Newport, Oregon with Kids

Newport, Oregon is a similar destination to Cannon Beach, Oregon for the annual family vacation. You’ve got the lovely, cream-toned sand, the toy stores and kite shops, the upscale and midrange restaurants.

But there’s one big difference between Cannon Beach and Newport — you won’t sleep at Cannon Beach hotel prices (which can easily leap into the $300- $400-dollar range). Plus, Newport offers many outdoor and indoor attractions, whether you’re there on a sunny summer day or on a rainy weekend getaway.

The downside? It’s a haul from Portland, Seattle or further north or east. You’ll tack on about two hours of drive time each way to reach Newport (we typically get a Priceline room to rest on the journey between Seattle and Newport). So once you’ve arrived, you might as well stay for a few days, exploring the historic community of Nye Beach, combing for beautiful stones at Agate Beach or perusing the c-shaped Bayfront district.

Fun things to do with kids in Newport

Newport Aquarium with kids

Newport Aquarium’s plexiglass tunnel

The Oregon Coast Aquarium’s top attraction is undoubtedly the over 200-foot-long acrylic tunnels, where tropical fish, reef sharks, graceful rays and other denizens of the deep swim right above you. I’m also partial to the 29-acre aquarium’s Bizarre and Beautiful Gallery and the Dangerous and Deadly Gallery – how does an electric eel make sense in any way? One of my favorite, kid-friendly aquariums in our area. If you’re an AAA member, bring your card, as you’ll get a discount on admission.

Hatfield Marine Science Center a fun thing to do in Newport with kids

Hatfield Marine Science Center

Hatfield Marine Science Center overflows with nerdly fun. All the center’s signs seem to gush over science, courtesy of Oregon State University’s marine science research facility. My kids liked the slightly icky exhibit on invasive species and the please-touch tidepool exhibit. It’s worth the donation (all they ask for). The museum shop’s books can help identify critters you see on any upcoming tidepool walks; if you’re going to buy a book on your trip, why not buy it here?

Yaquina Head Lighthouse Center

Yaquina Head Lighthouse Interpretive Center

Yaquina Head Lighthouse’s Interpretive Center is worth a half-hour visit or so. The center describes lighthouse history, a lightkeeper’s life and how lighthouses work with hands-on exhibits; there’s a small children’s area with activities and period-era toys. Chat with the well-informed staff and volunteers and pick up a few insider tips on touring Yaquina Head.

Devil's Punch Bowl

Never swim in the Devil’s Punch Bowl

Devil’s Punch Bowl is a deep bowl-shaped rock formation where vivid blue ocean water enters, swirls around and makes a scene. During low tide, spot ocean creatures along nearby shoreline. The Punchbowl is a neat stop, but not worth more than about 5 minutes or so.

Sea lions at the Newport Pier

Sea lions in Newport

Walk along Bay Boulevard’s charming mural-infused waterfront, past fishing boats and working fish processing plants and canneries, restaurants and ticky-tacky shops. You won’t be able to miss the noisy, rowdy (and slightly disgusting) sea lions, which eat and burp and hoot and fart. The Homer Simpsons of the sea, as it were. Not the best role models for dinner table behavior, but the seals are an amusing spectacle. You won’t miss the loudmouths if they’re in the harbor — just follow the braying.

A fun toy store in Newport Oregon with kids

Sandcastle Toys, Newport Oregon

Serious fun! Sandcastle Toys offers a lovely collection of card games, beach toys, Playmobil and more. If the knowledgeable owner’s in, ask him for a new toy or board game recommendation.

If you’d rather pick up a flying toy, visit The Kite Company, a delightful 6500-square-foot shop offering high quality kites for every age and skill level. You’ll soon realize what you’ve missed out on by buying kites from lesser shops — as the staff at this store guide you to the perfect kite for your toddler, teen or tangle-prone husband.

AVOID: The Undersea Gardens, Wax Works and the Ripley’s Believe It or Not. The first two because they are in no way worth the expense. The latter two because it’s too scary for young kids, culturally insensitive and seriously run-down with buzzy videos featuring Jack Palance. I complained even as we left, and I rarely do that. It didn’t matter — the teen staff didn’t seem to care a bit. Not a destination I can recommend.

