by Maria D'Alessandro

When my husband and I first moved to Portland we were exploring the Alberta Arts district and we stopped into Bollywood Theatre, (a small trendy restaurant specializing in Indian street foods) for a snack and a drink in the middle of the afternoon. As we waited for our food in a fun, casual atmosphere we were surprised to see a line forming all the way outside at 4:30pm on a Sunday. The line was made up of mostly hip young couples carrying babies and toddlers. It seemed we weren't the only ones taking advantage of happy hour prices!

After we had our first baby we stopped at Laurelwood Brewery (in PDX airport terminal) for a quick beer before our flight. As my husband tried to get a picture with our 4 month old daughter trying to steal his beer, of course the glass tipped spilling beer everywhere. Our waiter didn't even roll his eyes. Instead he brought us another beer at no charge!

These experiences made me realize, a lot of places in Portland don't just tolerate young families, they actually encourage us! Brilliant!

Let's face it, having young children can be difficult and at times, lonely. When I had my first baby, most of my friends didn't have kids or understand the new limits to my social calendar. If you like hanging out with your young kids AND seeing friends you either need to find places and times that appeal to both kids and adults OR make new friends. In an effort to do both I found that Portland is actually a great city to play, eat, and party with your kids. Bars and restaurants like Mississippi Pizza and Alberta St Pub have recognized the benefit to catering to young families – we're the early birds of Portland –  we come out to eat and drink between 3 and 5pm and leave by 7pm. Clearly, we need to get out. And as it turns out, we're an easy demographic to tap and an easy way to boost income at an hour that's usually less profitable. After we've all gone home to put the kids to bed and enjoy our early buzz, the next shift at the same bars, ie. normal nightlife can begin.

When our daughter was one and a half we discovered her favorite kids musician Talullah's Daddy was playing in a full band at a New Year's Eve Family Party at Mississippi Pizza. At first we weren't sure if it was a good idea to take such a little one out for New Year's Eve, but we decided to give it a try. The place was packed! We squeezed in at a table with another young couple and their baby and ordered drinks and a pizza. The kids had a wonderful time rocking out, the babies were thoroughly amused by each other and we even made new friends. The pizza was the best we'd tried in Portland, complimented by great inexpensive beer and ciders. We rang in the New Year at 6pm. We didn't have to pay a sitter or feel stressed about missing our kid. What a great way to celebrate the new year and our new lives as parents in a new city!

Lucky for us many local businesses in Portland welcome families with young children by opening their doors early and providing family friendly music and activities. Here are some bars and restaurants that boast early shows for families:

Kid Friendly Music Venues:

  • Mississippi Pizza
  • Alberta St Pub
  • Village Ballroom
  • Oregon Public House

Community spaces which offer regular performances for children at kid friendly times:

  • The Children's Museum
  • Know Thy Food Cafe
  • Taborspace
  • Hammer and Jacks
  • Happy Valley Library

Micah and Me ©

Children's Entertainers

There seems to be a surplus of fantastic, unique children's musicians and entertainment in Portland. These aren't your run of the mill children's performers – everyone on this list plays interesting music with kid friendly concepts. These are all fun for the youngest children and play at venues that the whole family can enjoy. Here's a list of the best kids shows I've discovered around town and links to their websites and calendars. Discover new kids music and the kid friendly venues where they play weekly shows! Many are also available to play birthday parties/special events.

  • Micah and Me
  • Talullah's Daddy
  • The Alphabeticians
  • Red Yarn
  • Olive and Dingo
  • Pointed Man Band


Dining Out

Explore and you will find that most good moderately priced restaurants around town are also family friendly. Here are some of my favorite restaurants where I've had great experiences with children:

Hoda's Restaurant in Belmont is my favorite middle-eastern food in Portland and the wait-staff here has always been very accommodating of our young family. No children's menu, but lots of small plates to choose from and share with the kids.

Queen of Sheba is my favorite Ethiopian Restaurant, located on MLK and Russell in North Portland. The owners are very sweet and happy to encourage the youngest children to enjoy new foods!

Teote House Cafe features casual outdoor dining with yummy food and drinks.

Slappy Cakes on SE Belmont is a unique, fun place to take the kids. You get to make your own pancakes!

Por que no Taqueria on SE Hawthorne and N Mississippi is also extremely popular with families because the food and margaritas are awesome, but beware long lines.

Los Gorditos is my favorite local chain for standard but delicious and inexpensive Mexican food.

Zenbu Sushi in Sellwood has a great Happy Hour menu. Highly recommended in the summer when you can dine outside and visit the small coy pond.

Opa Pizzeria in Sellwood is another go-to for great pizza and they offer coupons.

Life of Pie one on N Williams and another on NW 23rd has great pizza, and offers a noon happy hour.

Restaurants with great kids menus are Laughing Planet (multiple locations) and Bobs Red Mill (breakfast and lunch only, in Milwaukie), Dicks Primal Burger (SE Woodstock) and Rocio's Mexican Restaurant (SE Kenilworth neighborhood).

Breweries which feature kids play areas are: Laurelwood in NE Portland, Hopworks on SE Powell, and Zoiglhaus in SE Lents neighborhood.

Portland businesses have caught onto the need for community hang outs for young families, and the results are fun, quirky, and delicious!

Further reading for great ideas about enjoying Portland with your kids:

About the author:
Maria D'Alessandro is a fiction writer based in Portland. While caring for her young children she also enjoys rock climbing, exploring tide pools and eating burritos.