling, walking, and eating. She has a master’s degree in social work and is a joyful full time mom.
Ready to discover (or re-discover) Portland? From the coast to the Gorge, from Clark County to Salem, The Ultimate Guide to Portland Family Fun will allow you to experience the awesomeness this area has to offer.
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