Family Restaurants in Newport, Oregon

A family restaurant in Newport Oregon

Local Ocean in Newport

Pick up a really fresh cut of fish at the informal, casual Local Ocean Seafoods – you’ll see just-caught seafood behind the fish-market counter as you enter, and the restaurant is right across from the fishing boat “parking lot,” as my son called the pier. With so many options on the salad, soup, sandwiches and big-plate menus it can be hard to pick just one item per person. I recommend ordering a diverse selection so you can try more dishes. There is a kids’ menu, but try to talk the kids into sharing your feast. One of my favorite restaurants along the Oregon Coast. My picks (so far) are the diverse Salade Nicoise and spicy Los Fish Taco with fennel slaw and avocado salsa verde.

Newport Oregon restaurant for families

Saffron Salmon interior

Saffron Salmon isn’t a typical “kid-friendly” restaurant, so go here with the kids when you’re reasonably sure they’re going to behave well, you’ve brought your own small playthings/crayons and the kids aren’t crazed with hunger. I would recommend heading to Saffron Salmon during lunchtime for a less-formal (and less-expensive) experience. Kids will enjoy the bayside view of fishing boats heading in and out of the Newport harbor. With a commitment to local farms and wild food, the restaurant serves natural-beef burgers, fresh Dungeness crab and kid-pleasing shoestring frites.

OK, so you’re a little tired of fish ‘n’ chips by day two at the beach. Head to the unassuming little shack Noodle Café for some pan-Asian dishes. The noodle dishes, pho, and Korean meals are tasty and yes, you can still have just off the boat seafood if you like. We ordered food and brought it back to our room for a no-stress dinner with the kids.

More family restaurants in Newport: My husband has fond childhood memories of Mo’s Annex’s, a Newport institution. Rogue Brewery is a solid choice wherever you find one. Rogue features kids’ menus and the signature Pacific Northwest family-friendly pub atmosphere.

Newport Oregon Hotels for Families:

View from our family hotel room at the Hallmark Inn

View from our room at the Hallmark Inn

On our recent trip, I stayed at the Hallmark Inn. I visited a few family hotels before we chose our room, and we liked what we saw at Hallmark. We slept soundly in the Queen/Queen Stateroom: a spacious double queen with a.ma.zing ocean views and a small kitchenette. To reach the sandy shore, you have to hike down a series of steps, but it shouldn’t be too difficult with toddlers.

If you’re seeking large, apartment-style rooms with kitchenettes, look at Greenstone Inn, located in Newport’s teeny-tiny (but adorable) Nye Beach community. I visited a few rooms — the facility was built so recently that it still has a “new building” smell. Greenstone boasts about its eco-approach to building and outfitting rooms.

Additionally, people rave about the Elizabeth Street Inn, although we did not stay there. I would still recommend the hotel; I stopped in and liked what I saw.

Eugene with Kids: Activities and restaurants for family fun

Eugene offers multiple options to keep your family entertained and well-fed. For this piece, I visited Eugene, and I also consulted with Melanie Willson, a Vancouver Island mom that lived in Eugene for several of the past few years; she still visits regularly. I trust Melanie’s opinions and found her Eugene-with-kids suggestions wonderful and spot-on accurate. I hope you find them equally useful.

Here are over 15 things to do with kids in the Eugene area:

Ride a six-foot wave at Splash! At Lively Park in Eugene’s neighboring city of Springfield, about 20 minutes from downtown Eugene. This swim center is a lap above similar community pools; there’s a baby pool, a corkscrew slide, hot tubs – and oh yeah – that crazy, deep wave pool that tosses swimmers around like driftwood. In a fun way, of course. This is one of my favorite pools in the Pacific Northwest.

Eugene Playground

Lively Playground

Once you’re done playing in the pool, a giant climbing playground waits outside for a second round of fun (as in, yes, you should bring lunch/snacks – you’ll be here a while).

