Zoo & Children’s Museum Experience in SW Portland

I really enjoy living in the city of Portland. My family and I currently live in SW Portland in the Raleigh Hills area and there are so many family-friendly things to do in close proximity. My son is turning 5 years old next month.

We have had a consistent membership to the Zoo and the Children’s Museum since we arrived here 3 years ago. Because these two attractions are accessible from the same parking lot, we often hit up both places in the same day. If you plan to do this, get there early so you can get a parking space and select maximum time at the pay station. They are located throughout the parking lots and at the Zoo and/or Children’s Museum entrances. You must remember your parking space number to pay at the pay station. Get your child to help you do this. My son likes to type the numbers into the pay station and press enter.


In my opinion, I think it best to go to the Zoo first because there is so much running around involved. I strap on my FitBit and my running shoes and get ready for action! My son likes to fly through just about every part of the Zoo and check in with each animal briefly. However, his main objective is the sand box! On a hot summer day, a seat in this shady area is popular real estate! It’s a great pit stop for snack or lunch. I have even ventured to bring a book and read while he’s playing in the sand box. 

I think our record time spent in the sand box was 2 1/2 hours. I always like to pack my own lunch and bring lots of water in a backpack or oversized purse. That way, whenever he gets hungry, we’re ready to go without waiting in any lines or spending any money. There are food and drink carts and snack bars located throughout the Zoo so it’s not hard to find food if needed. They also serve beer and wine during peak seasons.



He never misses the crocodiles. They are a must see. The porcupines are also tucked away a bit and easy to miss so make sure to look out for them. The feeding times are usually in the morning, which is another reason to come here first so you don’t miss out on these opportunities. Look for signs posted outside of exhibits for feeding/interaction times. 

You can also ask the ticketing person for advice on this. The lions put on a mating show for us one day!! 😉


The train and/or carousel are his other favorite things to do. The only downside is that, even with a membership, you still have to pay a fee to do these things, but it is at least a reduced cost to members.



After he has finished running around the Zoo, we walk over to the Children’s Museum where he can relax in the clay moulding studio and hammer out some artistic creations. 

The beauty of this area is that they sometimes have a special class going on, such as making race cars out of zucchini, which you can then test out on the ramp. We have also made mobiles and painted ready made pottery pieces, which they then glaze and place in a kiln for a small fee, and you get it back in a couple of days. You can have them do this to any pottery piece that you make in the clay studio.

There is a always a rotating special feature at the Children’s Museum so it really keeps things fresh to those of us who frequently visit. They also update certain features annually. They just renovated the market area where children can use carts or baskets and shop for produce and other groceries. There is a new food cart as well. The current special feature is Circus Zirkus and they have a trapeze area that all of the children seemed to enjoy.


There is an outdoor water play area for warmer times of year and they often have bubbles, hula hoops, and sidewalk chalk. There is an indoor water play area as well, but enter at your own risk! You’re probably going to get sprayed! It is wonderful for developing engineering skills as well as social skills. We spenda fair amount of time in the race car/train area each time we go.



Luckily, there is a Tri-Met bus replica set up with seats where you can sit and rest your weary legs. Maybe if you’re lucky, your child will enjoy performing in the theatre and you can grab a pillow and relax in the audience with a felt ice cream and plastic hot dog from the pretend concessions stand. Their cafe is so wonderful and my son loves their vegan chili. They make coffee drinks or tea and their menu is tasty. You can order a plate of food and sit down or grab a Clif Bar and a drink to go. Lidded beverages are ok in the museum.

On your way out, play the piano near the entrance or make one last sprint through the Zany Maze outside. This is a magical place. Last, but not least, you can make an actual grocery store run on the way home and have the most peaceful shopping experience imaginable, as your little one will be completely exhausted from the day’s adventures. Happy shopping!



Posted on October 19, 2017 at 12:38 am
Amy Moore | Category: Family-friendly Portland

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