Photo: Jamie Hooper/Shutterstock

13 of the Most Family Friendly Places to Travel in Oregon

Oregon Insider Guides Family Travel
by Henry Miller Jan 16, 2017

Oregon is one of those rare states that contains virtually every geographical and climate feature there is. High deserts, rainforests, snow-capped mountains, coastal cliffs, sandy beaches, winding rivers and rolling hills can all be enjoyed by an intrepid family unit searching for glory over a holiday road trip. There are also plenty of manmade features- from aquariums to science museums- that make the nature Oregon is so famous for all the more engaging for kids and parents alike. Because being family-friendly in Oregon doesn’t mean “for kids”: it means having the same mind-blown stare as your kid when you come across something almost too awesome to comprehend.

Oregon Vortex

 The Oregon Vortex, The House Of MysteryGold Hill, United StatesMore side-show than main attraction, but it has a sort of out-of-the-way road-tripping vibe that is totally worth a stop. Also a great spot to check out the Rogue for some whitewater rafting #sideshow #oldwest #spooky #quirky #haunted #history

Where: Gold Hill, Southern Oregon

Why it’s Cool: The Vortex is a “strange world” where everyday physics appear “warped,” with objects seemingly rolling uphill and heights of visitors changing depending on where they stand. Although there are similar roadside mystery attractions in the US, the Oregon Vortex has the bonus of being next to the town of Gold Hill, which is full of Old West charm and is has excellent access to whitewater rafting on the Rogue River.

Enchanted Forest

 Enchanted ForestTurner, United StatesQuirky little amusement park that is as much art as it is a playground. Fantasy themed rides and structures will leave the adults in as much wonder as their kids #familyfriendly #amusementpark #rides #fantasy #ourdoor

Where: Turner, Northwest Oregon

Why it’s Cool: This quirky little venue is perfect for a kid’s first amusement park- with rides and attractions that parents and children can enjoy together. Also, having the largest log flume ride in the Northwest is definitely a plus. Family, built, owned and operated, there is nothing quite like Enchanted Forest, and the hand-built sets from Grimms’ Fairy Tales are just as mesmerizing to adults as they are to kids.

Wildlife Safari

 Wildlife SafariWinston, United StatesAn incredible way to see animals from around the world outside in an open reserve. They let you use your own car so it’s the perfect detour for a road trip #animals #safari #reserve #nature #familyfriendly

Where: Winston, Southwest Oregon

Why it’s Cool: This 600-acre zoo is the only spot in Oregon where you can see can lions and yaks and rhinos and zebras… just chilling outdoors. The open-air safari lets the animals (save the carnivores) roam free, allowing visitors to see them in a more natural environment. There’s no better place to support animal conservation efforts while taking the family for a Sunday drive. Plus, this zoo offers day and overnight camps for kids.

Sea Lion Caves

 Sea Lion CavesFlorence, United StatesWhat a cool setting to learn about and see sea lions in their natural habitat! Also spectacular hiking nearby at the Heceta Head lighthouse #learning #seacave #naturalhistory #animalhabitat #hiking #funforteens #kidslearning #activekids

Where: 91560 Highway 101, Florence, Oregon

Why it’s Cool: The Sea Lion caves are the best way to get up close to the great beasts in their natural habitat while being near deafened by the echoes of their barking. This network of caves and caverns is the largest in North America and is the perfect little excursion for the Goonie that lives within all of us. If the caves are not enough, there is also some scenic hiking to be had around the nearby Heceta Head Lighthouse.

Children’s Museum

 Portland Children’s MuseumPortland, United StatesPerhaps the worlds most fun interactive museum. Honestly it is just as much fun to watch your kids run twisting, climbing and splashing things as it probably for them. #kidslearning #activekids #museum #playground #interactive #education #familyfriendly

Where: Portland, Northwest Oregon

Why it’s Cool: Interactive museums are always the most fun for kids, and this one is all about it. From learning how to brush a crocodile’s teeth to working at a play-checkout stand to learning about tides and hydraulics- this kinetic museum has all sorts of things to touch and build and turn on and move about. Perfect for wearing your kids out with fun learning.

Sisters, Oregon

 US Post OfficeSisters, United StatesWonderful old west town surrounded by fishing and camping grounds. Great spot for a sleigh ride around Christmas! #tourism #historic #fishing #hiking #camping

Where: Sisters, Smack Dab in the Middle

Why it’s Cool: Sisters often feels straight out of a Western. The high desert town is fairly isolated, with three beautiful mountains (the Sisters) and lots of rivers and forests to hike around in the Willamette National Forest, making it the perfect spot for a family’s first camping trip. Also, a great place to teach your kids how to fish rainbow trout (especially on the Metolius). The town also holds a legendary Christmas parade with sleigh rides through the countryside available.