University of Oregon Eugene museum with kids

Sitting in a meteorite outside the U of O’s Museum of Natural and Cultural History

My favorite Eugene experience? The University of Oregon’s Museum of Natural and Cultural History, where kids can consider ancient traditional slippers and examine dioramas of traditional Native American life. Then, inquisitive kids give archeology a hand in the “Think Like a Scientist” lab, where they can use a magnifying glass to unravel bone and fossil mysteries or wonder at the evolution of a horse’s hoof.

At the U of O, learning about the Oregon Coast (and a great stop pre-Coast).

The compact, child-friendly area of the museum is clean, new, and stocked with interesting artifacts and hands-on options that make history and science come alive.

Eugene Raptor Center a kid-friendly thing to do in Eugene

Avian eyes at the Eugene Raptor Center

Spy an eagle or falcon at the evergreen-sheltered Cascades Raptor Center, where over 60 resident birds represent 33 species in outdoor cages. Each bird’s short story is right next to their cage, so you can discover more about each raptor – or maybe even “adopt” one. Wear sturdy shoes, as the ground is uneven.

The Science Factory, a fun thing to do with kids in Eugene

The Science Factory in Eugene

Play for an hour or two at the Science Factory Children’s Museum & Exploration Dome, the petite, well-loved cousin of science museums. You won’t find the multi-story experiences offered in the big cities, but it’s a fine way to spend an half-hour or so, and admission is only $4/person.

Science Factory in Eugene with kids

Inside the Science Factory in Eugene

Check the website for the current exhibit; when we were there, the museum focused on balls and ramps.

Run it off at RiverPlay Discovery Playground, where kids can uncover fossils in sand dig, climb a 25-foot replica of Skinner Butte or make a dam of sand and water in a replica Willamette River.

Browse nature’s bounty at the Eugene Saturday Market; farmers deliver fresh produce to downtown Eugene while artisans sell their eco-wares. Order lunch from an on-the-go restaurateur dishing up Mexican, Thai, Indian cuisines or US-style sandwiches. Listen to live music and give the kids a few bucks for a treat or two. “More tie-die stands than any other market I’ve encountered,” Melanie says, “and awesome Afghani food in the food court. The adjacent farmer’s market with everything you can imagine from the Willamette Valley, from duck eggs to huckleberries.”

Hike the 209-acre Mt. Pigsah Arboretum with your family – and bring the camera for photo-ready moments along wildflower meadows and in Evergreen forests. Check the website before you go and see if there’s a guided family walk on the calendar – then sign up for an educational ramble through the woods.

If you’re going to visit a toystore in Eugene for travel-ready playthings, The Elephant’s Trunk should be your destination. Located in downtown Eugene, this shop crams hundreds of toy options into a tidy, well-organized store. Dolls, animals, toddler toys and more.

Eugene 5th Street Public Market

The store’s nestled in the adorable, flower-strewn shopping center 5th Street Public Market.

Eating Out with Kids in Eugene

Dig into Thai at Ring of Fire, located in an unassuming strip mall. Ask for a seat in the back room, where your family can sit under giant umbrellas. This is a good option with adventurous, older children.

“So many kinds of beer from all over the world, the best local and far-away microbrews, and simple soups and delicious panini,” Melanie says of The Beer Stein. “It’s where U of O students and faculty often head for a beer, and where my playgroup would occasionally meet. As a Canadian used to paying 3-4 times as much for beer, I was in heaven.”

“Hideaway Bakery has a sandbox under cover on their patio, which is also heated,” Melanie says. “They have a terrific brick oven and yummy breads and treats, and the sandbox is filled with baking stuff for digging, like measuring cups, ladles, etc.”

Pluck a pie or pick up a tart at Sweet Life Patisserie. This patisserie takes its sugar seriously, with dozens upon dozens of cakes, pies, cupcakes, cheesecakes, tarts and tiny delectable chocolates, all laid out in several glass cases (try to refrain from licking the cases, it’s just not becoming of a mom). An amazing selection – even Eugene’s vegans are catered to — and it’s hard to go home with just one dessert.

kid-friendly Eugene restaurant

Morning Glory Cafe, a kid-friendly restaurant in Eugene

Get in touch with your inner tofu-yoga queen at Morning Glory Café. Yes, this is crunchy hippie food (you will find tempeh and sprouts) but there’s lots of food (split plates!) and those scrambles taste good. This café sits within a stone’s throw of the railroad terminal, so toddlers will have something to watch for, while you’re watching for breakfast’s arrival. A good option for those sensitive to wheat, dairy and other issues. “Don’t overlook their amazing tea blends,” Melanie says.

