Staycation on a budget in Portland Oregon…with a toddler!!

Staycations, the term for taking time off from work but not going out of town, are often considered budget friendly. However, when you have a toddler and a problem with shopping Target to avoid boredom it can quickly become as costly as a Hawaiian vacation!!

Every year at my corporate job I get the week of July 4th off. Last year I used that time to finish moving into our new house. So this year my goal was to (a) keep spending to a minimum (b) be outside for at least an hour every day and (c) stay away from Target!! We had a blast and definitely kept to the rules each day. My son is 3, very active and loves being outside, so all of these are generally geared towards entertaining him BUT most of these are also great for older kids and adults who haven’t lost their inner child!!

Places we visited within the Portland Metro Area

Oaks Amusement Park | 7805 SE Oaks Park Way | Coop’s TIP Chippers Preschool Mornings 9:30am to noon Tue/Wed during Summer | Coop’s rating – A+

My best friend actually told me about the preschool mornings at Oaks park and invited us to join her and her son and daughter. I was a little reluctant at first because I honestly couldn’t remember how many rides for littles they had since it’d been years since I’d last visited Oaks Park. Luckily, I said yes and we arrived right at opening. The admission cost is $9.50 per child and adults are free and able to ride any ride necessary with their child(ren). Overall it was the best money we spent all week!! My son had a blast and I thoroughly enjoyed riding the rides with him without the stress of a ton of older children/teens running us over.

Oregon Zoo | 4001 SW Canyon Rd | Family Membership cost $169 plus $8 for parking at each visit | Coop’s rating A

The Oregon Zoo is a great activity for children and adults of all ages but it can be very expensive. However, for Christmas my aunt gifts us a family membership which we use at least 5 times a year (which more then pays for the membership). You can also get in an adult guest and up to 2 more children so it’s great for a day out with friends/family.

Usually we can spend 5 hours and we always arrive right as the gates are opening to really optimize our time (and get parking). We ended up going to the zoo twice during our staycation and will probably end up going again in a week or two. Basically we arrive without an agenda or real plan for what animals we want to see because the stress of not having to pay for admission allows us to just relax (I always say “don’t worry we’ll come back really soon.” as we leave).

International Rose Test Garden | 400 SW Kingston Ave | Free admission $8 to park but if you don’t mind a walk you can usually park for free up the hill | Coop’s rating B

The International Rose Test Garden is down the hill through Washington Park and is a great little side trip when the weather is nice and everyone isn’t too tired from the Zoo. It’s best to visit early in the bloom because as the summer progresses the roses really start to brown and loose their luster. The views, however, are beautiful…like one in a million! There is also a park down the rode a little ways which is great for kids. Adults can grab a snack at the gardens, snap selfies/family photos and use the park as a bribe for good behavior.

One of the reasons for a lower score is that the garden can get super busy, very crowded and parking is awful. You do it once a year and you are pretty much done with it.

Happy Valley Park | 13770 SE Ridgecrest Rd | Free!!! | Coop’s Rating B+

The playground is fairly small and pretty busy BUT the splash pad is definitely the place we had the most fun. We went early in the day, probably around 10am when it was warming up but not too hot or crowded. My son and I both had a blast playing in the small water fountains and while it may seem fairly tame it was actually the one we enjoyed the most out of the 3 we went too. The only reason this park didn’t get an A rating was due to the small playground but the splash pad on it’s own definitely gets an A. Oh and parking…don’t even worry about it, they have plenty of easy to pull in spots.

Rivercrest Spraypark | 131 Park Drive | Free!! | Coop’s Rating C+

This spraypark wasn’t our favorite and my son honestly didn’t stay entertained for longer then 25 mins. We went as a family during the evening on a pretty warm day and unfortunately it was completely shaded making it very cold. Also you have to constantly restart the water which makes it annoying for the kids and hard for the adults to relax or even enjoy playing too. The concept is cool with tons of awesome features but overall it just didn’t really do it for us.

Hammerle Park | 1505 Lewis Street | Free!! | Coop’s Rating A

This splashpad is one of our favorites, right up there with Happy Valley Park, and the only reason it was rated higher then Happy Valley is because of the playground…the playground is definitely one of our favorites in the area. It’s a must visit if you are in the Portland Metro, however, it can become shaded during the evening so you’ll want to make sure it’s either mid-day or very warm out. This park also has a big covered picnic area which is great for family gatherings.

Wanna take a drive?? Here’s some of the places we visited outside of the Portland Metro area…

Enchanted Forest | 8462 Enchanted Way SE Turner, OR | $12.95 for adults $11.50 for children 3-12 + $1 per ticket | Coop’s Rating B-

This amusement park has been around for as long as I can remember, so taking my child and hubby (who didn’t move to Oregon until he was in his teens), was almost purely based on nostalgia. And while my enjoyment in seeing the world through my childs eye’s definitely helped me to look past the chipped paint, smell and just overall run down look of the place, it was super hard to get past the cost of entrance. Their hours are also not great. However, I still feel like if you are willing to make the trip down past Salem for an interesting experience reliving fairy tales then it’s worth it. We spent maybe 2 hours and that was plenty for us. Luckily a lady who was exiting gave us 10 tickets which allowed my son and I to go on 1 ride together…oh man that ride was a little scary in that we weren’t buckled and we definitely got tossed around a bit.

Bonneville Fish Hatchery | 70543 NE Herman Loop | Free!!! | Coop’s Rating A

This is another drive but one that is definitely worth taking. The hatchery is about 40 miles east of Portland, you get to pass all of the Gorge Waterfalls on your way. Considering the gas expense to drive out that way, and that it really isn’t a trip that can be done without compromising naptime, I was happy with our decision to make the trip. My son had so much fun running between all the fish holding ponds and we stopped for a snack and to watch Herman the giant sturgeon in the viewing center. They have tons of places to stop and just enjoy nature as well as a cute gift shop. On our way out we went up the road another 5 miles to Cascade Locks for lunch and ice cream at East Wind Drive In which was another great stop. The food was reasonably priced, didn’t take forever, but it was packed so finding a good place to stop and eat was a little difficult. You can easily make this a 1 day getaway by continuing on up to Hood River or even across the Bridge of Gods to Skamania Lodge.

Wildlife Safari | 1790 Safari Road Winston, OR 97496 | Get the Groupon!!! | Coop’s Rating A

This is by far my favorite day getaway, or if you have the ability I enjoy driving down to Roseburg and staying at the Holiday Inn on the Umpqua river and then heading over to the park the next morning when they open so that you have the entire day. Every year for my birthday this is where we go and it NEVER disappoints. We always get the Groupon which gets us in for about 1/2 off and makes the enrichment encounters a lot more cost effective for a family. You can drive through the safari twice and spend as much time in the Safari village as you want. They also have a restaurant and plenty of bathrooms. Overall it’s a must visit!!!

We hope you enjoyed our little guide to fun things to do in the Portland Metro / Oregon area. Please submit any other suggestions you may have as I know there are so many amazing places to go see!!!

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