Columbia Gorge

 Multnomah FallsCascade Locks, United StatesThis beautiful waterfall is just the tip of the Columbia Gorge. Be sure to check it the Historic Columbia Highway and Punchbowl Falls in the summer! #waterfall #scenicviews #naturewalk #familyfriendly #camping #hiking #funforteens

Where: Bordering Washington

Why it’s Cool: Separating the states of Washington and Oregon and running from high desert plains to temperate rain forests, the Gorge is one of the most dramatic geographic features in North America. The most popular stretch is between the Bonneville Dam and the Deschutes River and contains the some state’s most popular breweries, the best windsurfing, magnificent waterfalls, and a historic highway dynamited into a cliff side that is now exclusively for biking. The Gorge is a natural wonderland for explorers.

Short Sands Beach

 Oswald West State ParkNehalem, United StatesHome of Short Sands, the most iconic beach in the state. Good for #hiking #camping #surfing #lounging #nature #naturephotography #familyfriendly #activekids

Where: Northern Oregon Coast

Why it’s Cool: One would be hard-pressed to find a more iconic image of Oregon than the rocky bluffs of this beach. Kids will find endless joy hunting for shells among sun-bleached driftwood stacked by the river, where they can also practice building dams and fortresses. Parents will relish the chance for a bit of sun or (more likely) the stunning ocean views offered by the area’s day hikes. Bring a skim board!

Mt. Hood Skibowl

 Mt. Hood SkibowlGovernment Camp, United StatesGreat for night skiing but even better during the summer. The alpine slide is a blast and the mountain biking trails are great for action junkies of all ages #mountainbiking #skiing #zipline #hiking #sledding #playground #funforteens #activekids #extreme #familyfriendly

Where: Mt. Hood, Northern Oregon

Why it’s Cool: Skibowl is an all-ages wonderland for outdoor recreation that has been a local favorite for decades. Good for summer and winter visits, the skibowl offers kids their first mini-snowmobile rides, tube-sledding and a two-story “Play Zone.” In the summer kids can try rock climbing (or an all-ages obstacle course), mini golf, pony rides and just a bunch (17) of other cool stuff.

Oregon Coast Aquarium

 Oregon Coast AquariumNewport, United StatesNot the biggest aquarium but makes up for it with variety. The deep sea tunnel is a big crowd pleaser and the aviary section makes this aquarium unique #aquarium #museum #interactive #liveanimals #kidslearning #activekids #familyfriendly

Where: Newport, Central Oregon Coast

Why it’s Cool: This aquarium may not be as big as those in other cities, but it makes up for it in local flavor. A “Passage of The Deep” lets you walk through a submerged tunnel (which occasionally doubles as a sleeping cabin for kids) surrounded by marine life. The aquarium also features sea otter, seals, sea lions and an Aviary exhibit- where kids can meet seabirds (puffins!) up close.

Seaside Arcades

 Funland Entertainment CenterSeaside, United StatesSeaside’s core strip is a handful of dark arcades, beat up bumper cars, deep fried everything and a put put course from antiquity- and it is a blast! No better way to spend an afternoon giving your kids a real dose of Americana fun. #funforteens #activekids #arcade #bumpercars #beach #hotdogs #touristspots #mini

Where: Seaside, Northern Oregon Coast

Why it’s Cool: It may not have the adult-y charm of nearby Cannon Beach, but Seaside is a favorite for kids (and adults who want to show their children how to properly ram a bumper car or throw up a corndog on the tilt-a-whirl). The town center is filled with arcades and shops brimming with local knick-knacks and disgustingly delicious fried everything. Seaside is built along one of the longest beaches on in the Northwest, so if you feel the need to work off all the pancakes and saltwater taffy, there is plenty of walking space.


 OMSIPortland, United StatesOne of the most popular museums in the region. Lots of interactive exhibits, a submarine, imax, planetarium and camps for the kids #museum #interactive #funforteens #kidslearning #activekids #familyfriendly

Where: Portland, Northwest Oregon

Why it’s Cool: One of Oregon’s great treasures, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry has its own planetarium, motion simulator (with educational rides), its own retired navy submarine, and, most importantly, a science playground for the kids. The museum is also constantly rotating special exhibits ranging from healthy eating to renewable energy. A truly excellent way to get the family engaged in learning together.

Deschutes Rafting

 Deschutes River AdventuresMaupin, United StatesWhitewater rafting for the extreme crew and multi-day family vacations. Also not a bad place to get a tan in the summer #whitewaterrafting #camping #extreme #nature #outdoors #familyfriendly #activekids

Where: Deschutes River, Northern Oregon

Why it’s Cool: The Deschutes has some of the most popular river rafting trips, ranging from half-day to five-day trips. The river passes through a variety of canyons and open vistas, but the high-desert sunshine in the summer is what makes it such a popular choice. For the more experienced, there are Class III rapids and paddle boarding available. For the younger and more relaxed, try the lower part of the river.

Discover Matador