Laughing Planet and Café Yumm are both solid options with babies, toddlers, preschoolers and other picky personalities. The menus offer simple and  straightforward wrap, soups and bowls with Mexican and Asian twists. “Café Yumm is a Eugene classic,” Melanie says. “Rice and bean bowls with the ubiquitous Yumm! sauce that all of the locals are so addicted to that there are cafe yumms all over town, and sauce to buy and take home if you can’t wait for your next fix.”

How about Laughing Planet? Melanie made up a song to entertain toddlers en route to the popular stop: To the tune of  Frere Jacques: Laughing Planet, Laughing Planet/ Where are You? Where are you? / I want a burrito, I want a burrito/ And some soup, And some soup. “The soup of the day is generally delicious and the Che Burrito (Plantain, black bean and sweet potato) is not to be missed,” she says.

“In a city with lots of Thai restaurants, Sweet Basil is the place we went for consistent and delicious curries,” Melanie says. “”Good, basic Thai food at reasonable prices.”

“Iralia serves amazing Mediterranean food,” Melanie says. “They use simple, whole ingredients and a variety of influences to create amazing hearty dishes. Iraila is Eugene’s best kept secret.”

Thanks, Melanie! Readers, do you have any kid-friendly Eugene suggestions? For more information on the Eugene area, consult with Travel Lane County.

Kid Picks for Seattle Restaurant Week

On Sunday, October 17, Seattle Restaurant Week kicks off. For almost two weeks (October 17-28), Sunday through Thursday, diners will enjoy three-course dinners for just $25 at over 100 area restaurants.

Evado PR helped me collect information on kid-friendly restaurants that offer children’s menus. I’ve highlighted menu items that might be more adventurous, along with the standards. Of course, these menu items are offered the other 51 weeks, so you’re not limited to dining during SRW.

Don’t see your favorite restaurant listed here? Don’t stress. Call ahead and ask whether they make special accommodations for kids, whether smaller portions or appetizer options.

Go to the Seattle Restaurant Week site to look up restaurants, make reservations and view adult menus.

Restaurant Name Kid-friendly items Sample kid menu items
13 Coins Coloring, kids menu French toast; spaghetti with meat sauce or marinara; fried ravioli.
Barking Frog Kids menu (12 and under), includes soft drink or milk and a cookie Cheeseburger; gourmet mac attack and cheese; chicken tenders.
Barrio Bellevue High chairs, kids menu Cheese quesadillas; taco duo; chicken torta.
Bastille Café & Bar Kids menu Croque fromage; lamb burger; grilled chicken breast w/fries.
Betty Restaurant Kids menu Menu changes, always fresh.
Carmelita Kids menu (12 and under only). Buttered noodles, available w/cheese; delicious veggies; cheese pizza.
The Georgian Kids age 6 and younger eat free, kids under age 12 each for half off (during tea service, main dishes and holiday brunches), 100% organic and trans-fat free kids menu, includes choice of beverage. Hot dog w/french fries; peanut butter and jelly sandwich; tuna fish triangles on whole wheat bread w/fruit salad and chips.
The Historic Woodman Lodge Steakhouse & Saloon Kids menu Extra creamy cheddar mac ‘n’ cheese house sautéed and served w/a slice of cheese toast; burger served w/lots of Lodge fresh-made fries; kosher beef dog dipped in Lodge-made batter and cooked golden brown served w/fries.
Il Fornaio Kids menu Cheese ravioli in marinara or cheese sauce; bowl of seasonal vegetables; pasta with parmesan, tomato or meat sauce
Ivar’s Salmon House Kids menu served w/cookies and choice of French fries, potato chips or fruit cup, plus milk, fruit juice or soft drink. Fresh steamed vegetables can be substituted Pasta tossed with butter and parmesan cheese; alder-barbecued wild salmon; fish ‘n chips; melted cheese between warm toasted bread.
La Medusa Provides kids with pizza dough to play (and bake upon request), kids menu for 12 and under. Spaghetti butter & cheese; spaghetti marinara;  cheese or pepperoni pizza.
The Pink Door Verbal kids menu Pasta w/marinara sauce; pizza bianca; meatball panini.
Ponti Seafood Grill Kids menu Bronzed salmon quesadillas; breaded chicken tenders w/bistro fries; pasta with cheese and butter; Ponti bacon cheeseburger w/bistro fries.
Purple Café & Wine Bar “Milk Flight” featuring chocolate, strawberry, caramel and regular milk, plus kids menu Grilled chicken sandwich w/choice of shoestring fries or side salad; cheese pizza; mac-n-cheese; cranberry chicken salad; grilled salmon w/seasonal vegetables.
Ray’s Café Kids menu Cheese quesadilla; kids fish and chips; kids grilled salmon w/mashed potatoes and veggies; steamed clams in dill butter broth; crispy chicken dinosaurs w/fries, carrot sticks and ranch dip.
Salty’s on Alki Beach Kids menu Wood-oven pizzas, choose pepperoni or cheese; fish and chips with Alaskan ling cod and tempura batter served w/Salty’s seasoned fries; Salty’s kid’s burger w/cheddar cheese.
Salty’s at Redondo Beach Kids menu Peanut butter and jelly Sandwich w/potato chips and fresh fruit; cheesy macaroni served w/slice of focaccia; Salty’s chowder and salad.
Sazerac Kids Menu Organic baby mixed lettuces with whole lemon vinaigrette; chicken fingers w/ honey mustard and hand-cut french fries; cornmeal fried Idaho catfish w/fries and tartar sauce.
Seastar Restaurant Kids menu Chicken penne pasta; grilled chicken salad; sushi or sashimi plate; sirloin steak.
Six Seven Restaurant & Lounge Kids menu Spaghetti w/tomato sauce, grilled cheese sandwich, kids cheddar sliders w/fries; chicken fingers.
tidbit bistro Crayons on every table, kids menu Golden fried risotto cake with tomato, saffron and mozzarella, served with salsa; mac’n cheese with rigatoni, mozzarella, goat cheese, gorgonzola, parmesan; Zoe’s Molten Cheese (A bed of melting mozzarella filante with shaved parmesan).
Urbane Kids menu (all items served w/your choice of celery, carrot sticks or Kraft Macaroni and Cheese) Chicken Nuggets w/choice of ranch or barbeque dipping sauce; Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup w/celery and carrot sticks; turkey hot dog on plain bun w/ketchup and mustard.
Waterfront Seafood Grill Kids menu Fish and chips, grilled tenderloin and mashers; Pasta w/butter, cheese, red or white Sauce
Wild Ginger Kids menu Fried rice, noodles, skewers

Daytrip: Olympia with kids

Think State capitols aren’t kid-friendly? Towns plagued by boring subcommittee meetings, too-fancy restaurants and dull plazas, right?

Olympia, Washington, may take you by surprise.

Lavender at the Olympia Farmers Market

When to go: Saturday, so you can check out the Olympia Farmers Market, the people-smorgasbord that is Olympia. You’ll see patchouli students from the nearby Evergreen State College, farmers in overalls, embroidered-denim grandmas, toddlers riding on dad’s shoulders. The market’s a nice mix of locally made items:  soaps, herbs, baked goods and of course, tie-dye shirts.

Where to eat: At the market, order honkin’ huge sandwiches from Heyday! Cafe and listen to live music on the market stage. As an alternative, go to Meconi’s Italian Subs for the best subs this side of the Mississippi.

Getting buried with (plastic) rocks at the Hands On Children's Museum

Little kids will love: The Hands On Children’s Museum, where the museum’s town allows kids to grow apples on a farm, deliver them with a truck, sell them the store, turn them into apple fritters in the bakery – and then visit the dentist for a tooth cleaning afterward. At the other end of the museum’s U-shaped layout, a kids can don lifejackets and pretend to drive a ceiling-height container ship (with a working crane!). The $7.95 per-person entry fee pays off with at least two hours of fun; one of the best children’s museum’s I’ve visited in the Northwest.

George's nose is shiny because so many people rub it for good luck.

Big kids will love: Discussing how government works in the hushed marble halls of Olympia’s Legislative Building, which sports the fourth-tallest, self-supported masonry dome in the world. Tours are offered between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekends, but it’s probably best for you to drop cool history facts on your way through the building’s three floors. Look for the giant brass bust of George Washington — and don’t forget your camera.

Where to shop: Wind Up Here keeps little hands busy with dolls, wooden toys and other playthings. Perfect for a sticker book or two to keep the kids busy in the car.

Trying a mocha-dusted hazelnut.

What to take home: Don’t leave town without picking up treats from the Olympia Farmers Market — dinosaur cookies from San Francisco Street Bakery’s stall or a blend of nuts from Jawa Gourmet Nut Roastery. Recommended: lavender walnuts with orange and mocha hazelnuts.

Find more hotels, attractions and restaurants at Visit Olympia.

Giveaway: Savvy Squirrel offers savings

One of my favorite ways to find cool, indie restaurants and stores with sustainable values is to pick up eco-coupon books. Every major city in Cascadia offers such a book – Portland’s Chinook Book, Seattle’s Chinook Book and Vancouver’s Green Zebra.

But the one with the cutest name? Victoria, BC’s Savvy Squirrel.

Each of these books offer great savings to local attractions, shops, restaurants services and restaurants. It’ll pay for itself in one weekend trip.

Savvy Squirrel’s book is primarily focused on family-friendly shops and restaurants in Victoria.

“We love a local bargain,” says Lale Minielly, who started the Savvy Squirrel with fellow mom Tabitha Rutherford. “As new moms we realized the constant cost of raising a child. We understand the new challenges of shopping locally rather than going to the big box stores and thought offering local coupons collected into a book was a great solution.”

Using Savvy Squirrel, families can save $5 at a fantastic children’s bookstore (Tall Tales Books), save 20% at Victoria’s super-sustainable family shop (Mothering Touch) and get a free second entrée at Victoria’s playroom-equipped café (Crumsby’s Cupcake Café).

Seattle’s Chinook Book offers coupons to the Seattle Aquarium (save $2 on admission for up to four people) and Hanna Andersson, among other museums, shops and restaurants. Portland’s Chinook Book provides savings at OMSI, the Oregon Zoo and the always-fun Finnegan’s Toys.

These eco-guides are a great way to discover local family-friendly shopping, dining and activity secrets, travel more sustainably, save money and support local economies.

Want a free Savvy Squirrel? Leave a comment below or tweet this article on Twitter with hashtag #savvysquirrel.

10 Family-Friendly Restaurants in Portland

Lucky you, going to Portland, Ore., with the kids. So many amazing dining spots, and so little time. I’m giving you a quick rundown of my favorite Portland kids-welcome restaurants, from cheap to chic, granola to gut-busting.

Kid-friendly restaurants in Portland, Oregon

1. Vita Café. Even meat eaters will devour the vegan vittles at this café. Take a seat at one of the booths, order off of the extensive vegetarian and meaty menu. Then head back to the waiting area, where you’ll find two small containers stuffed with table-ready toys (cars, plastic figurines, you know, all the stuff you mean to bring to the restaurant but forget at home). Kids’ menu items are only $1 on weekday nights between 5 and 7 p.m., a total deal. Don’t try passing yourself off as a kid, even if you are a short adult. It never works, dang.

2. Mother’s Bistro & Bar. City swank atmosphere, serious comfort food.  I love Mother’s for breakfast, but so does every other family. Make reservations, arrive at the crack of dawn, whatever you have to do to sit in the restaurant’s center, surrounded by gilded mirrors and chattering families. It’ll make your little girl feel like a princess. And that’s before the chocolate-chip-flecked mouse-face pancake arrives.

kid-friendly laughing planet cafe in portland oregon

Dinosaur train at Laughing Planet, Ecotrust Building

3. Laughing Planet Cafe. Now this is a green restaurant chain. Order your food with a few greenbacks. Then, kids play with emerald dinos while waiting for their cilantro-sauced bowl of goodies to appear (the restaurant borrows heavily from Mexican cuisine). Afterward, you’ll bus your own table, sorting leftovers into their proper ecological receptacles. Perfectly Portland. And damn good. And cheap. No item on the children’s menu breaks $3.50.

4. Hopworks Urban Brewery. This sustainability-focused spot knows what families like, and the restaurant is just a short drive from OMSI. Ask for seat near the kids’ play area, where preschoolers toddle about with trains and play-pizza sets. Older children busy themselves with stretchy pizza dough, but the wait is never too long for your organic-tomato pizza or grilled-chicken sandwich. What’s on tap for baby? Earth’s Best baby food, naturally. For adults, I recommend the handcrafted beer sampler.

A pomegranate, orange and whipped cream waffle. For real.

5. Waffle Window. Fruit. Whipped Cream. Exotic toppings (Pumpkin pie? YES!). It’s what your kids wish you served them every morning. You must go. That’s all there is to it. You really order at a window. Then you take the dishes inside of an adjoining restaurant (yes, a little odd) and share a long table with whoever else is eating waffles that morning; you may be able to get a two-top along the window or outside, as well. Doesn’t matter. You still must go. It’s on Hawthorne’s busy street — after finishing, you can browse bookstores and toy shops.

6. Staccato Gelato. Nestled in the vintage vibe of Portland’s Sellwood district, Staccato serves up perfect bowls of egg-enriched gelato. But you can also order the kids a PB & banana panini (Elvis missed out). They’ll run off to play in the mini-sized children’s corner, decorated with a fanciful, silhouetted cityscape, while you get to drink your coffee in (near) peace. There’s another location at NE 28th as well, but I like this one because it’s close to the roller rink at Oaks Amusement Park.

7. Burgerville. At this 50s-themed, Portland-grown restaurant chain, antibiotic- and hormone-free beef goes into your burger, seasonal berries mix up your shake and native sweet potatoes transform your fries. The kids’ meals provide (upon request) apples instead of fries and milk instead of pop. The music-loaded jukebox is all the entertainment you’ll need, because the food arrives within a few minutes of ordering. Great in a pinch, with multiple locations throughout Portland and along I-5 North up to Centralia, Wash., and a solid alternative to Other National Fast Food Chains.


Friday night jam at Mississippi Pizza

8. Mississippi Pizza Pub. Mismatched furniture and  set the stage for fun at this community pizza joint. Always check the calendar before arriving — the pub’s offerings include live music shows for kids, kids’ spelling bees, and evening entertainment that starts at a family-friendly 6 p.m. With so much going on (particularly on weekends), there’s no excuse for skipping a set. Oh, and the pizza’s good too — your choice of whole-wheat, regular or gluten-free, plus lotsa toppings. Arrive during late afternoon, so you can walk through Mississippi’s busy, indie-biz neighborhood.

kid-friendly playroom at old wives tales restaurant in portland oregon

Playroom at Old Wives’ Tales

9. Old Wives’ Tales Restaurant. At Old Wives, kids are never an afterthought. This well-established restaurant offers playroom just for kids, a raucous, noisy affair where kids climb up, down and around a cutout featuring an underwater scene and a circus train. Of my listings here, Old Wives may offer the most options. Dozens of different items on the kids’ ala carte menu, including half a waffle or a turkey frank, so super-picky kids can have their pick.The food at Old Wives is very Cascadia granola. You know what I mean. Two words: carob mousse.

10. Laurelwood Brewing Company. I know. Another pub? It’s true, all we do in Cascadia is drink coffee and beer. With our kids playing in a kids’ play area. Don’t mess with success, baby. Laurelwood’s pubs offer a multiple-choice menu for adults and a small, low-walled play area for kids. The downside? All locations can become insanely busy with half-hour or 45-minute waits. The upside is that the Laurelwood NW Public House location is close to downtown and the Pearl, via a 10-minute ride on the cute Portland Streetcar. (As of publication, the NW location closed, but will be reopening in the spring of 2010).

Hmm. While writing this, I thought of 10 more. Guess I’ll have to save those for later.

Where do you like to dine in Portland, kids in tow?

Portland Family Vacation